Hormonal balance is essential for women to lead a healthy and vibrant life. However, when the body’s hormones are imbalanced, it can lead to many diseases. Hormonal imbalance has become very common, even in young girls and some contract complex diseases at a very tender age, which is usually due to the environment they live in and the lifestyle they have. So, it’s essential to have a good understanding of hormones and symptoms of an imbalance.
Symptoms of hormonal imbalance include:
Difficulty digesting food
Irregular menstrual cycles
Pain and soreness in breasts
Excessive growth of facial hair
Excessive weight gain
To prevent hormonal imbalance in women, it is necessary that we look deeper into the root causes by identifying antecedents, triggers and eliminate triggers, these causes. Let’s have a look at some of the major causes of hormonal imbalance.
Obesity increases estrogen level and cancer-causing toxins in the body. Estrogen is the female sex hormone that regulates the reproductive system in women. The increased amount of estrogen in the breast tissues results in the development of breast cancer cells. A protein named Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG) present in the female body regulates estrogen levels. Obesity lowers the levels of SHBG, leading to the disruption of estrogen, which, as a result, increases the estrogen levels and causes the development of breast cancer cells. According to a survey, obesity predisposes women to having breast cancer, and to avoid it, it is better that obese women lose weight by eating food rich in fiber, such as lentils, beans, peas, potatoes, apple, banana, raspberries.
Another root cause of hormonal imbalance in women is stress. No matter if your stress is mental or physical, stress affects the adrenal glands which serve as a significant source for the production of many essential hormones, including cortisol, aldosterone, and adrenaline. The disruption in the functioning of the adrenal glands eventually affects the functioning of these hormones, leading to adrenal fatigue and causing hormonal imbalance in women.
Symptoms of adrenal fatigue can be easily recognized and include: exhaustion, tiredness, cravings for food, difficulty sleeping, weakening of the immune system, low blood pressure, pain in joints, dizziness, and frequent urination. To overcome adrenal fatigue, it is suggested that you maintain a hygienic sleep cycle and get proper sleep (between 7-9 hours each night) An improved diet by eliminating caffeine, sugar, and sweeteners, and avoid microwaved food. Additionally, it’s best that women participate in exercises that not only keep their body fit but also are necessary for a healthy mind.
Use of Contraceptives
Use of contraceptives, such as birth control pills, is another cause of hormonal imbalance in women. In modern times, it has become common for women, especially young girls, to take birth control pills to avoid pregnancy as well as to regulate irregular menstrual cycles. However, these birth control pills contain synthetic hormones that can cause damage to women’s breast tissue. Young girls whose breast tissue has not fully developed are at higher risk for developing breast cancer at some stage of their life if they start taking birth control pills too early on in life.
Aging, Perimenopause, and Menopause
Another root cause of hormonal imbalance in women is aging. Aging causes those essential hormones to diminish and collapse, which eventually results bodily decline, causing hormonal imbalance. When women age, they go through two difficult processes which include perimenopause and menopause. Perimenopause is that stage that comes before menopause while a woman is still going through her regular menstrual cycle. It starts in the late 30s or early 40s and lasts up to 4 to 8 years. Symptoms of perimenopause include fatigue, difficulty sleeping, muscle and joint pain, stress, depression, and anxiety. It is suggested that a woman going through perimenopause should take blood tests to confirm the level of her hormones. When the period of perimenopause is in its last stages, women start to feel the symptoms of menopause.
Symptoms of menopause include sleeplessness, fatigue, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, stress, depression, irritation, mood swings, and pain in joints and muscles. All of this causes hormonal imbalance. It is suggested that women going through menopause should get their blood tested to keep a check on their hormone levels. Remedies for menopause are the same as those of perimenopause which have been explained above, such as improving your diet, exercising, and maintaining a healthy weight.
Sometimes, though not always, women, suffer from some serious diseases after going through menopause, such as Alzheimer’s disease, osteoporosis, and gradual weakening of eyesight. Be on the lookout and speak with your healthcare provider if you have concerns or family history of these diseases.
Excessive Sugar Intake
Another root cause of hormonal imbalance in women is the excessive intake of sugar. When you eat excess amounts of carbohydrates – especially processed foods or baked goods – they cause your blood sugar to spike and can also lead to insulin resistance. Insulin is an important hormone that deals with the maintenance of sugar levels in the body. It breaks down the nutrients into glucose for energy to carry on with our day to day tasks.
But, when the insulin releases breaking the food into glucose, that food is kept in our body in the form of body fat and does not in any way provide us with energy that we desperately need. Instead, that fat proves to be detrimental to our health by significantly increasing the chances of having breast cancer, cardiac arrest, diabetes, and hypertension. To prevent insulin resistance in our bodies, it is highly recommended that we improve our diet by including food that is rich in protein and fiber into our meals, abandoning the junk, and avoid overeating.
Pregnancy is another root cause of hormonal imbalance in women. While a woman is pregnant with a child, her body produces progesterone in an excessive amount. Progesterone is a sex hormone that is developed in the ovaries and deals with menstruation and pregnancy. It is imperative and is much needed to maintain a healthy and full-term pregnancy. But, after giving birth, this hormone starts to produce at a much lower level, allowing the woman’s body to return to her pre-pregnancy hormone levels. This sudden change in the production of progesterone, however, causes the hormones to imbalance, thus making the woman a target of depression, fatigue, tiredness, and anxiety.
Candida overgrowth is also considered a significant root cause of hormonal imbalance in women. Candida is a yeast that is naturally present in the gastrointestinal tract and in the mouth of the human body. Through excessive use of antibiotics, candida tends to overgrow, and its overgrowth can lead to infections in the urinary tract, in the vagina, and other skin-related infections. It can also cause anxiety, fatigue, and depression. To treat the candida overgrowth, it is essential that you drink water excessively, eat more steamed vegetables, and take proper supplements.
WITS HORMONE BALANCE PROTOCOL
For many common health conditions, a variety of tests are needed for proper evaluation of your hormones. Lab tests that assess for hormone imbalances, food sensitivities, and gut health issues can be beneficial tools to confirm or rule out problems in the body that can be causing symptoms and keeping you from optimal health. Depending on the type of test, specimens can be collected via saliva, blood sample, urine, or dried urine.
Below are recommendations for testing that you can request from your doctor. These tests help identify hormonal imbalances, thyroid issues, small bowel overgrowth, food sensitivities, and toxic burden such as heavy metal levels.
Basic Hormone Tests
It’s a good idea to have a sense of your hormone levels to establish a baseline. A basic hormone panel tests for the levels of the following hormones:
Androgens - including testosterone and DHEA
Many panels will add additional tests, but these are the basics. With these tests, it’s possible to identify abnormalities of both the adrenal system and the reproductive system. Given the complexity of the hormone system in the body, there are many possible ways that the hormone levels can be abnormal, which is why full panels are suggested, versus just a few hormones here or there.
The four primary methods to test hormone levels:
These require little effort on the part of the patient - but provide limited data. This blood test is like a snapshot of a person’s hormones, taken once. Serum hormone tests are best for testing the thyroid, LH, FSH, prolactin, fasting insulin, and sex hormone binding globulin. However, they don’t do a great job at testing the sex hormones, because these tests can’t easily differentiate between free and bound hormone levels. This means that it’s less accurate, compared to other methods.
Saliva tests are somewhat more comprehensive, and they're available without a doctor's prescription. Clients can purchase these online, through companies like Canary Club or ZRT Laboratory, as well as a few others. For many years, saliva was the method preferred by functional medicine practitioners for testing reproductive and adrenal hormones. Saliva tests are non-invasive and don't require you to go to a laboratory to run the test, because it can be done from home, and mailed in. These also allow for multiple collections, which provides a more accurate big picture.
Saliva testing does have limitations. First, it can only identify the steroid hormones, such as cortisol and the sex hormones. It does not work for testing the thyroid, for example.
To help identify the diurnal pattern of cortisol, it's possible to collect individual urine tests several times per day, but the information provided can be skewed for a variety of reasons. The urine test also allows individual hormone metabolites to be measured. This test is helpful in evaluating fertility and abnormal menstrual cycles. The downside of urine tests is that results can be skewed by hydration level - particularly dehydration, as well as liver and kidney disease.
The DUTCH complete test collects a considerable amount of data. It covers the basics of the sex and adrenal hormone tests, as well as additional tests for all of the sex hormone metabolites, and melatonin.
The comprehensive nature of the test is a significant advantage of the DUTCH test. It combines the benefits of a serum, saliva, and urinary testing, all in one. The cycled collection which allows the practitioner to evaluate hormonal patterns and the ease of testing is also worthwhile.
However, it's an expensive test and is currently only available through one company - Precision Analytical.
Adrenal Stress Index
The Adrenal Stress Index or ASI is a standardized test that’s frequently ordered by functional medicine practitioners. The ASI assesses for adrenal dysfunction, blood sugar management, and food intolerances. It measures:
Four cortisol tests - also called a 4-spot cortisol
DHEA and DHEA-S
Fasting and non-fasting insulin
Total salivary secretory IgA or SIgA
Gliadin antibodies (for grain intolerance)
The four spot cortisol test measures cortisol at four scheduled times of the day to uncover an individual’s pattern. Cortisol is a critical player in HPA axis dysfunction.
10 FOODS FOR OPTIMAL HORMONE BALANCE
Hormonal health is very crucial to maintain a well-balanced body and mind. A lot of people are unable to gain the perfect mind-body peace that they are looking for because they lack the right production or functioning of hormones. You need to manage stress and anxiety and make sure that you have the tools to handle stress. But along with staying de-stressed, we have to eat foods that bring our bodies back into hormonal balance. Here are some foods that you can eat and make your hormones healthy and fit.
Salmon has the best omega 3 fatty acids which are essential for a healthy heart, and they promote insulin sensitivity, too. This is great as it lessens the insulin production and also brings a reduction in androgen synthesis. Androgens are the essential elements which lead to acne. Thus having salmon is a great thing, especially during your adulthood (like in your 20’s) to keep acne flare ups away.
2. Green Tea:
Green tea has a handful of health perks for everyone. It helps in creating energy hormones and keeps their levels high whenever you are under pressure or stress. Yet again, this is very good for people in their 20’s or older because it is an intense time period as people are trying to build up a good career for themselves. If you are under pressure, sip green tea. Green tea is beneficial to any age group; it is all about detoxifying your body.
3. Dark Chocolate:
Dark chocolate has been proven fantastic for hormonal balance as it helps in reducing cortisol levels. This hormone is released by the glands during times of stress, and this can really break your skin out or make you feel depressed and super anxious. Dark chocolate is ideal during times of high stress.
Eggs are an excellent protein for the human body. Eggs are an excellent source for Vitamin D which helps in a lot of aspects of your overall health, such as in the promotion of bone health, improving immunity and stabilizing your body’s sugar levels too.
Kale is a wonderful and heroic leafy green vegetable which comes packed with various properties which boost your health overall. Kale is considered crucial for people if they are looking for a super green that can balance their hormones. Kale is also excellent for enhancing insulin sensitivity, so it saves you from acne and reduces the risk of diabetes, too (specifically type 2 diabetes).
Yogurt is very important for any age group, especially in your 40’s. It is high in calcium; thus it helps in regulating the hormone which is responsible for controlling calcium in your body and bones. It is essential that your bones stay active and healthy in your 40’s to avoid the onset of osteoporosis or other bone disorders. Yogurt also contains live bacteria that aids in your overall digestive health. If you haven’t been eating yogurt, try adding it to your diet twice per week so that you can balance the calcium in your bones. Keep in mind, if you are a vegetarian, there are many other options for calcium.
This grain is powerful because it is packed with magnesium, protein, and phosphorus. Quinoa is famous for stabilizing hormones and therefore it is important to add to your diet if you are handling a lot of stress and anxiety lately. For people in their 40’s, this does wonders, but any age group can add this grain to their diet and enjoy its perks. Quinoa also helps in keeping your sugar levels stable and within a healthy range.
Avocados are essential if you are trying to stabilize your cholesterol levels. Not only does cholesterol play a part in your heart health but it also helps to balance a lot of hormones and aids in the production of your hormones, too. Avocados are suitable for all ages, and they are considered fantastic for hormonal health.
If you are tired of your skin breaking out, add almonds to your diet. Severe skin issues indicate that you have a hormonal imbalance and tiny little irritating pimples and the breaking out are huge symptoms. Almonds are great for regulating the sugar levels in the blood so that insulin production remains stable. Also, by adding almonds to your diet, you have a natural solution for reducing the male hormones which cause your skin to be dry and super thin and sensitive. Therefore, almonds do wonders and if you are having skin troubles, make sure that you add this blessing to your diet right away. Having a handful of them or half a handful on a daily basis is one of the best snacks to munch on.
Veggies like broccoli and spinach and brussels sprouts are a blessing for hormonal health. The basic science behind them is that the dark leafy greens are packed with natural pretties such as indole-3 carbinol and sulforaphane, which are responsible for keeping your liver functioning properly. These veggies also aid in metabolizing estrogen, which every human body requires to enhance the production of collagen and make your skin look younger and fresher. Collagen basically pumps up the blood supply to your skin cells which make your skin look shiny and fabulous. Add dark, leafy greens to your diet at least once or twice per week so that your hormones stay in perfect sync.