Hormones are like chemical messengers, and govern nearly every cellular action in our body.
While very important, our sex hormones like estrogen, progesterone and testosterone, are actually not essential for our survival.
They’re responsible for sexual functioning and fertility, as well as in more of a “beauty” capacity - keeping our skin, hair & nails vital and youthful looking.
On the other hand, stress hormones (like cortisol & epinephrine, also known as adrenaline) are critical to our survival because they synthesize proteins, maintain cellular electrolyte balance, regulate heartbeat and blood pressure, and transport glucose into our cells - essentially feeding our brain.
These hormones are so crucial, that in times of chronic stress, cortisol (the “hormone of stress”) will be made at the expense of sex hormones. No wonder we can start feeling whacked out at certain stages of life and circumstances!
So what happens when hormones stop playing well together?
We can often experience a ripple effect, even when there’s a slight hiccup in hormone function.
Also, due to the fact that the interconnected nature of your endocrine system, one hormonal imbalance can lead to an additional one, causing multiple symptoms and overlapping health issues.
The 10 most common signs that you probably have a hormonal imbalance
Poor sleep - not being able to fall asleep or stay asleep, mid-night waking
Fatigue that’s not alleviated by sleep
Night sweats and hot flashes
Resistant excess weight and body fat, especially around the belly
Low libido or sexual dysfunction
Acne or other skin issues
PMS symptoms - excessive bleeding, blood clots
Foggy thinking (brain fog!) and difficulty concentrating
Mental health issues - depression and anxiety in particular
Mood changes like irritability and anger
The main causes of hormonal imbalances
While there are many causes, here are the most common ones that have been identified:
Age and stage of life
Medications (including the Pill)
Toxins and endocrine disruptors like xenoestrogens found in foods and health/beauty aids
Poor nutrition and lack of adequate key nutrients
Blood sugar regulation problems
Disrupted circadian rhythm
Chronic inflammation (e.g. leaky gut & digestive system inflammation)
Simple ways to support and rebalance your hormones naturally
Eat whole foods: processed, packaged foods offering little to no nutritive value will also offer little to no fuel for your hormones. Sure, they taste great, but they can undermine your health.
Be sure to eat fresh over packaged foods, including plenty of vegetables, fruits, and quality sources of free range and grass fed meats and eggs. Also, if tolerated - nuts, seeds, and legumes in moderation.
Grains and dairy may cause or exacerbate hormonal problems for some people.
Eat more fibre and drink more water: this helps ensure your pathways for elimination are open and you are detoxing any excess hormones that your body is producing or absorbing
Eat more good fats: Good fats are essential for hormonal health because sex hormones need fat as a building block - and your body can only use the ones you give it.
Opt for sources of good fats from whole foods, such as avocados, raw nuts & seeds, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, real butter or ghee (grass fed preferable), wild-caught salmon, and free range eggs - yes, you can eat the yolks!
Exercise daily: Working out on a regular basis, engaging in resistance (or strength) training. A specific workout called HIIT (high intensity interval training) has been proven to be especially beneficial for keeping our bodies AND our hormones fit. HOWEVER, it's not a great fit if you are chronically tired or have thyroid issues. You need to address that first.
Better sleep: getting deeper, more restorative sleep can be the key to supporting your hormones, above all other measures (but that doesn’t mean you should ignore the other ones!)
Stress management & self-care: the truth is - stress can be devastating for hormonal health.
We need to equip ourselves to manage the stress and “business” of everyday life through the actions that bring back balance and wellbeing to our bodies AND our minds - like good nutrition, exercise and sleep!
Learn better coping mechanisms (like breathing techniques), practice mindfulness and be sure to engage in daily self-care.