Are your hormones raging due to a hormone imbalance?
I’ll give you a hint: you don’t have to be going through menopause to experience significant hormone imbalances that affect your health.
In fact, men and women of any age can have sub-optimal hormone levels, and it’s important to recognize the signs of hormone imbalance before it quietly undermines your health.
In this article, we break down the most common signs of hormone imbalance:
- Do you feel groggy all the time?
- Do you battle brain fog?
- Is it difficult to get a good night’s sleep?
These aren’t necessarily “normal” struggles that all hard-working adults deal with—the truth is, hormone imbalances may be silently sapping you of energy.
Let’s take a closer look at what causes hormone imbalances, the common signs, and how to treat the root cause rather than just mask the symptoms.
It’s time to boost your energy and improve your health by correcting hormone imbalances.
Why Hormones are Important for Your Health
Hormones are the mastermind behind your physical, sexual, and emotional well-being. Without the proper balance of hormones, you may struggle with motivation and mental health issues like depression and anxiety.
The diet and lifestyle choices of most people make them incredibly susceptible to hormone imbalances—factors like stress, poor sleep, and a pro-inflammatory diet are often to blame. In fact, anything that promotes inflammation is a potential culprit for unhealthy hormone levels.
Inflammation: The Ultimate Hormone Killer
Chronic inflammation is often the root cause of hormone imbalances throughout the body. But before we demonize the heck out of inflammation, it’s important to understand inflammation’s positive role in the body.
Healthy inflammation is a natural part of the healing process from injury and infection—localized body parts may become swollen, red, hot, or painful as white blood cells fight to protect the damaged area.
Problems occur when inflammation continues for prolonged periods of time and damages the glands that produce hormones.
Hormone Imbalance and Gut Inflammation
When it comes to health and hormones, sometimes it’s better to trust your gut—after all, it’s often where inflammation starts before spreading throughout the body.
Evolutionary biologists recognize the gut as the original brain, and to this day it continues to govern the fate of your mental and physical health. The gut is the body’s first line of defense against toxins and other inflammatory agents that sneak into the body with the food you eat.
A healthy gut provides a strong barrier between your bloodstream and inflammatory agents, but a weakened gut lining can let inflammation leak in. When inflammation reaches the endocrine glands, it can be bad news for hormone production.
Ultimately, inflammation that begins in the gut can over-stimulate the immune system and trigger a cascade of health problems, and the endocrine glands aren’t the only parts to suffer.
- Joints can develop arthritis.
- Inflammation in the brain can disrupt neurotransmitter activity.
- You may become more prone to sickness and infection due to a compromised immune system.
Later in this article, we’ll cover how to reduce inflammation and correct hormone imbalances naturally, but for now, let’s take a look at the most common signs of hormone imbalance.
Signs of a Hormone Imbalance
One of the reasons that hormone imbalances sneak under the radar is because they tend to develop slowly.
As you gradually produce less healthy hormones and more stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, it can trigger a chain reaction of negative side effects.
Here are a few of the most common signs of a hormone imbalance:
1. Digestive Health Issues
The gut inflammation-hormone connection should be drilled into your brain from the last section, but just to recap: a weak gut lining leaks inflammation into the bloodstream, and from there it can wreak havoc on the endocrine glands (hormone factories).
Any recurring gut health issue can be a potential sign of a weak gut lining.
Do you have any of the following symptoms?
- Slow digestion
- Irritable Bowel Disease (IBS)
- Leaky Gut Syndrome
- Consistent gut discomfort, especially following meals
Luckily, there’s plenty you can do to heal the gut with diet and lifestyle choices, but more on that later.
2. Chronic Fatigue
Chronic fatigue is one of the most common signs of hormone imbalance.
It’s normal to feel tired at the end of a long day, after the gym, or following a stressful event like public speaking or a car accident—it’s not normal to feel tired all the time.
It’s an unfortunate myth that having less energy is a natural part of the aging process. If you’re over the age of 50, there’s no reason to have less energy than when you were in your late twenties—that is as long as your hormones are healthy.
Kick chronic fatigue to the curb by reducing inflammation and optimizing hormone levels with the tips covered at the end of this article.
3. Weight Gain and Muscle Weakness
Weight gain is another misunderstood part of getting older. The truth is that increased stress hormones and decreased thyroid hormone production is often the real cause of muscle weakness and weight gain.
Belly fat is closely linked to elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol and other hormone imbalances, especially in women. (R) Insulin is a hormone that processes sugar in the body, and a high-sugar diet can lead to insulin resistance and diabetes.
Reference 1: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9929857
4. Food Cravings
The insulin resistance that contributes to weight gain and diabetes can also cause food cravings. Adrenal fatigue from excess cortisol/adrenal production may also be to blame.
If your diet and lifestyle remain consistent, but all of a sudden you start having powerful food cravings, it may be a sign of hormone imbalances. Eliminating addictive foods like sugar and carbs that strain insulin production is one of the most important things you can do to reduce food cravings.
5. Mood Disorders, Brain Fog, and other Mental Health Issues
Anxiety, depression, autism and ADHD have strong connections to gut health and brain inflammation. A weak gut lining can lead to inflammation in the brain, and ultimately turn your brain chemistry on its head.
Does troubleshooting difficult problems make you feel like you’re staring into a dense fog? Do you have a hard time concentrating? Is it difficult to stay alert for long periods of time? All of these issues may be the result of inflammation in the brain. Thankfully, regular exercise and eating right can correct hormone imbalances and improve mental health.
6. Difficulty Sleeping
Do you toss and turn at night? Is your sleep schedule about as consistent as the weather in May? If you struggle to get a good night’s sleep, then your hormone levels are undoubtedly being affected.
Sleep is one of the most influential health factors because it directly impacts hormone production. If you have elevated stress hormones throughout the day, it can be difficult to produce melatonin at night.
One natural trick to sleeping better is to take a high-quality magnesium supplement. Magnesium is a foundational nutrient for hormone pathways and neurotransmitter regulation, plus it can be incredibly sedative for individuals who are deficient. (R)
7. Low Sex Drive
Low libido is one of the most widely-known signs of hormone imbalance. (R) It’s no secret that there’s a booming industry for supplements that boost testosterone levels and increase male sex drive, but healthy levels of testosterone and estrogen are actually important for both sexes.
Vigorous exercise and a healthy sleep schedule are two of the most important things you can do to replenish sex hormones and restore your sex drive.
Next, let’s look at some of the differences between how men and women present with hormone imbalances.
Signs of Hormone Imbalances: Men vs. Women
There are certainly more similarities than differences in how men and women utilize hormones, but it’s important to point out a few major differences in the potential warning signs of hormone imbalance.
Most common signs of a hormone imbalance in women:
- Night sweats and hot flashes (early warning signs)
- Irregular menstruation
- Severe PMS
- Vaginal dryness
- Low sex drive
- Weight gain
Most common signs of a hormone imbalance in men:
- Low sex drive
- Erectile dysfunction
- Hair loss
- Increased body fat
- Poor memory
- Muscle weakness
- Difficulty sleeping
While one isolated symptom doesn’t necessarily mean that your hormones are out of wack, having several of them may be a strong sign that you’re dealing with a hormone imbalance.
Up next, one gland, in particular, is often at the center of many of the most common signs of hormone imbalance.
Thyroid Deficiency and Hormone Imbalance
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the neck behind the throat. It works in coordination with the pituitary gland and the part of the brain called the hypothalamus to synthesize thyroid hormones. These hormones then travel through the bloodstream to affect the function of literally every organ in the body, including other endocrine glands.
Thyroid hormones help regulate:
- Weight gain
- Body temperature
- Cholesterol levels
- Heart rate
- Nervous system activity
Because thyroid hormones have such a wide-reaching effect on the body, thyroid deficiency, or hypothyroidism, can trigger nearly all of the symptoms described in this article.
Causes of Thyroid Deficiency
Thyroid deficiency is often the result of damaged thyroid cells due to chronic inflammation. Inflammatory autoimmune disorders, like Hashimoto’s disease, account for roughly 90% of the hypothyroidism cases worldwide. (R)
In addition to autoimmune disorders, here are some of the other most common causes of thyroid inflammation:
- Gut inflammation
- Pro-inflammatory diet
- Postpartum thyroiditis (thyroid inflammation following pregnancy)
- Medication side effects
- Radiation therapy
- Thyroid surgery
If you have any of the above risk factors and currently experience symptoms of a hormone imbalance, talk to a doctor about testing your hormone levels.
Reference 4: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3066320
How to Treat Hormone Imbalances Naturally
Believe it or not, there’s a major upside to having health issues that are caused by hormone imbalances, and that’s that you can correct them with diet, exercise, and quality sleep.
Here are some of the best natural ways to normalize hormone levels without the use of medications:
High-intensity exercise, weight training, running, and walking supports healthier hormones. Exercise reduces stress hormones, and when stress hormones decrease, the production of other hormones can normalize.
High levels of stress hormones like cortisol can damage the gut lining. By reducing stress hormones, exercise helps heal the gut and prevents inflammation from entering the bloodstream, damaging the endocrine glands, and triggering hormone imbalances.
2. Get Better Sleep
Your circadian rhythm, or sleep pattern, needs to be consistent if you want to optimize hormone production. Adults should get between 7-9 hours of sleep a night.
Here are some tips for a having more restorative sleep:
- Avoid technology before bed. The blue light that emanates from screens disrupts melatonin production.
- Eat a teaspoon of raw honey before bed. Raw honey contains nutrients that support melatonin production. (R)
- Create a bedtime routine. Take a hot Epsom salt bath, read for 20 minutes, meditate, or do all three before bed every night.
3. Eat Anti-Inflammatory Foods that Support Gut Health
Nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory foods like avocado, coconut and olive oil, wild-caught sardines and salmon, cucumber, and celery heal the gut and restore hormone levels.
Probiotic foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, brine-cured olives, gherkin pickles, and apple cider vinegar promote healthy gut bacteria and strengthen the gut lining. Add prebiotic foods into the mix, like artichokes, chicory root, and onions—these act as fuel for the growth of healthy gut bacteria.
Bone broth is somewhat of a super-food when it comes to repairing the gut and reducing inflammation. It’s packed with amino acids, the building blocks of protein, and is full of minerals like magnesium and calcium that heal the digestive tract, support hormone production, and strengthen the immune system.
4. Avoid Foods that Damage the Gut and Promote Inflammation
Stay away from foods that are low in nutrients, promote inflammation, fuel bad gut bacteria, and damage the digestive tract. Inflammatory foods include dairy products, trans fat, sugar, gluten (bread and pasta), and refined grains.
Sugar is not only pro-inflammatory, but it acts as fuel for bad gut bacteria and increases the risk of insulin resistance and diabetes. Gluten promotes hormone imbalances, gut inflammation, and exacerbates mental health disorders, including autism.
Caffeine increases stress hormone production, and coffee is acidic and can damage the gut lining. Drink at most two cups of green tea a day and avoid alcohol entirely. The theanine in green tea promotes GABA production and reduces stress. (R)
Reference 6: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28938517
Be careful with brassica vegetables like kale, chard, spinach, cauliflower, and broccoli. They’re excellent for gut health because they feed healthy gut bacteria, but you have to make sure to cook them thoroughly. Brassica vegetables contain goitrogens, a class of compounds that can impair thyroid function. Luckily, cooking neutralizes them.
By eating right and embracing a healthy lifestyle, you can take the fate of your hormones into your own hands.
Symptoms like chronic fatigue, food cravings, rapid weight gain, mood disorders, difficulty sleeping, and digestive issues aren’t just a natural part of aging. In fact, there’s a good chance that they’re the product of hormone imbalances. To get the best treatment for your hormone imbalances, contact us at Complete Care Health Centers and see one of our providers today.