Hormones are your body’s chemical messengers. They are produced in the endocrine glands and these powerful chemicals travel around your bloodstream telling your tissues and organs what to do. They help control many of your body’s major processes, including metabolism and reproduction.
When you have a hormonal imbalance, you have too much or too little of a certain hormone. Even tiny changes can have serious effects throughout your whole body.
Think of hormones like a cake recipe. Too much or too little of any one ingredient affects the final product. While some hormone levels fluctuate throughout your lifetime and may just be the result of natural ageing, other changes occur when your endocrine glands get the recipe wrong.
Some of the symptoms hormonal imbalances could cause are:
- persistent weight gain
- mood swings
- constipation or more frequent bowel movements
- decreased sex drive
- nervousness, anxiety or irritability
- muscle aches, tenderness and stiffness
When we are trying to keep our hormones balanced three key areas need support:
- the liver, which helps us make and regulate many hormones plus detox out excess hormones
- the adrenal glands, which also make many hormones, even some reproductive hormones
- the gut, which can affect every area in the body
Let’s take a look at some of the causes of hormonal imbalances:
Stress is the number one driver of hormonal imbalances. When you face a potential threat or danger, your body’s stress response — often called the “fight or flight” response — is triggered.
First, the stress hormones noradrenaline and adrenaline are released in a quick burst. They quickly dissipate after the stressful situation is over and don’t hang around to do damage.
That is followed by the release of the hormone cortisol. The fight or flight response is designed by nature so that you can save yourself from a lion. The problem is your body doesn’t know the difference between actual physical danger and your boss yelling at you, the kids fighting, rushing to do errands (you get the picture), so a lot of us are living with high cortisol levels.
This affects all the other hormone systems as cortisol steals hormones so will result in a decrease in your thyroid hormone and progesterone and ultimately in oestrogen dominance. This term can be confusing because it implies too much oestrogen — but this condition is actually when oestrogen levels are far out of proportion compared to your progesterone levels resulting in many symptoms.
A diet which is comprised of extremely processed, highly refined, energy-dense foods plays an enormous role in causing hormonal imbalances. One of the most important foods to stay away from is sugar.
Sugar has been found to increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cancer. It is also responsible for causing a host of imbalanced hormonal symptoms such as anxiety, mood swings, polycystic ovaries, infertility, acne and more.
So that means no sugary desserts, simple carbs, sugary drinks or excessive alcohol. As much as they may make you feel good in the short term, because they are quickly absorbed in the bloodstream, they will spike your blood sugar. High blood sugar is usually followed by a drop a short time later, leading to mood swings, headaches and fatigue. Blood sugar swings also involve the adrenals, the gut and the liver, putting more pressure on these important areas that are essential for hormone health.
Aim to eat more organic foods, vegetables and whole foods that are also probiotic-rich, like fermented foods, as they can help with the process of detoxification. Cruciferous vegetables are great for alkalising the body such as broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, kale and other dark, leafy greens.
Eat foods that are high in healthy fats, such as avocados, oysters, salmon and olive oil and coconut oil. Add good proteins while avoiding simple carbs. Choose healthy proteins from lean sources that are also free-range or organic and hormone-free.
Lack of Sleep
We all want to have a good night’s sleep, but too often we worry too much, work too many hours and live in a home environment that causes our sleep to be disturbed. If you don’t feel refreshed when you wake up, you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep, or you find yourself awake more than once through the night, then you are not allowing your body to rest and repair as it needs to. This will exacerbate any hormone issue you may have.
Sleep in a completely dark and cool room, especially if you suffer from night sweats and hot flushes — keep your room a cool 18°C and as dark as you can get it.
Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals
Avoid endocrine or oestrogen disruptors. Some of these chemicals are known as xenoestrogens. They have a similar chemical structure to our oestrogen and can cause problems for hormone function. Other endocrine disruptors interfere with thyroid function, liver function, adrenal function and even our gut health.
Considering that your skin is your body’s largest organ and acts like a sponge, imagine how much toxin it is absorbing daily. And these chemicals don’t break down, but simply accumulate in your system.
Choose cleaning products, cosmetics and skincare products that are non-toxic and that don’t contain chemicals that disrupt the hormone function in your body. Try to not purchase products that contain: Parabens, Phthalates, Petrochemicals, Triclosan (antibacterial soaps!), hexane, formaldehyde and other solvents, synthetic fragrances, colours and sulfates.
During the menopausal years, the production of oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone naturally decrease. As we head into menopause and during peri-menopause, hormonal imbalances can manifest as hot flushes, headaches, aches and pains, menstrual irregularities, weight gain and bloating, as well as vaginal dryness, weakening pelvic floor muscles, incontinence and decreased sexual libido. All of the above ideas may help to decrease the severity of menopausal symptoms.
Don’t be overwhelmed by all that you may need to do to balance your hormones. Pick one step and do that for a week or so. Then try another. It is possible to restore balance and it is well worth your while. You will feel great, have more energy and finally feel like you have control over your body.
Medical Disclaimer: This article is for information purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. For medical advice always consult your physician. The information provided in this blog is based on the best knowledge of the author at the time of writing and we do not assume liability for the information within this blog, be it direct or indirect, consequential, special, exemplary or other damages.