Have you ever felt off for no apparent reason? Have you ever felt mentally and physically run down and you just don’t understand why? Maybe you’ve put on a few pounds out of nowhere, or perhaps your skin is flaring up in ways you only thought were possible during those awkward teenage years. While many people turn to unhealthy fad diets as a way to ditch the pesky pounds, or anti-depressant medications to put their minds at ease, you may be looking for answers in all the wrong places. Rather than trying to fix each individual issue, start asking yourself why your entire body is turning against you. Many times when people feel off, it’s a sign their hormones are out of whack.
While a lot of people associate the word “hormones” with raging teens and women in their 50’s, they affect everyone from the time we’re born until the time we die. To put it simply, hormones are special chemical messengers in the body that control everything from hunger and weight management to emotions and reproduction. Our bodies have many different hormones, each is responsible for a different bodily function.
As you can see, our hormones are incredibly important to our overall health and well-being. When we take care of them and they are in proper balance, hormones help the entire body to thrive and function properly. If problems arise with our hormones, though, it can cause major life-altering symptoms.
For obvious reasons, hormone imbalance is extremely common among women going through puberty, women going through perimenopause and menopause, pregnant women, and women who take birth control pills. But women in these stages of life aren’t the only ones susceptible to hormonal changes. Hormone imbalance can also be a result of thyroid issues, diabetes, and various illnesses. Your hormones can also get thrown out of whack as a result of inconsistent sleep patterns, living a high-stress lifestyle, eating a poor diet, and not getting enough exercise.
Below are 11 common hormone imbalance symptoms and natural ways you can regain control of your well-being.
1) Weight Gain
As an adult, have you ever met a scale that you liked? While weight fluctuations are without a doubt greatly affected by diet and exercise, your hormones also play a large role in what number pops up on the scale. We have several hormones that directly impact our weight, one of the most talked about is insulin. If our bodies become insulin resistant (which is quite common), this hormone can negatively affect how our body stores certain nutrients.
You see, insulin and carbohydrates are closely linked. The more carbs you eat, the more insulin will be released in the body. An overload of insulin leaves glucose (AKA sugar) to run wild in the body. The result? Instead of using the excess sugar to feed your muscles after exercise or produce energy for your cells, most of the carbs you consume just get stored as fat (unwanted fat). For people who are insulin resistant, it feels like they will never be able to get rid of the excess fat. However, there are a few things you can do.
To help balance your fat hormones, you must first clean up your diet. Eating a diet that’s low in processed carbohydrates and rich in healthy fats and proteins can make a world of difference.
We’ve all had those days where we binge eat on junk food and then look back and wonder, “WHY DID I JUST DO THAT!” Well, the answer to that question is probably your hormones made you do it! While we have a number of hormones that affect cravings and hunger, one of the most common is Ghrelin.
Ghrelin is often referred to as the “hunger hormone.” To put it simply, the higher your ghrelin levels are, the hungrier you are. In certain studies, researchers found people given the hormone ate significantly more than their usual food intake. This particular hormone is mainly produced in the stomach and works by signaling the brain to let it know the body wants food. It also stimulates the brain’s “pleasure centers,” making you remember how good that first bite tasted.
While diet plays a role in keeping ghrelin levels balanced, new studies show prioritizing sleep is one of the main factors in reducing this hunger hormone. Chronic lack of sleep increases ghrelin (and other hormones that can affect appetite), making you feel hungry when you don’t really need to eat. As a general rule of thumb, aim to get between seven to nine hours of sleep a night.
3) Mood Swings
When it comes to mood swings, a lot of women blame their hormones. If you’ve ever gotten emotional over something that wouldn’t usually trigger such a reaction from you, and then used your hormones as an excuse, you’ll be happy to know that it’s not just an “excuse.” When various hormones (such as estrogen, progesterone, and the stress hormone cortisol) in our body aren’t balanced, it directly affects our mood. Additionally, doctors say women going through menopause experience a decrease in the “happy hormone,” serotonin. A decrease in serotonin levels leads to worse moods.
Rather than turning to anti-depressant medications at the first sign of anxiety or depression, try reducing your stress level and increasing your serotonin levels naturally. This can help rebalance your hormones and put a smile back on your face. Some of the top ways you can naturally de-stress include:
- Going for a walk outside
- Practicing yoga
- Drinking soothing teas
- Eating stress-fighting foods
- Taking an Epsom salt bath (AKA detox bath)
- Getting adequate sleep
Do you find yourself laying in bed for hours unable to sleep? Do you stare at the ceiling in agony, counting hundreds of sheep as you try your hardest to drift off into dreamland? If that sounds all too familiar, your hormones may be to blame.
Insomnia can occur when stress hormones are thrown off. Additionally, during both perimenopause and menopause, women’s ovaries don’t produce as much estrogen and progesterone, a sleep-promoting hormone. This change in hormone balance contributes to a terrible night’s sleep filled with tossing and turning. Unfortunately, poor sleep quality can lead to a slew of other health issues, which can, in turn, hinder a good night’s sleep. It really does become a vicious cycle.
Following some of the de-stressing tips I mentioned in #4 can help. Also, make sure to ditch caffeinated beverages after noon and eat a clean diet that isn’t filled with foods that will spike your blood sugar levels.
When the clock strikes noon, do you start feeling sluggish? Do you struggle to keep your eyes open and feel like you’re going to crash? While feeling fatigued may be normal after a late night or two, chronic fatigue is yet another sign your hormones are out of whack.
Along with getting enough sleep at night, simply eliminating wheat and other grains can help re-stabilize your blood sugar and re-balance your hormones.
6) Excess Sweating
Night sweats and hot flashes … they are a woman’s worst nightmare. If you’ve started feeling the urge to rip off all your clothes and stick your head in a freezer, in an attempt to cool off, then your hormones are most likely running amuck.
Excessive sweating, hot flashes, and night sweats are extremely common in women going through both perimenopause and menopause. In fact, according to The North American Menopause Society (NAMS), hot flashes affect approximately 75 percent of all women in perimenopause. To make matters worse, they can last anywhere from a few months to a few years.
“Most women experience hot flashes for 6 months to 2 years, although some studies suggest that the average period is as long as 3 to 5 years. In some women, hot flashes linger for 10 years or more, and older women are known to have occasional hot flashes.”
Before your turn to hormone replacement therapy, understand what triggers hot flashes and try to avoid such triggers:
- Wearing tight clothing
- Chronic stress
- Consuming alcohol
- Drinking caffeinated beverages
- Smoking (or simply being exposed to cigarette smoke)
- Eating spicy foods
7) Skin Problems
Your skin is your body’s largest organ and is a reflection of what’s going on inside. While hygiene plays a large role in your skin’s condition, often times, acne and red blotches are signs of imbalanced hormones. Insulin, estrogen, progesterone, and the stress hormone cortisol can have a direct impact on the skin when imbalanced.
Like I mentioned with some of the other symptoms on this list, keep processed foods and carbs to a minimum, exercise regularly, lower your stress level, and prioritize sleep. These are the top three things you can do to rebalance your hormones.
8) Bigger Breasts
While going up a cup size out of nowhere can certainly make you fall in love with your new hourglass figure, unexpected breast growth is actually a warning sign that something is wrong with your estrogen levels. It could mean that your estrogen levels are on the rise or it may be a sign that your body isn’t breaking estrogen down effectively.
Adding estrogen metabolizer foods to your diet (such as broccoli or cauliflower) could help rebalance your levels. Also, regular sweat sessions can help your body metabolize estrogen.
*It’s important to note that hormone imbalance can also lead to stretch marks, nipple changes, and even lumps in your breast tissue. If you do feel a lump on your breast, see a doctor immediately.
9) Low Libido
When experiencing hormone imbalance, low libido is a common symptom. It makes perfect sense if you think about it. The combination of being tired, moody, and bloated doesn’t really put a person “in the mood.”
10) Hair Loss
It’s pretty fair to say that most women and men want thick, luscious locks. Who wants to deal with thinning hair and bald patches? Unfortunately, thinning hair is a big problem for people dealing with hormone imbalance.
Hormone experts say hair thinning at a person’s crown is a common sign of thyroid issues and insulin resistance. If your hair is thinning at the temples, you may be experiencing an imbalance of estrogen to progesterone. If you’re a man and beginning to notice your hair is thinning, it may be a result of imbalanced androgens. Androgens are male hormones that cause hair follicles to shrink and hair strands to thin and fall out.
If you are noticing your hair starting to thin, start adding healthy fats to your diet. Eggs, salmon, and avocados are three examples of healthy fat foods.
11) Memory Fog
As you get older, do you have a harder time remembering certain things?
Do you find yourself forgetting common words in the middle of a conversation? While many of us brush it off, memory fog is a real thing. Researchers at the University of Rochester and University of Illinois at Chicago studied 75 women, between 40-60 years old, who were approaching or beginning menopause. The women were given a variety of cognitive tests that looked at their learning skills and ability to retain new information. At the end of the study, researchers found the women had a harder time staying focused and retaining new information. This is a direct result of hormones.
I mentioned earlier that during both perimenopause and menopause, women’s ovaries don’t produce as much estrogen. Low estrogen directly affects our neurotransmitters, meaning it impacts our memory and ability to think.
How To Balance Hormones & Regain Your Well-being
Throughout this article, I mentioned ways you can re-balance your various hormones. Let’s recap and go over a few more lifestyle changes that you can begin today:
- Eat a clean diet filled with healthy fats and nourishing vegetables.
- Balance your consumption of Omega-3 fatty acids and Omega-6 fatty acids.
- Avoid processed carbohydrates and foods that will spike blood sugar levels.
- Limit your caffeine consumption.
- Watch your alcohol consumption.
- Begin a regular workout routine.
- Reduce your stress level.
- Prioritize sleep. Try to get between seven to nine hours of shut-eye a night.
- Fix your gut. Poor gut health affects your entire body, including your hormones.
- Back off the hormone-filled birth control pills.
If you recognize a few of the symptoms I mentioned above and have concerns about your hormones, it’s best to schedule an appointment with a qualified endocrinologist. Your doctor will be able to test your hormone levels and determine the best action plan for you.