Women know all too well what chaos our cycles bring into our lives every single month. And – even though pregnancy brings our little bundles of joy, it also brings a bundle of CRAZY with all of the hormone level changes. Since hormones run our bodies, they also run our lives. We are all aware that hormones change and surge, but just how important is hormone balance? When they get out of balance, it rains down a ridiculous amount of maladies on us. This can also affect men!
Each stage of life brings different challenges as well as physical changes. Anyone over the age of 18 has experienced or at least heard of PMS, pregnancy hormone changes, post partum changes, and menopause changes. Don’t forget perimenopause and post-menopause. Hormones are always present and working in our bodies! The balance is what is most important. Personally, I am post menopause for a couple of years now. These hormone levels change and get out of balance, which affects us in SO many ways – some of which may be very surprising!
This has directly affected me, so I felt led to dig in and research this. According to many sources such as Myclevelandclinic.org, Healthline.com, Mindbodygreen.com, hormonal imbalances can drastically affect our general health. Typical symptoms of hormone imbalance are hot flashes, night sweats, brain fog, low libido, fatigue, and mood swings. A surprising sign of a hormonal imbalance is also inflammation, including joint pain, swelling and stiffness. Digestional issues that indicate poor “gut health” may also be caused by a hormonal imbalance.
In addition to these general health disruptions, a hormone imbalance can also directly affect our metabolism. Signs your metabolism is suffering from hormones being out of balance are:
- Rapid or slow heartbeat (tachycardia)
- Unexplained weight gain or loss
- Fatigue, lack of energy
- Diarrhea or more frequent bowel movements
- Numbness and/or tingling in your hands
- Higher than normal cholesterol levels
- Uncommon anxiety or depression
- Being unable to regulate body temperature (unable to tolerate cold or warm temperatures)
- Dry, coarse hair and/or skin
- Irregular body fat distribution
- Darkened skin in armpit area or back and sides of your neck
- Skin tags and/or skin growths
- Extreme thirst and frequent urination
First things first ~ what are these hormones, and what purpose do they serve in our bodies? Here is a brief breakdown, courtesy of research by emetabolic.com.
Estradial / Estrogen: influences the way joint tissues assist with bone production and rebuilding, promotes muscle growth, and decreases muscle breakdown. Estrogen protects joints from weakening, protects against osteoarthritis, and reduces the likelihood of joint replacement. Lower than optimal estrogen levels have been repeatedly linked to osteoarthritis.
Progesterone: is widely reported to be anti-inflammatory. Our bodies convert progesterone into cortisol, known as the “stress” hormone, one of the more powerful anti-inflammatory naturally recurring resources in our bodies. Studies have shown that progesterone actually reduces neuropathic pain.
Testosterone: as an anabolic hormone, it aids in the building and strengthening of tissues. It has also been proven to reduce inflammatory markers.
Cortisol: reduces inflammation and controls the body’s immune response. Our adrenal glands release cortisol in stressful situations; this is intended to be short-term to handle a serious, unexpected stressor, (for example, sudden braking or swerving to avoid an auto collision) and should then return to normal levels. Chronic, long-term stressful situations cause a problem in that the adrenal glands are active too often, which depletes cortisol levels. This depleted cortisol level leads to inflammatory processes being out of control which leads to pain, swelling, and tissue damage.
So, how do we know for sure a hormone imbalance is the culprit of a myriad of problems? What do we do about it?
The very first step is to make an appointment with your doctor. Have your blood drawn, and a full hormone panel run to find out what your numbers are and where your levels are. Discuss all of your concerns and symptoms with your doctor, and any options available to you. I cannot stress enough just how crucial this first step is!
The next step – you’ve likely already guessed! Exercise and nutrition! Chemically enhanced and processed foods are YOUR ENEMY! Just don’t eat them. Seriously. There are so many delicious clean, healthy, whole foods that taste delicious and will make you feel better! I’ll break down some specifics with nutrition in next week’s blog. For now, please work on eliminating (or at least decreasing) foods with dairy, gluten, and excessive sugars in them. Shop around the outside of the grocery store. If you look at the ingredient list on a bag, box or can, and you don’t recognize most of the things listed – put it back on the shelf.
Make sure you’re taking a good multi-vitamin daily. It would be a great idea to add a probiotic, and ground flaxseed or flax oil into your daily routine as well.
Exercise! My friends – just get up and move. Find what you enjoy and do more of that. Do you love music? Try dance fitness classes! Do you love being outdoors? Go on more hikes and walks! Get a group of friends to work out with you. Group walks, boot camps, workouts – any of these things will beat sitting on the couch eating unhealthy things! Find an accountability partner or group. If you are local to me (McDonough, Georgia), you are more than welcome to join FTM Wellness Boot Camp and Yoga classes! (Just click on the tabs in the menu for more information.)
If any of these things hit home with you, go ahead and make that doctor’s appointment. Choose today to eat cleaner and move more. If it’s all a little overwhelming, and you would like help navigating these things, I would love to help you!