Hormones play an essential role in maintaining our quality of life, health, and longevity. Acting as transmitters traveling from the endocrine glands, through the bloodstream, and to organs and tissues, hormones affect our moods, metabolism, sleep, sexual function, and the ability to have children. When they’re working optimally, we feel great. When they’re out of balance, they can create chaos in our everyday lives.1
It’s important to pay attention to the changes that develop in our health. Often, overlooked shifts in our physical and emotional health are key indicators of a hormonal imbalance. Addressing issues that arise early is key.
Common Signs of Hormonal Imbalance
Hormones act as the control center for our bodies, so keeping them working optimally is crucial to feeling our best. When there’s an imbalance, a series of daily health concerns can arise. They include:
- Cognitive issues such as poor memory and brain fog2
- Mood fluctuations, irritability, anxiety, and depression3
- Menstrual complications such as extreme PMS, irregular periods, heavy periods or extremely light periods
- Changes to the metabolism including sudden weight gain or loss, constipation, and bloating
- Dry skin
- Brittle nails
- Blurred vision
- Sleep disturbances
- Decreased sexual function and/or interest
- Development of breasts in males
The above changes are not mutually exclusive and can coexist.
Common Hormone Imbalances
Hormonal imbalances can occur at any stage in life, but adults are at increased risk during midlife. The most common hormonal change for women around 50 years old is menopause when the ovaries begin to decrease the production of estrogen and progesterone. In men, it’s andropause, a significant decrease in testosterone. Andropause traditionally begins over 60, but 35% of men over the age of 45 are now showing a shocking decrease in testosterone levels.4 Adult women of any age can suffer from other estrogenic issues, such as low estrogen or estrogen dominance.
Thyroid disorders are common and often go undiagnosed. An estimated 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease, with up to 60% of those affected being unaware of their condition.5 Hypothyroidism, when the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone, affects up to 5% of the population, with an estimated 5% of cases being undiagnosed.6
Functional Medicine Can Help
When we’re suffering, finding the root cause of a hormonal imbalance is crucial to regaining our health. Unbalanced levels of cortisol, DHEA, progesterone, testosterone, estrogen, androgens, insulin, and thyroid hormones can all impact your well-being in ways that can be difficult to diagnose through standard tests. Some conventional medical tests often focus on generalized hormonal result ranges that can render our results as “normal”, despite not feeling normal at all. This is when taking a deeper look into what is going on can be effective.
Functional and naturopathic comprehensive hormone testing and evaluation focuses on the whole picture while determining a course of corrective reaction to help rebalance our hormones.
Lifestyle Practices That Promote Hormone Balance
Maximizing our potential to maintain a healthy hormonal balance is possible at any age. The following practices act both as preventative measures and corrective ones:
- Minimize stress levels. Journaling, meditation, mindfulness, or simply finding time every day to do something you love are all great ways to help reduce stress.
- Practice good sleep hygiene. Hormones work in tandem with our circadian rhythm, so getting a good night’s sleep is crucial. A cool, dark room free from distraction is imperative, as is going to bed at the same time every night. Enjoy at least one hour away from a blue light-emitting device before bedtime as well.
- Reduce or eliminate highly processed foods, refined sugars, and alcohol and opt for a whole foods diet. Inflammation caused by repetitive poor food choices and stress can wreak havoc on our entire system. Aim for a diet rich in lean meats, fish, seafood, dairy, beans, legumes, whole grains, and fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Supplement with vitamins and herbs. Consider taking Vitamin D, a full spectrum probiotic, or adaptogens like ashwagandha, turmeric, or chaga.
- Maintain a healthy body weight and exercise regularly. A sedentary lifestyle in conjunction with being overweight is one of the top contributors to hormone imbalances.7 Regular, moderate exercise such as going for a daily 30-minute walk can work wonders in supporting our hormonal health.
- Address gut health. Leaky gut syndrome can contribute to hormonal imbalances by allowing toxins and bacteria to pass from our intestines into our bloodstream. A functional medicine practitioner can assess, diagnose and treat gut issues.
- Minimize hormone disruptors in everyday products. Chemicals found in a variety of daily-use products, including but not limited to cosmetics, plastic food storage, home cleaners and even liners of metal food cans may contribute to hormonal imbalances. Some common hormone disruptors include BPA, dioxins, and phthalates. Phytoestrogens naturally occurring in soy products can disrupt estrogen in individuals with estrogen sensitivity.8
- Hiller-Sturmhöfel S, Bartke A. The endocrine system: an overview. Alcohol Health Res World. 1998;22(3):153-64. PMID: 15706790; PMCID: PMC6761896.
- Ali SA, Begum T, Reza F. Hormonal Influences on Cognitive Function. Malays J Med Sci. 2018 Jul;25(4):31-41. doi: 10.21315/mjms2018.25.4.3. Epub 2018 Aug 30. PMID: 30914845; PMCID: PMC6422548.
- Payne JL. The role of estrogen in mood disorders in women. Int Rev Psychiatry. 2003 Aug;15(3):280-90. doi: 10.1080/0954026031000136893. PMID: 15276966.
- The Endocrine Society. Testosterone Therapy in Men (https://www.hormone.org/your-health-and-hormones/mens-health/testosterone-treatments)
- American Thyroid Association. General Information. (https://www.thyroid.org/media-main/press-room/)
- Chiovato L, Magri F, Carlé A. Hypothyroidism in Context: Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Going. Adv Ther. 2019 Sep;36(Suppl 2):47-58. doi: 10.1007/s12325-019-01080-8. Epub 2019 Sep 4. PMID: 31485975; PMCID: PMC6822815.
- Geliebter A, Ochner CN, Dambkowski CL, Hashim SA. Obesity-Related Hormones and Metabolic Risk Factors: A Randomized Trial of Diet plus Either Strength or Aerobic Training versus Diet Alone in Overweight Participants. J Diabetes Obes. 2014 Jul 29;1(1):1-7. PMID: 25599089; PMCID: PMC4293637.
- National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Endocrine Disruptors. (https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/endocrine/index.cfm)