Naturopath Belinda Kirkpatrick On Healthy Hormones
"How do I balance my hormones?"
It’s the question so many women want the answer to. So, we thought we’d get you some answers. We spoke to Belinda Kirkpatrick, leading naturopath and author of Healthy Hormones. Here’s what she had to say.
There’s a discussion in the culture about how people wear “busyness,” like a badge of honour — but there’s a certain amount of shame associated with admitting that you’re stressed out and overwhelmed. Why is that?
I find this really disappointing because achievement and being busy are often seen as positive attributes but many people still associate being stressed out or overwhelmed with being ‘weak’ or not being able to cope. What many people might not realise is that the impact of being constantly busy or overachieving and feeling stressed out or overwhelmed result in the same chemical stress response from the body so we really all need to be slowing down and looking after ourselves and each other.
Talk us through the role cortisol and adrenaline play in our lives and how they impact our health and wellbeing. When did stress become such a big part of being human – where have we gone wrong?
Our adrenal glands secrete cortisol, adrenaline and other hormones when we are exposed to stress. This release of stress hormones is designed to help us to get out of a dangerous situation, like running away from a lion. After the danger has passed, our bodies stop releasing these stress hormones and is able to get out of the ‘fight-or-flight’ system and move into ‘rest-and-digest’, also known as the parasympathetic nervous system.
It is in this system that our bodies focus on increasing immunity, digestion, absorbing nutrients, self-repair, procreation and keeping a healthy hormone balance.
Sadly, in our modern world, we are often stressed, busy and rushing. Our bodies don’t know the difference between this type of stress and running away from the lion so our adrenal glands continue to secrete adrenaline and cortisol and our bodies become stuck in fight-or-flight.
This can make many of us feel ‘tired but wired’, anxious or unable to sleep which just further triggers our stress response. In some cases, our bodies can become very adrenally depleted and we can crash or experience burn-out.
We all have stress triggers – how do you coach your clients to deal with these triggers – what are some practical tips?
The impact of stress can affect relationships, friendships, finances, sleep quality and so much more. I often suggest these stress management techniques and would recommend them to everyone - don’t wait until you are super-stressed to try them.
- Practise mindfulness meditation
- Take 10 slow, deep intentional breaths at least once a day, or when needed
- Ensure you get enough quality sleep (7-9 hours is ideal)
- Learn to say "no" to what doesn't serve you
- Exercise daily - walking can be exercise too!
- Allocated phone- and technology-free time each day
- See a therapist or psychologist if you need professional help
How does stress impact relationships?
As a natural fertility specialist, I often see how stress can impact relationships and place additional strain on couples who are experiencing fertility problems or undergoing IVF.
Stress can affect our mood and the way we behave or interact with our loved ones and research shows that relationships often suffer when people are under stress.
Taking couples who are trying to conceive for example, sex can begin to feel very clinical and unromantic for those attempting natural conception, or men may develop temporary problems with sexual function from the pressure and lack of positive results.
In these situations, I usually recommend that couples make an effort to spend some good quality time together and ensure that they are being intimate at times away from the fertile window to help reduce any pressure associated with trying to conceive. When you have been trying for some time, there can be intense emotional stress when it feels like everyone on social media or all your friends are magically falling pregnant ‘so easily’.
You were widowed 15 years ago, leaving you to finish university, raise two small babies, start your business and complete your Masters on your own – how did you cope? How did you put your health first during this time? What did you learn about stress during this time?
I certainly learned a lot about stress that’s for sure. After the unexpected death of my fiancé, body was stuck in fight-in-flight for a long time. To be honest, I am not sure how I coped. I was four months pregnant and had an 18-month-old so I just had to take each day at a time because I still needed to look after my daughter and try to nourish my pregnant body at a time when eating was the least of my priorities.
I probably didn’t really focus on putting my own health first at the time but I was still very committed to creating a healthy and low-tox environment with nourishing whole foods for my children so the food we ate was always healthy which kept me healthy too.
After spending a couple of years on auto-pilot with waves of unrelenting grief, I had a moment where I realised that I had to choose life. I was the only parent that my girls had and I needed to be healthy and there for them and show them how to live life to the fullest which is what their daddy would have wanted me to do.
I learnt that tragedy and stress are in discriminant and a part of everyone’s life in some way. Whether it is death, illness, loss, fertility problems, financial problems or mental health issues, stress is sadly unavoidable but it is how we learn and choose to deal with stress that helps us to cope and grow.
We are often told our hormones are out of imbalance – can you talk us through your book Healthy Hormones?
Absolutely! ‘Healthy Hormones’ is a naturopathic and nutritional wealth of information designed for women from 16-45 years who want to take an active interest in optimising their hormonal health and understand more about themselves and the way that food and nutrition can improve their hormonal health.
‘Healthy Hormones’ helps women to improve their hormonal health and symptoms by providing nutritional and dietary advice for common symptoms and conditions. This advice is given in an easy to read, user-friendly format with an emphasis on balance, moderation and having fun! It is all about learning how to take control of your hormones and feel your best and focuses on crowding out the bad stuff by increasing the good stuff. Your body naturally wants to heal and move towards good health so be gentle with yourself and allow flexibility!
‘Healthy Hormones’ is also designed to help women who are planning conception, currently trying to conceive, undergoing IVF or have experienced miscarriage(s) and want to take an active role in improving their outcomes and increasing their fertility.
ORA TIP: Ora Hormonal Balance is a radically delicious hormone-supporting powder for women. Formulated with a synergistic blend of adaptogens and Vitamin B6 for hormonal and energy support and Tremella (AKA the beauty mushroom), Hormonal Balance tastes delightfully chocolatey and is best mixed into a plant-based milk.