As a doctor in my 30s, I’ve been surprised by what I see going on hormonally in women my age. Out-of-control hormones fuel weight gain and sugar cravings and cause irritability and hair loss, and not just during your period. Even worse, they can cause even more serious health issues.
This tells me that we, as younger women, need to pay more attention to our hormones. And you can start by asking yourself these important questions:
How do I know if my hormones are healthy?
Have you ever described yourself as “PMS-ing,” “feeling hormonal” or “having a badger try to claw its way out of your uterus”? Then you know what hormonal imbalance feels like. This is where a lot of doctors go wrong: they tell you that having symptoms like these is completely normal. They may even repeat what your high school health teacher said: “It’s all just part of being a woman.” Puh-lease.
Want to know what’s really going on? Your symptoms are telling you that your sex hormones— estrogen, progesterone and testosterone — are fluctuating too dramatically or their ratio to each other is wrong. Your body can’t realign itself on its own (think of how a gymnast wavers but regains control on a balance beam – or falls off the beam entirely).
When your body can’t rebalance, you end up with symptoms:
Irregular or absent periods
Weight gain/difficulty losing weight
|Hair loss/unusual hair growth|
|Fatigue/loss of energy|
For many women, these symptoms just get worse, and for some, hormonal imbalance will lead to bigger problems over time.
Is my hormonal imbalance serious?
Hormonal imbalance can spiral into serious issues. Your sex hormones work with other key hormones so an imbalance in just one sex hormone can lead to:
- PCOS (Polycystic ovarian syndrome) – a common cause of infertility that can result from high amounts of androgens (including testosterone)
- Estrogen dominance – a ratio of high estrogen-to-progesterone that leads to symptoms
- Low thyroid – hormonal flux due to birth control pills or pregnancy can make women vulnerable to low thyroid issues
- Adrenal issues — often related to or involving the stress hormone cortisol
- Blood sugar imbalances — this includes anything on the spectrum of blood sugar issues, including insulin resistance
What’s causing my hormonal imbalance?
There’s no single cause for reproductive hormonal imbalance. But factors like stress, not-great food choices, excessive weight gain, and toxins in everything from lipstick to cleaning products can make it much worse.
Now, I know it’s impossible to avoid all hormone-disrupting factors so don’t feel overwhelmed. There’s a lot you can do to improve your hormonal balance, even though it’s frustrating that conventional medicine practitioners don’t always address this issue. These easy first steps may seem small, but that’s just the way you want it. I tell my patients that the goal is to make manageable, incremental changes that together will result in a big change — one that makes sense for your life.
3 easy first steps to start balancing your hormones
1. Reduce stress with 3-second breathing:This technique is one of my favorite stress-relieving techniques and it’s the first thing I teach all my patients: Take in a deep breath for 3 full seconds, hold it for 3 full seconds and then exhale for 3 full seconds. Do this at least 3 times in a row. It forces your body to slow down.
2. Don’t try to completely overhaul your diet all at once: Try making small changes to your diet. For example, do you want to cut down on sugar? Then work on eliminating sweetener (both real sugar and fake) from your daily coffee. After that, maybe you can swap your morning cereal for a green smoothie on some days.
If something doesn’t feel right along the way, it’s not for you. Stop, reevaluate and try a different approach. I know from experience that a giant purge of caffeine, alcohol and processed foods is unsustainable and rarely lasts more than a few days.
3. Find new favorite cosmetics. Every day the average woman uses 12 products containing 168 different ingredients, according to the Environmental Working Group. Take a quick look at labels to see if your lipstick or eye liner could be hiding hormone-disrupting chemicals like phthalates or parabens. If so, find some new favorites from the many great choices available. Try the Environmental Working Group’s app for your phone to review products at home or that you intend to buy.
Help your hormones work for you
You have a lot more control than you may realize when it comes to your hormones. It’s a rewarding habit for both your health and happiness to try to be mindful of your hormones each day. But, whether you’re in your 20s or 50s, your hormones are here to stay. And that, believe it or not, is a good thing.