Some of you may know that I recently found out I have a hormone imbalance. I have probably had it for a significant amount of time (over a few years) but never really thought to look into it.
As you may know, I always talk about how a hormone imbalance can cause weight gain. I have been experiencing weight gain and difficult losing weight, and it wasn’t until I did a bit of research that I suspected I might actually have a hormone imbalance.
I know there are probably many of you experiencing the same thing and don’t even realize that you have a hormone imbalance. So I wanted to share what I have learned in the hope that it might help some of you too!
WHAT IS A HORMONE IMBALANCE
The most common one (that I have) and that most young women experience is a progesterone deficiency. Your estrogen levels could also be too high in comparison to your progesterone levels. They need to be balanced.
WHAT ARE ESTROGEN AND PROGESTERONE?
These hormones are secreted by the ovaries and contribute to a woman’s menstrual cycle and fertility.
Here are some of the effects of estrogen and progesterone.
|Increases body fat||Helps use fat for energy|
|Salt and fluid retention||Natural diuretic|
|Depression and headaches||Natural antidepressant|
|Interferes with thyroid hormone||Facilitates thyroid hormone action|
|Impairs blood sugar control||Normalizes blood sugar levels|
|Decreases sex drive||Restores sex drive|
So you can see that if you don’t have enough progesterone to balance out the estrogen, it could cause these issues.
SYMPTOMS OF A HORMONE IMBALANCE
Some of the most common symptoms of a hormone imbalance (low progesterone) include:
- Heavy or irregular periods
- PMS symptoms (migraines / headaches, cramping, moodiness, tender breasts, cravings, etc)
- Weight gain (especially around the stomach)
- Low libido
- Fatigue and low energy
- Anxiety, irritability and depression
- Poor sleep and insomnia
- Hair loss
- Hot flashes
- Fibrocystic breasts
- Infertility (not permanent – fertility will come back when your hormone balance is restored).
HOW LOW PROGESTERONE / HIGH ESTROGEN CAUSE WEIGHT GAIN
High estrogen can actually cause an increase in insulin. Increased insulin leads to sugar cravings, and this is why lots of women crave chocolate during PMS (and at other times too!). Progesterone helps to lower insulin levels.
High levels of estrogen also cause more fatty tissue growth, and your fat cells, in turn, make more estrogen; so it’s a vicious cycle. This excess fat is usually around the stomach because estrogen also dictates where the body distributes fat. This cycle can be helped by balancing out estrogen with progesterone.
High levels of estrogen also cause fluid retention. Progesterone is a natural diuretic and can reduce fluid retention and bloating.
DECREASE IN THYROID FUNCTION
Low progesterone can affect your thyroid, and thyroid issues can cause weight gain/difficulty losing weight. When you have low progesterone, your liver produces excess TBG (a protein). TBG binds to the thyroid hormones and blocks them so your body can’t use them properly.
APPETITE & SLEEP
Progesterone has a calming effect on the brain, whereas estrogen has an excitatory effect. This means that women with high estrogen experience sleep difficulties.
A lack of sleep disrupts the hormone that is in control of your appetite (leptin). When you are sleep deprived, this contributes to an increased appetite and you eating more.
Read this blog post to find out the WORST thing for weight loss (that you don’t know about!)
CAUSES OF HORMONAL IMBALANCE
For me, the hormone imbalance has probably been caused by a few things; but the main contributor has been long-term use of the contraceptive pill.
The pill contains synthetic progestin which lowers progesterone levels. Other causes can include stress, lack of exercise, poor nutrition, menopausal changes and xenohormones (found in plastics, solvents, adhesives, etc).
HOW TO FIX IT
For me, the first thing I did was stop taking the contraceptive pill. Within 2 weeks I already noticed my stomach looking leaner than it had in about a year. And I didn’t really do much different with my diet or exercise.
This is probably due to both losing fat and a decrease in fluid retention.
There are lots of other ways that you can naturally rebalance your hormone levels, but there are just SO many. I’m not going to list them all.
A few things you can do is to take 1tsp of maca powder each day – this is supposed to be great at balancing out your hormones. Buying organic meat (with no added hormones) is also a good move. I have also been taking a natural supplement called Fem Rebalance to help my hormones restore themselves naturally.
My best suggestion is to visit a naturopath that specializes in hormones for women and get some testing done.
The testing they do will be different to a GP. The blood tests your GP take may not accurately represent your hormone levels. It is best tested through a saliva or urine test. Once you have results, your naturopath will be able to recommend treatment.