Hormone balance can be a fickle thing to
maintain, especially as you age, or as a woman, during and/or after menopause.
Women are very sensitive to hormonal changes, mostly because so many
hormones are involved in reproduction and the menstrual cycle. Menopause, aging
and lifestyle tends to wreak havoc on the delicate balance of hormones in a
woman’s body, however. Here are the signs and symptoms to look out for if you
suspect hormone imbalance.
What are Hormones Again?
Hormones are chemicals that are produced by
several different glands and tissues throughout the body, being part of the
endocrine system. Hence why the study of hormones is called endocrinology.
Hormones are chemical messengers that travel through the body to organs and
cells to tell them what to do and when. Aren’t our bodies amazing?
Hormones regulate sexual function, appetite,
body temperature, metabolism,
sleep, mood and stress levels, heart rate and more. They are incredibly
important and if even just one hormone becomes significantly lowered or raised
out of its normal range, problems will most likely arise.
Signs of Hormone Imbalance in Women
Excess Weight Gain: Excessive weight gain is often triggered by hormone imbalance. It
seems like the weight came on quick and is incredibly difficult to lose. As said before, hormones
play a big role in metabolism, as well as the nervous and reproductive systems.
All three of these are involved in maintaining a healthy weight.
The hormones mainly to blame are increased
oestrogen, cortisol and insulin, as well as low levels of thyroxin. Throughout
a woman’s menstrual cycle, oestrogen levels naturally increase and this can
cause women to crave and eat more fatty or sugary junk food.
Increased levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, slows down metabolism. Consider
incorporating meditation or a calming exercise, daily, to reduce
cortisol levels. Lowering sugar intake also helps with this as well as regular
Many women experience skin breakouts right before and/or during their menstrual
period. In fact, about 50% of women in their twenties experience hormonal acne,
as well as 25% of women in their forties who are about to experience menopause.
It’s normal for these breakouts to go away
once menstruation is over and hormone levels fluctuate back down, but women who
have excess androgens may experience chronic hormonal acne. This includes
whiteheads, cysts, blackheads or just general redness and inflammation.
Androgens are male hormones such as
testosterone and these can make the skin produce extra oil which clogs pores,
causing acne. In addition, high androgens may be caused by excess insulin
(another hormone). To combat this, you may need hormonal contraceptive pills or
anti-androgen pills. To soothe inflammation, corticosteroids can help temporarily. Weight
loss can prevent insulin resistance.
One of the most common (and make fun of) symptoms of PMS is moodiness.
Menopausal and pregnant women are also known to experience moodiness. Mood
changes include anger, sadness, depression, irritability and anxiety and are mostly caused by fluctuations in oestrogen
levels. Oestrogen affects neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine
Some doctors prescribe hormonal birth
control pills to control moodiness in extreme cases. Relieve mood swings
naturally by engaging in regular exercise, avoiding stimulants (caffeine,
sugar), taking calcium supplements, getting enough sleep and eating smart.
Digestive Issues: Oestrogen imbalances commonly lead to frequent stomach upsets. The
gastrointestinal tract actually has receptors for both oestrogen and
progesterone. If either of these are out of balance, symptoms such as abdominal
pain, constipation, bloating, nausea and diarrhea may result. This could be the
reason why women experience IBS more than men as they are twice as likely to
have it. It’s interesting to note that male hormones such as testosterone have
been seen to have protective effects against IBS.
Hormonal birth control pills do not seem to
relieve digestive issues resulting from hormone imbalance. Try taking magnesium supplements or eating magnesium-rich foods to
relieve constipation and get your digestive tract running smoothly. The foods
to eat are whole grains, sweet potatoes, leafy greens, bananas and fish. Try
incorporating fermented foods in your diet as well as ingesting enough fiber.
Low Sex Drive:
Low testosterone levels are to blame here. Testosterone actually plays a major
role in the sex drives of women, not just men. One study showed that
postmenopausal women who reported low libido had increased sexual desire after
being given testosterone. They also reported more satisfying sexual
experiences. It’s critical that testosterone is taken under the supervision of
a doctor or endocrinologist because women do not need high doses of the hormone
– unwanted side effects such as unwanted hair growth and other masculine traits
Besides testosterone replacement therapy, other ways to increase your libido include maintaining a healthy diet
and engaging in regular exercise.