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top ten symptoms of hormone imbalance

top ten symptoms of hormone imbalance

photo by Omid Armin on Unsplash

top ten symptoms of hormone imbalance I see everyday

I’ve been helping women balance their hormones and optimize fertility for more than a decade and, while every client’s personal situation is different, I see the same symptoms of hormone imbalance over and over.

I thought it might be really helpful to share the most common symptoms of hormone imbalance that I see time and time again, what causes the symptoms my clients experience, and most importantly, what to do about it.

Because if you’re reading this, odds are you’ve experienced one or more of these symptoms!

hormone testing

First and foremost, while you can get a good idea of where your imbalances lie according to your symptoms, it’s still really important to test your hormone levels to uncover the exact imbalance that may be happening which is at the root of the symptoms you’re experiencing. I always tell clients that trying to treat hormone imbalance or infertility without knowing exactly what your hormones are doing is like trying to play darts with a blindfold on. Not the best idea ;).

The Comprehensive Hormone Panel is the hormone test I use in my practice, and recommend for all women to get a baseline reading of the most important hormones to be aware of. This includes all the sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone), adrenal hormones (cortisol x4, DHEA), and a full thyroid panel (TSH, free T3, free T4, and thyroid antibodies). Testing is done during your mid-luteal phase – in the comfort of your own home – and will give you powerful information to address any and all symptoms of hormone imbalance that you’re experiencing.

foundational recommendations

There are also some important basic foundational recommendations everyone should incorporate, regardless of where your imbalances lie:

Make sure you’re eating whole, real, organic food the majority of the time. This means organic veggies and fruits, high quality fats and oils, whole non-gluten grains, wild caught fish and seafood, pasture-raised eggs, and organic, pasture-raised meats, and plenty of plant-based protein sources like beans, legumes, and lentils.

Second, make sure you drink half your body weight in ounces of clean, filtered water every day.

Third, make sure you’re moving your body every day, and getting at least 8-10 hours of deep restorative sleep every night.

With all that said, let’s dive into the top ten symptoms I see most often in my practice!

1. infertility

cause: low progesterone and low thyroid

foods to eat:

  • egg yolks, which are rich in healthy fats, choline, and are a symbol of fertility
  • wild caught salmon, which contain omega-3’s, vitamin B6 for progesterone support, iodine for thyroid support, and zinc
  • grass-fed ghee, which contains omega-3’s and healthy cholesterol, necessary for the synthesis of pregnenolone (the “mama” hormone), which in turn makes progesterone. Cholesterol is also necessary for the production of thyroid hormone.
  • fat from trusted sources of meat, wild caught fatty fish, and plant-derived fats like coconut oil, olive oil, olives, nuts, seeds, and avocado. Eat at least 2 tablespoons of fat at every meal.

lifestyle changes:

  • manage stress: chronic stress increases the secretion of cortisol and adrenaline at the expense of sex hormones like progesterone
  • acupuncture can help improve blood flow to the ovaries and the uterine lining, and is fantastic for relieving stress as well
  • Circle + Bloom visualizations are a series of scientifically proven audio programs grounded in deep medical research that help you de-stress, reduce anxiety, and ultimately increase your chances of conception

supplements:

2. recurrent miscarriages

cause: low progesterone and low thyroid

foods to eat:

  • eat plenty of healthy fats from wild caught fish/seafood, and other high quality, organic, pasture-raised meats
  • start seed cycling: from the first day of your cycle until ovulation, eat 1 tbsp freshly ground flaxseeds (not the pre-ground stuff) & 1 tbsp pumpkin seeds (to support estrogen). From ovulation until the first day of your period, eat 1 tbsp sesame seeds & 1 tbsp sunflower seeds (to support progesterone). You can add the seeds to salads, smoothies or eat them by the handful.
  • eliminate gluten, dairy, vegetable oils, and refined sugars from your diet

lifestyle changes:

  • get the right tests done. First, speak to your doctor about referring you to a specialist for an antiphospholipid antibody (APA) test. Antiphospholipid syndrome (APS) is an autoimmune imbalance which causes the body’s immune system to react to certain normal substances in the blood which can increase the chance of forming blood clots. It is estimated that 10% – 25% of women with recurrent miscarriages have APS, making testing very important.
  • hysterosalpingogram (HSG): This is an x-ray test of the uterus. A dye is injected into the uterus and x-rays are taken to see the shape of the uterus, blockages of the tubes, growths and other abnormalities that could cause infertility or miscarriages.
  • thyroid panel: Hypothyroidism has been linked to miscarriages during all trimesters. Not all doctors will do a thyroid panel test, make sure to ask and work with a doctor that is supportive and up to date on thyroid issues.
  • make sure to have your doctor test your progesterone levels in tested in your mid-luteal phase specifically. This is the phase in your cycle when progesterone plays the most important role, and testing it at other times in your cycle won’t give you the information you need.
  • manage stress: chronic stress increases the secretion of cortisol and adrenaline at the expense of sex hormones like progesterone, and can increase your risk of miscarriage.
  • castor oil packs: in this therapy, a cloth is soaked in unrefined castor oil (referred to as a castor oil pack) and is then placed on the lower abdomen where the ovaries and uterus live. The castor oil soaks into the skin to stimulate blood circulation, and heals the tissues and organs below the surface of the skin. Check out this post for more details on using castor oil therapy.

supplements:

  • Progest-Avail Progesterone Oil: start using 3 days AFTER you get a positive ovulation sign (by OPK testing / your last day of temp spike and/or last day of egg white fluid), then use every day until you either start your next menstrual cycle OR you get a positive pregnancy test. If you’re pregnant, keep using the progesterone! You will continue using the progesterone daily through the 12th week of pregnancy.
    • 1 mL, twice daily (in AM & PM, ideally 12 hours apart). In the AM, rub into thin areas of your skin (face, neck, breasts, chest, inner wrists, palms of hands—make sure to rotate the site of delivery each morning); in the PM—measure 1 mL of oil in the dropper top and then insert the oil directly in your vagina by putting dropper tube top in your vagina. Clean with rubbing alcohol before putting the top back in the bottle.
  • Vitamin B6: 50 mg/day minimum
  • Vitamin E: 2 capsules daily
  • Prenatal Pro Packets

3. breast tenderness

cause: low progesterone and/or high estrogen

foods to eat:

  • fiber from foods like brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, turnips, and berries
  • dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, and chard
  • eliminate conventional meat, all dairy, and caffeine – coffee in particular, which can wreak havoc on your blood sugar levels and therefore also on your hormones

lifestyle changes:

  • use castor oil packs on your breasts. In castor oil therapy, the castor oil soaks into the skin to stimulate blood circulation, and heals the tissue below the surface. Check out this post for more details on using castor oil therapy.
  • clean up your environment: Limit your exposure to xenoestrogens — substances not naturally found in nature that have hormonal effects on the body. These toxic substances are easily absorbed through the skin and build up in the body over time. Here’s what you need to avoid: non-organic meat and dairy from conventionally raised livestock, body care products containing chemicals like parabens and sulfates, car exhaust, plastics, non-organic fruits and vegetables, canned foods (contain bisphenol A, aka BPA), solvents and adhesives. For more details on how to avoid xenoestrogens, check out this post.

For more natural remedies for breast tenderness, check out this post.

supplements:

4. low libido

cause: low estrogen, low testosterone, low cortisol

foods to eat:

  • egg yolks
  • grass-fed butter/ghee
  • coconut oil

lifestyle changes:

  • acupuncture can address many libido-killing physical issues like vaginal dryness, low testosterone, chronic pain, as well as help support balancing hormones like estrogen and cortisol.
  • take matters into your own hands, if you know what I mean ;). You need to ask for what you want, but first you need to know what you want. Make time to research your sexuality and the underlying causes of your low libido. Once you know yourself better, ask for assistance or experimentation from your partner. No partner? No problem. Then take matters into your own hands more often.
  • give vibrators a pass—they’re actually limiting your pleasure. Vibrators cause your body to bypass the plateau phase of orgasm. The plateau phase is mega important for all sorts of reasons—the longer the plateau before climax, the more nitric oxide and oxytocin your body produces, which have healing benefits for the whole endocrine system. It also increases blood flow to the whole pelvic area, setting you up for MORE orgasms and a higher sex drive.
  • decrease stress using biofeedback, restorative yoga, long slow walks in nature, a hot bath, a massage, or whatever else brings you pleasure!

For more information on low libido, check out: Wondering Where Your Sex Drive Went?

supplements:

5. weight gain

cause: high or low cortisol, high or low estrogen, low thyroid, or high insulin

foods to eat:

  • eliminate all sugars, sweeteners, and caffeine, which throw your blood sugar and your hormones off balance
  • eliminate gluten
  • focus on choosing REAL, whole foods: organic vegetables, fruits, organic protein sources, high quality fats—nothing out of boxes, bags or packages
  • focus on nourishing your body rather than on dieting. Eat mindfully, and learn to distinguish physical food cravings from emotional food cravings. If you absolutely have to have some form of special “treat” food then have it. Enjoy it. Savor it. Offer gratitude and then let it go. Get right back on the wagon and keep moving forward.

lifestyle changes:

  • consistent, adequate, and unmedicated sleep is critical. Sleep in a dark and cool room, black out your room. No LED lights from alarm clocks, fire alarms, TV’s etc., no screens (including phones, television, e-readers, computers, etc.) for at least one hour before bedtime, dim the lights around you when the sun goes down.
  • exercise daily, preferably outside
  • finish eating at least 2 hours before going to bed. No alcohol or sugar after dinner.
  • aim for at least 8-10 hrs of sleep. You should wake up without an alarm, feeling refreshed.
  • blood sugar maintenance: make sure to have 20-30 grams of protein within 1 hour of waking; eat clean protein + healthy fats + TONS of vegetables at every meal; no grazing on food throughout the day—instead eat 2-3 solid, well balanced meals

supplements:

For more help with weight gain, read this post, and this post.

6. fatigue

cause: low thyroid, high or low cortisol, low estrogen, high insulin

foods to eat:

  • eliminate sugar and caffeine, which throw off your blood sugar, your cortisol (stress hormone) and therefore create chaos at the hormonal level, resulting in a yoyo effect on your energy levels (and drastically affects your hormones long-term!)
  • keep blood sugar levels steady by focusing on eating high quality protein + healthy fat + lots of veggies at every meal and snack. Space your meals no more than 4 hours apart.

lifestyle changes:

  • restorative sleep is a biggie for this one too. Sleep in a dark and cool room, black out your room. No LED lights from alarm clocks, fire alarms, TV’s etc., no screens (including phones, television, e-readers, computers, etc.) for at least one hour before bedtime, dim the lights around you when the sun goes down.
  • exercise daily, preferably outside
  • finish eating at least 2 hours before going to bed. No alcohol after dinner.
  • aim for at least 8-9 hrs of sleep. You should wake up without an alarm, feeling refreshed.

supplements:

  • Adrenotone
  • B Supreme
  • Femmenessence: 1 capsule in morning, 1 capsule in afternoon. Maca has consistently been shown to help with insomnia, depression, memory, concentration, and energy. Stop using when you’re pregnant.

7. poor sleep / insomnia

cause: low estrogen and/or progesterone, high or low cortisol, high thyroid

foods to eat:

  • eliminating sugar and caffeine is important here too, as even if you don’t realize it, your cup of sugary coffee at 6am could still be messing with your ability to sleep at midnight. You want to cut out anything that’s going to cause your blood sugar and energy levels to fluctuate so you can allow your body’s natural rhythms to stabilize.
  • eat high quality fats at every meal, and a small snack containing high quality fat before bed

lifestyle changes:

  • try having 2 tsp raw honey before bed, which can help encourage restful sleep
  • maintain your blood sugar by eating 20-30 grams of protein within 1 hour of waking, don’t skip meals, eat high quality fats with every meal and high quality protein consistently throughout the day.
  • optimize your quality of sleep by sleeping in a dark and cool room (68 degrees or less), and completely blacking out your room. No LED lights from alarm clocks, fire alarms, TV’s etc., no screens (including phones, television, e-readers, computers, etc.) for at least one hour before bedtime. Dim the lights around you when the sun goes down.
  • exercise daily, preferably outside
  • finish eating at least 2 hours before going to bed. No alcohol after dinner.
  • aim for at least 8-9 hrs of sleep, but if you have trouble settling down or wake in the middle of the night, do your best not to stress about the fact that you’re not sleeping, which makes your insomnia worse. The best thing you can do is lay quietly, try some deep breathing and/or meditation, which will still be restful for your body even if you aren’t able to fall asleep.

supplements:

  • Femmenessence: 1 capsule in morning, 1 capsule in afternoon. Maca has consistently been shown to help with insomnia, depression, memory, concentration, and energy. Stop using when you’re pregnant.
  • Ashwagandha
  • Magnesium: 2-3 capsules at bedtime

You’ll find more tips on how to get a good night’s sleep in this post.

8. hair loss and / or thinning hair

cause: low or high thyroid, high testosterone or high estrogen

foods to eat:

  • high quality protein at every meal, especially grass-fed beef, bone broth, nuts, and egg yolks
  • eliminate sugar completely (and all refined carbs): sugar increases serum insulin and IGF-1, both which raise androgens and cause excess androgen symptoms such as hair loss
  • increase omega 3s and decrease omega 6s: women with too much omega-6s compared with omega-3s have higher circulating androgens. Women with more omega-3s have lower androgens in the blood. To get more omega-3s in your diet, eat more wild caught fish and seafood, grass fed red meat, egg yolks, raw nuts/seeds/nut butters, and be sure to take your fish oil daily.

lifestyle changes:

  • reduce stress, which can cause hair follicles to stop producing
  • use a humidifier to help hydrate dry, damaged hair
  • be gentle to your hair: let your hair air dry, try a tea tree shampoo, wash your scalp/hair follicles to reduce follicle scarring (this can cause permanent hair loss), and avoid over-washing (aim for every other day, or once a day at most)

supplements:

9. foggy brain

cause: low thyroid hormones, low estrogen, low cortisol

foods to eat:

  • walnuts
  • egg yolks
  • wild caught fish and seafood
  • eliminate sugar and eliminate vegetable oils

lifestyle changes:

  • daily movement (especially cardio-based movement), to optimize sleep quality
  • blood sugar maintenance: 20-30 grams of protein within 1 hour of waking, don’t skip meals, eat tons quality fats with every meal, and high quality protein consistently throughout the day

supplements:

10. anxiety, depression, feeling “blah”

cause: low thyroid and high or low cortisol

foods to eat:

  • wild caught fish and seafood
  • egg yolks
  • eliminate sugar and caffeine

lifestyle changes:

  • blood sugar maintenance: 20-30 grams of protein within 1 hour of waking, don’t skip meals, eat tons quality fats with every meal, and high quality protein consistently throughout the day
  • sleep in a dark and cool room, black out your room. No LED lights from alarm clocks, fire alarms, TV’s etc., no screens (including phones, television, e-readers, computers, etc.) for at least one hour before bedtime, dim the lights around you when the sun goes down.
  • meditation, prayer, and connecting with your community
  • daily movement; incorporate high intensity interval training

supplements:

If you’re a new mama and experiencing anxiety or depression, check out this post.

in a nutshell

Even though different symptoms of hormone imbalance have different causes, there are some basic things you can do to help ALL imbalances.

It’s important to test your hormone levels to uncover the exact imbalance that may be happening which is at the root of the symptoms you’re experiencing.

Once you know exactly which hormones are imbalanced, you can target your diet and lifestyle to address those imbalances naturally.

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