Hormone imbalance is a common occurrence among women. Hormones play a vital role in regulating bodily functions, including metabolism, reproduction, and mood. Hormonal imbalances can cause various symptoms ranging from mood swings and fatigue to metabolic issues, acne, and irregular menstrual cycles. Women are more likely to experience hormone imbalances than men due to various factors, including pregnancy, periods, and menopause. Here are some of the causes of hormone imbalance, the most common imbalances women experience, and how supplementation can help.
Some Causes of Hormonal Imbalance in Women
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) - PCOS is a hormonal disorder that affects up to 10% of women of reproductive age. It's characterized by irregular periods, excess androgen hormones, and cysts on the ovaries. Symptoms can include acne, hair loss, insulin resistance, and infertility.
- Xenoestrogens – some chemicals, such as BPA (receipts, plastics) or Phthalates (fragrances, heated plastics), can mimic estrogen and contribute to hormonal imbalance.
- Menopause - Menopause is a natural process in which a woman's menstrual cycle stops, resulting in hormonal changes that can cause hot flashes, mood swings, and vaginal dryness. One of the more common imbalances to occur post-menopause is estrogen dominance.
- Stress - Stress can cause hormonal imbalances by disrupting the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, leading to the overproduction of cortisol, a stress hormone that can cause weight gain, mood swings, and fatigue.
- Birth control pills - Birth control pills contain synthetic hormones that can cause hormonal imbalances, leading to mood swings, weight gain, and irregular menstrual cycles.
The Most Common Hormone Imbalances in Women
Hormonal imbalances are common in women of all ages, and they can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetics, lifestyle, and underlying medical conditions.
- Estrogen dominance - Estrogen dominance occurs when there is an excess of estrogen in the body relative to other hormones, like progesterone. Symptoms can include irregular periods, heavy bleeding, breast tenderness, and mood swings.
- Adrenal fatigue - Adrenal fatigue is a condition that is believed to be caused by chronic stress that can lead to dysfunction of the adrenal glands. Symptoms can include fatigue, anxiety, insomnia, and low blood pressure.
- Insulin resistance - Insulin resistance occurs when the body's cells become resistant to the effects of insulin, leading to high levels of insulin in the blood. This can contribute to a range of health problems, including weight gain, diabetes, and hormonal imbalances.
The Best Supplements for Hormonal Imbalance
- DIM (Diindolylmethane) - DIM is a natural compound found in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and kale. It can help balance estrogen levels by promoting the conversion of harmful estrogen metabolites into less harmful forms. DIM may be particularly beneficial for women with conditions like PCOS and estrogen dominance.
- Vitamin D - Vitamin D plays a crucial role in hormone regulation in women by helping to maintain optimal levels of several key hormones, including estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. It does this by acting as a co-factor in the production and synthesis of these hormones in the body.
- Omega-3 fatty acids - Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that can help support a healthy inflammatory response. They also support brain function and can improve mood and cognitive performance. Omega-3s can also help balance hormone levels by regulating the production of hormones like estrogen and progesterone.
- Magnesium - Magnesium is a mineral that supports the production of progesterone, regulation of insulin, and modulation of cortisol. It also plays a crucial role in the metabolism of estrogen, which is key in preventing estrogen dominance.
- Adaptogenic herbs - Adaptogenic herbs like ashwagandha, American ginseng, and holy basil can help the body adapt to stress and modulate cortisol. They can also improve energy levels and cognitive function.
Though hormone imbalances are common, finding ways to navigate care around them can be a challenge. It’s important to advocate for yourself with your healthcare provider around any symptoms you may be experiencing. Implementing lifestyle changes to remove endocrine disruptors from your environment is a good preventative measure, as is taking steps to support and promote the detoxification pathways within the body.