I think of the body’s hormones as musical instruments in an orchestra: Each plays its own part in creating a perfect concert—until the day one is out of tune and throws off the entire melody.
In my clinical practice I see many women and men who all display symptoms of hormonal imbalances but haven’t detected the tell tail signs. Once they notice the signal (symptom) their body is showing them, they become far more proactive in their response to dealing with what’s out of tune. No one should have to live with an untreated hormone problem. Some require naturopathic care, while others may be addressed with lifestyle adjustments. All in all, most things are treatable. Here is a guide to some of the most common signs of hormone imbalance—and what you can do to restore harmony.
Persistent weight gain
There are really four key hormones here that play a role in helping us to lose weight.
Estrogen:fat cells actually produce estrogen so if you are already carrying extra weight, then its likely there’s too much estrogen in the body. This is a viscous cycle: the more overweight you are the more estrogen you produce and the more estrogen you produce the more difficult it is to lose weight, leaving your susceptible to uterine and breast cancers.
Thyroid hormones:regulate how fast you burn calories. If your body doesn’t produce enough if it then this can lead to weight gain, depression, and fatigue. This is known as hypothyroidism. On the other end of the spectrum if your body produces too much, known as hyperthyroidism, your symptoms are the opposite as everything speeds up. Here, people notice they feel anxious, heart is racing, sweat excessively (away from exercise) and often have diarrhea.
Ghrelin and Leptin:Stomach growling? Thank ghrelin. Produced in the stomach, ghrelin cues the brain that you’re hungry. After you eat, leptin swoops in to tell the brain you’re full. If these two hormones fall out of sync, you may lose the ability to recognize when your body is satiated and overeat as a result.
What You Can Do
Try your best to get a full night’s sleep:
A Stanford University study found that habitual sleep restriction (five hours a night as opposed to eight) raised a person’s ghrelin levels by nearly 15 percent, lowered leptin levels by 15.5 percent, and was directly associated with increased body weight. Other research has shown that exercise and stress reduction may help keep ghrelin levels in check.
Get your hormones tested:
Simple pathology tests can be performed to check for estrogen levels and thyroid function. Once the results are in, you can work out the best treatment plan with your Naturopath or other health care provider.
We often associate hair loss of something men go through, however the reasons for a women’s hair loss are slightly different. Factors can include a lack of iodine for thinning hair which can indicate an under functioning thyroid.
The other key factor is your digestion because the health of your hair is often the first indicator that you have a poor diet. A balanced diet with organic meats, fruits and vegetables will help strengthen your hair – and the rest of you. Most men past the age of 20 need a little extra help with vitamins, and a lack of iron and vitamin B are thought to be contributing factors in hair loss.
What you can do
Talk with your Naturopath about which vitamins and minerals you need because they are trained specifically in this area of health and wellbeing.
The hormone melatonin, is the hormone responsible for maintaining your body’s circadian rhythm ie when you fall asleep and when you wake up. Low levels of melatonin are associated with poor sleep and depression. Our bodies may produce less melatonin as we age, which could explain why some older adults have more trouble sleeping than children do.
What You Can Do
If you struggle to get enough shut-eye, try drinking melatonin-rich tart cherry juice: In a pilot 2010 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, subjects who drank two cups a day experienced some relief from insomnia.
I know it sounds obvious, but check your bed linen, pillow and mattress to ensure you are feeling warm and comfortable as you drift off to sleep.
From a Naturopathic perspective, there are many key herbal medicines and nutrients that can be used to induce sleep and restore your body’s circadian rhythms naturally and effectively. These treatments are all natural and do not contain any side effects and do not cause dependency (ie you don’t need to rely on them in the long term in order to sleep because they work to recalibrate your system instead). Meditation can help clear a busy mind to encourage falling asleep faster and staying asleep longer.
Feeling constantly anxious
Whilst many of us experience anxiety most days of the week, its important to understand the effect of the hormone Cortisol on our body. When you’re under pressure, your cortisol spikes to provide the body with a quick dose of energy. Chronic ongoing stress, however, can keep your cortisol elevated continuously—a dangerous state, since the hormone can suppress the immune system and has been linked to the accumulation of abdominal fat. If left unchecked, high cortisol levels at night also mean you have difficulty falling asleep.
What You Can Do
When I’m stressed, I close my eyes and breathe deeply for two to three minutes with one hand on my chest and the other on my belly; my chest stays still while my abdomen rises and falls – think about how a baby breaths. As you calm down, your cortisol should drop to normal levels. This is a very old meditation technique to help hit the ‘pause’ button from your external world.
Having a little bag of mixed nuts (preferably organic, raw and unsalted!) can do more than tame your appetite. Cashews, almonds and walnuts are packed full of magnesium needed for our muscles to relax.
From a Naturopathic perspective there are a number of key herbal medicines and nutrients that go a long way to supporting your adrenal glands, where cortisol is released from, to help you to cope with things more effectively. These treatments are all-natural and do not contain any side effects, nor cause dependency (ie you don’t need to rely on them in the long term because they work to restore balance in your body).
If you detect any of the these signs and symptoms in your body, then seek professional help from your health care practitioner.