Your hormones play an important role in many of your body’s essential functions, most notably- metabolism and reproduction. When your hormones become unbalanced for any reason it can have some major repercussions- the list of symptoms is long and determined by what hormones are being affected. Some hormones change naturally as we age, so we experience slight differences over the course of our lives. Unfortunately, with stress being a big factor in hormone imbalances, these symptoms are becoming increasingly common in this fast-paced world, which makes it even harder to pinpoint what exactly is going wrong.
Some of the most common symptoms of hormone imbalance are:
- Weight gain
- Unexplained weight loss
- Muscle weakness
- Heavy or irregular periods
- Excessive hair growth on the face, chin or other areas
- Acne on the face, chest or upper back
- Hair loss
- Pain during sex/ vaginal dryness
Most of the symptoms listed here are commonly the result of hormone balance, but can also be caused by various factors and conditions, so please bear in mind that this is not the only answer available to you. The body is an incredibly intricate system so if your symptoms are severe and/or persistent you should always call 111 or your GP, especially if you are experiencing pain. It is ALWAYS better to discuss them with professionals rather than tell yourself you’re being silly about it, or not to worry about them or mask discomfort with pain killers.
Common causes of hormone imbalance:
- Hormone therapy
- Cancer treatment
- Eating disorders
- Diabetes (types 1 and 2)
- Hyperthyroidism- both underactive and overactive thyroids
- High cortisol levels
- Some birth control pills
Sometimes hormone imbalances can occur alongside another underlying condition, meaning that the imbalance can only be dealt with once the other condition is recovered from.
Listed below are some little tweaks you can make to your lifestyle to help get the best possible results and avoid any hidden pitfalls that can cause hormone imbalance. Diet and lifestyle are two of the areas that we are the most aware of on the daily, so it’s a great place to start.
Here’s some things you can do to try to balance your hormones:Diet
Making sure that you take in enough protein is extremely important as it provides us with the amino acids our body needs to maintain muscle and bone mass. Protein also influences the hormones that affect your appetite and diet, so if not maintained can lead to a snowballing of smaller symptoms into far bigger issues. The more protein you ingest, the less influence the hunger hormone has over you- so you are less likely to experience increased appetite. Knowing this can be particularly helpful when we consider how stress can affect us- we often feel like eating as a way of soothing ourselves when stressed, yet if we instead aim for foods high in protein we can negate many of the lasting effects.
Avoid sugar and refined carbs
Research suggests that high levels of fructose in our diet can cause insulin resistance and weight gain. Fructose makes up at least half of most types of sugar, with the usual commercial-based foods having the highest levels. We often trip ourselves up by forgetting just how much sugar is in many drinks, with sugary beverages providing a considerable amount of our average intake. Yet it remains present in natural options like honey and syrups it's very hard to avoid. The best way to counter this issue is to adjust your diet towards lower carb intake and lessening the number of refined sugars when possible.
Eating higher quality natural fats has been found to reduce insulin resistance and appetite.
Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are used by your liver immediately as energy, and so don't have any lasting effects on the body. MCTs can be found in palm and coconut oil, as well as pure MCT oils. Incorporating these oils into a meal can give you energy and releases hormones to make you feel full without causing additional health risks.
The positives to drinking green tea really cannot be understated. It’s an extremely healthy option that provides a variety of benefits, including boosting your metabolism, lowering blood pressure and providing antioxidants. The recent influx of green tea drinkers has created a market for creative new ways to drink it. If you aren’t a fan of the original flavour, there will definitely be something for you on the market.
Taking part in regular exercise has been found to decrease insulin levels. You might have some alarm bells going off at the mention of this very well-known hormone. Insulin is responsible for the amount of sugar and amino acids in your blood- high levels of insulin have been linked to inflammation, heart disease diabetes, and cancer. Research has found that various types of exercise can reduce insulin sensitivity, and if you find the higher intensity workouts to be a challenge, then walking for moderate distances has been found to yield similar results. It may also be that being able to take a more active role in our own health can lower our stress levels, which as noted can be a damaging factor in our hormone levels.
Stress is one of the more difficult areas to change because of how frequently we experience it on a daily basis. The two main hormones that are effected by stress are cortisol and adrenaline. Cortisol is the stress hormone- its role is to help you through stressful situations the best it knows how. Adrenaline is responsible for the fight or flight response- when you are given a fright and you can feel your heart beating fast and your breathing even faster? Thats your body getting ready to fight off what its assuming is a tiger or something just as terrifying. Adrenaline gives us a surge of energy when we need it to fight off immediate dangers, yet the dangers we face are no longer as straightforward as a predator lurking out of sight. When we deal with chronic stress, our adrenaline levels remain high and our body remains ready to fight, but we are designed to deal with these threats quickly. The consequences of this can be increased calorie intake and obesity, high blood pressure and anxiety.
Employing methods to help lessen your stress levels is the best way to avoid these negative effects. Breathing exercises, yoga or practicing mindfulness are all methods that can help to gain control over your stress levels in the moment, and can be extremely beneficial in the long run if it becomes a habit.
Getting consistent sleep is the other side of the coin with a healthy lifestyle. If your sleep quality is poor or your circadian rhythm is disrupted them your hormones will be similarly affected. Poor sleep has been linked to imbalances of insulin, glucose, cortisol and growth hormones. If your hormones increase then so too will your appetite and stress levels, which only further influence your hormones. The most common methods to improve sleep quality are creating a set routine, keeping the room you are sleeping in separate from work and play activities, and avoiding
caffeine in the hours leading up to bedtime. The idea is to condition yourself to know when it’s time to relax, so you can drift off that little bit easier.