Hormones out of whack? 10 things that are throwing off your hormones
By Joanne Aponte, ND • March 25, 2021
Your periods are telling you something. If you are having trouble with your menstrual cycle such as irregular cycles, long or short cycles, heavy bleeding, major PMS, mood issues that fluctuate with your cycle, or headaches triggered at a certain point in your cycle – these are signs your hormones are off. So what is throwing them off?
10 things that could be throwing off your hormones.
- Improper diet, sleep and lifestyle
- Too much sugar and white refined/packaged foods, drinking too much alcohol, skipping meals, too many or too little calories, not enough of the good things such as healthy proteins, plentiful vegetables and moderate fruits.
- Inadequate or disrupted sleep
- Not enough or too much exercise
- Stress, inadequate self-care and adrenal dysfunction
- We all know too much stress is bad for us. Stress increases the production of cortisol from your adrenals. This high cortisol then suppresses hormone production from the ovaries. Under stress your body steals progesterone to make more cortisol, and then your progesterone levels suffer. All of this throws the menstrual cycle off and can lead to a lot more PMS!
- The key to repairing the adrenals is rest, self-care, sleep and good nutrition.
- Poor estrogen metabolism
- Your body has pathways in the liver and GI tract that help package up and clear out estrogens. If this does not happen efficiently, estrogen levels can get too high in the body (aka Estrogen dominance). For some, this metabolism is inherently slow due to genetic reasons. Estrogen metabolism can also be impaired by alcohol, digestive issues, environmental toxins, certain nutrient deficiencies (Magnesium, B Vitamins), and chronic inflammation.
- Underlying inflammation
- Symptoms of inflammation can include headaches, joint pain, asthma, chronic fatigue, and skin rashes.
- Inflammatory chemicals in the body distort hormonal communication and block hormone receptors on cells. Inflammation can impair production of progesterone and decrease responsiveness of progesterone receptors. Inflammation can also interfere with estrogen metabolism and make you hypersensitive to the estrogens in your body. If you dealing with a condition of chronic inflammation, it will be key to address this piece.
- Insulin resistance, being overweight and excess belly fat
- Too much insulin impairs ovulation (release of an egg from the ovaries). When you do not ovulate, your progesterone levels will be too low. High insulin is also a source of inflammation
- Digestive issues and Microbiome imbalance
- Microbiome imbalance is when there is a suboptimal or unhealthy balance of microbes living in your gut. If there is an overgrowth of certain bacteria in the gut, estrogen metabolism through the gut can be impaired and your estrogens get reabsorbed into the body – another cause of estrogen dominance. Dysbiosis (unhealthy balance of the gut microbes) disrupts brain signaling to the thyroid, adrenals and ovaries potentially throwing off the whole hormonal system. Issues in the gut can also be a major source of inflammation.
- This is the phase leading up to menopause when your period finally stops and fertility ends. Hormonal fluctuations can be tumultuous during this time and menstrual cycles changes are a normal part of the process. Read more about perimenopause here.
- Environmental toxins
- This is my least favorite part of the puzzle. It’s also the more difficult cause to address as some chemicals are difficult to remove from the body. Many toxins in our environment are endocrine disruptors – they disrupt hormone receptors and alter the function of the system. These toxins can mimic your real hormones but in a disruptive way often by overstimulating estrogen and testosterone receptors and suppressing ovulation. They can slow down your estrogen metabolism and lead to an estrogen dominant state. Certain chemicals can actually stimulate your adrenal glands and ovaries to make more androgens (leading to more acne and hair loss). Toxins can also directly damage the thyroid, adrenals and ovaries.
- Click here to learn ways to reduce your toxin burden
- Suboptimal nutrient status
- Magnesium, Vitamin D, zinc, iodine, and B vitamins all play a role in heathy hormone production and metabolism.
- Underlying conditions such as PCOS, thyroid disease and premature ovarian failure could be at the roots of your menstrual and hormonal issues. I recommend you work with your gynecologist, naturopathic doctor or other qualified health care practitioner to identify potential underlying medical conditions.
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.