It’s a phrase we often use to excuse mood swings that make us seething with anger one minute and sobbing the next — but there might be more to it than just “feeling hormonal.”
According to nutritional therapist Gail Madalena, hormones are vital chemical messengers that carry information between our cells and organs.
“They are needed for all of our body’s systems to function,” she says.
So you can imagine how important it is for them to be in top condition.
What if we told you that these mood swings could be a sign of hormonal imbalance?
If you’re eating healthy, exercising, getting enough sleep, and still feeling unwell, you may need help.
Here are the subtle signs to look out for and how to get tested…
When to be tested
If you have any symptoms or are concerned about your hormone health, talk to your GP.
They may send you for a blood test or a test to see how well your thyroid — which produces and stores hormones — is working to provide an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.
If you are perimenopausal or menopausal ask about HRT.
Home kits for progesterone, testosterone, and thyroid testing are available online and offer quick reassurance, although they can be expensive. Try Superdrug Online Doctor’s Thyroid Function Test Kit, £60.
If you have a lower abdominal weight that doesn’t change with regular exercise and a balanced diet, a hormonal imbalance may be to blame.
“Underactive thyroid function slows down many bodily functions, including metabolism and digestion. A common side effect of this is weight gain, particularly in the stomach,” says Gail.
Too much of the stress hormone cortisol can put the body into survival mode and cause it to store even more fat.
hungry for more
Feeling starved 24/7? Your sex hormones might be out of sync.
“Low estrogen can make you feel hungry all the time, even after you eat, because estrogen has a direct impact on leptin,” says Gail.
“Leptin is released from fat cells and regulates how many calories we burn and how much we eat, which in turn determines how much fat tissue the body stores.
“The more we produce, the more excess fat we tend to store.”
An underactive thyroid causes many bodily functions to slow down, including metabolism and digestion. A common side effect of this is weight gain, particularly in the stomach.
Nutritional Therapist Gail Madalena
Mood swings can really disrupt your life, and they happen to the best of us.
But if your mood is low and you can’t figure out why, you may be lacking in the feel-good hormone, serotonin.
“Around the time we ovulate, estrogen and progesterone levels drop, causing both physical and emotional symptoms.
“This drop in hormones can also affect the production of serotonin, which regulates mood, sleep, and appetite,” says Gail.
Lose your locks
When the thyroid is working suboptimal, it can slow down the rate at which our hair grows back, leaving it dry, brittle and weak.
“A key hormone in hair production is DHT, a byproduct of testosterone. If we produce too much, the follicles can shrink and the hair can fall out,” says Gail.
“A drop in estrogen and progesterone can also affect your hairline and hair thickness.”
If every day feels like an exhausting effort, even with plenty of sleep, you may have a hormonal imbalance rather than chronic fatigue.
“Too much or too little progesterone can sap your energy, as can elevated estrogen levels and an underactive thyroid.
“Too much cortisol can also interfere with the sleep cycle and lead to persistent fatigue,” says Gail.
A key hormone in hair production is DHT, a byproduct of testosterone. If we produce too much, the follicles can shrink and the hair can fall out.
Nutritional Therapist Gail Madalena
Dizziness, weak knees and blurred vision are all signs that something is wrong.
“Low estrogen levels trigger fluctuations in blood flow,” says Gail.
“This can lead to drowsiness and dizziness.
“Hormonal imbalances can also have a direct impact on our blood sugar metabolism and blood pressure, as can issues related to our inner ear, all of which cause dizziness.”
“The thyroid helps regulate neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin.
“When it’s out of balance, it can inhibit brain activity, leading to drowsiness and low mood,” says Gail.
“Healthy progesterone and estrogen levels promote calmer emotions and support sleep, while when deregulated, this can impair short-term memory, cognitive function and irritability.”
Chronic stress (ie elevated cortisol) can overwhelm the body and contribute to mental health problems.
Simple tweaks for healthier hormones
Hormonal imbalance can be caused by anything from genetics and lifestyle to polycystic ovary syndrome and if diagnosed your GP will guide you through treatment options.
But even if you don’t have an imbalance, simple tweaks can improve your hormonal health in as little as a month, says Gail.
Reduce exposure to environmental toxins
Toxins in plastics, cosmetics, and household cleaners can affect hormone levels.
Use natural, plant-based cosmetics and make your own household cleaning solution: one part water, one part white vinegar, and some lemon zest.
Change your diet
Prioritize antioxidant-rich organic fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds, and rye. Increase your intake of fatty acids and omega-3.
Try hemp, flax, chia, and sunflower seeds if you’re not a fan of oily fish, and add phytoestrogens like tofu and oats.
Aim to drink two liters of fluids daily to flush out unwanted toxins and hormones. But cut out caffeine and alcohol, as they disrupt communication between your nervous, immune, and endocrine systems.
Excessive activity can negatively affect our hormones and menstrual cycle through excess cortisol production.
But sedentary lifestyle can lead to weight gain and elevated insulin.
Try walking, jogging, dynamic yoga, swimming and strength training. Download the Gentler Streak app – it encourages rest days and helps you learn to listen and respond to your body.
https://www.the-sun.com/health/5091700/nutritional-therapist-cant-sleep-lose-weight/ I’m a Nutritional Therapist – The Surprising Reasons You Can’t Lose Weight or Sleep, and How to Fix It