Then it’s time to look a little deeper into the possible root causes. While there are many underlying causes of depression, anxiety, irritability and fatigue, one important system to consider is your hormones. Whatever your gender, hormonal imbalance is a condition that comes up often in clinical practice.
Let’s discuss some effective actions you can take to help keep your hormones in balance and get your life back on track.
Common Reasons Hormones Fall Out of Balance
Maintaining the delicate balance of hormones is key to optimal health and longevity, and even a slight imbalance can cause undesirable side effects. Modern life is rife with things that can contribute to hormonal imbalances that in turn often lead to mood fluctuations. Here are some of the most common factors that can affect hormonal balance:
Often an unavoidable life condition, stress is nearly ever-present. We must learn to practice stress management and take control of the only thing we can, our reactions. The way we think, act, react, and rest all affect our stress response. The hormone cortisol is released into our system when we experience stress. If that stress continues over the long term without proper management, it can certainly cause mood dysregulation, but will also elevate blood sugar levels, alter body weight, damage the cardiovascular system, and promote pro-inflammatory pathways (to name a few).
Nutrient deficiencies due to digestive issues or a diet that is high in processed foods and/or low in nutrients can disrupt the body’s ability to build hormones and maintain balance. A healthy diet that feeds the microbiome provides the nutrients required by the body that make neurotransmitters (think serotonin, GABA, and dopamine which are calming) and hormones.
Excessive body fat is one of the more common signs of a hormonal imbalance. Excess cortisol, due to chronic stress, raises blood sugar levels and decreases insulin sensitivity. Cortisol breaks down muscles to be used as energy, often causing weight gain around the middle. In and of itself, excess body fat makes it harder to lose weight. Fat cells are hormonally active, releasing estrogen and other hormones which makes weight loss even harder.
Both men and women experience lower production of sex hormones as we age. Declining sex hormone levels can have an effect on the entire body. Insomnia, decreasing sex drive, loss of muscle mass and stregnth, mood swings and anxiety are some of the most common symptoms.
It is well known that steroids and opioids have the potential to disrupt hormones, causing such symptoms as testicle shrinkage in men and male pattern baldness in women. The birth control pill, HRT and fertility meds are also candidates, as synthetic hormones may bind to the wrong receptors, which could bring on an imbalance.
Manage Stress to Help Balance Your Hormones & Your Mood
Managing your stress levels is one of the most important things you can do to support your mood as well as your hormonal balance and break the cycle. The following key factors have been shown to make a difference in our ability to be more emotionally balanced and to adapt better to the stressors in our lives:
Sleep hygiene, at its core, is the sum of behavioural and environmental factors that promote regular, good sleep where you wake up feeling refreshed every morning. Here are our suggestions for sleep hygiene:
- Create a nightly routine and stick to it
- Go to bed at the same time every night
- Keep your bedroom quiet, dark and cool
- No screen time for at least one hour before bed
- Go to sleep on an empty stomach
- Don’t consume caffeine after 12:00 pm
Adopt an Nutrient Dense Diet
A nutrient-dense diet that is nutrient dense, low in sugar, and high in probiotic foods can go far to help manage your stress levels. The links between stress, anxiety, inflammation and the microbiome of your gut are well known. The following suggestions can help keep inflammation and your gut microbiome balanced:
- Eat a diet rich in a wide variety of vegetables.
- Enjoy fermented foods such as Kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, and yogurt.
- Reduce consumption of food containing refined sugars and enjoy foods sweetened with maple syrup, honey, blackstrap molasses, monk fruit, or stevia.
- Avoid processed foods (everything in a box or bag is processed)
- Regularly eat fish or supplement your diet with an omega 3 essential fatty acid supplement.
Regular physical activity helps reduce stress. It stimulates your feel-good endorphins and helps you sleep better at night. It is generally recommended to do 30 minutes of daily, moderate exercise to keep your stress levels in check. Remember that the key to a regular exercise program is to do something that you enjoy doing, and to do it because you love yourself!
Determining and enforcing clear and consistent boundaries in both our personal and professional lives is particularly important during times of high stress. Setting boundaries around your physical space, your feelings, needs, and responsibilities helps to maintain emotionally safe personal and professional lives, and plan how to respond when your boundaries are encroached upon or broken. Boundaries act as a stress buffer, keeping us from falling into negative-rumination, mood swings, and patterns of abuse.
Mindfulness & Self-Compassion
A regular practice of mindfulness helps build an inner strength that makes us more resilient to stress. A regular practice of self-compassion helps us to not suffer when we don’t meet our own expectations of managing stress. Try journaling about what went well and what was positive at the end of each day. Together, mindfulness and self-compassion are powerful tools that can drastically increase our resilience, reduce our stress levels, and balance our moods.
Get a Hormone Check-Up
If lifestyle changes are proving difficult or are not making the difference you had hoped, working with me or another Naturopathic Doctor is a good next step towards rebalancing your hormones and your mood. I can perform a number of tests to check your levels of estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, cortisol and your thyroid to determine if there is any kind of imbalance. I will then guide you through a personalized lifestyle, nutrition and supplement support plan based on your specific results.
At times when your resilience to the ups and downs of life is lower than it should be, I can help. Together we can identify and target your specific imbalances and begin your path to better long term health. Book an appointment today.
Call 970-328-5678 to schedule your appointment with me today!
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If you need help and guidance in your journey to better health, schedule your appointment today!
Call me at 970-328-5678. to book your appointment today!
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