From the very moment we are conceived, until our final breath, ‘hormones’ play an integral part in our health and overall well-being.
Each and every step of life is influenced by an ever-present cascade of hormones. Hormones have a direct regulatory impact on every cell, tissue, and organ of the body.
Beginning with conception and all throughout pregnancy, hormones command the growth and development process of the fetus. This influence continues through the birth process, into infancy, childhood, the teenage years, adulthood, and well into one’s elder years.
What are hormones?
Translated from Greek, the word ‘hormone’ means: ’to impel’, or ‘to set into motion’.
Hormones are tiny molecules found throughout the body and are produced by various glands such as the pituitary, thyroid and sex glands (ovaries and prostate).
Hormones are absolutely essential for the proper communication between the organs, cells, and tissues of the body and they regulate the various metabolic processes in the body. These processes include : lactation, respiration, digestion and elimination, metabolism, growth and development, stress response, as well as sleep/wake cycles.
Hormones in balance
Hormones have a direct impact on every area of one’s life - both positively and not-so-positively. When one’s hormones are balanced, there is a sense of ease and strength and feelings of peace, love, and joy come naturally. By contrast, when hormones are imbalanced mood and energy swings are inevitable.
Evidence of changes in hormone balance
Regardless of age, a woman’s hormones work in a precise and delicate balance. Changes in this delicate balance have the potential to affect one’s menstrual cycle, blood sugar levels, stress response, and even circadian rhythms.
When you consider that there is only ONE teaspoon of hormone crystals in the entire body, it is easy to comprehend that one’s hormonal system could become imbalanced. If there are imbalances in any one part of the system or if a part is not functioning optimally, the whole system is then out of balance.
Imbalances in hormone levels can cause a number of uncomfortable and detrimental signs and symptoms including:
1) Chronic Fatigue
Fatigue may be physical, mental, emotional or a combination of these. In any case, ongoing exhaustion and fatigue have the capacity to lessen one’s sense of peace, love, and joy.
- Low energy that makes you feel like eating or napping or both,
- Feelings of depression,
- Feelings of anxiety and persistent low-level stress.
(This may be due to high levels of the stress hormone cortisol.)
2) ‘Brain Fog’
Proper hormone balance is necessary for the health of one’s brain and nervous system. Changes in hormone balance can lead to mild and at times more intense brain fatigue and fogginess.
- Challenges with memory,
- Difficulty with focus and concentration,
- Difficulty with learning and retention.
3) Changes in Sleep Patterns
Sleep is governed by the body’s internal clock, also known as the ‘circadian rhythm’ or sleep/wake cycle.
The sleep/wake cycle is directly influenced by hormones. This is especially true in regards to the hormones found in a woman’s body. Progesterone, for example, has a relaxing effect on the body and mind. Changes in progesterone and estrogen levels can lead to changes in sleep patterns.
- Difficulty in falling asleep and/or staying asleep,
- Waking one or more times in the middle of the night.
Fluctuations in hormones will affect everything from the menstruation cycle, blood sugar levels, stress response, and the circadian rhythm. Without support, these changes in hormone balance can cause a number of uncomfortable signs and symptoms.
4) Changes in Body Composition
Optimal hormone balance is necessary for proper body mass including fluctuations in weight, changes in muscle/adipose (body fat) rations, changes in bone health, and so on. An example of this are the thyroid hormones which regulate metabolism including body composition and overall energy levels.
- Weight gain, especially around the buttocks, belly, and upper thighs,
- Weight loss, thinning of the face, neck, arms, belly and buttocks,
- A decrease in muscle mass,
- Weakened and/or thinning of the bones,
- Changes in skin or hair.
Proper hormone balance is required for healthy skin, hair, and nails. For those with thinning or falling-out hair, be sure to have your primary caregiver check your thyroid hormones.
Inflammation causes unwanted signs and symptoms such as bloating, fatigue, pain, changes in weight, immune system challenges, and so on. Unexplained inflammation may be linked to imbalanced hormones.
What causes changes in hormonal balance?
Not all stress is created equal.
That said, ALL stress has an impact on one’s hormone balance. This impact can be either ‘negative’ and detrimental to one’s health and well-being or positive and life-enhancing.
The ABCs of Stress
Stress impacts everyone in unique and different ways and can affect everything from digestion, absorption, and elimination of nutrients to sleep and wake patterns, body composition, mood, as well as overall health and well-being.
A) Caregiving for parents, children, pets
As much as we adore and cherish our loved ones, there is a natural amount of ‘responsibility’ involved in any relationship.
It is imperative that we take excellent care of ourselves and our loved ones. This will help mitigate any ‘stress’ that is naturally related to caregiving and help to make it joyful rather than fatiguing.
Worry or doubt about financial stability and affluence is a known stressor to many people and can definitely impact the balance of hormones in one’s body.
The best advice is to be honest with yourself about your earnings, your spending habits and any and all financial debt. The next natural step is to close the gap between where you are now and where you dream of being in terms of your financial visions.
The Financial Freedom Plan
- Schedule and meet with a skillful financial planner.
- Create a financial freedom game plan. Know WHY you desire financial freedom and affluence.
- Implement the necessary action steps to get out of debt ASAP.
- Make continual progress towards your financial goals.
- Thrive and enjoy both financial freedom and reduced stress levels.
There are an extensive number of toxic chemicals that people living in a western society are exposed to on a regular basis. Studies show that even the healthiest amongst us may be exposed to over a hundred different toxic chemicals each and every day.
Examples of pollution
Exhaust fumes; paint fumes; cigarette smoke; industrial toxins; plastics; cleaning chemicals.
The best advice
- Limit exposure to pollutants whenever possible,
- Implement detoxifying practices into your life,
- Supplement with superfoods, alkalized water, essential fatty acids, and high-quality nutritional supplements that are designed to support your overall health.
Changing with the times
Fluctuations in the primary sex hormones: estrogen, progesterone and testosterone may indeed indicate the first signs of Menopause. During menopause, vital sex hormone levels drop. Sometimes dramatically or to almost undetectable levels. These hormonal fluctuations and changes continue until a woman’s menstrual cycle comes to completion.
For most women these changes in hormones begin in their early forties and may continue until a woman’s early sixties. Perimenopause (the transition time between regular menses and Menopause) is an excellent time to be proactive and take the action steps necessary to have an easeful and positive Menopause experience.
Everyone’s genetic makeup is unique and specific to them. That said, family lineage and genetics impact one’s hormonal balance in a distinct and personal way. Ask your mother, aunts, and even grandmothers about their health gifts and challenges. Learning about your family’s health history, in particular that of the women in your family, can be very helpful in navigating your own health and well-being. This knowledge will help you to make empowered life-enhancing choices in regards to your own health.
With each woman having her own unique timeline and her own unique set of experiences, it is no wonder that this ‘coming of age’ experience is often veiled in mystery and confusion. Perhaps it is more interesting to view these changes from a larger perspective and remember that Menopause is a natural phase of life. With knowledge and positive action steps, this new phase of life can be both positive and life-enhancing.
9 Tools to support a balanced hormone profile
1) Partner with an excellent and trusted healthcare practitioner
Navigate the best combination of holistic and conventional approaches to finding true health and wellness. This may include your personal MD, physician’s assistant, nurse practitioner, Naturopathic Physician, acupuncturist, or other skilled and educated wellness care provider.
2) Nutrition 101
- Focus on nutrient-dense whole foods and enjoy the positive effect eating well has on your life.
- Eat a variety of fresh organic fruits and vegetables. Choose from all of the colors of the rainbow as each color has a plethora of wonderful and specific nutrients to support your health.
- Limit or eliminate processed sugars. Stay far away from synthetic sugars such as saccharine and xylitol.
- Go gluten free: Go gluten free or at the very least, limit gluten intake to keep histamine and inflammation levels low.
- Supplement with Essential Fatty Acids.
- Add Superfoods to your nutrition program.
- Supplement with nutraceuticals designed specifically for balancing hormones.
- Get creative and prepare your own nutrient-rich meals.
- Eat fresh food that is raw or lightly cooked, and minimally processed.
- Eat food that is grown locally. (Locally grown food has more nutrition than foods that are picked and shipped across the country.)
- Eat when you are calm and relaxed and have the time to properly chew, digest, and assimilate your meal.
- Overall, the best and most sound advice is to eat foods that make you look and feel fantastic.
Studies show that patterns or either over-exercise or lack of exercise negatively impact one’s overall health by directly impacting hormone levels.
The general axiom of ‘not too much and not too little’ goes for exercise as well as all of life. Those who either do NOT exercise or those who over-exercise create problems in the long-run for themselves in regards to hormone balance. Find the balance and thrive!
4) Regulate sleep cycles
The most important hours for sleep are from 10 pm - 6 am.
Tools to support restful sleep:
- Take a warm bath and sip on herbal tea.
- Sleep in a dark room with good, clean bedding and a comfortable bed.
- Turn off all electronics no less than one hour before sleep.
- Diffuse pure essential oils in your room.
- Relax your mind and allow yourself to sleep.
- Practice deep breathing techniques. Focus on the exhalation and rest.
Take time and make time for silence and internal reflection. Quiet time in either a seated or active (movement) practice can be deeply healing to one’s body, mind, and heart.
6) Spend time in nature
Sunshine is transformative. It both rejuvenates and recharges and is an essential component of health and wellness. Go outside and play in the natural sunlight. Sunrise and sunset are both wonderful times to be present in nature.
Get outside every day for at least 10-20 minutes and enjoy the life-enhancing and hormone-balancing properties of sunlight.
Water is a key element to both our planet and our well-being. Our beloved planet is 75% water and our bodies, around menopause, are made up of about 50% water.
The human body requires proper hydration to function optimally. Hydration increases energy, relieves fatigue, flushes out toxins, boosts the immune system and provides many other positive actions in the body.
.5 x bodyweight = ounces of pure alkalized water per day.(So if you weigh 140 lbs., aim to drink 70 oz./day.) Whenever possible, choose pure alkalized water, coconut water, or fresh pure spring water.
Healthy breathing is an effective and essential tool for balancing your body, mind, and spirit. Proper breathing supports the uptake of oxygen and the release of carbon dioxide from our systems naturally improving your overall health. Breathe, breathe, breathe!
9) Hormone Replacement Therapy
Hormone therapy may be of benefit in bringing balance to your hormone profile. This treatment consists of estrogen, or a combination of estrogen and progesterone, administered via pill, patch, or spray. There are a number of different types of prescription hormone therapies, and your doctor can help you find the best solution if you require this treatment.
‘Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy’ is the term used to refer to hormones derived from plants prepared individually for patients at compounding pharmacies.
Although the FDA has not yet approved ‘Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy’, many doctors feel that compounded "bioidentical" hormone products are both effective and safe.
Discuss your hormone replacement therapy options with your primary caregiver and discover and implement the wellness approach that is optimal for your overall health.
Life is a great balancing act!
The best advice is to love yourself enough to nurture yourself in all aspects of your life. Take the action steps necessary to bring your hormone profile into balance. When your hormones are in a state of optimal balance, you will find yourself living a life that is overall more peaceful, joyful and healthy.
Dr. Michelle, ND holds a BS in Kinesiology, a master’s in Education, and a doctorate as a Naturopathic Physician. In addition, she is a licensed Massage Therapist for both humans and animals. She leads wellness play-shops and retreats.