By Noa Glow
We’ve been listening to the Bulletproof Executive Podcasts, which feature experts and information on health and wellness. Here’s a summary of what Sara Gottfried, a Harvard-trained physician, yoga teacher and author of The Hormone Cure, had to say on a recent podcast about helping men and women feel at home in their bodies with natural hormone balancing.
Our hormones play a major role in performance, vitality and aging. According to Gottfried, the so-called “stress hormone,” aka cortisol, can make you fat, frazzled and all-around miserable if it isn’t properly regulated.
Among the negative effects of high cortisol levels:
- More potential for weight gain
- Increased blood-sugar levels
- Insulin resistance over time
Gottfried says that even if you exercise regularly, high cortisol levels will make fitness an uphill battle. Additionally, chronic stress can lead to low energy levels and a “brain fog” state.
Clearly, having too much (and even too little) cortisol is a problem. In order to get your levels back to normal and “reset your relationship to stress,” Gottfried recommends taking some (or all) of the following steps:
- Focus on and amplify positive emotions – happiness, love and forgiveness – through yoga, meditation or simply “hitting the pause button” when life gets too hectic (i.e., every day).
- Whatever you do to hit that pause button, do it MINDFULLY.
- Eating 40 grams of dark chocolate daily for two weeks has been shown to lower cortisol levels.
- How you eat, move, think and supplement can lower cortisol levels.
- Stop giving until you drop.
The Gottfried Protocol
Good news: even if your hormones are imbalanced, you can get them back to normal levels by making certain lifestyle changes:
- Fill nutritional gaps and start exercising regularly (Gottfried is a big proponent of yoga as a means to rebalance what she calls your “hormonal dashboard”)
- Supplement your diet with certain vitamins recommended by a health expert
- Work with a clinician to incorporate some proven botanicals (e.g., licorice and grapefruit juice) into your health regime
- Be careful about taking hormones
- As you age, take steps to preserve your energy levels
Yoga: The Answer to Everything
On her website, Gottfried includes a personal account of her relationship with yoga during a particularly busy time in her life:
“My cortisol, the main stress hormone, is high – I can feel it. It’s uncomfortable. It gives me a wired, anxious feeling. It’s unsettling. I want to be grounded, energized, present … Fortunately, I know from 20-plus years of managing overwhelm that one thing always helps: YOGA. A friend texted me last night to go to class this morning, and I realized, ‘Ah, that is exactly what I need.’
“Hard class. Puddles of sweat. My shoulders felt crunchy and geriatric from months of a more yin-style home practice. My hips were tight. But just when I started to spin … the teacher said just the right thing: ‘Asana Jail. It’s when you come into your asana and stop breathing.’
“Right. Keep breathing. Stay in the Parasympathetic Tone; that is, rest and digest, rather than spiraling into Sympathetic Tone, aka. fight or flight. Break this process down into asanas. Add some reflection. Where do I feel restricted today? What is the impact? Who has restricted me today? Why? How did I let myself feel restricted today?
“Small changes. Big impact. Yoga helps everything. Stay out of asana jail. Right.”
“You can change your hormones and control systems,” says Gottfried, adding that it’s important to realize how many choices and how much power each of us has around our health.
“Hormones can either make you feel like crap, or like a rock star, ready to take on your mission,” she says. The key is getting your hormones “working for you not against you.”
More Information on Bulletproof Executive and The Hormone Cure
> Listen to the full Bulletproof Executive Podcast
> Visit Dr. Gottfried’s website
> Purchase a copy of The Hormone Cure