Something’s just not right. You’re eating more, sleeping less, feeling frazzled, and stress has become your default mode — even when life is A-OK. You just don’t feel at home in your body the way you used to.
Most of the women in my practice have similar complaints, and while the symptoms may vary, a common denominator exists: hormone imbalance.
Hormonal imbalance tends to show up as women age, but factors relating to our modern world — environmental pollution, chemicals in our food, synthetic estrogens in our beauty products — leave women of all ages vulnerable to hormonal chaos.
The tricky thing about hormonal imbalance is that it often sneaks around in the background, wreaking havoc on your health, before you even know it’s there. Worse yet, doctors may dismiss your symptoms or attribute them to something else entirely.
So how do you know if you have a hormonal imbalance? Without a few basic tests, you can’t be sure. But the following signs may be a fairly good indication that something isn’t right, and your hormones could use some help:
1. You’re wired — and tired.
Does it feel like you vacillate between periods of being high strung and completely exhausted?
I call this being “wired and tired,” and we have the stress hormone cortisol to blame for that. Chronic stress results in high cortisol levels, which then cause what I call the three F’s: fat, frazzled and frumpy. Fluctuating cortisol levels tax your adrenals and put you on a roller coaster ride of feeling wound up but exhausted at the same time. And when your adrenals have had enough? They quit. You feel lethargic, heavy, foggy and maybe even a little depressed.
2. Your libido has gone missing.
Did you know that about 70 percent of low libido is hormonal? So let’s stop the blaming and shaming here — for women, not wanting to get frisky is very often more than just a psychological problem.
In most cases, estrogen dominance or low estrogen can be blamed, but your thyroid health and cortisol levels can also play a role. Add to that high stress, burning the candle at both ends and poor sleep, and sex is probably the last thing on your mind.
3. You have crazy cravings.
Women may be hard-wired to need chocolate, but if you find yourself ravenous on a consistent basis, your hormones could be to blame. High cortisol or insulin, for instance, can cause those intense urges for sugar or wine, while adrenal dysregulation can lead to electrolyte imbalances that make you reach for salty snacks.
4. You can’t lose the weight.
Your hormones run the show when it comes to your metabolism. Stubborn excess weight that just won’t go away — no matter how many spin classes you’re doing — is often rooted in hormonal imbalance that causes fat storage, especially around the midsection. Many women I treat are stunned when they realize they don’t have to kill themselves exercising; it’s simply a matter of finding hormonal harmony and adopting the right lifestyle and dietary habits.
5. Your moods are like a roller coaster ride.
We’re taught from a young age that mood swings are just part of our monthly cycle. And while this is partially true, women with balanced hormones don’t experience the extreme highs and lows of PMS. And yes — you can even navigate the menopause years without going crazy! If your mood issues haven’t improved with drugs or therapy, it might be time to look at how your hormones are crashing the party.
3 Tips to Reverse the Damage (Naturally)
While I recommend partnering with a doctor and ordering some basic tests, you can also start balancing your hormones naturally right now. Here are three tips:
1. Snooze better.
There’s probably nothing that will help your hormones more than making quality sleep a priority. Bedtime should be a sacred ritual that calms and soothes you: Take a relaxing bath, turn off electronics at least two hours before you go to sleep and make sure your thermostat is set to about 65 degrees or cooler.
2. Go gluten-free.
Gluten intolerance is a very real problem that doesn’t just affect people with celiac disease. It’s been linked to estrogen imbalances, menstrual disorders and diminished ovarian reserve. I tell all of my patients to cut out or minimize gluten and opt for whole grains like brown rice or quinoa instead.
3. Stress less.
Stress is like pouring gasoline on an already roaring hormonal fire. It raises cortisol levels, taxes the adrenals and zaps you of energy, joy and a healthy libido. No more excuses — adopt a consistent practice of stress-busting activities: yoga, meditation, massage, walking in nature or whatever other activities mellow your mood.
And if you're interested in a straightforward, simple approach to balancing your hormones for good, check out Dr. Gottfried's full course, How To Balance Your Hormones For Glowing Skin, Deeper Sleep & Better Digestion.