Could Your Hormones be Out of Balance?
Signs, Causes and Natural Remedies for Hormonal Imbalance
by Dr. Christine Sauer, MD ND (Ger), INHC, CBHC
1. Five Signs You Have a Hormonal Imbalance
The tricky thing about hormonal imbalances is that many of the symptoms are also symptoms of other physical conditions. However, it is still good to know about the potential signs and symptoms, so that you know when to talk to a doctor. This is not something you can diagnose on your own, but by understanding more about the common signs of hormonal imbalance, you can go to your doctor with all the necessary information.
Here are 5 common signs that you might have a hormonal imbalance: (click on title to expand)
This is often one of the first things women notice when their hormones are out of whack. IF you have weight gain that seems to come out of nowhere, and is not from changing your eating or activity habits, it is likely from your hormone levels or another medical condition that needs treating.
In some women, it is from eating more, but if the sudden increase in your appetite seems out of place, that can also be related to your hormonal imbalance.
With hormonal imbalances, you might develop insulin resistance, have lower metabolism, or increased appetite, all of which can affect your weight.
Some mood changes can be explained by monthly hormonal changes during your menstrual cycle, added stress, or unexpected events in your life, but others are random and come out of nowhere. These are the ones to be concerned about.
Hormonal imbalances can give you more mood swings, irritability you can’t seem to control, and even angry outburst in the most unexpected ways. You may have worsening PMS symptoms every month during your menstrual cycle, or increased anxiety and depression symptoms if you suffer from those mental illnesses.
Unfortunately, many men and women who have a hormonal imbalance also experience chronic pain. Most often, this is in the form of headaches, but you can get other aches and pains in various parts of your body as well. Even if it isn’t from your hormone levels, unexplained physical pain is always a good reason to see your doctor.
Have you been experiencing a lot of fatigue lately? Maybe you are sleeping normally, but are exhausted all day, or you are having trouble sleeping through the night. You might feel like you are worn down and just don’t have the energy for your normal daily activities. This is another big symptom of a hormonal imbalance.
Naturally, another symptom of certain hormonal imbalances is with low sex drive, which can occur in both men and women. Estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and thyroid hormones can all affect your libido.
If you have any of these symptoms, it is a good idea to talk to your doctor to find out if you have a hormonal imbalance.
2. Common Causes of Hormonal Imbalances
Hormonal imbalances occur any time your hormones are too high or too low, which can be one or many different hormones. These occur in men and women, though we are talking more about the hormone imbalances women experience, since it is more common in women.
Keep reading to learn more about what might have caused your hormonal imbalance, so you know what the next steps are.
There are many causes of hormonal imbalances that can occur with men or women, and due to many different types of hormones. Each hormone is going to create its own causes and side effects, so this is where you can look at what hormones are out of balance and what you are actually experiencing to make you think your symptoms are due to your hormones.
Some of the general causes of hormone imbalances include:
- Hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism
- Vitamin deficiency
- Eating disorders
- Cancer treatment
As you can see, the causes vary widely, based on the type of hormone and how out of level your hormones are. For women with disordered eating habits, you might notice that you have weight gain or weight loss, often linked to the vitamin deficiency as well. If you have a thyroid disease, that is naturally from your thyroid hormone being too high or too low. There is no single cause for hormones to be out of balance since there is so much to consider.
Causes for Women
There are also causes that can be specific or more common depending on your born gender. For women, some of the more common causes include:
- Menstrual cycles
- Birth control pills
- Other hormone drugs
These are all going to be related to your reproductive system, whether or not you are pregnant, your age, and other factors.
Causes for Men
Hormonal imbalances in men are similar, though the causes can be quite different. For men, they tend to have hormonal imbalance symptoms like insomnia, fatigue, weight gain, issues with muscle mass, depression, and decreased libido.
Some of the potential causes for these imbalances in men include:
- Low testosterone (a leading cause of hormonal issues in men)
- Thyroid disease
For men and women, it is important to see your doctor and find out which hormones are out of balance first, before determining the cause and proper treatments.
3. How Hormones Affect Your Weight
One of the most common physical side effects of having a hormonal imbalance, especially in women, is weight gain.
Why is that?
Because your hormones help to regulate many systems in your body that control your weight, including your appetite and metabolism.
This article is going to explore what hormones you need to keep balanced, how they can affect your weight, and what you can do about it.
Estrogen vs Progesterone Weight Changes
Many hormones can affect your weight, but two of the more common ones are estrogen and progesterone. The difference is that when these levels are too low or too high, it can cause considerably different outcomes as far as your weight goes. Understanding this will help you and your doctor to figure out which of your hormones are responsible for the unexplained weight gain.
If you have more body fat, unexpected weight gain, fluid retention, headaches, depression, and blood sugar issues, it is probably from the estrogen in your body being out of balance. On the other hand, if you are losing weight unexpectedly, you might be struggling with too much progesterone.
You want a good balance of both, where neither is too high or too low in order to maintain your weight properly.
Why Weight Gain?
There are a few different reasons you start gaining weight as a result of your hormone levels being out of balance. The first is that it can cause your metabolism to plummet. You need a good level of metabolism in order to burn fat and calories that you consume, so when you have low metabolism, your body holds onto more of what you eat, which can cause you to gain weight more easily.
You might also notice that when you had other symptoms of hormonal imbalance, you also had a bigger appetite, lower energy, and more cravings. These work together to cause you to eat more, eat more unhealthy foods you crave, and not exercise as much, which as you know can also contribute to your weight gain.
The Negative Effects of Weight Gain
Gaining weight isn’t just about how you look or how well your clothes fit. There are also other negative health consequences of being overweight or obese. When you start gaining weight, it increases the risk of visceral fat, which can lead to heart disease and stroke. You are at a higher risk for diabetes, irregular periods, worsening PMS symptoms, joint pain, and even some types of cancers. It is important that if you are gaining weight and are not sure why, that you talk to your doctor about it.
4. Mental and Emotional Effects of Hormonal Imbalances
When you are looking at the effects of a hormonal imbalance, you might read a lot about the physical changes, such as weight gain or chronic pain, but it doesn’t end there. This can also affect your mental and emotional health, particularly with certain types of hormones.
From mood and behavioral changes, to increased depression and anxiety, you might feel like a completely different person just because a hormone is too high or too low. Here are some things to know about hormonal imbalances and how they can change your mental or emotional health.
The first thing you might notice with a hormonal imbalance is that your mood is changing. You might go from the occasional mood swings and irritability to feeling like you can barely control what your mood is doing. If you are experiencing a lot of irritability, being angry a lot, having loud outbursts, or just a general mood swing that never seems to go away, it might be a good idea to consider whether your hormones are at fault.
This can happen with regular fluctuations of hormone levels, such as women who are going through PMS with their menstrual cycle, but when it happens more often or daily, that is when you know it might be something else going on.
Mental Health Issues
Some men and women also experience mental health issues with their hormonal imbalance. This is typically if you already have a mental health condition like depression of anxiety, which is then increased dramatically due to the hormonal imbalance.
For example, if you have depression, but suddenly your depressive episodes are more severe, last longer, or coming on more often, then it could be from your hormone levels.
Similarly, people with anxiety disorders might notice the panic attacks are worsened or that your generalized anxiety never seems to go away. That is also a sign that something else is going on in your body and you should talk to your doctor about it.
Everyone experiences some level of stress, and the cortisol hormone is there to help you deal with it. However, if your stress is heightened suddenly, and you can’t seem to handle the mental or emotional changes it is causing, the cortisol or other hormone levels might be too high. This is one of the side effects of hormonal imbalances.
Fatigue and Low Energy
Lastly, you may experience a lot of fatigue during the day and low energy, regardless of how much sleep you got. This gets into the field of pure exhaustion, where you can barely get through the day, have low productivity at work, and just want to sleep all day long, when you know it is a problem.
5. Foods that Can Help Balance Your Hormones
If you have been experiencing symptoms of hormonal imbalance, such as chronic pain, trouble sleeping, appetite changes, and weight gain, you might be wondering what treatment options are available. Before looking at medial intervention, you can start with daily, healthy habits. This includes switching up your diet. Here are some foods that can actually help a lot with hormonal imbalance.
Apple Cider Vinegar
You have likely heard of people talking about apple cider vinegar (ACV) recently and discussing the many health benefits of it. Apple cider vinegar has many health benefits for you, even aside from helping with your hormonal imbalance. It can lower your cholesterol, help with your blood sugar levels, and even aid in your weight loss efforts. ACV is also amazing for your digestion and fatty liver.
Since apple cider vinegar is fermented, it is amazing for your gut bacteria, which in turn can help balance those hormones. Add a little ACV to your water each morning, and you’re good to go.
You have heard it many times before, and you’re going to hear it again – you need to eat your vegetables! Specifically those leafy greens like kale, collard greens, lettuce, spinach, and many others. Leafy greens are known as superfoods, since they often have a very high amount of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and so many more nutrients. They can help to cleanse your liver as well, which is an amazing way to start balancing your hormone levels.
Even if you aren’t a big fan of these types of greens, there are ways to add them to your diet without much effort. You can make a mixed green salad with your favorite lettuce, then add in some kale or spinach to it. You can make an egg scramble with spinach, or add a handful of greens to a smoothie. It’s even a great way to get the kids to eat their greens!
More healthy fats in your diet can also help to balance out those hormone levels and help with cleansing your liver. Think about fats like avocado, olive oil, coconut oil and MCT oil, nuts and seeds, and grass-fed butter. These are the food sources of fats, in addition to fatty fish like salmon and mackerel.
Reduced Sugar and Carbs
People who go on specific diets that lower their carbohydrate intake, like Paleo and Keto, often find that their hormones are suddenly balanced and they have lower inflammation. Why? Because they are lowering the refined carbs and added sugars in their diet. These can cause a lot of inflammation, throw your hormone levels off, and add to obesity. You can still have naturally-occurring sugar like in fruits and other natural foods, but be careful about foods that add sugar, like pasta sauce, bacon, and deli meats.
6. Lifestyle Changes That Help With Hormonal Imbalances
Hormonal imbalance is one of those conditions that comes in many forms, with many different potential side effects. While more moderate or severe cases require hormone replacement therapy, some people with hormonal imbalances will choose to look at the natural approach first.
The first thing you can do if you are dealing with hormones that are too high or too low in your body is to change your lifestyle. You can develop healthier habits each day and help quite a bit with many of your hormones, including testosterone, progesterone, cortisol, and thyroid hormones.
Focus on Reducing Your Stress
The stress hormone Cortisol helps to regulate how stress impacts your body, but it can get too high if you have too much stress. Therefore, it makes sense that reducing your stress can also help to balance out your hormones. Stress relief methods like journaling, going for a walk, adding more exercises, and removing any known stressors from your life work great. If you are still dealing with a lot of stress, talking to a doctor is also a good idea.
Switch to a Healthier Diet
What you eat has such a large impact on how you feel, including with side effects related to your hormonal imbalance. You don’t need to completely change your diet, but adding in more healthy fats, reducing added sugar, switching to complex carbs instead of refined carbs, and adding in more fiber and leafy greens will be amazing for your overall health and wellness.
Stop These Unhealthy Habits
You might have some other unhealthy habits that are making your hormonal levels even worse. This includes smoking cigarettes, consuming too much caffeine, and drinking large amounts of alcohol on a regular basis. You don’t need to cut everything out at once or even completely, but reducing can still help you quite a bit.
Get Better Sleep
Sleep hygiene is all about the habits you have during the day and at night that can help improve your sleep. This includes reducing caffeine before bed, making sure you get enough exercise, having a calming environment to sleep, and reducing distractions at night. It is time to shut off your cell phone, stop falling asleep to the television, and make sure you have blackout curtains to help you get better sleep.
Practice Mindfulness and Meditation
Using mindfulness techniques and practicing meditation can help with leveling out your hormone levels, as well as reducing extra stress in your life. This together will help you to live a healthier and happier life.
7. Natural Hormone-Balancing Herbs
If you are struggling with a hormone imbalance, whether because your hormones are too high or too low, there are a few different natural remedies to try out. One you might want to consider is using herbs, especially your adaptogenic herbs. Herbs won’t just help with your hormone levels, but provide so many physical and emotional health benefits, that it couldn’t hurt to give them a try.
This is probably one of the best herbs you can possibly use for your hormonal balance issues, particularly among the adaptogenic herbs. Ashwagandha is used frequently for hormone imbalance in both men and women, especially for people who experience thyroid conditions or issues with their adrenal glands. It is safe for just about everyone to use, though it is always a good idea to speak to a doctor before you start taking this or other herbs for your hormonal balance.
Maca root is a very old herb used for healing purposes, from night sweats to sleeping issues. It can also help with hormonal imbalances that might be related to menopause or early menopause, infertility, or other female-oriented hormonal changes. Maca root is also great at increasing your energy levels, so if you are experience fatigue as a result of your hormonal level changes, then maca root is a great option. This is most commonly found as a tea, which works as a replacement for the coffee you are trying to reduce (because of the caffeine).
If you have not heard of the chaste tree herb, now is an excellent time to become more familiar with it. Often referred to as Vitex or chasteberry, chaste tree is a natural herb that works wonders for your hormone levels. In fact, women who experience low libido or infertility are often recommended to use this natural remedy before trying harsh medications.
It can help with balancing out your luteinizing hormone, increase libido and energy levels, and work to balance out your estrogen and progesterone.
Turmeric is a very common herb these days, as people are using for everything from improving their digestion to helping with inflammation in the body. It helps with this, as well as side effects of hormonal imbalances like headaches, menstrual cramps, and acne.
The herb black cohosh works very similar to turmeric if you want to try an alternative to turmeric.
8. Supplements You Need to Balance Your Hormones
Balancing out your hormones is all about improving your physical health. Since there are many causes of hormone levels being too high or too low, there are also many ways to treat it. Aside from the medical intervention you get from your doctor, you can also improve your health in other ways, such as making sure you are getting enough nutrients.
Here are some of the best vitamins and minerals you want to have in order to balance out your hormone levels.
Your omega-3-and 6-fatty acids are really important for proper health, especially in terms of omega-3s. You can get these from adding in more healthy fats to your diet, such as wild-caught cold-water fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines. Nuts like walnuts and chia seeds, and plant oils like flaxseed oil contain only ALA, that often doesn't get sufficiently transformed into EPA and DHA, which we need especially for brain heallth. Read all about omega 3- and 6 fats and the so important omega 3/6 ratio here. Omega 3's are often one of the nutrients you are deficient in when you are having health issues like hormonal imbalances.
Next, you want to be sure you get your B vitamins in. A B complex vitamin is usually enough, unless you are nutrient deficient from a restrictive diet. B vitamins are essential for maintaining energy, balancing out your hormones, and preventing fatigue during the day. B6 is among the most important B vitamins, which you can get when you take a B complex supplement.
Magnesium is a very underrated mineral that everyone should have more of. Magnesium is actually one of the essential electrolytes your body needs, in addition to sodium and potassium. It helps with your pituitary health, and is needed if your FSH, LH or TSH hormones are out of balance. If you have thyroid issues, problems with ovulation, or have extreme fatigue, but then trouble sleeping at night, it could be from not getting enough magnesium.
Other Vitamins and Minerals
There are also some other nutrients everyone needs for proper hormonal balancing, including probiotics, vitamin E, vitamin C, folic acid, vitamin D, and niacin. A well-balanced diet ensures you get all the vitamins and minerals you need, but you might also need to supplement with a multi-vitamin or specific vitamin supplements like vitamin D or a vitamin C supplement.
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