Would you have any idea how to tell if your hormone levels are out of whack? I mean, let’s face it…we have all faced major stressors and hurdles this past year including an evolving worldwide pandemic with a novel virus, job loss, and uncertainty, and political unrest and rioting due to racial inequality. This does not even touch on the average everyday stressors we deal with including partner relationships, raising children and caring for elderly parents or grandparents, and managing everyday financial pressures. Unfortunately, these significant world events and social distancing are contributing to angst and anxiety for many and impacting our overall health.
For most women, there are often subtle, unsettling signs that we may or may not notice depending on how in tune we are with our bodies and we may just chalk these signs and symptoms up to a stressful life and the good ole’ aging process. It’s not always easy to know if those all-consuming waves of anxiety and countless sleepless nights could be linked to your hormones.
Do you wonder if your hormones could be unbalanced? If your levels of certain hormones fluctuate or go higher or lower than they should, it can have major effects on your physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing. Hormone tests are the only way to definitively know if there are, indeed imbalanced, but the signs and symptoms mentioned below could give you important clues that something isn’t quite right with your hormone health.
You’re super tired a lot
We all have feelings of fatigue from time to time and, for the average person, it’s usually just an isolated event that you can muscle through by catching up on your beauty sleep on the weekend and ensuring your self-care is top priority in the days ahead. If your fatigue is a direct result of hormonal haywire, however, it’s likely that you still feel exhausted, no matter how much extra sleep or self-care you commit to.
What if you’re already getting good sleep and eating healthy but you’re still feeling exhausted most or all of the time? This can sometimes be linked to hormone imbalances. If you also tend to alternate between extreme fatigue and periods of feeling wired, your levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, could be a factor. Thyroid imbalances can also be a culprit for fatigue (1).
You’re really struggling with anxiety
Excessive stress and anxiety isn’t always just a mental health issue. Chronic, ongoing stress can raise cortisol levels at inappropriate times and this can potentially send the adrenal glands into overdrive. The end result? Anxiety, fatigue and even depression. I think you are getting the big picture now. The systems of the body are all intricately interconnected. Estrogen is another hormone that can trigger feelings of anxiety when levels are less than optimum. According to research, estrogen has a calming effect (2) on the fear response but low levels can throw this off and pave the way for anxiety. Thyroid hormones can also mimic anxiety (3), especially if your body isn’t producing enough of them.
You have PMS
Tend to get PMS symptoms that are off the scale during your menstrual cycle? This can be anything from excessive bloating to major irritability to debilitating pain and cramping but if it’s on the abnormal, extreme side, it could be a sign that your estrogen levels aren’t balanced during this phase of your cycle.
More specifically, it’s probably an indication that you’ve got high estrogen levels between ovulation and menstruation. This can be balanced out with supportive lifestyle habits and the regular consumption of leafy greens can be your best friend here. They contain a substance called indole-3 carbinol, which can act as a hormone balancer to regulate estrogen levels. Indole-3 carbinol is found in broccoli, kales, Brussels sprouts, collards, cabbage, and cauliflower to name a few.
You can’t seem to lose weight
Finding it a big struggle to lose weight or noticing that you keep gaining weight? Stress can encourage your body to produce more cortisol, which is a big factor in storing fat (especially for storing belly fat (4)).
If you just can’t seem to catch a break when it comes to your weight, even when you’re exercising and eating healthy, it could be a sign that your cortisol levels need to be brought back into balance. Stress management can be a key part of doing this and lifestyle factors such as diet and reasonable amounts of exercise can also help a lot.
You’ve noticed changes to your skin and/or hair
Does your skin seem to be getting drier lately? Or maybe you’ve noticed that your hair is getting thinner or falling out more? Nutritional deficiencies and stress can play a part in this but if they’re not the obvious culprits, it may be time to look more closely at your hormone health.
Thyroid hormones can affect the health of your skin and hair (5) so it’s worth getting your thyroid health checked out if you consistently notice changes in the look and feel of your skin and hair. A comprehensive thyroid panel can reveal significant data on the overall health of the thyroid. Hashimoto thyroiditis, a common autoimmune condition, is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in developed countries. There are estimates that between 50 to 95% of chronic hypothyroidism is autoimmune in origin. Conservative estimates are that 200+ million people worldwide suffer from thyroid-related illness and the vast majority are women.
You can’t kick those all-consuming cravings
Have you tried everything in your willpower to kick that daily caffeine habit or afternoon chocolate binge and still getting nowhere? I am here to tell you, it may not just be a willpower issue. Your hormones may just be the real culprit for why you can’t stop craving certain foods.
Chronic stress and high cortisol levels can cause sugar and fatty food cravings, while adrenal imbalances can lead to cravings for salty snacks. It can be really helpful to keep a food and mood diary to help you to pinpoint whether your cravings are really linked to mood or if you crave certain foods with no obvious link to emotional eating.
There can be another factor involved here, too. Frequent sugar intake can spike your blood sugar and insulin levels and this can affect your levels of estrogen and progesterone, two major sex hormones. Or maybe you have been dealing with adult acne? This can not only relate back to nutritional deficiencies but too high of testosterone levels.
Worried that you could be struggling with a hormone imbalance? Speak to your primary care provider or holistic health practitioner about hormone testing, which can shed light on what may be happening in your body on a cellular level. In my practice, I use a comprehensive hormone test called the DUTCH test and salivary hormone testing to pinpoint hormone and detoxification imbalances. I use this data to create a customized wellness plan with my client. In the meantime, lifestyle factors such as getting plenty of sleep, staying hydrated, eating a nutritious dense diet, exercising, and managing your stress levels can support overall hormone health.
Cleanses can be extremely helpful in bringing the body and hormones into a favorable balance. The act of cleansing can invigorate and improve all systems of the body including the liver, kidneys, gallbladder, lymph, and skin systems. Remember that all of these body systems are interconnected so it will be beneficial on many levels. Whether you want to heal your gut, boost or improve your immune function, shed some weight, and/or balance those hormones, a cleanse and reset can serve as a gateway to taking out the trash that accumulates in our bodies over time and establish new health-supportive behaviors for optimal health.