What is a hormonal imbalance and how to fix it?

Balance is difficult to find in all areas of life. Striking the perfect work-life balance is difficult when most of us are still trying to navigate hybrid working, for example. But recently, the word balance has been applied to a specific area of ​​health: our hormones.

You’ve no doubt come across the phrase “balancing your hormones” and perhaps you’ve even taken supplements that promise endocrine harmony or done workouts that suggest they can help you achieve hormonal balance. But the sentence is vague. What does this really mean and what are we looking for in the search for balance?

Do we need to balance our hormones?

“The body works on a series of feedback loops, so to some extent it has the ability to ‘balance itself’,” says female health expert Renee McGregor. “But the body must also react to the situation it finds itself in. For example, if our nervous system is alerted to some form of threat, that information will be transmitted to the rest of our body and the hormones will react accordingly.”

Importantly, having balanced hormones does not mean having equal levels of, say, testosterone and progesterone. The proper “balance” of hormones in our system will depend on the week, day, and even time you are talking about. We actually need fluctuating and varying levels of hormones in our system, rather than the same fixed amount of each one.

For example, our reproductive hormones will be incredibly different in our follicular phase compared to our luteal phase. Progesterone is just a hormone that has huge fluctuations throughout our cycle, staying very low until just after ovulation, then peaking about a week before our period before falling back. Meanwhile, estrogen is highest in the follicular phase but falls off in the middle and last weeks of our cycle. You will never find these two hormones at the same level in the body, but that is what the natural balance should look like.

Sanitary napkin
A chance in your menstrual cycle could be the result of hormonal issues

The problem, McGregor says, is when these hormones don’t rise and fall in step with the body’s natural rhythm. This is when the body is really out of balance.

How to know if you have a hormonal “imbalance”

You only know what your hormones are really doing if you have a blood, saliva or urine test. For this reason, McGregor says it’s best to understand how hormonal issues can arise in the body.

These include:

Periods : “One of the first areas of our body to be affected by stress, whether physical or emotional, will be our menstrual cycle. You can expect to see changes in flow or frequency.

Digestive problems: “Another physical sign of hormonal issues can be changes in your digestive system. We may notice more bloating and discomfort as our hormones influence the microbiome and gut function.

Mental health problems: “Increased anxiety and an inability to regulate emotionally can stem from chronically high cortisol or low estrogen. It is important that these feelings be differentiated from the normal variation in mood that we may notice day to day. the day, which is quite normal.

How to balance your hormones

“I would focus less on maintaining hormonal balance and more on maintaining a balanced lifestyle, which will ensure that all of the essential hormonal feedback loops necessary for health are functioning properly,” McGregor says.

An example of how our daily habits can alter our hormonal function is illustrated by the impact of a failure to fuel our workout practices. “If you don’t supply enough carbohydrates to the body, especially a physically very active body, for an extended period of time, it downregulates the production of the thyroid hormone T3.

Carbohydrates are crucial for hormonal balance

“When this is identified as low, it sends a signal to the hypothalamic-pituitary axis (a feedback system between two hormone-producing glands) to suggest that the body needs to down-regulate and preserve energy. This, in turn, triggers a cascade of other feedback loops, shutting down biological functions such as reproductive hormones and digestive hormones, but will upregulate cortisol, our stress hormone,” says McGregor.

There are four key areas that influence our hormones: nutrition, exercise, sleep, and stress management. Of course, these are also the basics for optimizing health and wellness, so if you think your hormones aren’t working, it’s best to start with the basics. Do you sleep seven to nine hours? Are you eating enough carbohydrates, fats, proteins and fiber to sustain your daily activity? Do you exercise enough but not too much? Are you doing things you love with people you love and feeling happy in your life?

If you are worried about your hormonal health, always make sure to consult your GP who can do tests. But remember that finding “balance” isn’t always what it seems.

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