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Are Hormone Imbalances Hurting Your Work Performance?

Hormones play an integral role in our physical and mental health. Thus, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that hormonal imbalances can negatively impact nearly every aspect of your life, including work performance.


In this blog, we’ll explore the link between hormonal imbalances and work performance and what you can do to address it.


But first, let’s review what hormones are:


Hormones act as your body’s chemical messengers. They travel throughout the body via the bloodstream to tissues, muscles, and organs. Hormones work slowly, over time, and impact nearly every bodily process, including:

  • Mood and mental health

  • Growth and development

  • Sexual function

  • Metabolism

  • Reproduction

Hormones are made by special clusters of cells called endocrine glands. These glands exist throughout your body. The main endocrine glands are the pineal, pituitary thymus, thyroid, adrenal glands, and pancreas. Hormones are also produced in the respective sex organs of men and women.


Hormones are very powerful, and unfortunately, it doesn’t take much to cause big changes throughout your whole body. This is why hormonal balance is so integral to optimal health. One tiny hormonal imbalance can throw many processes out of whack. And lead to symptoms like fatigue, brain fog, and mood swings. These symptoms can have a large impact on your work performance and productivity throughout the day. A hormonal imbalance could be the cause of workday symptoms like:

  • Inability to concentrate

  • Sleepiness and fatigue

  • Restlessness

  • Anxiety and intense stress

  • Brain fog

  • Feeling unreasonably cold

  • Irrational irritation

In the following sections, we’ll break down several hormones that will most impact your work performance.


Cortisol:


You know that feeling you get sometimes at work when you feel hyper-focused and ‘in the zone’? That’s thanks to cortisol, a hormone produced in the adrenal glands. This hormone plays a vital role in your body’s fight or flight response and stress management. When faced with a potential threat, cortisol will raise your heart rate, blood pressure, and energy levels to prepare your body.


When you’re at a lower to moderate level of stress, cortisol hormones will attach themselves to receptors in the brain that work to keep you focused under pressure and improve memory. However, as stress level goes up past moderate arousal, the benefits of cortisol go down. High cortisol levels will make you feel anxious and will actually negatively impact memory- leaving you stressed and forgetful.

Cortisol is also known as the “mother hormone” because when it gets out of balance it will cause widespread effects on other hormonal systems. This is why managing stress levels is so important. When you’re stressed, your body remains in a state of high cortisol, which has been linked to conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. Moreover, chronically elevated cortisol can lead to a condition known as adrenal fatigue. Adrenal fatigue can cause symptoms such as fatigue, brain fog, and difficulty concentrating, which can negatively impact work performance.


Too much cortisol can be caused by a number of factors, including stress, gut health, too much caffeine, running, poor sleep, and toxic exposure. Too little cortisol is much rarer and is typically caused by adrenal gland failure.


Insulin:


Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas. It helps your body to regulate glucose levels in your bloodstream. As glucose levels rise after a meal, insulin is released to help your body process the sugar. Insulin allows cells in fat, muscles, and liver to absorb sugar in your blood and turn it into energy. Insulin also impacts other metabolic processes like the breakdown of protein and fat.


Insulin can become unbalanced due to factors like high blood pressure, obesity, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes. When insulin levels are too high or too low, it can lead to problems with energy levels and focus, making it challenging to stay productive at work.


Many people with insulin imbalances report lost productivity at work due to side effects like tiredness and fatigue. Further, one study found that people with type 2 diabetes on insulin reported a 19% loss in productivity at work.


Thyroid:


The thyroid hormone is produced in the pituitary gland and hypothalamus. Like cortisol, the thyroid plays a significant role in your overall health. Thyroid hormones actually act as a backup to cortisol and can be thrown out of balance when cortisol is. The thyroid hormones are in charge of digestion, brain function, temperature regulation, weight, and so much more.


The way your body uses energy, your heart function, and the health of your bones are all reliant on the thyroid. Moreover, thyroid hormones can have an effect on every organ and function in your body. This means widespread detrimental effects when out of balance, such as fatigue, depression, and brain fog.


Thyroid hormones are also essential for work performance. If your thyroid levels are too low, it can lead to problems at work due to a lack of energy and sluggishness. Beyond physical effects, if your thyroid levels are too high, it can lead to anxiety and panic attacks. All of which will obviously negatively impact your ability to work.


The sex hormones:


The male (testosterone) and the female (estrogen and progesterone) sex hormones have a major impact on many factors beyond reproduction, including work performance. For example, they impact blood pressure regulation, pain reception, moods, and cognitive function.


Estrogen and progesterone are steroid hormones and play vital roles in female reproduction. They also aid in bone building, burning fat, and keeping the cardiovascular system healthy. Testosterone plays a role for both men and women, regulating libido, strength, muscle mass, and red blood cell production.


Low testosterone levels can lead to fatigue, decreased muscle mass, and decreased libido, all of which will negatively impact work performance. Moreover, low levels of testosterone can also impact the mind. Lower testosterone levels have been associated with declines in cognition, spatial awareness, and memory. Any of these symptoms can lead to worsened work performance.


Similarly, imbalances in estrogen levels can lead to symptoms such as fatigue, brain fog, and decreased libido, which can also negatively impact your performance at work. Low levels of estrogen have been linked to lower levels of serotonin, which can cause mood swings, depression, and irritability. Meanwhile, high levels of estrogen have been linked to memory problems, mental fog, and anxiety.


Unfortunately, one of the major factors of an imbalance in sex hormones is aging. Bad eating habits, obesity, and stress can also lead to an imbalance.


What can you do about hormonal imbalances?


Fortunately, hormone imbalances can be addressed through lifestyle changes, hormone replacement therapy, and other treatments. Two key things to keep in mind when it comes to naturally balancing your hormones is that a hormonal imbalance is very likely linked to exposure to endocrine disruptors or an unhealthy gut. To learn more about that, click here.


So, when it comes to naturally balancing your hormones, working to maintain a healthy gut is one of the best things you can do. You can increase your gut health by:

  • Avoiding inflammatory foods- Inflammation in the gut causes many gut diseases, including leaky gut, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis. Avoid vegetable oils and most processed foods, which are inflammatory. Instead, increase wild-caught fish and non-starchy vegetables like spinach and green beans, which normalize inflammation levels in your gut.

  • Eat foods rich in antioxidants- Oxidative stress, when too many free radicals overwhelm your body’s defenses, can damage the gut. Antioxidant balance can be improved by eating colorful plant foods like berries.

  • Increase fiber in your diet- Fiber provides your colon cells with fuel to function optimally. The best way to get fiber is through leafy and cruciferous vegetables, berries, and raw nuts and seeds.

  • Avoid eating non-nutritive sweeteners- Saccharin, sucralose, and aspartame have been shown to have long-term consequences for microbiome composure and glucose intolerance. While they may be lower in calories, non-nutritive sweeteners ultimately do more harm than good for your body.

You can also naturally balance your hormones by limiting your exposure to endocrine disruptors. You can do so by:

  • Limit your plastic use- BPA and phthalates are present in most plastic containers and wraps. Switch plastic food storage containers with glass or stainless steel. Never microwave your plastic containers. Replace plastic baggies with reusable lunch bags or beeswax-coated cloth.

  • Avoid canned foods- The lining of canned foods often contain BPA’s to prevent corrosion. Even “BPA-free” cans may use a chemical that is no safer. Instead, choose fresh, frozen, or dried foods that aren’t packaged in cans.

  • Prioritize organic foods- Pesticides are known hormone disruptors. Organic foods are not treated with the same pesticides and herbicides. You can also choose conventionally grown foods known to have the least amount of pesticide residue.

  • Avoid non-organic cleaning supplies- Cleaning products contain many chemicals that act as hormone disruptors if inhaled, ingested, or absorbed through your skin. Safe Household Cleaning is a great website where you can check if your supplies contain hormone disruptors.

If you're experiencing symptoms of hormonal imbalances that are affecting your work performance, it's important to talk to a functional medicine doctor who can help you identify and address the underlying hormone imbalances. By addressing these imbalances, you can improve your work performance, increase your productivity, and improve your overall quality of life.


Click here to learn more about how we at the Johnson Center work to balance your hormone levels. If you have any more questions about your path to optimal health, email our office at thejohnsoncenter@gmail.com or call 276-235-3205.


The Johnson Center for Health services patients in person in our Blacksburg and Virginia Beach / Norfolk locations. We also offer telemedicine for residents of Virginia and North Carolina!


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