Hormones play a crucial role when it comes to metabolism, growth, reproductive cycles, immunity, and can even impact emotions and behaviors. Keeping your hormones balanced is important for your overall health and well-being.
Why Are Hormones So Important?
What are hormones? Hormones are chemicals that regulate the functions of different systems in your body. Some hormones also transmit messages to the brain. There are fifty different hormones in the human body, but some play a more important role than others.
Women have two main sex hormones. Estrogen is produced by the adrenal glands, ovaries, and fatty tissues. Progesterone is produced by adrenal tissues and ovaries. Estrogen and progesterone regulate the reproductive cycle.
Women also produce small amounts of testosterone. This hormone is synthesized by DHEA hormones and helps with energy levels, libido, and bone and muscle health.
HCG is another hormone that is produced during pregnancy. It helps maintain levels of progesterone during pregnancy. Pregnancy tests work by detecting HCG levels.
Testosterone, LH, and FSH are the main sex hormones for men. These hormones also play an important role in bone and muscle health and energy levels.
Cortisol and epinephrine are the two main hormones that regulate stress response. The purpose of these hormones is to promote alertness when danger is detected.
Cortisol levels can significantly increase if you are dealing with stress on a daily basis.
Other Important Hormones
There are other hormones that play an important part in your body, including dopamine, the chemical that regulates your emotions and is associated with happiness.
Other important hormones include leptin, a chemical that signals that you are full and can stop eating. Ghrelin is the hormone that signals the sensation of hunger.
Adiponectin is a hormone that helps your body break down fat, and insulin impacts how your metabolism absorbs fat.
The growth hormone or HGH is another crucial hormone. It helps with energy levels and muscle repair. It plays a major role during childhood and the teenage years.
The Symptoms Of Hormonal Imbalance
The symptoms of hormonal imbalance vary in function of which hormones are affected. Men and women can experience different symptoms. The effects of hormonal imbalance will be different if levels are too low or too high.
For women, hormonal imbalance is often associated with PMS, depression, mood swings, and irregular cycles. It is also common to experience weight gain. These symptoms are often associated with high estrogen levels and can result in the appearance of a condition like fibroids or endometriosis on the long-term.
A woman who suffers from low progesterone levels will be more likely to have a low sex drive and to experience migraines and mood swings. An irregular menstrual cycle is another common symptom.
A man’s testosterone level naturally decreases with age, but common symptoms of low testosterone levels include low sex drive, weight gain, and fatigue.
Insulin resistance is another health issue linked to hormonal balance. Insulin levels might be normal, but your cells might not react to the insulin. There are no symptoms associated with this issue, but you might eventually develop type 2 diabetes if insulin resistance persists.
High cortisol levels is another common form of hormonal imbalance. Too much cortisol can result in weight gain, muscle weakness, high blood pressure, and mood swings. It can also affect sleep and negatively impact the immune system.
On the other hand, low cortisol levels associated with adrenal fatigue would cause weight loss, fatigue, and dizziness. Cravings for salty foods are a common symptom of low cortisol levels.
How Hormonal Imbalance Is Diagnosed
Some health conditions increase your risks of suffering from hormonal imbalance. These conditions include thyroid problems, Cushing syndrome and other conditions that affect the adrenal glands, diabetes, tumor, and hormone therapy. Hormonal imbalance can also appear as a side effect of some medications and cancer treatments.
Women who take birth control pills are also more likely to develop a hormonal imbalance. In a lot of cases, it is possible to diagnose hormonal imbalance by keeping track of menstrual cycles and identifying symptoms such as weight gain or weight loss, fatigue, and mood swings.
A blood test is often needed to diagnose a hormonal imbalance. This test will give you an idea of how serious the problem is and your doctor will choose the most relevant treatment once the faulty hormone has been identified.
More tests might be needed, such as ultrasounds, X-rays, and MRI scans. These tests are used to observe changes in the pituitary gland, thyroid, or reproductive organs.
How Is Hormonal Imbalance Treated
It is possible to restore the natural balance between your hormones with medications or lifestyle changes. The most relevant treatment depends on how severe the imbalance is and on what causes it.
For instance, anti-androgen medications are used to reduce high testosterone levels in women. There are different testosterone replacement therapy options for men who suffer from low testosterone levels.
Patients who suffer from thyroid problems are often treated with a synthetic hormone called levothyroxine. This synthetic hormone helps regulate thyroid functions and restores the hormonal balance.
In some cases, a lifestyle change is needed. Managing weight and stress typically help with hormonal problems.
Things You Can Do To Maintain Or Restore Your Hormonal Balance
Are you experiencing weight gain, sleep problems, or mood swings? These are signs it is time to make a few changes to your lifestyle.
You should schedule an appointment with a doctor and get some blood work done if you are experiencing serious symptoms or if your symptoms don’t disappear after making a few changes to your lifestyle.
Here is how you can maintain or restore a hormonal balance.
Stay Away From Hormonal Disruptors
Hormonal disruptors are harmful chemicals that impact your body’s ability to produce hormones. Repeated exposure to these chemicals can have negative effects on your hormones.
Most plastic products no longer use BPA since this substance has been found to be harmful. However, some canned goods manufacturers still use BPA in the lining of the cans. Make sure you look for BPA-free products when shopping for canned goods.
Health and beauty products are another common source of hormonal disruptors. Stay away from products with ingredients such as parabens, petroleum, and phthalates.
Pesticides are another hormonal disruptor you should avoid. Don’t spray them around your home, and shop for fruits and vegetables that were grown without using pesticides if possible.
Some cleaning products such as laundry detergent contain nonylphenol ethoxylates. Switch to an organic laundry detergent if you can.
Being exposed to small quantities of hormonal disruptors on an occasional basis isn’t problematic. However, you can take steps to reduce your exposure to these harmful chemicals by checking the labels of the foods you buy and choosing organic cleaning and beauty products.
Make Some Changes To Your Diet
A healthy and balanced diet will support your overall health and help your body produce hormones. If you are overweight, make a few changes to your diet since extra pounds put you at risk for hormonal imbalance among other health issues.
Avoid eating large meals. Adopt a regular eating schedule and try to eat smaller meals and healthy snacks throughout the day. Eat slowly so you can stop when you are full.
Protein is essential to a healthy diet. Foods rich in proteins help you produce Ghrelin. If you get less than 20 grams of proteins with each meal, your body might not produce enough Ghrelin and won’t signal that you are full.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are essential for your overall health. You should also try eating more foods with whole grains, and introduce healthy fats in your diet since these foods will reduce your insulin resistance. Foods rich in fibers will also help with hormonal balance and weight management.
Get Some Exercise
Being active will help you maintain a healthy weight and reduce your risks of developing a hormonal imbalance. Exercise will also help regulate your insulin levels and reduce insulin resistance.
Try to incorporate endurance training, strength training, and aerobic exercise in your exercise routine.
Manage Your Stress
Cortisol is released when you feel stressed. Living a stressful life can result in high cortisol levels, and eventually lead to a condition known as adrenal fatigue. Being stressed can also make it difficult to manage your weight since you will be craving comfort food.
Put some time aside for activities that help you manage your stress. Try exercising regularly, meditation, or creative activities.
Get Some Sleep
The growth hormone is released while you sleep. Not getting enough sleep can impact other hormones, including insulin, cortisol, leptin, and Ghrelin.
Try to get at least seven hours of quality sleep each night to maintain your hormonal balance.
The symptoms of hormonal imbalance are usually easy to recognize. You should see a doctor if you suspect that you are suffering from a hormonal imbalance to rule out any underlying health condition and get some advice on how to restore your hormonal balance.
Feature image via Rocky Mountain Women’s Health Center