When it comes to hormonal imbalance, our minds go straight to teens going through puberty, women who are pregnant or having their period. We envision uncontrollable emotions that usually involve crying, anger and frustration, but in fact, this is a huge misconception as a hormonal imbalance can affect both men and women and can be the underlying cause for a lot of our health issues without us even knowing it.
Hormones play a major role in the way we feel, act and think so when we suffer from health issues or are looking to improve ourselves through losing weight or enhance cognitive skills, the first thing to take a look at is how our hormone balance is shaping up.
What Are The Symptoms of a Hormonal Imbalance?
Hormones are the chemical messengers that travel via our blood streams to our tissues and organs, and tell them what to do and how to function. In essence, the hormone balance in our bodies is very sensitive. That is why an imbalance can affect us greatly and manifest as common health issues and more stubborn ones such as easy weight gain.
The most common indicators are:
- Headaches: regular headaches or migraines.
- Mood swings: these aren’t just apparent in menstruating and pregnant women, men often get mood swings that could be attributed to a hormone imbalance including anxiety, irritability and depressive episodes.
- Weight gain: Men who gain weight easily around their abdomen, hips and breast area could be indicating they have a hormonal imbalance.
- Sweating: hot flushes and finding you sweat a lot more either during the day or night can be a sign.
- Cravings: constant cravings of a certain food or food group.
- Digestion problems: feeling bloated or gassy after eating, stomach problems and slow digestion.
- Insomnia and poor sleep patterns: the inability to sleep soundly and deeply could be down to cortisol imbalances that lead to difficulties in getting a good night’s rest.
- Memory loss: a hormonal imbalance can affect the way our brains function and can lead to forgetfulness.
- Fatigue: energy levels can take a significant dive and you are left feeling constantly tired throughout the day.
Most of these symptoms can be found equally in both men and women and it’s due to either the under-production or overproduction of different hormones at one time. In women, estrogen and progesterone are the common hormones affected while in men it’s usually either a testosterone deficiency or excess estrogen. Both can cause specific symptoms such as painful breasts, low blood sugar and even infertility and cysts in women, with hair loss, erectile dysfunction and loss of muscles mass in men.
What Are The Common Causes of Hormonal Imbalance?
- Lack of exercise: regular exercise keeps our hormones in check and lowers the risk of a cortisol imbalance caused by stress.
- Sedentary lifestyle: sitting down too much in the space of a day such as at work on a computer and sitting watching TV for hours can wreak havoc for our hormones.
- Diet: what we eat and drink on a regular basis weighs heavily on how our hormone’s function.
- Being overweight: obesity and weight issues can put our hormones out of whack.
- Genetics: sometimes it can be down to good old genetics which makes us more prone to hormone imbalances.
How To Combat a Hormonal Imbalance With Diet and Exercise
It’s important to visit a doctor to eliminate any further causes to your health issues. But if you find your headaches are getting worse or you feel generally down or irritable on a regular basis, then it’s worth changing your diet and exercise regime to see if it makes a difference.
1. Eat Healthy Fats
Healthy fats such as coconut oil and fats found in avocados and fish can help towards putting your hormones back on track. Our bodies need various fats to create hormones so don’t restrict fat in your diet but try to eat more healthy alternatives rather than saturated. Healthy fats boost anti-inflammatory levels, promote weight loss and boosts metabolism.
Omega-3 and omega-6 fats are also essential for hormone production but it’s important to get a certain balance of both. Omega-3 is found in fish, nuts, seeds and legumes and can be eaten on a regular basis. Omega-6 should be avoided a bit more but can be taken in the form of GLA (gamma-linoleic acid) which can be found in supplements such as primrose oil.
2. Exercise Regularly
Exercising is crucial for a healthy lifestyle but when it comes to our hormones, it’s one of the best ways to keep a good balance. It reduces inflammation, lowers stress levels, boosts metabolism, promotes better sleep and regulates your appetite with all of these helping to level out any imbalance we may have.
Doing short but high-intensity interval workouts are best but be careful not to over do it – a burst of exercise rather than a long, drawn-out session is enough to ignite the right amount of hormone production all round.
3. Reduce Intake of Caffeine, Alcohol and Carbs
Caffeine and alcohol can really affect the brain and the way it produces hormones. Stimulants stay in our system for up to 6 hours increasing heart rate with caffeine being able to up your cortisol levels and causing imbalances. Alcohol affects the liver which is a major organ for hormone production so try to limit the amount of alcohol you consume.
Carbohydrates have a huge impact on insulin production which, in turn, affects the way your hormones travel around the body. Avoid carb-heavy meals and watch your sugar intake.
4. Beware of Milk and Beef Products
While these products are healthy to eat, it’s important to be aware that many farmers these days inject growth hormones to their cattle in order to boost production. Make sure you choose organic milk and beef products to ensure they are free from artificial hormones that can disrupt your own.