Hormonal imbalances occur when there is either too little or too much of a particular hormone in your blood.
Because hormones have essential roles, even the slightest hormonal imbalance can cause symptoms that are felt throughout your body.
Hormones are the great communicators of your body.
Every day more than 50 chemical messengers (hormones) flow through your body sending signals and instructions everywhere.
Your hormones are like wireless signalling messengers that ‘orchestrate’ an elaborate symphony of messages instructing your organs, tissues and cells what your brain wants them to do.
Where are our hormones made?
Our Endocrine system is the biological system that manufactures all our hormones.
It is comprised of glands such as the Hypothalamus, Pituitary, Ovaries, Testes, Thyroid, Pancreas, Adrenals, and Pineal gland.
Your Endocrine System is like an Orchestra
Think of your endocrine system as your orchestra.
Your hypothalamus is like the conductor, your pituitary, the baton relaying the conductor’s messages to the instruments i.e., your ovaries, testes, thyroid, pancreas and adrenal glands.
These instruments (glands) make the music (hormones) e.g., oestrogen, progesterone, testosterone, thyroid hormones, insulin, cortisol and DHEA that translate the instructions into actions.
Our hormones influence so many bodily functions such as reproduction, metabolism, blood sugar, energy levels, sleep patterns, sex drive, ageing, appetite and so much more.
In the same way, an orchestra requires well-tuned instruments to all play in perfect pitch to sound good, so your hormones need to be in a fine balance, working in harmony together to set the tone for how you feel.
When they’re at their optimal levels, your body cruises along with a nice even rhythm, without any major interference with your life.
Your Personal Real-time Feedback System
Your body uses a feedback system to keep your hormones in perfect balance…. when one hormone is present at abnormally high or low levels, your body picks up on these signals and sets up a chain of coordinated reactions in its attempt to keep your system in perfect balance.
How well are your Hormones Behaving?
Sometimes this delicate balance can be upset for example by genetic inheritances, poor diet, stress (physical/emotional), or sleep issues.
Your hormones will give you real-time feedback on how all these factors are impacting you – alerting you that something isn’t quite right.
In women, these alerts might include painful, irregular or heavy periods, fibroids, premenstrual irritability or mood swings, headaches, migraines, depression, anxiety, low sex drive, fatigue, brain fog, recurrent UTIs, weight issues, bloating, sluggish bowels…. or you may have been diagnosed with PCOS, Diabetes, Insulin resistance, Miscarriage, Hypothyroid, Endometriosis or Premature ovarian Insufficiency (POI).
Men may be alerted to hormonal imbalance if they experience symptoms such as fatigue, low sex drive, erectile dysfunction, low sperm count, depression, anxiety, weight issues, insulin resistance, thyroid disturbances, sleep apnoea, fatigue, and brain fog.
Examples of Hormonal Imbalances and their Symptoms
- High Oestrogen – Fibroids, worsened endometriosis, fibroids, heavy periods, premenstrual headaches and migraines, bloating, water retention, cyclic breast tenderness, fertility problems.
- Low Oestrogen – Hot flushes, low libido, anovulatory cycles, scant or skipped periods, vaginal dryness, weight gain, UTIs, headaches, irritability, anxiety, depression, brain fog, POI, fertility problems.
- Low Progesterone – Miscarriage, endometriosis, low libido, anovulation, irregular menstrual cycles, short luteal phase, spotting between periods, irritability, anxiety, depression, insomnia, cyclic breast tenderness, fertility problems.
- High Testosterone (in women) – Acne, hair thinning, hirsutism (hair in unwanted places), blood sugar problems, depression, irritability, fertility issues.
- Low Testosterone (in men and women) – Fatigue, low libido, low motivation, decreased sense of well-being, muscle loss/weakness, weight gain, fertility issues.
- High Cortisol – Low stress-resilience, anxiety/panic attacks, irregular periods, frequent illness, sleep problems, increased abdominal fat, sugar /salt cravings, fertility issues.
- Low Thyroid Hormone – Irregular periods, slow metabolism, depression, constipation, low energy, puffiness, weight gain, cold/dry skin, hair thinning, fertility issues, miscarriage.
- High Insulin – Fertility issues, PCOS, irregular/anovulatory/long menstrual cycles, increased abdominal fat, hair thinning, weight gain, high blood pressure, high cholesterol.
My Hormone Balancing Advice as an Integrative Naturopath
When people see me for any general health-related problems, I will look at all the symptoms they are struggling with and often suggest they have certain blood tests (including appropriate hormone tests) in order to help work out where the upstream problem lies.
Running these tests will identify whether they do in fact have a specific hormone imbalance and I will then be able to work out what areas need assistance so I can provide them with an accurate, personalised prescription as well as relevant advice and care.
I hope this has helped you understand your hormones and how their function and balance contribute to your health.
In my next blog, I will discuss 5 ways to Balance your Hormones and Improve your Health.
Joanne Lipinski – The Integrative Naturopath Melbourne