When the word “hormones” is uttered, visions of raging menopausal women come to mind for most. That’s so sad. Hormonal changes affect everyone from birth to death, yet we seem to have a very negative association with that word.
For women, the most pronounced changes come in their 40s and 50s, but can been seen as early as their mid-30s. Many more women are having hormonal symptoms earlier, which has a lot to do with not only our lifestyle and diet, but also the pollution, toxins and xenoestrogens (synthetic chemicals that act as estrogen in our bodies) that we’re exposed to every day.
Some of the most common symptoms of hormonal imbalances are:
1. Belly fat and loss of muscle mass.
When your endocrine system is under stress there’s an underproduction of certain hormones and an overproduction of others (mainly cortisol). This makes your body store fat for future use, making an increase in belly fat a clue to adrenal fatigue.
2. Low libido.
One of the most noticeable symptoms of hormonal imbalance is low libido, which starts with disturbed sleep. Without quality sleep our sex hormone production can diminish.
Hormonal imbalances can cause women to experience a low sex drive. This could be due to low levels of estrogen. Help is at hand though, as your doctor can prescribe a treatment, either as a localized estrogen vaginal cream, or in a tablet, patch or gel form. Or you can try this herb which is known in the Chinese medicine to improve libido.
3. Vaginal Dryness
As menopause approaches, the reduction of estrogen levels causes changes to the vaginal wall. This can cause vaginal dryness, which can make sex uncomfortable. There are lubricants available which can ease your discomfort, or an intravaginal low-dose estrogen and testosterone cream – talk to your doctor about your options.
4. Breast Changes
As women age, high levels of estrogen can make breasts feel tender and sore, which could lead to lumps, fibroids, and cysts. In addition, some women get bigger breasts during the menopause. That’s why it is important to have annual exams and screening mammograms
Get to know your breasts best, by getting into the habit of checking yourself for lumps or anything unusual. While not every lump or breast change indicates cancer, it’s still best to be on the safe side of things and talk to your doctor if you feel something suspicious.
5. Persistent weight gain.
Yes, there are lifestyle, diet and physical activity components to maintaining a healthy weight, but that isn’t the end of the story. Many women have underlying hormonal imbalances that make it difficult to maintain a healthy weight. Unaddressed or emerging insulin resistance is one of the most common; small changes in diet — such as eliminating processed foods, sugars and wheat — are steps in the right direction.
Can’t make it past mid-morning without some sort of pick-me-up? How about that mid-afternoon crash? It isn’t normal to feel sluggish, scattered or mentally foggy. Easy dietary changes, such as eliminating wheat and most grains, will help stabilize your blood sugar.
7. Insomnia and poor sleep patterns.
This starts the cycle of physical stress and increases cortisol levels, which directly causes many hormonal imbalances. There isn’t one area of your life that insomnia doesn’t touch.
For many women, night sweats and hot flashes are the first uncomfortable sign that something is amiss. This isn’t the time to start hormone replacement therapy, but begin a food journal by jotting down what you eat and drink, how you feel physically, and any emotions that come up after. Many times our emotions are the trigger that increases internal temperature. The next time you feel the flashes coming on, stop and think about the thoughts swirling around in your mind.
9. Anxiety, irritability and depression.
Not feeling like yourself? This isn’t the time for pharmaceuticals. Anxiety and depression are clues that you have an imbalance, toxicity, are overworked, stressed out, and most likely aren’t nourishing your body the way it needs. Listen to your inner voice and take the actions necessary to meet your needs.
10. Digestion problems.
Gas, bloating and slow digestion are common hormonal problems that aren’t usually associated with hormonal imbalances, but may be associated with eating bad foods, not chewing your food and eating too much. When you don’t have optimal digestion, your body is starving because of poor nutrient extraction.
11. Headaches & Migraines
As women enter middle age, they often find they suffer from frequent headaches and even migraines. This could be due to hormonal imbalances around certain times of the menstrual cycle. If you are suffering from headaches and migraines, then it can be helpful to keep a diary of when they occur.
After eating way more than you should have, or having gone through half a bottle of wine, do you look back and ask yourself why? Common causes of cravings and excess eating are adrenal fatigue, insulin resistance, and other hormonal imbalances. Again, minimizing sugars, alcohol, dairy and wheat — although difficult — not only will help control cravings, but your digestive issues as well.
Please note that many of these symptoms can be linked to other physical problems, and a simple blood test can tell you if there are other underlying concerns.
With consistent effort applied to improving diet and digestive health, stress management, improved sleep and consistent physical activity, true holistic health is attainable.