Have you not been feeling like yourself lately? Maybe you are feeling more fatigued than usual or you are finding yourself having unnecessary anger and/or overwhelming emotions. Maybe you’ve been trying exceptionally hard to lose some extra weight, but the pounds aren’t budging. Stop being so hard on yourself, girl! There could be a very likely reason for all of these signs – like hormonal imbalance.
While men and women can have imbalanced hormones, women tend to have more hormone imbalance issues because of the biological phases we go through- puberty, pregnancy, menopause, etc. Not only that, but due to our higher usage of beauty products and household cleaners, women are exposed to more hormone-disrupting chemicals than men, which makes matters even worse.
Conventional medicine usually treats symptoms of hormone imbalances with a laundry list of prescriptions and devices. However, functional medicine providers look at this in a different light. Instead of covering up the symptoms of unbalanced hormones, they look to fix the root cause.
Hormones are the body’s chemical messengers of the endocrine system. They allow different parts of your body to communicate with one another. Hormones are created by different glands or organs and travel all throughout the body via the blood. Since there are hormone receptors (aka where hormones can bind and set off a cascade of events) all throughout the body, these messengers can control and regulate the activity of cells and organs (ultimately affecting functions in your body).
Hormones play a role in regulating appetite, emotions, sleep, growth, sexual development, and your menstrual cycle. Because hormones play such an essential role in the body, even a slight change in levels can cause your body to go out of whack.
Some of the most common hormones that people have issues with are thyroid, estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, cortisol, and insulin. If one of these is unbalanced, there’s a chance that it can affect the levels of another hormone, causing even more disruption and chaos in the normal functioning of your body.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms below, there is a possibility that you are dealing with a hormone imbalance where your hormones are either too high or too low.
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There are numerous factors that can affect the levels of your hormones. While there are tons of causes, these are the major sources I see in my patients. Are any of these following sources a possible cause of your hormone imbalance? Let’s take a look.
Chronic stress can affect your adrenal glands by increasing your cortisol levels. This is vital because high levels of cortisol over time can cause thyroid dysfunction, high blood pressure, increased glucose in the bloodstream, and can suppress both the digestive system and reproductive system.
In addition to that, when your body creates more cortisol, it lowers the amount of progesterone in your body. This creates an issue because it messes up the progesterone to estrogen ratio (low progesterone to high estrogen). This can cause a long list of health problems, with mood swings, anxiety, weight gain and fertility complications being especially common side effects for women.
Beauty products like our makeup, shampoos, lotions, perfumes, as well as our household cleaners like soaps, laundry detergent, and air fresheners are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This means that these products we are coming in contact with every single day, multiple times a day, could contain harmful chemicals without us even knowing.
These toxins may include endocrine disruptors that can either block certain hormone receptors or mimic hormones (like estrogen-mimicking hormones), causing a change in your hormone levels. Even if these products have a tiny amount of these chemicals, remember that it only takes a minute amount to affect the body. Plus, many of us are likely using these products on a daily basis, increasing our exposure to them over time allowing them to accumulate in our bodies.
Diets high in sugar and processed foods can lead to high levels of insulin hormone. High levels of insulin can lead to obesity, heart disease, and insulin resistance. Dairy products can also contain synthetic hormones that can alter your hormone levels. Preservatives and pesticides, which are found in many processed foods, can act as estrogen-mimicking hormones which can lead to estrogen dominance.
Women will experience many hormonal imbalances throughout life that are natural. Every month women’s hormone levels change depending on where you are in your cycle. These can lead to mood swings and what we know as PMS. When women become pregnant, hormones are in chaos which is why you may feel more emotional at times and is the reason for that morning sickness. During menopause, estrogen levels decrease which may cause symptoms of vaginal dryness, painful sex, and hot flashes.
While some doctors may just put you on a medication to help regulate your hormones, there are natural ways you can beat unbalanced hormones. Please be aware that temporary medication may be necessary in serious cases until natural practices can regulate them better and you should always consult your medical provider.
Include an abundance of organic fruits and vegetables to your diet and drink filtered water (since the majority of water is contaminated with at least one unwanted toxin). Replace high sugar and processed meals with real whole food. Reduce your intake of dairy, which can include high amounts of added hormones. Avoid high amounts of gluten since many people have a food sensitivity to it that causes inflammation and increased cortisol. Adding flax seeds, cruciferous veggies, and good fats to our diet can help regulate female hormones as well.
Exercise can greatly enhance the regulation of your hormones. Depending on which hormones need balancing, high-intensity, low-impact workouts could be more helpful than long extensive ones. Patients dealing with thyroid issues, blood sugar imbalance or adrenal fatigue may benefit shorter workouts to lessen the stress on their bodies.
We all know that stress can affect our body in harmful ways. Yet, most of us don’t really practice managing it. Make a promise to yourself that you’ll incorporate at least one stress management practice into your daily routine. This can include prayer, meditation, journaling, yoga, taking a walk in nature, or breathing exercises.
Also, try to avoid stressful situations or environments in the first place. Be mindful of how you spend your time and what is robbing you of joy and how you can restructure your schedules and lives to minimize stress. Surround yourself with a community that brings love, laughter, encouragement and joy, to help reduce the stressors in your life.
Be sure to buy non-toxic beauty care products and household cleaners. This is a simple switch you can make that can have a huge impact. There are also DIY recipes online, anything from laundry detergent to all-purpose cleaner to air fresheners, that are easy to make and include non-toxic ingredients. We want to stay away from those harsh endocrine disruptors that are causing havoc on your body! If you want to know how to make your home less toxic, check out this article I wrote here.
In addition to changing up your diet and lifestyle behaviors, taking certain supplements may help bring those hormones back into balance. Here are some recommended supplements that could help you, but be sure to discuss these with your health care provider since everyone’s individual needs are differ. Also, be sure to buy your supplements from a reputable source since they are not regulated by the FDA. Your functional medicine provider can recommend specific brands to you that they prefer for their patients. I personally recommend that all of my patients buy pharmaceutical grade supplements from fullscript.
Taking B vitamins are essential for great hormone production and balance. They support adrenal health and healthy production of cortisol. They also help the liver detox and get rid of that extra estrogen you may be getting from the toxins in our environment. B vitamins can also help with energy production and I always recommend methylated b vitamins so the body is better able to utilize them.
Magnesium helps keep the pituitary gland healthy which is essential for signaling to the glands that produce your hormones. Taking magnesium can aid in insulin resistance issues and can replenish the magnesium that is used up during high-stress situations by stress hormones.
This is an incredibly popular herb for people that struggle with hormone imbalance. You may have heard it referred to as Chaste Tree or Chaste Berry. It can be incredibly helpful for those that struggle with PMS. In fact, a study found over 50% of women that were taking vitex daily for 3 months had improved PMS symptoms. These include but are not limited to: headache, depression, anxiety, breast swelling, bloating, and food cravings.
Omega-3 fatty acids are a wonderful anti-inflammatory supplement. They also can help support healthy hormone metabolism and pregnancy. Studies show that omega-3’s have been found to contribute to healthy ovulation. Also, those struggling with PCOS, may have blood sugar imbalances and omega 3’s can help decrease insulin resistance.
If you feel like you may have an imbalance in your hormones, a functional medicine provider can give you the opportunity to get your hormones tested. They won’t hand you a medication that covers up your symptoms without giving you the option to try other methods to fix the root cause. When you complete a hormone test, it can give you the specific levels of each hormone, and your provider can guide you on the specific natural practices you can focus on to regulate your hormone of interest.
If you want to take charge of your health the right way, the first step is finding the right functional medicine provider for you.
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