Hormone Havoc or Just Chronic Illness?

Most women, at some point in their lives, will experience issues due to changing hormones. For we Fibro Fighting gals, or for anyone struggling with chronic symptoms, those changes can topple the already precarious nature of our health like a jittery house of cards. When you’re already all too familiar with never feeling quite well, it can be tough to know if that pain and discomfort is coming from hormonal imbalance, or if it’s just the usual wacky symptom-of-the-day.

To find out, ask yourself these questions: Are you having symptoms, especially new or worsening ones, that include hot flashes and sweating, difficulty sleeping, inability to lose weight regardless of what you eat, irritability, skin rashes or acne, excessive hair loss (including lashes and brows), menstrual irregularities (heavier or lighter, shorter or longer cycle, more PMS type symptoms etc.)? Finally, are you between 35 and 55?

If you checked off a lot of yes answers above, imbalanced hormones are probably wreaking havoc. Here are some suggestions:

See a naturopathic physician or functional medicine doctor, preferably one who specializes in bioidentical hormone balancing.

These physicians are trained to look at your total health, not just one section of your body where you are having problems, to find the root cause of your issues. They can run tests and assess your situation and may recommend herbs or bioidentical hormones. I don’t believe in synthetic hormones typically prescribed by non-naturopathic MDs, as research links them to cancer. Bioidentical hormone therapy is a different ballgame, however, and when administered by an expert professional, can be quite helpful. These hormones mimic what is naturally in your body and are processed in a totally different way than a synthetic drug, which is not recognized in our body and often causes more issues than it solves.

**HOWEVER, there are those of us who should not supplement with any kind of estrogen, even bioidenticals, and you will only discover this with genetic testing and under the care of a true functional medicine hormone expert. It’s highly distressing how many health coaches and others in this space are promoting blanket estrogen to perimenopausal women without a full and careful assessment of their family and genetic history. That is a recipe for disaster. When it comes to hormones, proceed with caution.

Realize it may take a bit of time and testing to get to the root cause of your discomfort. If you have been unwell for a number of years, you most likely have a few systems that are not working optimally, and everything is inter-related. Your adrenal glands may be burnt out from constant stress, which will mean your cortisol levels are off. That in turn can affect a number of other systems; your thyroid, your estrogen levels, and many others. You may need to work on your digestive system or bolster your detoxification.

I worked for years on addressing severe adrenal burn-out only to find that despite extremely clean eating, I was not able to shed excess weight. Sure enough, I had a thyroid issue and once that was addressed, I easily got to a healthy goal weight and my headache and sleep issues improved tremendously. Until you find out where you need support in the body, you can’t hope to feel better. Test, don’t guess!

1. Redouble your efforts to eat clean and drink plenty of pure water.
Working with a health coach like myself to wade through the ever-changing landscape of what you should eat is crucial and goes a long way toward feeling better and relieving all the symptoms I listed above. Figuring out what foods work for you is a necessity to successful and lasting wellness.

2. Develop a daily relaxation routine.
This can be yoga, stretching to a DVD, meditation, a soothing bath, a calming hobby like knitting, or ideally, a combination of things. The mind/body connection is strong and the state of your mind and emotions will greatly affect your health and hormone balance, so take some time out for yourself each day. It’s not selfish, it’s critical to recover and maintain your good health.

3. Don’t forget to keep moving, to the best of your ability.
You don’t have to do strenuous bootcamps or marathons. Can you walk out your door for 10 minutes, then turn around and walk back? Then start there. If not, figure out what you can do and commit to improving each week. I started with walking 10 minutes on my treadmill at a snail’s pace. That was all I could handle when I was 70+ lbs overweight and so fatigued and wracked with pain that I could barely leave my bed. Over time I worked up to 45 minutes at a moderate pace with 5 or 6 burst training intervals where I run for 2 minutes. Do what works for you. Exercise helps your body work properly, including regulating your hormonal balance.

Do you have any personal experience with hormonal balance that you’d like to share or questions on this topic? Please share by leaving a comment below. We love to hear from you!

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