If you have spent any time in the internet health and wellness space then you have no doubt heard the term “hormonal imbalance”. But what does this mean? And what hormones are they talking about?
There are many hormones in the body, all with specific jobs. They serve as chemical messengers that manage the process of the body. Hormones regulate everything from a women’s mood, energy levels, hunger cues, menstrual cycle, sleep, growth, and so much more.
For women, there are a few “heavy hitters” that are more well known, and when out of balance can cause several issues. These include cortisol, estrogen, progesterone, and thyroid-stimulating hormone.
Cortisol is commonly known as the stress hormone. It is released in times of stress. It helps increase our alertness, mobilize fat stores for fuel, suppresses inflammation and increase our blood pressure. Cortisol is naturally higher in the morning and decreases throughout the day.
Although this is an important hormone, too high or too low levels can lead to issues.
High cortisol can lead to:
- Feeling wired but tired
- Difficulty falling asleep at night
- Increased anxiety
- Poor ability to deal with stress
- Poor memory or concentration
- Increased sugar cravings
- Increased abdominal fat
- High blood pressure
- Poor digestion
- Irregular menstrual cycles.
In contrast, low levels of cortisol can be a problem as well.
Low cortisol can lead to:
- Afternoon crashes
- Decreased ability to deal with stress
- Low mood
- Poor sleep
- Low blood pressure
- Poor immune system/ frequent infections
- Muscle weakness
Estrogen is the most well-known of the female hormones, although men also produce and use estrogen.
Although Estrogen is primarily thought of as a sex hormone, it plays an important role in both sexual and non-sexual functions of the body. Although it is important in the menstrual cycle and sexual function it also plays an important role in fat distribution, bone mineral density, and cardiovascular function.
High levels of Estrogen can lead to:
- Weight gain, especially in the hips
- Mood swings, especially leading up to a period
- Heavy periods
- Bloating/ poor digestion
- Brain fog
- Low mood
In contrast, low levels of Estrogen can lead to:
- Emotional fragility, inability to cope with stress
- Increased wrinkling of the skin/ premature aging
- Night sweats/ hot flashes
- Increased urination
- Poor sleep
- Achiness of the joints
- Vaginal dryness
- Low libido
Progesterone, like estrogen, is often thought of only in the context of sexual health, but just like estrogen, it has many functions in the body. Progesterone is important for the metabolism of glucose, regulating fluid excretion, and strongly impacts mood.
Low progesterone is often associated with:
- Increased agitation
- Cyclical headaches
- Painful or swollen breasts
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Heaviness or painful periods
- Infertility, subfertility or frequent miscarriages.
Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH):
Although there are several hormones involved in thyroid function, TSH is often used to assess thyroid function. And although both men and women experience thyroid issues, women are more likely than men to have thyroid dysfunction.
The thyroid is best known for regulating the body's metabolism. Low thyroid function is often associated with a slower metabolism and weight gain.
Other symptoms of low thyroid function include:
- Feeling cold/ cold intolerance
- Brittle hair, skin and nails
- Cold hands and feet
- Lethargy, fatigue
- Low mood/ depression
It is important to remember that you can have one or more of these imbalances at the same time. In fact, having dysregulation of one hormone increases the risk that another one will be affected.
In addition, because so many of the symptoms can cross over it is important to correctly identify the underlying imbalance first.
To learn more about hormonal health, and metabolic health and optimize your vitality make sure to follow me on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dr.clairelockridge.nd/
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