In my clinical practice, I treat hundreds of women each year, and each day I hear the same general concerns:“I have no energy; I can’t sleep; I’m so stressed; my moods are out of control!”I can’t sleep; I’m so stressed; my moods are out of control!” As I begin considering and eliminating various illnesses or conditions for each of these complaints, I think about hormones. Out-of-control hormones can cause or mimic many medical issues, and they can have a serious impact on your quality of life.
1) Belly Fat
The adrenal glands are two small glands that sit on top of your kidneys. They are the body’s main stress responders. When we are under continual stress for too long, the hormone cortisol is overproduced and causes the body to store fat for future use. This storage typically happens in the belly region and is usually a clue that the adrenals need some help. My favourite adrenal supportives include B vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium, and adaptogenic herbs such as rhodiola, ashwagandha, and Siberian ginseng.
2) Persistent Weight Gain
Yes, you have made healthier dietary choices and added regular exercise to maintain a healthy weight, but the pounds keep creeping on. When you’ve done everything right, yet the weight gain seems out of control, it’s time to look beneath the surface to see what’s going on. Some women may have underlying hormonal imbalances that will make it much harder to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Assessing for issues such as low thyroid, insulin resistance, and impaired adrenal function are some great first steps in the right direction.
Dragging yourself out of bed every morning? Can’t function without coffee? Experiencing that mid-afternoon crash daily? Fatigue is easily the most common concern I hear in clinical practice. Testing for low thyroid, low iron, low B12, adrenal fatigue, and food intolerances can help identify the right treatment for fatigue. Managing blood sugar peaks and valleys can stabilize energy levels, keeping you feeling vibrant and thinking clearly.
4) Poor Sleep
Insomnia is part of a syndrome thatusually starts with an underlying hormone imbalance. That imbalance stems from an overproduction of the hormone most associated with stress, cortisol. Using relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing, and Epsom salt baths can be nourishing to your nervous system. It’s also important to “unplug” at least 1–2 hours before your head hits your pillow. Shut off those computers, tablets, and phones to let your body know it’s time to prepare for sleep! If you still have difficulty turning off your brain late at night, try some GABA or L-theanine. Both supplements can be very useful for anxiety as well. If your sleep cycle has been upset by stress or travel, use melatonin to hit the reset button and support healthy sleep until your cortisol levels normalize.
5) Anxiety or Depression
The quality of your moods is a good indicator of how balanced or imbalanced your hormones are. The health of the adrenal glands is an important foundation for hormone health, because long-term stress and the overproduction of cortisol isn’t just a factor in belly fat, it can also have a profound effect on levels of serotonin, the mood-boosting brain chemical. Eliminating stimulants such as coffee, black tea, chocolate, and colas can lower anxiety. Keeping blood sugars balanced with adequate lean and healthy proteins consumed throughout the day can also help maintain healthy moods.
Common causes of food cravings are adrenal fatigue, insulin resistance, low serotonin levels, or even an imbalance in gut flora! Identifying the cause will help target treatment, though minimizing refined sugars and excess alcohol while eliminating processed foods will help control cravings regardless of the cause. Your digestive system will thank you! You can’t go wrong with starting on a good probiotic regimen, either: maintaining an abundance of good gut flora can also reduce food intolerances, boost your immune system, and improve the health of your brain and skin.
7) Low Libido
A very common symptom of hormone imbalance is low libido – a diminished sex drive. This is typically due to reduced production of the hormone testosterone (yes, women make it too) which change as we age. To protect testosterone levels, address stress levels. In addition to examining lifestyle issues that drive stress, also make sure your adrenal glands are well-supported with the same supplements mentioned above – including B vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium, and adaptogenic herbs such as rhodiola, ashwagandha, and Siberian ginseng.
8) Hair Loss
Some common causes of thinning or loss of hair are: stress, low thyroid levels, autoimmune disease, decreased collagen production, deficiencies of iron or vitamin B, high testosterone levels, and poor digestion or absorption or nutrients. Each of these can be addressed in a variety of ways.
There you have it! I hope you now understand all the sneaky ways that hormone imbalances can affect not just your body, but your life. Always remember, of course, that many of the above symptoms can be linked to other physical problems and diagnoses, so it’s a good idea to work closely with your health care practitioner on solutions. She or he will help you get to the root of what’s going on, and show you the way back to your more energetic, vibrant self!