Written by Dr. Kai Herman
Many women suffer from symptoms of hormone imbalance without understanding the cause or being aware of a solution to their problems. Multiple factors, including environmental toxins, low nutrient & high sugar diets, as well as use of hormone-disrupting medications, are to blame for our vulnerable and dysfunctional hormonal system. Listed below are the most common hormone imbalances affecting women today. Hormone disorders can affect one’s mood, energy levels, weight, aging process, and if left unaddressed, can significantly impair one’s health and longevity.
1. Estrogen Dominance: many women suffering from symptoms of PMS, which includes emotional lability, irritability, and/or depression in the days leading up to a woman’s menses, likely have higher estrogen levels relative to progesterone. Other signs of Estrogen Dominance include weight gain, irregular cycles, pre-menstrual headaches and breast tenderness, heavy and/or painful menstruation, and difficulty conceiving or history of miscarriages. If left uncorrected, higher estrogen levels can increase one’s risk of developing estrogen-driven cancers, such as breast and uterine cancer. A simple blood or salivary test can help confirm abnormally high estrogen levels. If you suspect you have Estrogen Dominance, speak with your naturopathic doctor, who can test hormone levels and correct imbalances naturally.
2. Underactive Thyroid or Hypothyroidism: our thyroid gland produces hormones that maintain a healthy metabolism. An increasing number of women suffer from insufficient thyroid levels which impairs metabolism, creates an array of symptoms, and leads to other significant health problems. Common symptoms of thyroid insufficiency include low energy, constipation, inexplicable weight gain, dry skin & hair loss, depression, and difficulty conceiving. Serious consequences of untreated hypothyroidism include high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and increased risk of heart disease. Thyroid levels can be assessed with a morning blood test, are easily correctable and once addressed, greatly improve one’s quality of life.
3. Adrenal Gland Dysfunction: Adrenal glands respond to stress by releasing a hormone, cortisol. Incessantly high stress levels along with poor stress management, can result in overactive adrenal activity and eventual dysfunction. In early stages of adrenal dysfunction, cortisol output is high, causing symptoms of anxiety, abdominal weight gain, difficulty falling asleep, and significant fluctuations in blood sugar. Eventually, the adrenals become “fatigued” and cortisol output is impaired. At this point, high cortisol symptoms evolve into low cortisol symptoms, such as fatigue, mental fog, difficulty waking, dizziness with standing, increase in joint and body pain, headaches, dependency on caffeine, and anxiety, to name a few. In addition to the affects on cortisol, adrenal glands greatly influence thyroid function, with prolonged adrenal insufficiency often causing lower thyroid activity . A morning saliva or blood test can help determine if abnormal cortisol levels are causing one’s symptoms. Adrenal dysfunction is easilycorrected with lifestyle adjustments, herbs, and nutritional supplements.
4. Excess Testosterone: Every woman needs some testosterone for optimal health. Testosterone helps drive libido, maintain ideal body composition (lean muscle mass with low body fat), repairs and regenerates tissue, helps control cholesterol and aids in brain functioning. However, high testosterone relative to the other female hormones, estrogen and progesterone, can cause an array of problems including acne, unwanted hair growth, irritability, abdominal weight gain, irregular menstrual cycles & infertility, and ovarian cyst formation. High testosterone levels are driven by insulin resistance resulting from persistently high sugar consumption. A blood or salivary test can be helpful in assessing testosterone levels. Addressing the underlying cause of high testosterone levels through diet, nutritional supplementation, and botanical medicine can help re-balance this hormone.
5. Menopause and Peri-menopause: All women undergo a significant hormonal shift sometime around the 4th, 5th, or 6th decade of life. Initially, this transition, known as peri-menopause, is characterized by high estrogen levels which create emotional distress, weight gain, breast soreness, frequent bleeding or heavy bleeding. As a woman transitions toward menopause, her estrogen production decreases, evolving into a state of estrogen deficiency. Common symptoms of estrogen deficiency include night sweats & hot flashes, insomnia, depression, rapid aging, foggy thinking, and reduced libido. Although this occurrence is a natural phenomenon, quality of life can be greatly compromised for some women going through this roller-coaster of change. For women suffering from severe menopausal symptoms, bio-identical hormone replacement is a good option for managing symptoms. In addition to treating menopausal symptoms, hormone replacement has been shown to reduce risk of developing osteoporosis and heart disease later in life.
Hormone imbalances are common and can have a significant effect on one’s health and quality of life. Speak with your Elixia practitioner today if you suspect you have long-standing symptoms attributable to hormone dysregulation.