Hormones are the most potent chemical messengers in our bodies. Think of them like the WiFi connection, the ‘send’ button, the thumbs up, the ON / OFF switch.
Produced by our endocrine glands—adrenals, thyroid, pancreas and ovaries or testes—hormones perform essential functions, relay important warnings and communicate messages throughout the body.
In normal human speak: They assure that everything is running smoothly and that your rhythms stay in sync.
Many things can challenge your endocrine system, leading to imbalances in your hormone levels or function. The longer a system is “out of order” the more difficult it can be to bring it back into harmony.
Identifying and correcting these aberrations early helps maintain health and prevents the onset of chronic disease.
7 signs and symptoms of hormonal imbalances.
How do you know if you have symptoms of hormonal imbalance? Here are seven major symptoms that can help you confirm if your hormones are imbalanced.
Everyone is tired sometimes. But you should recover with adequate rest, hydration and a healthy diet. If you feel you are taking care of yourself but are still exhausted or just can’t seem to get back to your best, consider having a comprehensive evaluation of your hormone levels. Adrenal fatigue and hypothyroidism are more prevalent in our high-paced society than you may think.
It’s not “all in your head”. Neuroendocrinology is the study of the intimate relationship of the neurotransmitters, or chemical messengers of the brain, and hormones. Excess adrenal stimulation due to the outrageous stress that we subject ourselves to has become a silent epidemic. Cortisol and norepinephrine, produced and released by the adrenal glands, often underlie the feelings that you may perceive as anxiety.
Functional medicine teaches us to temper this response through eating foods that modulate this response and avoiding foods that promote it. At Parsley Health we also teach techniques such as meditation, deep breathing and modulating heart-rate variability to engage the parasympathetic relaxation side of your nervous system rather than the sympathetic “fight-or-flight” impulses.
3. Weight gain or difficulty losing weight
Why is it that so many people struggle with weight fluctuations? Why is the scale so merciless folks are starving themselves and working so hard? It’s because they are starving themselves and working so hard. The body experiences these challenges as stress. And when the body is stressed, it produces more cortisol. Cortisol tells your body to hang on to that fat because it’s a great storage form of energy.
There are many reasons why someone may be having difficulty sleeping. But if it’s persistent, it’s likely related a hormonal imbalance. Melatonin, the well-known sleep chemical, is a hormone released by the pineal gland in the brain. As a hormone, it is intimately related and affected by the other hormones. You can think of the different hormones as pieces in a complicated game of chess. If you move one, it affects all the others and they have to move accordingly. With certain moves, things can get dangerous. If you are not sleeping well, it would be wise to have a professional assist you in holistically determining why. Conversely, if you are imbalanced for other reasons, appropriate rest is necessary to help bring things back into balance.
5. Irritable Bowel Syndrome
There are more neurotransmitters in the gut than there are in the brain. So it should be no surprise that individuals commonly experience gut symptoms related to conditions such as anxiety and depression. Hormones influence gut function in other ways as well such as affecting the microbiome of the gut, the bacterial system in our intestines. Hormone imbalances can lead to imbalances in our bacterial colonies influencing their numbers and function. Gastrointestinal imbalances can be caused by hormone imbalances and vice versa.
6. Skin and hair changes
7. PMS and low sex drive
Both men and women are subject to irregularities related to their sex hormones. And both men and women have relatively appropriate levels of estrogen, progesterone, DHEA and testosterone. Women that are experiencing irregular menses (too long, too short, unpredictable, heavy bleeding or cramping, etc.) are more clearly demonstrating some type of abnormality in the quality, quantity or function of their sex hormones. Although women have a more obvious gauge of hormone balance with their monthly menses, both sexes can experience sexual dysfunction or issues with libido (sexual desire) due to the complex intricacies and interactions of these powerful substances.
Your Parsley Health team can help you to understand and resolve these hormonal imbalances. Hormone management is a delicate, imprecise and sophisticated matter. Remember the analogy of the game of chess. Moving certain pieces changes the whole board, some more than others. Some moves can be really big game changers. And some moves can really get you into trouble. Be sure you are working with an expert in the game.
4 ways to balance your hormones naturally.
1. Add more healthy fats to your diet.
Your body needs healthy fats to create hormones, keep inflammation at bay, boost your metabolism and promote weight loss. Try swapping the refined carbohydrates in your diet with anti-inflammatory healthy fats such as coconut oil, avocados, and ghee.
2. Take adaptogenic herbs.
Adaptogenic herbs like maca, rhodiola, and ashwaganda have been used for centuries to promote hormone balance and protect the body from a wide variety of diseases.
Besides helping the body become resilient to stress, adaptogens have been shown to improve thyroid function, reduce anxiety, and support adrenal gland function. It’s best to work with your physician who can make recommendations based on your specific needs.
3. Use supplements to fill in nutritional gaps.
Even with a healthy diet, it’s often necessary to fill in nutritional gaps that may contribute to a hormone imbalance. Here are some of the supplements I often recommend to my patients dealing with a hormone imbalance:
- Probiotics: Probiotics can help in repairing your gut lining, which in turn, helps balance your hormones. They not only aid in digestion but can speed weight loss, improve mood, eliminate constipation, and boost the immune system. Probiotics are healthy bacteria that can actually improve your production and regulation of key hormones like insulin, ghrelin and leptin.
- Bone broth: Bone broth soothes the digestive system and is high in collagen, proline, glycine and glutamine, which have the powder to boost your overall health. Glycine is another amino acid that is highly available in bone broth and is associated with relaxation, and studies show that supplementation may improve sleep quality.
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D acts more like a hormone inside the body and has important implications for keeping inflammation levels low. While over 90% of our patients at Parsley Health are deficient in vitamin D, it’s best to work with your functional doctor to do the correct testing and guide you to what the optimal dosage is for your needs.
4. Biohack your way to better sleep.
Not getting enough sleep impacts our long-term brain health, memory, and hormone balance. Getting the ideal 8 hours of sleep per night allows the body to recover properly, detox, and keep hormones like cortisol, melatonin, and leptin balanced. To maximize hormone function, I recommend getting to sleep from 10pm-6am. Here are more tips to help you optimize your sleep.
Final thoughts on hormonal imbalances.
- Some of the most common symptoms of hormone imbalances include unexplained weight gain, fatigue, insomnia, and changes in hair, skin, and nails.
- Root causes of hormonal imbalances include compromised gut health, high inflammation, and excessive stress.
- Natural ways to balance your hormones include eating anti-inflammatory fats, getting adequate sleep, and using supplements to fill in any nutritional gaps.