Hormone Imbalance In Women: Seven Things You Can Do Today

Have you ever said to yourself: "I'm a little bit out of balance. I think something is off with my hormones." Camille Lawson explains how to know when things are off, and some strategies for coping.

Probably the biggest question that I hear is people will say you know, "I don't feel like me, I don't know what's going on. I am following this program. I'm following nutrition. I'm doing all these different things, but I just don't feel like me. I'm just feeling like I can't cope."

There are a number of signs that your hormones are the cause of your problem.

  • Gaining weight, especially that middle area of our bodies or the belly area.
  • Feeling like you've got 'brain fog'
  • Feeling tired, but being unable to sleep
  • Waking up after sleeping eight hours and still feeling exhausted
  • Raging appetite
  • Craving sugar
  • Recurring headaches
  • Lack of sex drive
  • Feeling 'wired' and 'tired' at the same time

These factors affect both men and women.  If you're experiencing any of these signs, it's time to get your hormones checked - especially if you've already worked on cleaning up your nutritional habits, and exercise habits.

A lot of people don't realize that we have over 50 hormones in our body, and they act like a symphony.  When they are out of balance, even just a couple of them, we are out of balance.

Seeing a Doctor

So how do you find a physician to test your hormones?

There are a few categories of practitioners that do work with hormones and are knowledgeable. Many family doctors simply aren't trained in hormones: they don't know very much about the relationship of hormones and nutrition.

We refer to the physicians who have gone on to have the extra training as integrated physicians, meaning they are integrating their traditional Western medicine training with further studies on healthy aging, nutrition and on hormones and bioidentical hormones which is that whole continuum.

Many naturopaths, particularly in the United States (less so in Canada) are trained in hormones as well. In the United States, they are actually allowed to prescribe bioidentical hormones. In Canada, they are working towards being able to do that, but they are very capable of studying and interpreting all those tests.  An excellent resource that I found is www.bioidenticaldoctors.com . It's a very good website: you simply plug in where you live and it will give you the integrated physicians and practitioners in your area.

You may not find somebody right in your backyard depending on where you live, but it's often worth that drive for that initial consult and after that, most things can be done over the telephone and via email. So it doesn't really matter where exactly they are located, what's most important is to get somebody that is trained in hormones and understands them so that you can get to the root of your hormone imbalance issues.

If there isn't anyone in your area, is it still possible to ask for Hormone Tests?  Absolutely.  If you're not feeling like yourself, ask for the following hormones to be tested:

For Women
  • Cortisol
  • Estrogen
  • Progesterone
  • Testosterone
  • DHEA

For Men

  • Cortisol
  • Testosterone
  • DHEA

Of course, there are other things that I would like to see added in there, but for a family doctor, most would be willing to run a blood panel based on those.

I am a big propenent of being your own health advocate. Please remember you are entitled to not only see, but also to obtain your own test results. And I'm a real believer in hanging on and having your test results in your possession. Get a copy of them, just simply ask for a copy or get them to fax, scan it to you because you want to have those numbers. You may choose to take those results elsewhere depending on what your practitioner says.

The Road to Healing Your Hormones

That feeling of being out of control and not feeling like yourself and not having that 'get up and go' can be very overwhelming, frustrating and frankly very worrisome. And in a moment, I do want to write a little bit on that note about what happens when cortisol levels are high for a prolonged period of time and then how that can cause them to bottom out and be really low.

But before that, let me give you an instant coping strategy: learn how to say no.

I know many you reading are juggling many things: work, multitasking, schedules, children – all of those things. And we simply need as a society to learn how to say the word no effectively. And by that I mean literally practicing: No thank you, I can't do that right now, or No thank you that won't work in my schedule right now, thank you for thinking of me, but no I cannot do that. What I teach is don't make an excuse. The moment you say no thank you or no I can't because...as soon as you make that excuse, it's a segway for somebody to get you to say yes.

So learning to say no and saying yes to the things only that you can promise and commit to is going to help relieve that stress load a lot because most of us say yes to way too many things. We hear it all the time and it sounds corny, but it's really not. I practice it myself.

A daily meditation practice and that does not have to mean 30 minutes to one hour, two hours sitting on a mat crossed legged in a lotus position. It really can just be simply 5 or 10 minutes in the morning when you start your day to be very quiet, to be reflective, to be contemplative and start your day off from that place. That can go a long way in reducing that cortisol load and really helping you feel more in charge and more in control of your day.

Because I am a sexuality consultant, I'm an advocate of sex – sex reduces stress. One of the big problems is, as our cortisol levels go up, our oxytocin comes down, and it also causes our testosterone to come down. When I hear both men and women say you know, "I have zero sex drive. Absolutely zero desire, none." That can be a real clue that cortisol is playing havoc with your hormones.

And then there's sleep: I can't say enough about sleep. The current studies are very clear that 7 to 9 hours is what most of us need. Cortisol really interrupts our sleep. So doing all the things that we know are out there such as drinking chamomile tea, no screens computer, tablet or phone screens before bed for a couple of hours, limiting caffeine after lunch – things like that can all help improve our sleep.

If you already know you have a lot of cortisol on board, if you immediately cut your caffeine, cut your alcohol consumption and also cut down on your sugar consumption, those nutrition things can make an immediate difference in your quality of sleep.

I'm also a big advocate of deep breathing, I use it myself all the time. Again, it sounds so very simple, but taking those few moments, be it that you are in the car or you just had a phone call that put you into a state of overwhelm, you can just feel your blood pressure and stress level going up – take a few minutes to deep breathe.

Other Strategies

Number one is water. Often we put our body into incredible stress because we're dehydrated. In the summer months especially, I can't emphasize enough, you have to pay attention to that. Most people are walking around dehydrated. And anything with caffeine will actually make you more dehydrated.

Throw some lemon slices in your water juice, try coconut water, or find decaffeinated herbal teas that you like. Avoid sweeteners if possible.

Drinking lemon water helps reduce inflammation and alkalizes the body, and since inflammation is a byproduct of increasing cortisol, this is an easy change you can make today to start feeling better soon.

Certain foods have been shown to really affect hormones because they are full of hormones and it depends on how your body reacts. So for example, some people do not react well to dairy, other people consume a lot of chicken and conventional chicken can have more hormones in it because the chicken is obviously being fed to get plumper. So you have to look at what feels right for your body.

And of course foods that are synthetic, junk foods – those are terrible for hormones, anything with trans fat, MSG (monosodium glutamate – that's what it stands for), artificial colors – all of those things. Anything that is not natural is considered a toxin to your body and your body has to process those toxins. It can of course wreak havoc with your hormones, so be very mindful of what you are eating.

And another tip I will give you is fiber. Fiber is very important to flush out toxins from the body. And fiber is really key for hormone regulation because fiber can help to take out some of the excess toxic hormones from your body. A good goal is 30 grams of fiber a day and the average person is getting a fraction of that.

Adaptogenic Herbs

Adaptogens are specific herbs that allow the body to adapt to stress. They've been around for a very, very long time and it's very hard to get them out of our food supply per se. Things like Ashwagandha and Rhodiola. You can buy them individually, or in various combinations in some good supplements. They really help the body adapt to stress so that even though your stressors don't go away, but you cope better.

I was of the firm belief that I did not need to add in lots of supplements because I really could get it from my food. But I'm a voracious researcher and I have absolutely been convinced by the scientific data that we do need to supplement. We cannot get all the different trace minerals and trace elementss that allow our body to absorb the nutrition properly, to get all the micronutrients. It just doesn't exist in our food, although it probably did a long time ago. It doesn't exist in our topsoil and even if you are eating organically, it's simply not in our soils.

I always recommend femMED's supplements because instead of having to go out and purchase 5, 6 or 10 different supplements to get all the herbs that may be beneficial to your issue, you can just take one or two high-quality capsules. Here are the ones I recommend for hormones:

Finding the Energy to Make A Change

I know a lot of people are saying "Well Camille, I don't know if I even have the energy to order a supplement or the energy to go out and change how I'm eating or the energy to find a doctor." If that's you, I would like to say very kindly and with compassion,

"Stop right now and realize that the world will go on without you, but those that you love and that all the things that you care about and the people that you care about, they need and want you in their life. And if your health is suffering and you can hardly get out of bed in the morning and you are not presenting your best self ever with a happy mood and who you are, you're not doing them any favor."

We often will do for our children, will do for our business, will do for our friends and family, but what we won't do for ourselves. So I would change that up and I really would encourage all of you to realize that if you aren't feeling fantastic and great, you're not going to be able to help and be the person you want to be for all those people in your life because you're simply not able to show up. And I mean that not to be harsh, but you're not showing up at 100%. You're showing up at maybe 5%, maybe at best 25%. And we've all been there, I have been there where you are not on top of things, you're not paying attention, you're falling asleep at dinner, you're not listening to your child as they are talking to you-- oh my gosh, that time is precious. So I would say know that your hormones are a big, big part of this thing.

Be your own best health advocate: nobody else will do that for you. Arm yourself with the knowledge. Find a practitioner that you trust. So learn what you can, take baby steps. You don't have to take a big leap and change your life completely, just trust yourself that something is not right and start getting some answers. Yu are worth it and so is everybody around you that you love and care about. They are worth it, but it's got to start with you.

And finally, I will say, you are a role model. We are all role models for the people around us and the way that we present ourselves and the way that we show up, people are attracted to energy, we are attracted to energy. So let's all be and commit to being that person that we know we can be because oh my goodness, it feels so good. And I know that you all want to wake up feeling great every morning and all day. I know that there is hope. I know that there is always a solution. A solution is out there, you just have to have that faith and keep digging and believing and you are going to feel better.