Feeling 'hormonal' is not a new idea for many of us. But as the dust settles after a PMS-fuelled rant and you're digging into some chocolate (massive stereotype, we know - but you get the picture) have you ever found yourself wondering why you feel like a crazy, bloated mess for a week every month?
The answer is hormones. Specifically, hormone imbalances.
Hormone imbalances can show up in a plethora of ways. In surveys we've conducted in the past we've posed the question 'do you have symptoms of hormone imbalance?', with the majority of women responding 'no'. However, when we ask whether they experience mood swings or irritability, trouble gaining or shifting weight, low energy or fatigue, cramping or pain, heavy bleeding or acne, a sea of 'yes' responses flood back in. FYI ladies, these are all signs of hormone imbalances.
Many of us don't really know what to look out for when it comes to tell tale signs of hormone health, as we don’t really understand what our hormones do, and that they are associated with these common monthly experiences.
If you take the time to understand your hormones and your body, you’ll gain more clarity into what’s really going on for you, and how to best look after yourself based on this.
Hormone imbalances explained
Hormones are an incredible network of chemicals that are highly influential in how we experience life and how we feel day to day. No hormones are 'good' or 'bad'; they are all essential for normal functioning.
However, when the levels of our hormones are higher or lower than optimal, we may find that we don't feel our best, and it's hard to explain how or why.
This is what we call a hormone imbalance.
For both men and women, hormone imbalances can lead to ongoing issues with sexual health, and can make us feel pretty crappy to boot. We probably don't need to tell you that it’s no fun being out of balance. Think this could be you? Read on to learn about the 5 most common signs hormonal imbalance.
#1 - Weight Gain
As women, we've been taught to value weighing less and having a smaller dress size above many other meaningful qualities. Therefore, weight management is often at the forefront of our minds. However, when it comes to weight, things aren’t exactly all that we’ve been led to believe – calories in and calories out is not the clear cut answer.
Insulin is the primary hormone associated with weight. However, our key sex hormones also play a huge role. Oestrogen, progesterone, DHEA and testosterone (the hormones that we test for here at ), have all been linked to weight management in one way or another, and if your levels of any of these become unbalanced, we can experience frustrations around weight management.
Keep an eye out for the following signs:
- Excess stubborn weight around your hips and thighs - oestrogen is known as the “feminiser” hormone as it gives us our gorgeous feminine curves. However, in more generous doses it can lead to an increase in body fat being stored around these areas. Carrying weight in these areas could also be a result of a liver working overtime, as the liver plays a vital role in clearing the body of excess hormones.
- Weight gain around the middle - again, an overloaded liver may be able to answer for this. After use, our hormones are processed out of our bodies through our livers. Spare weight here may be a sign that your liver is not effectively clearing excess hormones from your system, leading to unbalanced hormone levels (oestrogen is usually the culprit here too).
- If you have PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) and have difficulties losing body fat - research shows that this is commonly associated with high levels of androgens (testosterone) and is coupled with insulin resistance.
#2 - Low Energy & Fatigue
This one can be tricky to recognise as, let's face it, life is intense!
But if you wake up from a good sleep and still feel tired, or don't feel like your energy levels are what they used to be, it might not just be the daily grind getting the best of you. Your hormones could be part of the picture.
Hormones are vital when it comes to energy as they essentially tell your cells what to do and how to use energy.
Keep an eye out for the following signs:
- Feeling burnt out or experiencing a slump in energy in the afternoon (also known as the “3pm slump”).
- Finding it hard to get out of bed in the morning or a lack of appetite after waking up.
- Heavy bleeding during your period - losing a lot of blood leads to a loss of oxygen-carrying red blood cells, and that feeling of fatigue that some of us feel every month.
#3 - Menstrual Issues
Your menstrual cycle is reigned by your royal hormone family. The balance, or imbalance, of these hormones can make all the difference to the duration and frequency of your cycle, the intensity of your flow (i.e. light or heavy), your moods, and PMS symptoms.
When your hormone levels are where they should be, your period will come regularly every 26-35 days with no discomfort, a nice consistent and manageable flow, your moods will be even, and you'll have no unusual sugar cravings. Seriously, this is possible! You'll still probably feel more introspective and drawn to nesting and snuggling during this time, which is natural, but there should be no untoward symptoms.
Other things to keep an eye out for include:
- No menstruation (known as amenorrhea) - this can be associated with low oestrogen or high androgen levels.
- PMS or PMS-like symptoms - this may be due to lower progesterone levels, or higher oestrogen levels.
- Painful or heavy periods - higher oestrogen levels may be behind this, and there are ways you can naturally support more comfortable periods.
- Menstrual migraines - if you notice you get headaches or migraines before, during or just after your period, these may be hormonally driven. There are a few hormone imbalances that may be causing these: higher or lower oestrogen levels, or lower progesterone.
#4 - Mood Swings
Anyone else feel like they can take on the world around the middle of your cycle, and a week later, in the countdown to your period, feel like everything is too much and you must hide under a pillow? That's hormones.
There is a strong relationship between our sex hormones, oestrogen and progesterone, and levels of serotonin, GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid) and dopamine.
Serotonin, GABA and dopamine are neurotransmitters that send chemical messages all over the body, and primarily to the brain, telling us how we should feel.
Our hormones impact our neurotransmitter levels, therefore if your hormones levels aren't as balanced as you might like them to be, your neurotransmitter levels will have a flow-on effect on your mood.
Keep an eye out for the following signs in the lead up to, during or even just after your period:
- Mood swings or irregularity in how you feel day-to-day, particularly
- Feeling irritable - small things might annoy you more than they usually do
- Feeling increasingly stressed and overwhelmed - this could present as brain-fog
- Feeling anxious all the time or suffering from depression
#5 - Acne & Skin Issues
Let's face it, looking in the mirror to be stared down by a massive red zit makes no one feel great about themselves. When acne gets painful it can also be hugely draining and can effect our self-esteem and value.
What shows up on our skin is almost always an expression of what's going on inside us, and hormones are often part of the picture. So, when it comes to skin health, we like to take an 'inside out' approach. I.e. figure out what's going on inside before you drop $$$ on an expensive cleanser that claims to solve all your skin problems and doesn't do a thing.
To see whether it might be hormonal, keep an eye out for the following signs:
- Acne along the jawline and chin - this could be due to excess levels of androgens like testosterone, or low levels or oestrogen and progesterone in relation to your testosterone levels.
- Oily skin and hair - again, high levels of androgens (or low levels of oestrogen and progesterone in relation to testosterone) in the top layer of skin are linked to excess sebum production in your skin glands, and spots.
- Higher stress levels - this can make skin glands more susceptible to those excess androgens.
Furthermore, acne can often appear around your period. So having a nicely balanced hormonal cycle can work wonders towards supporting your skin health.
Check out our blog on hormonal acne to learn more.
Feeling unsure about your hormone balance?
Health can be daunting. There's so much conflicting information out there and it's hard to know what's right for you.
But taking steps to understand what’s going on inside your body will give you more confidence and clarity.
We've put together a free Hormone Questionnaire. This questionnaire is your 'step one' when it comes to gaining clarity into your body and your hormones. It is designed to give you an idea of where your hormone balance may be, and what role each of your sex hormones is playing in your body.
It's also a great way to see whether an Eve test might be right for you.
Testing is a really effective way of getting that insight into your unique body. Holding this knowledge, you are better informed and can seek the advice you need or make the necessary diet, lifestyle and nutritional changes to support normal balance.
It’s also a great way of tracking any changes that you make and how effective they are. Retesting periodically provides an insight into the changing nature of your hormonal cascade and can provide a snapshot of how your body changes over time.
Even before you start testing, there’s a few things you can do right now to get your hormone journey started:
- Ensure you’re getting a solid 8 hours of sleep each night. Sleep is vital to basically everything when it comes to health.
- Eat fresh and nutrient-rich foods, and ensure you're getting a serving of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, watercress, bok choy or brussels sprouts in everyday. Hormones love these veggies.
- Practice deep belly breathing (diaphragmatic breathing) - take a deep breath into your belly (not your chest), pushing your lower belly out as your inhale, and exhale slowly. Repeat 8-10 times and make time to practice this at least once a day. This helps lower your stress hormones, and encourage happy hormone production.
Looking for more information? Head over to our FAQs page where you can find out about Eve, what the Eve Hormone Balance Test measures, when the best time to test your hormones is, and more.