Here's How to Tell if Your Hormones are Imbalanced
WRITTEN BY STEPHANIE ROME | FEATURED ON:
Symptoms of hormone imbalance can present in a multitude of ways. Absent periods, irregular periods, long cycles, short cycles, heavy/painful periods, PMS, anxiety, depression, weight gain, mood swings, breast tenderness/swelling, acne, headaches, insomnia, fatigue and cravings can all be due to imbalances in our hormones. Hormonal conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis and fibroids also have hormone imbalances at their root.
In order to know if your hormones are out of whack, you have to know what to look for. Let’s start by reviewing some of our main hormone players that I cover in my Hormone Balancing Guide and Cookbook and what it looks like for them to be in or out of balance.
Estrogen and progesterone are the two primary female sex hormones, however the other hormone that can be a major player in sex hormone imbalances is testosterone. We’ll go through each in detail below.
When estrogen is in balance:
When estrogen is produced in the proper amounts, it makes you feel happy and motivated by stimulating serotonin (happy neurotransmitter) and dopamine (motivation/pleasure neurotransmitter), increases sex drive, enhances your sensitivity to insulin which is important for metabolism and weight management, and benefits your bones, muscles, brain and skin!
When estrogen is too high, below are some of the signs/symptoms:
heavy or irregular periods
breast tenderness and enlargement before period
water retention before period
headaches/migraines especially before period
mood swings and irritability before period
When progesterone is in balance:
When progesterone is produced in the proper amounts, it reduces inflammation, builds muscles, promotes good sleep, calms your nervous system and makes you more resilient to stress.
Low progesterone symptoms:
heavy or irregular periods
mid-cycle or premenstrual spotting
short luteal phase
Estrogen and progesterone are like yin and yang. Not only do we want them both produced in the right amounts, but also we want a healthy ratio of estrogen to progesterone. When estrogen is too high relative to progesterone, it is referred to as “estrogen dominance.” You’ll notice that many of the low progesterone symptoms are similar to the high estrogen symptoms because these go hand-in-hand.
Most often, estrogen dominance is due to excess estrogen which is caused by either higher production of estrogen by your ovaries or impaired estrogen metabolism, or both. Estrogen metabolism is the removal or detoxification of estrogen from your body. The liver and gut play crucial roles in this process so a healthy liver and beneficial intestinal bacteria are key for getting rid of metabolized hormones. Estrogen dominance could also be a result of normal estrogen levels but low progesterone levels.
Estrogen dominance is the most common hormonal imbalance I see in my practice.
Here are some common causes of estrogen dominance (high estrogen relative to low progesterone):
Excess body fat (> 28%) - hormones play a role in your weight loss efforts and contribute to estrogen dominance because body fat produces more estrogen
Stress - because stress decreases progesterone which counterbalances estrogen
Constipation and inadequate dietary fiber intake - because regular bowel movements are crucial for helping your liver and bowels get rid of estrogen
Decreased liver function – because your liver is the main site of detoxification for hormones
Exposure to xenoestrogens from the environment – because these chemicals increase your body burden and put a strain on the liver to detoxify
Nutrient insufficiencies – because you need a variety of micronutrients for optimal hormone detoxification and elimination
What about testosterone?
Although testosterone is thought of primarily as a male hormone, it is an important hormone for women too. Testosterone is produced by the ovaries and adrenal glands and spikes around ovulation. Testosterone helps women maintain muscle mass and bone strength, enhances sex drive and provides an overall sense of vitality. Just like with estrogen and progesterone production, the Goldilocks principle applies – we want testosterone to be not too high, not too low, but just right!
Low Testosterone symptoms:
difficulty building muscle
Low testosterone can be caused by high estrogen, which suppresses the hormone that stimulates testosterone production. It can be also be due to adrenal dysfunction – read more about that here.
High testosterone symptoms:
increased body and facial hair
feelings of aggression
The most common cause of elevated testosterone levels in women is PCOS. Blood sugar dysregulation and high insulin (or insulin resistance) is at the root of high testosterone, whether a woman has PCOS or not. This is because high insulin stimulates the adrenals to produce testosterone.
Keeping testosterone at optimal levels is all about supporting your body’s production of the hormone so it can work in tandem with other sex hormones (like estrogen and progesterone) as well as neurotransmitters.
take charge of your hormones
If any of the above symptoms related to hormone imbalances are resonating with you, don’t despair. Know that you can balance your hormones naturally and that the symptoms you’re experiencing are your body’s way of letting you know things are a little off.
If you’d like to solve your hormone imbalances and be free from the symptoms, my Hormone Balancing Guide and Cookbook is a great place to start.
It walks you through targeted diet and lifestyle strategies for getting control of your hormones and your symptoms. This includes reducing xenoestrogen exposure, revving up your liver detoxification system, improving digestion and gut health, supporting your HPA axis (adrenals), dialing down inflammation and aligning your diet and lifestyle in a way that nourishes your hormonal system.
What I have learned in both my personal experience as well as during years of clinical practice is that a woman's body thrives on specific nutrients during different phases of her cycle. The cookbook section includes 32 recipes (8 recipes per phase), customized for what your body needs in each phase so that you can support your hormones in the best way possible all month long.
If you’re ready to get control of your hormones, let the Hormone Balancing Guide and Cookbook show you how.