At a basic level, hormones are chemicals that coordinate the functions in your body by carrying signals through blood to different organs, muscles, tissue, etc. that make up your endocrine system. These chemicals help control bodily processes including metabolism, reproduction and growth and development, among other things.
A hormonal imbalance is an umbrella term for different hormone-related conditions that occur when an individual has too much or too little of the hormone. Even a slight tipping of the scales can lead to major changes in the body.
What causes a hormonal imbalance?
It depends which hormones are affected. It could be caused by any number of reasons: autoimmune disorders, chemo treatment, eating disorders, injury or trauma, etc. Changes occur naturally as we age, especially during menopause and perimenopause. Medical conditions like thyroid disorders or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) affect hormone levels in women. Medications like hormonal contraceptives can also affect the balance.
What are symptoms of hormone imbalance?
Naturally, women going through menopause and perimenopause may experience hot flashes and night sweats. Digestive issues like constipation and diarrhea, and irregular menstrual cycles (missed periods, irregularities in heavy or light bleeding, etc.) are also typical signs of hormonal imbalance. Other signs include mood swings, fatigue, memory and cognitive issues.
If you’ve been experiencing these ongoing symptoms and feel that it may be severe, you may want to consider hormone testing. A female hormone test is essentially a blood test that measures sex hormone levels, including estrogens and progesterone. These tests could also be used to aid in diagnosing hormone-related conditions such as PCOS. The information acquired from
testing can be used to develop a treatment plan if needed. Hormone testing is not generally needed for women who are experiencing uncomfortable but normal hormone fluctuations during menopause or perimenopause. For more serious cases, it’s best to talk to your doctor.
Effects of hormone imbalance
In turn, a plethora of health conditions are caused by hormone issues. For example, hormones are crucial for maintaining bone density. An imbalance in hormones has been linked to osteoporosis and bone fractures. It can also affect fertility, change the symp- toms of PMS and cause irregular menstrual cycles. Other notable health concerns include difficulty falling asleep, sleep deprivation and interference with metabolism causing weight gain.
What you can do
Did you know ovarian health is directly linked to brain health? Removing your ovaries have a direct impact on your brain. The estrogens that are released from your ovaries aid in spatial working memory (remembering where you parked your car) and verbal episodic memory (remembering a story). If you need to have your ovaries removed (if you’re at risk of breast or ovarian cancer, for example) and cannot do estrogen replacement therapy, good sleep (7 to 10 hours), diet and exercise can help with memory. But if you can, keep your ovaries. They’re really important for healthy brain aging.
For most people, simple lifestyle changes like a balanced diet, enough sleep and exercise can put them back on track.
How to naturally balance your hormones
Exercise regularly: It helps organize your hormone receptor sensitivity so that hormone signals and nutrients are delivered smoothly.
Eat enough protein and fiber: Proteins provide amino acids that produce peptide hormones to regulate growth, appetite, stress, etc. Fibers help to regulate hormones.
Pay attention to your gut health: The gut microbiome needs to be in balance for estrogen metabolism to happen effectively.
Minimize your added sugar intake: Added sugars promote insulin resistance, ultimately leading to hormonal imbalances via disruptions in the gut microbiome.
Get enough sleep: It’s one of the most important factors — try to get between 7 and 10 hours of sleep. Daytime naps are encouraged.