Hormone Imbalance, Why Does It Happen And What Can You Do?
A hormone imbalance can turn your life upside down. Some people think certain things happen just because we get older and excuse them away. That is not always the case. If you have a hormone imbalance, chances are there is A LOT you can do about it!
In this article we’re going to look at:
- What are hormones.
- The top 5 things that cause a hormone imbalance.
- The symptoms to look for in a hormone imbalance.
- How to check your hormones.
- What can you do to balance again?
Hormones are critical chemical messengers that control our body’s communication pathways, affecting many aspects of our health. Every part of our body has a job it needs to get done, and our hormones help ensure that job gets completed.
Hormones are secreted by exocrine glands such as the pituitary gland, the adrenal glands, the thyroid, the ovaries/testes, pancreas, etc. They work together to form one large communication center within our body, called the endocrine system.
Without hormones, our body would be unable to grow, to use energy from the food we eat, to regulate our mood or reproductive processes. Even a minor hormone imbalance can lead to widespread symptoms, similar to when we drop a stone into a body of water and watch the ripple effect.
Let’s Look At The Top 5 Causes Of A Hormonal Imbalance
Our bodies are designed to respond to stress acutely by activating our “fight or flight” sympathetic nervous system. One of the main hormones in this reaction is cortisol, one of our steroid hormones. Unfortunately, we tend to see people who are under constant sources of stress, putting this nervous system into overdrive.
In our for our bodies to meet the demands of this chronic stress, it preferentially uses cholesterol to make cortisol instead of some of our other stress hormones like progesterone. This may lead to symptoms like changes in mood, weight gain, and PMS like symptoms.
Women are more sensitive to a hormonal imbalance than most men, and chronic stress can negatively impact fertility since our body does not feel reproduction is a priority in times of stress. Our adrenal glands, which secrete cortisol, have a distinction relationship with the hypothalamus and anterior pituitary gland as well, called the HPA axis. When we see this relationship altered, we also see other hormones affected as well like thyroid hormones, melatonin, and insulin.
Irregular Sleep Habits
Most of our bodily functions are synched with our sleep-wake cycle, our hormones included. This means that the release of certain hormones naturally fluctuate throughout the day. Hormones that are under clear circadian control include melatonin, cortisol, our sex hormones, thyroid hormones, and epinephrine.
Unfortunately, it’s all too common to see people get caught up with day to day tasks, and put sleep on the back burner. This can not only cause a hormone imbalance, but also affect almost every physiological process in our body! Quality sleep needs to be a priority for happy, healthy hormones. We cannot reiterate this enough!
In regards to nutrition, one of the major things that can affect hormone imbalances in blood sugar levels. When we eat a meal high in sugar of refined carbohydrates, we see both a spike in insulin, and a decrease in sex-hormone binding globulin. Sex-hormone binding globulin’s main role is to bind excess hormones in the blood; therefore, when this goes down, free hormones go up. One of the major ones in this case is testosterone (hello androgen excess).
Androgen excess is something that we see often in individuals who have PCOS, or polycystic ovarian syndrome. If you feel that you rely on processed carbohydrates or sugary foods to provide energy throughout the day, you may have dysregulated blood sugar.
When we think about inflammation, we most often think about what happens to our tissue post-injury. This kind of inflammation; however, is very different. Chronic inflammation is a systemic level of inflammation that occurs throughout the body in response to prolonged periods of stress, alcohol, toxin exposure, and food sensitivities to name a few.
Acutely, inflammation is a good thing to help initiate healing and protect the body; chronically however it can lead to many problems. There is an area in our brains that regulates our hormones, and these receptors respond to inflammatory mediators that are being released in inflammatory states.
For example, in response to this, our brain sends signals to the adrenal glands to pump out more hormones, like cortisol. Our body typically likes to be a tightly regulated system, with everyone in balance to operate at its best. When we get an overproduction of one hormone, we often see other hormones suffering as a response leading to a hormonal imbalance.
Our environment is a major source of chemicals that have been found to have endocrine disrupting properties. One of the most common endocrine disrupting chemicals are xenoestrogens. Xenoestrogens mean that they have the ability to modulate estrogen’s activity throughout the body by binding to estrogen receptors.
These chemicals can be found in your personal care products, make-up, plastics, receipts, and other products that touch our food and skin. These include known xenoestrogens such as parabens, BPA, phthalates and triclosan. It’s hard to avoid these chemicals completely in today’s day and age but there are some things that we can do to lessen our exposure, and chemical burden.
This includes looking for products that are made without these ingredients, ditching plastic for glass, and avoiding the handling of paper receipts. In addition, using apps such as “Think Dirty” and “EWG” can help to identify products without these endocrine disruptors.
What Exactly Does A Hormonal Imbalance Feel Like?
You might have a combination of some of these symptoms…
- You feel wired but tired at night
- You feel anxious, have difficulty focusing, or feel like you have brain fog
- You feel your mood is all over the map
- You are losing your hair more than normal, or you start to notice clumps falling out
- You may get food cravings for chocolate, chips, or sweets that feel difficult to manage
- Acne along the jawline and lower cheeks
- Rashes or hives for no reason
- You feel constantly drained, fatigue, or that your ability to bounce back is not what it once was
- Your back, joints, and muscles ache or joints are inflamed without an apparent cause
- Your menstrual cycles are irregular, painful, heavy, or you’re no longer ovulating at all
- You may be premenopausal or post-menopausal and may be suffering from hot flashes, night sweats or mood swings
- You may wake each night, typically between 1-4am, with racing thoughts and difficulty falling back asleep
- You feel your sex drive is non-existent, and have no desire for intercourse
- You have been gaining weight or have difficulty losing weight even though your routine has not changed
- Your digestive system has been out of whack, ranging from difficulty passing bowel movements to very loose stools
Did you find yourself doing a mental checklist of one, or more of these things? Then you’re in the right place.
Have you been told that these things are “normal”, part of aging, part of being a woman, etc. but want more for your health? We want you to feel better than fine, to challenge the status quo. We want you to aim for higher health, and to feel fantastic doing it.
Some of these symptoms can be linked to other health conditions as well, we recommend speaking with your naturopathic doctor to identify the root cause of your issues.
How Can I Check For A Hormone Imbalance?
There are 3 types of hormone tests available.
- Saliva-This hormone test kit can be delivered and done at home.
- Blood-Requires a lab visit or we can send a lab tech to your home.
- Urine-This hormone test kit can be delivered and done at home.
The DUTCH test is one of our favorites and stands for the Dried Urine Test for Comprehensive Hormones. It measures several different hormones, their metabolites, and certain neurotransmitters, by collecting a small amount of urine on a piece of filtered paper four times a day.
This package is then mailed to the lab, and the results will be received by your Naturopathic Doctor in approximately 4-6 weeks. A comprehensive assessment, and tailored treatment plan will then be made by your Naturopathic Doctor to get your hormones back in synch. An individualized treatment plan may include dietary + lifestyle recommendations, supplementation, and herbs.
The main hormones measured in the test include:
Many hormones including but not limited to estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, fasting insulin, and thyroid hormones can be tested through blood tests. Some of these hormones are taken on certain days of your cycle for the most accurate results, while others can be taken at any time.
Some hormones such as cortisol can be tested via salivary testing, at different points throughout the day to assess the rate and rhythm at which your body is secreting them.
Hormone imbalances can change your life! That’s why it is important to pay attention when you start feeling different. There are many things that could be causing these hormonal changes, so don’t just assume its part of getting older.
The right diagnosis will help put everything into perspective for YOU.
From there you need a plan to addresses where your hormones are too high or too low that will include:
- Lifestyle recommendations and expert education to help you balance your hormones as fast as possible.
- Check in and coaching calls. We’re there as you need support and guidance. You will not be doing this alone!
- A supplement plan focused on your hormonal health balance.
- Possible Red Light and IV Therapy as well.
- A custom meal plan that focuses on balancing your hormones while tasting great.
Are you ready to take control of your hormones? Book a free consultation with one of the Naturopathic Doctors at Higher Health today.