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Women’s Health: Hormones 101

What are Hormones? ¹

Hormones are your body’s chemical messengers that travel in your bloodstream to tissues or organs. Endocrine glands, which are a special group of cells, make your hormones. The major endocrine glands are pituitary, thymus, thyroid, adrenal, and pancreas. Additionally, women produce hormones in their ovaries. Hormones are very powerful and affect many different aspects of your life, including:

  • Growth and development

  • Metabolism

  • Sexual function

  • Reproduction

  • Mood

Too much or too little of a certain hormone, also known as hormone imbalance, can seriously disrupt the way your body functions.


Signs of Hormonal Imbalance ²

The symptoms of hormonal imbalance in women can vary depending on which gland is affected. The more common symptoms include:

  • Mood swings

  • Constipation or diarrhea

  • Irregular menstrual cycle

  • Infertility

  • Abdomen or back pain during menstruation

  • Low sex drive

  • Insomnia

  • Unexplained weight gain or loss

  • Brittle bones

  • Excessive hair growth

  • Rashes or acne


Causes of Hormonal Imbalance

There are many medical conditions that can affect hormone production including, but not limited to – diabetes, hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, Addison’s disease, Cushing’s syndrome, hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia, and certain cancers.²

Aside from having a medical condition, there are other factors that could be causing a hormonal imbalance in your body, including: ³

  • Chronic stress

  • Poor diet and nutrition

  • High percentage of body fat

  • Toxins, pollutants, herbicides, and pesticides

  • Severe allergic reactions

  • Misuse of anabolic steroid medications

  • Certain medications

  • Puberty

  • Menstruation

  • Pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding

  • Menopause


Treating Hormonal Imbalance

If you are experiencing new or persistent symptoms that you believe may be caused by hormonal imbalance, it is important to talk to a healthcare provider. Your doctor may evaluate you by blood testing, imaging, or urine testing, depending on what condition they believe is causing your symptoms. There are medical treatment options for women with hormone imbalances, including: birth control medications, hormone replacement medications, anti-androgen medications, vaginal estrogen, clomiphene and letrozole, assisted reproductive technology, metformin, and levothyroxine. ³

There are also natural supplements commonly used to reduce symptoms of hormonal imbalances. Before taking any natural or herbal treatment, it is important to check with your pharmacist to ensure safety and avoid negative interaction with any other medications you are currently taking.

If you believe you’re experiencing hormonal imbalance and would like to make some lifestyle changes to help reduce symptoms, there are some steps you can take to help, including: ²

  • Maintaining a moderate body weight

  • Eating a nutritious and balanced diet

  • Exercising regularly

  • Practicing good personal hygiene

  • Reducing and managing stress

  • Practicing meditation

  • Limiting sugary foods and refined carbohydrates

  • Avoiding packaged foods

  • Restricting the use of cleaning products that contain toxic chemicals


In addition to eating a nutritious and balanced diet, it may be beneficial to also shop organic for certain foods, such as those foods found on the “Dirty Dozen” list which are foods that are most affected by pesticides. The EWG analyzed 46 items, and found that the following 12 fruits and vegetables were most contaminated with pesticides: ⁴

  1. Strawberries

  2. Spinach

  3. Kale, collard, and mustard greens

  4. Peaches

  5. Pears

  6. Nectarines

  7. Apples

  8. Grapes

  9. Bell and hot peppers

  10. Cherries

  11. Blueberries

  12. Green beans


Most women will experience periods of hormonal imbalance in their lifetime. Imbalances are common during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, menopause, and aging. But if you experience continual, irregular hormonal imbalances, especially those symptoms that cause pain or discomfort, it is important to talk to a trusted healthcare provider about the symptoms you experience and the best treatment plan.


Sources

1. https://medlineplus.gov/hormones.html

2. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321486#symptoms

3. https://www.baptisthealth.com/care-services/conditions-treatments/hormonal-imbalance#:~:text=Medical%20conditions%20that%20can%20cause,primary%20ovarian%20insufficiency%20(POI).

4. https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary.php

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