Summertime is for ice-cold drinks, ocean water views, fresh fruit and chips, but it’s also a time of change. Due to the cruel Texas summers, many have to change their skincare routines and what they wear. However, people might be unaware that their bodies also undergo changes, particularly hormonal changes.
First, let’s cover the basics of hormones and their role in the body.
Hormones are tricky. They are the body’s chemical messengers, and they play a big part in how the body reacts to various stimuli. In addition, hormones respond to changes in our environment, especially seasonal changes, which impact metabolism, development, reproduction and sexual function.
Hormones are produced by endocrine glands, which are specialized cell groupings. The principal endocrine glands are the pituitary, pineal, thymus, thyroid, adrenal and pancreas. In addition, both men and women generate hormones in their testes and ovaries.
One study shows a pattern among hormones during the changing seasons. The body has effector hormones, which are constantly working to balance out the body. In the winter and spring, these hormones are at their highest. Our bodies also have upstream regulating pituitary hormones, which contribute to our bodies’ overall wellness. These include cortisol and are at the highest level in the summer, which triggers the sequence of bodily hormonal events and releases for the rest of the body.
So what does this mean? Cortisol, for example, is a stress hormone that aids in the control of stress-induced increased energy and attempts to restore equilibrium and blood pressure. Cortisol peaks in the summer, which indicates that people are more stressed during this season. In the winter and spring, hormones for reproduction, development, metabolism and stress adaptability are at their highest levels, indicating that our hormones are more balanced in this season and perform better together.
According to another study, cortisol levels are highest in the summer and gradually decrease throughout the day. In the evening, levels lower to maintain healthy sleeping patterns. This also shows that our stress is higher throughout summer.
Austin-based Dr. Tenesha Wards D.C., A.C.N. has taken a holistic approach to health, nutrition and wellness specialization ranging from fatigue to G.I. and womens’ hormone issues pre- and post-menopause.
When asked what people should do when experiencing a hormonal imbalance during summer, Wards first notes that we should first get to the root of the problem and ask ourselves why the body is compensating and why one hormone may be overpowering the other.
“It could be a lot of things; it could be from an outside source,” Wards says. “There’s a lot of places you can get excess estrogen, including hormones and our meat. Or your body’s producing too much (of a hormone).”
Wards notes that people tend to be less stressed in the summer as they travel and get more vitamin D from spending time outside. However, because of this, people’s routines are interrupted, which means their hormones also get interrupted.
Wards suggests that sticking to a sleep schedule that allows for six hours or more of sleep is essential for hormonal regulation and balance.
“I see (in) the summertime, people get out of routine and their sleep is off,” Wards says.
Summertime in Austin means the lake, parties and late nights for locals, and Wards sees the consequences of such actions when routines are disrupted.
“I often see people drink and eat more sugar because they’re going to parties, so that can disrupt the hormones — eating and drinking out of a routine,” Wards says. “So you could even say something like frozen, fruity cocktails or more beers at the lake can disrupt hormones.”
Wards advises her clients to start with liver detox, as the liver is where unbalanced hormones originate. When the liver is properly repaired, the rest of the body’s imbalanced hormones are usually balanced as well. She also notes that exercise and stress management such as talk therapy, art therapy or even walking play a role in creating a routine that can keep your hormones in check.
The studies show that certain hormones peak during the summer and, according to Wards, these hormonal changes may be due to breaking routine and basking in the summer routine.
While summer is a time for fun activities, it’s also essential to take care of oneself, especially when it comes to our hormones. Since cortisol peaks in the summer, this could indicate that one should stick to a routine year-round and maintain a good sleep schedule to allow the body to heal and help manage what we put into our bodies.