According to research over 75% of women suffer from hormonal imbalance symptoms, which include:-
- mood swings
- weight gain
- irregular cycles
- painful cycles
- Hair loss
There are many reasons for these imbalances to occur and they can cause a variety of issues, some listed above but also some specific problems associated with some of the most common hormonal imbalances include:
- Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (PMS): most of the above symptoms plus water retention, anxiety, breast tenderness.
- Oestrogen dominance: changes in sleep patterns, changes in weight and appetite, higher perceived stress, slowed metabolism. with endometriosis your periods
- Endometriosis: Painful periods and sex, back pain, infertility, heavy or irregular periods
- Fibroids: heavy periods, possible pain, pelvic pressure
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS): infertility, weight gain, higher risk for diabetes, acne, abnormal hair growth
- Low oestrogen: low sex drive, reproductive problems, menstrual irregularity, changes in mood
- Hypothyroidism: slowed metabolism, weight gain, fatigue, anxiety, irritability, digestive issues, irregular periods
- Diabetes: weight gain, nerve damage (neuropathy), higher risk for vision loss, fatigue, trouble breathing, dry mouth, skin problems
These will be discussed in future blogs but for now I just want to give some insight into how these imbalances can occur and some simple tips to help get them in balance and reduce the symptoms you may be experiencing.
What are hormones?
There are many different types of hormones in the body, which all have different functions, but they are all influenced by each other. A medical definition of a hormone is "a chemical substance produced in the body that controls and regulates the activity of certain cells or organs. Hormones are essential for every activity of life, including the processes of digestion, metabolism, growth, reproduction, and mood control" MedicineNet.com
You have hormones made by the adrenals that control the stress response, inflammation, blood sugar and blood pressure …. when these hormones are out of balance they can have a negative influence on many other hormones. You have the thyroid hormones that control your metabolism and influence every aspect of your body from energy production, mood and weight management. There are hormones like insulin and leptin that control blood sugar, hunger and metabolism. Then you have the sex hormones oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone.
From puberty to menopause your sex hormones are constantly fluctuating and this is a part of the natural life cycle, this gets the body ready for ovulation, and possible pregnancy, if this does not occur then the menstrual cycle begins and the process starts over again. Once a woman gets past 40 years of age hormone levels start to decline, this will eventually lead to menopause at around 50-52 years of age. While hormones are naturally fluctuating, problems start to occur when the fluctuations go out of balance.
What causes an imbalance?
The main causes of hormonal imbalances of modern women are in the diet, life style and environment: Chronic stress depletes adrenal function resulting in low levels of progesterone and other major hormones. Today's modern diet is high in saturated fat, sugars and processed foods that are sometimes full of additives and preservatives to help with the shelf life of that product. We are also a society of coffee drinkers that can affect the adrenals and blood sugar levels that in turn affects our hormones. High caffeine intake is also linked to heavy periods as it increases the menstrual flow.
Stress can play a big part in hormonal imbalance as mentioned as it affects your progesterone levels. The word progesterone means “for gestation,” which means that women, you need this hormone in its right balance if you want be become pregnant and stay pregnant. Progesterone nourishes the uterine lining in preparation of the implanted fertilized egg. Unfortunately, constant stress causes a decrease in your progesterone levels.
When you are constantly in that “fight or flight” mode because of stress, your adrenal glands will produce additional cortisol and adrenaline. This is a normal bio-chemical process. The problem is that in order to make cortisol, your adrenal glands need progesterone. This causes your progesterone to be used in making your stress hormones, as opposed to what it is designed to do —support your pregnancy.
The adrenal glands cannot make cortisol without progesterone. Often referred to as the ‘progesterone steal,’ your body will steal however much progesterone it needs to make cortisol. As well as stress the adrenals will be producing cortisol and adrenaline if your blood sugar's fluctuate, therefore, not eating at regular intervals or having high sugar or caffeine will also affect this gland.
Xenoestrogens are oestrogen like chemicals from pesticides and plastics that have been linked to health problems. Oestrogen is a natural hormone in humans that is important for bone growth, blood clotting and reproduction in men and women. The body regulates the amount needed through intricate biochemical pathways. When xenoestrogens enter the body they increase the total amount of oestrogen resulting in a phenomenon called, oestrogen dominance. Xenoestrogens are not biodegradable so, they are stored in our fat cells. Build up of xenoestrogens have been indicated in many conditions including: breast cancer, obesity, infertility, endometriosis, early onset puberty, miscarriages and diabetes (Womeninbalance.org).
What can help?
There are a number of things you can do to help your hormones stay in balance. One of them is the most obvious which is diet, have a look at what you are eating and if you feel you are eating a diet high in saturated fats and sugar, reduce these items and replace with healthier options. Instead of that chocolate bar have an oat cake with some nut butter. Cook wholesome food at home instead of ready made meals, if you are busy try and batch cook at the weekend so you have food ready for the week. Have healthy snacks in your bag so you are not tempted to buy those sweet treats.
Make sure you are drinking enough water to help eliminate toxins and also old hormones, a build up of oestrogen may lead to conditions like endometriosis. Also look after your liver as this breakdowns hormones and if it is busy dealing with a toxic overload from our environment and alcohol this process does not get carried out properly and leads to further problems.
Stress seems to be part of our everyday life, which I wrote about in my blog adrenal fatigue but it really does cause so many problems. Look at what is causing your stress and see if there is anything you can do to reduce it. As we are coming to the end of 2017, maybe one of your new year's resolutions could be do re-address your work/life balance, start an exercise class or you could even join our cleanse group that starts in January which will help address hormonal imbalances and also many other benefits like increased energy levels, improved skin tone and weight loss. Click here for more information on our January cleanse.
As you can see there are many reasons for hormones to be our of balance and areas that you can do to improve them. I have only touched on a few, but if you feel you have a hormonal imbalance and would like to book in for a nutritional consultation, please contact me by clicking here. I can assess your current diet and lifestyle and I will offer you professional advice and provide you with a personalised nutrition plan to help you gain that balance.