Hormones are chemical messengers that impact everything from how you look and feel to how you function. This has to do with the impact of hormones – like insulin and cortisol – on your energy levels and mood.
In her new book, The Essential Oils Menopause Solution, my friend and fellow essential oil educator, Dr. Mariza Snyder, shares how an imbalance in hormones can throw off cellular energy levels and contribute to weight gain, slow metabolism, poor sleep and fatigue, mood swings, hot flashes, cravings, brain fog, low sex drive, period cramps or PMS symptoms.
Mariza does a great job detailing how hormones work together collaboratively or antagonistically to support and regulate energy rhythms in the body. She notes that “Because our body’s systems are so interconnected, if one hormone goes off-script, other hormones are thrown off balance—throwing you off balance.”
This imbalance can impact your appetite, metabolism, hair growth, sleep, body temperature, mood, sex drive, and menstruation along with energy levels.
How Hormones Support Energy
When it comes to energy, which is really the driving force of cellular function, your body needs oxygen and glucose (and stimulation).
Every cell in your body requires glucose from the food you eat to use for energy for the body and the brain. Learn more about blood sugar here.
When the body derives glucose from foods, the pancreas releases insulin, signaling cells to absorb the glucose. This fuels energy throughout the body and the brain. When this energy is not used, it is stored. Your liver converts excess glucose to glycogen, which the body stores in muscles and other tissue.
The stress hormone cortisol also supplies your body with the energy to navigate danger by increasing blood sugar to provide an energy source to muscles. To give you quick access to energy (to assist with the fight or the flight), cortisol triggers the liver to breakdown of stored energy in the body to provide you with fast fuel. This is extremely useful in case of a life or death situation but becomes problematic when the stress is chronic.
Cortisol and insulin have an antagonistic relationship which can wreak havoc on your hormones. For example, cortisol slows insulin production to allow blood sugar to be used immediately and prevent blood sugar from being stored.
In short, cortisol reduces the effects of insulin. This means that blood sugar is elevated but insulin isn’t able to work efficiently. When cortisol levels are chronically elevated, the body remains in an insulin-resistant state.
Balancing the organs that support the release of the hormones insulin and cortisol can help balance the hormonal cascade over time and essential oils are great tools to support this balance.
How Essential Oils Support Hormones
I have long observed that essential oils work like adaptogenic herbs, which Mariza notes “mean they are made from plant substances known as adaptogens that help our bodies adapt to the internal and external environmental factors causing stress in our lives. They are able to support the body systemically through cellular support for hormone balance, our immune system, and overall homeostasis.
Through their primary constituents, essential oils can affect the body in three main ways: uplift and energize; calm and soothe; and ground and balance with quick and effective results.” In other words, to quote Mariza “you can treat hormones without hormones.”
She notes that “even though essential oils exhibit specialized properties and are composed of hundreds of potent constituents, they are not hormones! They cannot mimic hormones or become hormones. They can’t produce hormones. They can’t replace hormones. Nature just doesn’t work that way.” While oils are not hormones, they can be used to balance different organ systems and regions of the brain to support healthy hormonal function.
Essential Oils to Support Insulin
Insulin is the hormone—produced by the pancreas—that regulates your blood sugar levels. It allows your body to use blood sugar (glucose) for energy by moving the glucose into cells, which helps keep blood sugar levels balanced and under control.
Insulin literally acts as the “key” needed to unlock a cell so that sugar can enter it and be used for energy.
If insulin is unable to do its job, either because the body isn’t producing enough insulin or too much insulin has made the cells unable to use it correctly (insulin resistance), high blood sugar results. This sets us up for imbalanced blood sugar, meaning you fall into the sugar rush and crash cycle throughout the day
Elevated insulin promotes insulin resistance, inflammation, moodiness, sleep issues, sugar and carb cravings, and increased belly fat from all of that extra sugar. Insulin spikes also increase the destruction of the thyroid in people with autoimmune thyroid disease.
Insulin resistance maybe linked to hormonal imbalances including hot flashes. Mariza explains that when “your body is not as efficient at delivering glucose (sugar) to your cells to use as energy, it may lead to spikes in the amount of glucose in your blood. Researchers have found that the frequency of hot flashes rise as blood sugar levels and the degree of insulin resistance rise.”
On the flip side, low blood sugar leaves you irritable, anxious, foggy-brained, hangry, and intensely craving more carbohydrates (usually in the form of refined sugars) or caffeine to bring your blood sugar levels back up to normal as quickly as possible.
Blood sugar imbalances can impact the pancreas which may struggle to keep pace with the high demand for insulin. Supporting the vitality of the pancreas with essential oils may help maintain healthy levels of insulin.
Pancreas™: The pancreas releases insulin to transport the glucose into the cells. As more and more cells receive glucose, blood sugar levels return to normal. Excess glucose is stored as glycogen (stored glucose) in the liver and muscles. If you have not eaten for a while and blood glucose concentrations drop, the pancreas releases another hormone called glucagon. Glucagon triggers the breakdown of glycogen into glucose, thus pushing blood glucose levels back up to normal. Pancreas™ oil facilitates this normal function of the pancreas. Pancreas™ blend contains Geranium essential oil which is noted for its hormone supporting function.
Apply 2- 3 drops to the pancreas (left side of the body two-thirds of the way up from the belly button towards the ribs. If you put your hand on your belly button and move over to the left then up until you feel the ribs, your hand will be over the pancreas).
Essential Oils to Support Cortisol
Cortisol is your body’s main stress hormone and is naturally produced in response to perceived stress, telling you to either fight the danger, flee for preservation, or freeze. But cortisol does a lot more than that, helping regulate blood sugar levels, it can also calm or create inflammation and influence sleep cycles.
When cortisol is out of balance, it throws off hormones and can contribute to perimenopause and menopause symptoms. Mariza explains “The production and release of cortisol is controlled by the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenals, a trio of glands often referred to as the HPA axis. It goes like this: When we encounter a stressor or perceived stressor, the hypothalamus, the brain’s communications center, releases CRH (corticotropin-releasing hormone) to tell the pituitary gland that there’s a potential threat. The pituitary gland, the body’s master control gland in charge of telling all of the endocrine glands what to do, responds by instructing the adrenal glands to kick into action via ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone). The adrenals respond by producing cortisol to raise our blood sugar levels so we have enough fuel for the coming confrontation and suppress all nonessential systems.”
When the stress has passed, your hypothalamus signals your pituitary gland to tell your adrenals to slow the secretion of cortisol levels. When you are under constant stress, the HPA axis is constantly “on,” flooding your system with cortisol and triggering HPA axis dysfunction. This throws your endocrine system out of balance and throws you into hormonal havoc that can present as estrogen dominance, thyroid dysfunction, increased belly fat, PMS and heavy and painful periods, moodiness, sugar and carb cravings, and sleep troubles.
Essential oils can support the adrenal glands and hypothalamus to help calm cortisol overdrive. The health and resilience of the adrenals (along with the hypothalamus) help to balance energy hormones like cortisol.
Adrenal™: Blood sugar imbalances can exhaust the adrenals. For example, eating a sugary meal will spike then quickly crash blood sugar, requiring the adrenals to release cortisol to stabilize blood sugar. Similarly, stress hormones such as adrenaline (epinephrine) can increase blood sugar levels to meet your body’s demands for energy. Every stress response is a blood sugar response. Fatigued adrenal glands can struggle to produce and release cortisol, which in turn throws off the body’s balance of blood sugar.
To help keep your adrenals balanced and not over releasing cortisol, apply 1- 2 drops of the Adrenal™ on the adrenal glands (lower mid-back, one fist above the 12th rib on each side) upon waking, before bed and throughout the day as needed.
Hypothalamus™ : This pearl size region of the brain located just above the brain stem serves as control center for neural and hormonal messages received from/sent to body, including signals to trigger the release of cortisol. The ability of the hypothalamus to receive clear messages from the body is critical as all outgoing endocrine and neural signals are based on the clarity of these incoming signals, including the ability to put the brakes on cortisol release. To optimize the ability of the hypothalamus to send and receive signals, apply 1 drop of Hypothalamus™ on forehead slightly above the third eye up to 6 times daily.
How Your Liver Supports Energy Hormones
One of the liver’s main jobs is to regulate blood sugar levels. A sluggish liver is unable to do so, contributing to fluctuating or chronically high levels of glucose. Your liver is Detoxification Central, in charge of breaking down toxins and used-up hormones and preparing them for removal from the body. If these toxins aren’t handled properly, they can end up back in your bloodstream. This raises your body’s overall toxic load and further exhausts the liver.
Your liver also plays a critical role in balancing the hormones in your body, including your thyroid hormone which plays a critical role in your energy levels. The liver develops and metabolizes the level of thyroid hormones. It is necessary for converting T4 to the active T3 hormone, and regulates their effect on the endocrine system.
The liver is also your primary organ of detoxification, helping to rid the system of excess hormones. If your liver is overwhelmed, overburdened or otherwise impaired, it can lead to toxic backlog and compromise energy production in the body.
For example, if your liver is impaired, your body may be unable to convert T4 to the active T3 hormone correctly. Sufficient levels of active T3 are necessary for your body to grow hair, boost metabolism, and create more energy!
When your liver is overworked or congested, it may slow down your body’s natural filtration process, leading to an overload of harmful substances, including old hormones that can then spill back into our system, leading to hormonal imbalance. Therefore maintaining and enhancing the vitality of the liver may help support heathy hormonal function and energy levels.
Liver™: The liver acts as the body’s glucose (energy) reservoir and helps to maintain steady and constant blood sugar levels by balancing the uptake, storage, and release of glucose, depending on the body’s need for energy. More specifically, excess glucose is removed from the blood and converted into glycogen (the storage form of glucose), which is stored in the liver. When blood sugar levels drop, the liver initiates a process called glycogenolysis, where glycogen is converted back into glucose, or by converting other sugars into glucose, gradually releasing it into the bloodstream until levels approach normal range. Finally, the liver produces ketones from fats when glucose is in short supply.
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