When many people think about hormones, they think about the teenage years. People like to describe the teenage stage as a time when "hormones are out of control." Teens experience acne, changing feelings and emotions, physical changes, and so much more.
But, puberty isn't the only time when it feels like hormones are wreaking havoc on our lives. We also have our menstrual cycle, pregnancy, perimenopause, and menopause. In addition, there are circumstances outside of these life stages that can lead to a hormonal imbalance.
But the good news is you don't have to live suffering through the symptoms of hormone imbalance. You can do many things to balance your hormones and feel your best.
What is a hormone imbalance?
Hormones are chemicals that play an important role in your body. They move through your blood to your organs, tissues, muscles, and skin, signaling the body on how to function. Some of the body's functions controlled by hormones include:
Growth and development
Sexual function and reproduction
There have been more than 50 hormones identified in the body. Having too little or too much of one or more hormones results in a hormonal imbalance, which can lead to challenges in your mind and body. A hormonal imbalance can be a temporary situation, or it can be a long-term condition.
Hormone imbalance signs in women
There are many different ways that imbalanced hormones can impact you. That means there are many different signs and symptoms to watch for. These symptoms can also be linked to other physical and mental health conditions, so it's important to speak to a doctor or mental health professional if you begin to notice these signs in yourself.
Bloating, nausea, abdominal pain, constipation, or diarrhea
Fatigue and changes in sleep habits
Hair loss or Hirsutism
Brain fog or difficulty concentrating
Low libido or vaginal dryness
Irregular or heavy periods
Anxiety or depression
These symptoms can also be the signs of mental health challenges or issues with your physical health. If you notice you're having any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor or mental health professional.
Causes of hormonal imbalance in women
There are some stages of life that come with a natural fluctuation in hormones. There are generally changes and symptoms that come along with these stages, which most people are familiar with. These include puberty, pregnancy, perimenopause, and menopause.
However, there are many other things that can lead to imbalanced hormones, including:
Medication including birth control pills
Injury or trauma
Chemotherapy or cancer treatments
This is not a complete list of possible causes of a hormonal imbalance. If you notice the signs and symptoms, speak with a medical professional about the specifics of your unique situation. Learning what is causing the imbalance can help you find the best way to balance your hormones going forward.
How to ease your symptoms
There are some strategies that may help you balance your hormones or manage your symptoms better. However, it's important for you to speak with your doctor to explore your best treatment options. We have a Certified Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner at The NEST Clinic in Stillwater, MN, who can provide medication management services and work with women for hormone consults, birth control needs, perimenopause, and menopause changes.
The following are strategies you can try to ease your symptoms of hormone imbalance.
Change your diet
Changing how you eat can help you balance your hormones. Nutrient-dense foods like eggs, fish, meat, fruits, and vegetables can positively impact your hormones, while foods like artificial sweeteners and alcohol can negatively impact them.
The right mix of protein, high-fiber carbohydrates, and healthy fats can help with your hormone balance. The following foods are also believed to have a positive impact:
Leafy greens (spinach, collard greens, kale)
Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower)
In addition, it's important to make sure you're eating enough. While hormonal imbalance can lead to weight gain, cutting out too many calories can also cause your body to stop producing the right amount of hormones. It's important to find a healthy balance. Working with a doctor or nutritionist can help you find the right balanced diet for your specific situation.
Physical activity and exercise have long been connected with positively impacting mental health and wellness. The same is true for balancing your hormones. Regular exercise has been linked to improvement in balancing hormones such as insulin, sex hormones, cortisol, and thyroid hormones.
Studies are being done to determine the best type of exercise for hormone regulation; however, regular exercise (and not overdoing it) is connected with improvements in many areas of health and wellness. Some professionals debate that the improvement in hormone levels is due to weight loss due to exercising instead of exercise itself,
Obesity has been connected with negatively impacting hormone levels. So, whether it's actually exercising or the result of reaching a healthy weight, exercise is connected with improving hormone levels.
Try to find an exercise routine that you enjoy doing so it will be easier to stick with it. In addition, talk to your doctor before starting any exercise regimen to ensure it is safe for you to do so.
There are many stressors that we all face on a daily basis. Our hormones can change due to this stress, so learning how to manage stress in a healthy way can positively impact hormone levels. Incorporating self-care habits into your regular routine can help you manage stress more effectively.
Some strategies you can use to help manage stress include:
Make time for hobbies you enjoy
Find a healthy way to release pent-up frustration and anger
Listen to music
Talk to a friend
Avoid overbooking your schedule
Set boundaries with others
Use deep breathing techniques
You may also want to work on getting to the root cause of your stress. When you know exactly what is causing your stress, it's easier to determine what you need to do to manage it. For example, if you experience high stress from interacting with a certain person, you may need to learn how to set boundaries with that person. Or, if your stress comes from having too busy of a schedule, you may need to learn time management skills that can help you.
If you experience high levels of stress and aren't sure where it's coming from, it can help to work with a therapist who can help you process what you're experiencing.
Get better sleep
Hormonal imbalances can disturb your natural sleep rhythms, especially during perimenopause and menopause. Sleep is important for normal body function and to help you feel your best mentally and physically. If you're struggling with sleeping well, here are some strategies to try that can aid with or promote better sleep:
Keep a journal to write your worries out and clear your mind before going to sleep.
Talk to friends and family when you're struggling with a situation
Try meditation or sleep apps like Headspace or Calm
Use deep breathing techniques
Turn off or put down all devices at least an hour before you go to bed
Keep your room dark
Don't consume caffeine for the second part of the day before sleeping
Ask your doctor about taking magnesium to help with sleep
It's also helpful to create a sleep routine for yourself. Try to go to bed around the same time each night and wake up around the same time each morning. Have a routine you follow to get ready for bed and a morning routine to help you wake up.
If you struggle to get enough sleep, it could result from a hormone imbalance, so it can be helpful to talk to someone about hormone therapy and other solutions to balance your hormones.
Talk to a therapist
Because there is a connection between the mind and body, a hormonal imbalance can impact your mental health. You may find that you're struggling with things like stress, anxiety, and depression.
In addition, hormonal imbalances can worsen the symptoms of mental health disorders. For example, one study found that "Reproductive-cycle events - such as the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, the postpartum period and menopause - may be marked by increased mood disturbance for women with bipolar disorder, with around 77% of women reporting worsening of mood at any of these times."
Therefore, speaking with a therapist can help you learn strategies for coping with the feelings and mental health challenges you may be experiencing. In addition, therapists can help if a hormonal imbalance has led to other situations you're struggling with, such as infertility, low self-esteem, or relationship issues.
Hormone management and medication management
There are many lifestyle changes women can make to address hormone imbalances throughout the different stages of life. However, sometimes these lifestyle changes aren't enough to alleviate all the symptoms. This is where hormone therapy and medication management can help.
To schedule a hormone consult or speak with our Nurse Practitioner or a therapist, please call us at 651-425-9297.