Have you ever had someone point the finger at your hormones like they're to blame? What are they 'to blame' for? Literally everything, apparently—from mood swings to bodily ailments.
I've been told this by my doctors: “The reason this is happening is because...well, you have hormones. Here, take the pill.”
I've been told this by partners: “It must be your time of the month.”
I've been told this by friends: “Omg your hormones are so messed up right now!”
So, is there any truth to this hormone business? Actually, yes, and, as they say, knowledge is power. Let’s stop talking about hormones in general, even mysterious terms, and get more specific.
We’re going to look at five common symptoms people experience that signal that hormones are imbalanced and what specific hormones are involved. When you start to identify what’s going on with your body, you’re one step closer to making some changes. But first, let’s dig into how hormones actually work.
How Hormones Work
Cells throughout the body have hormone receptors. A receptor is like a parking space for VIPs only. Each specific hormone has its own private parking space.
So every cell has a hormone parking space, and when the hormone parks, someone gets out of the car and delivers a message to someone waiting inside the building. (You can't actually park inside the cell, doors are way too small to drive cars through. So instead a message gets passed from the outside of the cell to the inside).
When our hormones are funky, or we take pharmaceutical hormones for years (ahem, the pill), it can mess around with all the cells of our body!
Top 5 Signs Your Hormone Health Needs Help
Here are the top 5 signs that your hormonal health could use some attention:
For some, the connection between hormonal imbalances and troublesome periods may seem obvious, but it's essential to understand that there’s a key difference between a period that is ‘normal’ vs ‘common’.
First of all, let me clarify common vs normal. Common is what we see most often around us.
Just because everyone gets wicked period cramps that make you skip work, doesn't mean it's ‘normal’. Just because everyone turns into a raging lunatic in the days leading up to their period, doesn't mean it's ‘normal’.
See what I mean here? By no way am I saying that YOU aren't normal!
I want to point out that your body may be trying to get your attention, it's literally calling out for help in the only language our body knows, through symptoms.
While everyone’s body is totally different, it's helpful to know what a happy period looks like so that we can stop normalizing menstrual concerns.
Have a quick look through this checklist of what a healthy, normal period should consist of:
Regular Cycle: Your menstrual cycle should typically last between 21 to 35 days, with bleeding lasting 2 to 7 days.
Consistent Flow: Your period flow should be neither too heavy nor too light. You should change your menstrual products every 4-6 hours.
Minimal Pain: While some discomfort is normal, severe menstrual cramps or pelvic pain could indicate an issue.
No Excessive Clotting: Small blood clots are normal, but large or frequent clots may need attention.
No Excessive PMS: While some mood swings and physical discomfort are expected, severe PMS symptoms may be your body calling for help.
No Abnormal Bleeding: Spotting or bleeding between periods can signify hormonal imbalance or other issues.
Ever find yourself getting annoyed at your partner for breathing too loudly? Or snapping at them if they put the cutlery in the wrong order as they empty the dishwasher?
One minute it feels like everything is fine, but then the next you realize that something snaps and you're crying for no reason. Even worse is when you notice other people have to tiptoe around you to avoid your wrath.
Well, hello mood swings!
The reason behind these emotional fluctuations lies in the complex interaction between hormones and neurotransmitter receptors in our brains.
Estrogen likes to bind to serotonin receptors, making you feel fabulous and confident. After all, estrogen's mission is to motivate you to get out there and find a mate!
On the other hand, progesterone prefers the GABA receptors, known as our "calm and chill out" hormones. Its goal is to help you wind down before your period, and ideally, prepare your body for its pursuit of pregnancy.
When our hormones are unruly and going up and down like a rollercoaster, you better believe that your mood is going to be doing the same!
Ever find yourself wide awake at night but completely exhausted in the morning? Or maybe you experience that dreaded afternoon crash when your energy plummets and all you want is a nap?
You can thank your stress hormone cortisol for these energy fluctuations. Cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands and is a vital hormone that triggers your body's "OMG, there's a tiger! RUN!" response, a relic from our caveman days. It's designed to keep us alert and focused during life-threatening situations.
But with modern stressors like looming deadlines, traffic jams, and tax season, our cortisol response can become erratic.
In holistic medicine, we describe the adrenal glands as having 3 phases of ‘burnout’.
The first phase is when things are great, your cortisol can rise and fall naturally in response to everyday stressors.
The second phase of adrenal dysregulation is when your cortisol is too high for too long, without being able to rest in between. This goes along with that wired-and-tired feeling.
Finally, phase 3 of burnout is when your cortisol output is zapped, and you're feeling exhausted and totally burnt out.
Knowing where you are on this continuum can help you get the right treatment for your adrenal glands!
Have you noticed that the weight just continues to creep on after your 20s? Year by year, an extra few pounds seem to sneak their way onto the scale, leaving you feeling perplexed.
It’s important to remember that weight gain in and of itself is not a cause for concern, is not a judgment, and that health comes in all shapes and sizes. Yet we can look at where weight is going in order to recognize clues about possible hormonal imbalances. There are two distinct areas:
Bum, hips, and thighs: Hormonal weight gain typically caused by excess estrogen loves to add to our booty, hips, and thighs, giving us that curvier, pear-shaped appearance.
Midsection: On the other hand, the stress hormone cortisol prefers to store fat around our midsection, creating the classic "apple" shape.
In addition to increased weight, you may also notice big fluctuations around your cycle. We often see more water weight adding on leading up to our periods. That might make your face and hands feel puffy, you may feel more bloated, and also notice sock indentations on your feet.
Paying attention to all these signs can be like being a detective for your health.
Do you wish you could sleep in all day or take afternoon naps? Maybe you find yourself dragging your tired body out of bed every morning, struggling to make it to work on time.
Even during important meetings, brain fog can strike, leaving you forgetting your clients' names!
This feeling of brain fog and fatigue often comes after being under a high amount of stress for a long time, without being able to take a break from it.
Cortisol impacts our mood, memory, and energy levels, but so do our sex hormones!
Too much estrogen, not enough estrogen, too little progesterone, or even testosterone issues all have impacts on our mood, memory, energy, and mental clarity.
Remember those neurotransmitters Serotonin and GABA that we talked about earlier? This further illustrates how much of an impact hormones have on our brains. Not only do hormones affect our moods, but our sleep can also be affected, causing us to always feel like we can't recover properly and feel permanently tired.
Help for Hormone Imbalance
If any of these scenarios sound familiar, it's essential not to dismiss them as minor inconveniences. Hormones ebb and flow, and hormone imbalances can have a profound impact on your overall well-being and quality of life. Understanding these signs is the first step towards regaining control of your hormonal health and, ultimately, feeling more like your true self. Don't let hormone imbalances hold you back. Take the initiative and speak with a healthcare provider to reclaim your well-being and explore a path toward balance and vitality.
If you've found yourself nodding along to any of the experiences in this article, I invite you to take my complimentary hormone balance quiz. This quiz will provide valuable insights into your unique hormone profile, allowing you to make informed decisions about your health and take the necessary steps toward a more balanced and fulfilling life.