Hormones play a vital role in your overall health and well-being. They are responsible for regulating various body functions, including reproductive, mood and metabolism. However, hormonal imbalances can cause a range of uncomfortable symptoms that can affect your quality of life. It is natural for hormones to fluctuate during the stages in a woman's life. Research has shown that hormonal fluctuations can affect metabolism, gut health, and weight. The intricacy of finding balance varies from person to person, and depends on factors like lifestyle, diet, environment and genes.
Menstrual irregularities are a common hormonal complaint, and shouldn’t just be ignored. The menstrual cycle is regulated by estrogen (ie: estradiol) and progesterone. An imbalance can cause irregular periods, heavy bleeding, clots, and/or painful cramps.
Common causes of these irregularities include polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), thyroid disorders, perimenopause and stress. It is important to get a thorough history when talking about your cycle and undergo appropriate testing. For example, irregularities due to hypothyroidism would need to be addressed differently than those due to PCOS.
Many people experience mood changes during their menstrual cycle- irritability, depression or anxiety are common. These changes are often related to fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone levels. Mood changes can also be attributed to low thyroid, low vitamin D, neurotransmitter imbalances, high histamine levels or adrenal insufficiency.
Weight gain especially during menopause is common. During aging, hormone levels begin to fluctuate, causing a decrease in estrogen levels. This decrease can lead to weight gain, particularly in the abdominal area. In addition, low thyroid and increased cortisol, glucose, and insulin can contribute to the annoying weight changes.
Fatigue Fatigue is probably the most common symptom of many different hormonal imbalances. Low thyroid, adrenal insufficiency, low testosterone and low nutrients (iron, B vitamins, or vitamin D) can affect energy levels. Low energy makes it difficult to complete daily activities. Many report fatigue worsens the nearer to their period.
Hair Loss or Thinning
Thinning hair or hair loss can cause a lot of stress. Looking at thyroid and cortisol levels is often recommended. A specific form of hair loss called androgenic alopecia is related to testosterone and DHT (dihydrotestosterone).
The Bottom Line
Hormonal imbalances can cause a range of uncomfortable symptoms. Whether it is stress, exposure to environmental toxins, or poor dietary choices, hormones are easily influenced, and affect nearly every part of the human body, making it crucial to adopt lifestyle changes that support good health. A personalized functional medicine approach to address symptoms is necessary. Correcting hormone imbalances involves lifestyle changes, dietary changes, medication and supplementation.