When we hear the word “hormone,” it usually carries a negative connotation. People typically associate hormones with menopausal women and the difficulties they may suffer. But there are many different hormones that have different jobs within the body and affect us all from birth to death. Menopause is not the only thing that alters the normal balance of hormones and it doesn’t just affect women. There are a number of reasons for hormonal imbalance and understanding these reasons can help you treat the problem.
What Might Cause Hormonal Imbalance?
Hormonal imbalance is very common, especially in women. For some people a hormonal imbalance is a genetic predisposition, but for many more people it can be caused by age, medications, pregnancy, hormone-based birth control, diabetes, thyroid conditions, and lifestyle. Some of the causes of hormonal imbalance can be corrected with changes in diet or exercise, and improving sleep patterns. Stress is also a common cause of hormonal imbalances and alleviating that stress can correct the problem. Other causes may need to be treated by your doctor.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Hormonal Imbalance?
Persistent acne problems: Normal shifts in hormones during certain times of the menstrual cycle can cause some women to break out in acne. However, if you have persistent acne, or deep cystic acne, that can be a sign of hormonal imbalance. An increase in testosterone can cause an increase in the production of sebum that gets trapped in the skin and combines with bacteria, clogging pores and causing acne.
Sleep problems: When levels of progesterone drop, usually right before the period or right after giving birth, it can cause problems sleeping. Persistent sleep problems or disorders can be caused by an unnatural drop in progesterone levels.
Foggy memory: If you find yourself having trouble remembering where you put your keys or your purse, this could be caused by a hormonal imbalance. If you experience a lot of stress, the body reacts by producing high levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. A number of studies have shown that chronically high levels of cortisol in the body can impede memory and learning.
Always hungry: Hormones such as ghrelin and leptin can cause you to feel hungry all the time. Ghrelin increases appetite while leptin suppresses appetite, so changes in the normal levels of either of these hormones can make you feel ravenous. This can typically occur in people who are chronically sleep-deprived.
Digestive issues: A few hormone fluctuations can lead to digestive problems. The stress hormone cortisol and the hormone serotonin can have adverse effects on the digestive tract when out of balance, especially if you already suffer from conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Abnormal levels of estrogen and progesterone can also cause digestive problems.
Chronic fatigue: Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormones. This can lead to a feeling of exhaustion on a daily basis. Thyroid hormone controls many bodily functions including digestion, heart rate, and mental function. When the metabolism isn’t functioning properly, it leads to constant fatigue.
Weight gain: Weight gain is not an inevitable sign of aging. In many cases hormone imbalances can lead to weight gain. When the thyroid stops producing enough hormone, the metabolism slows and the body gains weight. This can be a result of adrenal fatigue which also affects the pancreas and the hormones it produces.
Depression and mood swings: Mood swings, depression, and anxiety can typically be experienced by women going through menopause, which disrupts the normal levels of hormones. Stress can also trigger these mood changes, as can a decrease in the production of the brain chemical serotonin.
Headaches: Hormonal imbalances due to the menstrual cycle or menopause can trigger headaches and migraines. It can be helpful to keep a diary of when these headaches occur so you can pinpoint a possible trigger. Increases in cortisol due to chronic stress can also lead to headaches.
Vaginal dryness: A reduction in the normal levels of estrogen, as occurs with menopause, can cause changes to the vaginal wall, causing dryness. This can make intercourse uncomfortable and even painful.
Night sweats and hot flashes: This used to be associated with low levels of estrogen, but night sweats and hot flashes can be caused by too much estrogen and too little progesterone, as well as other hormones. Problems with the ovaries, adrenal glands, thyroid, and pancreas can all cause hot flashes and night sweats.
Loss of libido: Many women experience a low sex drive and in most cases this is caused by decreased levels of estrogen. In men, low sex drive is usually due to a decrease in testosterone. Other hormonal imbalances can also play a role in loss of libido.
Breast changes: High levels of estrogen can cause changes to the breast tissue of women. These changes can include the growth of fibroids, lumps, and cysts. High levels of estrogen can also cause breasts to feel sore and tender.
What Can You Do About Hormonal Imbalance?
Limit caffeine intake
Too much caffeine can have an adverse effect on the endocrine system especially if there are other factors at play including pregnancy or stress. You can cut down on the amount of caffeine and replace it with beneficial herbal teas. You can also add health fats to your coffee such as coconut oil.
Stay away from toxins
Toxins found in common items such as plastics, pesticides, and household chemicals and cleaners can have an adverse effect on hormone levels in the body. You can avoid toxins by eliminating the use of chemical pesticides and cleaners from your home, storing food in glass instead of plastic containers, and cooking in non-coated pots and pans.
Avoid commercial cooking oils
Commercial cooking oils such as canola, vegetable, peanut, soybean, margarine and shortening all contain high levels of omega-6 fatty acids which may metabolize in your body to become a type of fatty acid. And this fatty acid may lead to conditions such as heart disease and hormonal imbalance. Choose healthy fats such as coconut oil and olive oil, and use real butter.
Consume avocadoes and coconut oil
Coconut oil and avocadoes as well as other healthy fats contain omega-3 fatty acids, which is the best way to increase levels of female hormones and testosterone. The cholesterol in these healthy fats is necessary for the production of healthy cells and normal hormone production.
Change your leptin
Leptin is necessary for the regulation of metabolism and suppressing hunger. A reduction of leptin is caused by consuming too much processed foods and sugar or by foregoing normal sleep patterns. So be sure to get plenty of sleep, avoid sugar and processed foods, and eat whole foods.
Try maca root
Maca root has been known for years to provide a hormone boost due to its being rich in minerals and essential fatty acids. Women have reported increased fertility, fewer PMS (premenstrual syndrome) symptoms, and healthy skin while men have reported better sleep, increased libido, and increased sperm production. You can take it in a capsule or add it to a smoothie.
Learn to handle stress
Chronic stress causes an increase in the level of cortisol and this affects all of your other hormones, altering balance. Learning how to better manage your stress can keep cortisol levels normal. Try exercise, yoga, or meditation to help ease stress.
Change your diet
Avoid processed foods and sugars and add foods high in omega-3 fatty acids such as fish, nuts and seeds, avocadoes, and healthy oils such as olive and coconut. Also avoid foods like meat, eggs, and dairy as these foods can contain chemicals that can interfere with normal hormone balance. You can also supplement with fish oil.
Get regular exercise
At least thirty minutes of regular exercise a day can help restore hormonal balance, alleviating your symptoms, improving sleep and digestion. Any form of moderate exercise is good as long as it gets you moving.
The video below from Dr. Natalie Ham discusses many ways to help you naturally restore your body’s hormonal balance. She discusses diet, supplements, and exercise, all proven ways to help restore balance to your hormones and help improve symptoms.