Hormones affect women’s health in a variety of important ways. These chemical messengers can influence your mood, weight, cravings for food, reproductive health, and sexuality.
While some lucky women don’t struggle with hormonal issues, for others life can be a hormonal roller coaster. Problems with stress, anxiety, depression, PMS, and menopause often result from hormonal imbalances.
Luckily, when it comes to hormones, small lifestyle changes can make a huge difference in your health and well-being.
In this article, you’ll learn which hormones affect your health and how to take back your life by addressing different types of hormonal imbalances.
Why Are Hormones So Important?
Hormones are specialized chemical messengers that travel through your body’s bloodstream. They carry messages from the glands where they’re produced to organs and cells throughout your body.
Your body uses hormones to control your appetite, blood sugar levels, energy production, stress response, sleep cycles, sex drive, sexual function, and growth and development. In fact, virtually every bodily function involves hormones — from heart rate and blood pressure to emotional and mental health.
Collectively, the network of glands and hormones that produces hormones in your body is known as the endocrine system. Your endocrine system includes your hypothalamus, pituitary gland, thymus, adrenal glands, pancreas, thyroid gland, and ovaries.
Because the relationship between hormones is complex, a small hormonal imbalance can seriously impact your health. Hormones not only affect specific organ systems in your body — they also affect one another.
6 Hormones That Can Affect Your Health (And What to Do)
Insulin is your body’s primary energy storage hormone, produced by your pancreas. When you eat a meal, your insulin response determines your blood sugar levels and how your body uses (or stores) the energy from food.
When your body releases too much insulin, a phenomenon called insulin resistance can occur. Insulin resistance causes type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
Because insulin resistance creates inflammation in your body, it’s also linked to an elevated risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer (including breast cancer), and dementia.
As a result of its relationship with other hormones, insulin resistance is a root cause of other hormonal imbalances, including polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
Causes of Insulin Resistance
The top causes of insulin resistance are a sedentary lifestyle and poor diet. If you don’t get enough physical activity and eat processed foods and refined carbohydrates, you are more likely to be insulin resistant.
How to Solve Insulin Resistance
Most women can solve insulin resistance issues with regular exercise and an anti-inflammatory diet.
If you move daily and exercise weekly for just a few months, you can lower your fasting insulin levels, waist circumference, and body fat percentage.
Following an anti-inflammatory diet means avoiding grains and processed foods, sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and inflammatory refined oils like canola oil and soybean oil. Instead, focus on healthy whole foods with plenty of protein, healthy fats, fiber, and phytonutrients.
Cortisol is a hormone that helps your body respond to stress by providing a natural energy boost. Because cortisol levels spike during high-stress situations, this hormone is commonly called the “stress hormone.” However, cortisol also plays essential roles in your metabolism and sleep-wake cycles.
Your adrenal glands cortices, triangular glands located on top of each kidney, produce and release cortisol into your bloodstream.
If you have cortisol imbalances you may feel stressed out, burnt out, wired, or tired. Similar to insulin, cortisol imbalances can be at the root of other hormonal issues in your body.
Causes of Cortisol Imbalance
Chronic stress, poor stress management, and insufficient sleep can lead to excessively high or low levels of cortisol.
How to Solve Cortisol Imbalance
Exercise is another healthy way to balance your cortisol levels — but don’t train too hard. Low-intensity exercise can lower cortisol in your body, but strenuous exercise may make the problem worse.
Lastly, time outdoors is a time-tested way to lower stress. Expose your skin to sunlight and schedule walks to enjoy nature — you’ll reduce your cortisol levels and improve your health and well-being.
Leptin is an energy balance messenger known as the “master fat-burning hormone.”
Your fat cells produce leptin to raise your metabolism and enhance your ability to burn stored fat for fuel. It also regulates appetite, food intake, inflammation, insulin sensitivity, bone mass, and reproductive health.
Causes of Leptin Resistance
Leptin resistance appears to be caused by eating an inflammatory, Western-style diet high in processed carbohydrates, refined sugars, and trans fats.
Additionally, eating at night and uncontrolled snacking can cause leptin resistance.
How to Solve Leptin Resistance
To balance your leptin levels you can eat an anti-inflammatory diet, restrict eating to daytime hours and maintain a healthy body weight. Improving your sleep quality and duration may also help solve leptin resistance.
#4: Thyroid Hormone
Your thyroid gland, located at the front of your neck, produces thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). These thyroid hormones play an essential role in your body’s energy regulation.
Thyroid disorders occur when your body produces excessive or insufficient thyroid hormones.
Hyperthyroidism (high levels of thyroid hormones) causes anxiety, bulging eyes, elevated heart rate, palpitations, weight loss, and sleeping difficulty.
Hypothyroidism (low levels of thyroid hormones) can result in depression, cold sensitivity, slowed heart rate, fatigue, weight gain, and sensitivity to cold.
Thyroid disorders can also lead to vision problems, heart problems, and osteoporosis.
Causes of Thyroid Problems
Severe thyroid problems are typically caused by autoimmune issues, viral infection, tumors, and genetic disorders.
But chronic stress, nutritional imbalances, inflammation, and toxins found in plastics can also result in a thyroid hormone imbalance.
How to Solve Thyroid Problems
If you suspect you may have a thyroid disorder, speak to your endocrinologist or functional medicine practitioner. They may order blood tests, a thyroid scan, ultrasound, or a thyroid biopsy to diagnose you accurately.
Treatments for thyroid disorders include hormone replacement therapy and surgery.
If you have symptoms of thyroid imbalance, you may be able to solve your thyroid problems by managing stress, eating an anti-inflammatory diet, and avoiding plastic products containing bisphenol A (BPA) and related toxins.
Serotonin is a hormone and neurotransmitter produced by your brain, nervous system, and gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
As a hormone, serotonin also influences appetite, digestion, bone health, sexual function, and sleep-wake cycles.
Causes of Serotonin Imbalances
Dangerously high levels of serotonin, called serotonin syndrome, can result from the use of SSRI antidepressants or supplements like 5-HTP.
How to Solve Serotonin Imbalances
To fix your gut health consume prebiotics, probiotics, and traditional homemade fermented vegetables. Additionally, be sure to avoid antibiotics except when absolutely necessary. Correcting problems in your microbiome will also improve your digestion and reduce inflammation in your body.
Estrogen refers to the hormones estrone, estradiol, and estriol. This female sex hormone is produced primarily in your ovaries and plays a role in puberty, regulation of your menstrual cycle, and fertility.
An imbalance of estrogen can raise your risk of breast cancer, cause irregular menstrual cycles, worsen pre-menopausal syndrome (PMS) symptoms, and trigger symptoms during menopause like facial hair growth and hot flashes.
Common symptoms of estrogen imbalance include skin problems, mood changes, weight gain, fatigue, and low libido.
Causes of Estrogen Imbalance
Additionally, imbalances in other hormones like insulin or cortisol can lead to estrogen imbalance.
How to Solve Estrogen Imbalance
If you suspect you may be suffering from estrogen imbalance, you can correct it by quitting smoking, managing stress, eating an anti-inflammatory diet, and maintaining a healthy weight.
If you currently take oral contraceptives, you may also consider an alternative, non-hormonal form of birth control.
Additionally, research suggests that some supplements can improve your body’s estrogen balance. If you’re experiencing symptoms of estrogen imbalance, consider taking magnesium, B6, calcium, zinc, copper, red raspberry leaf, or Vitex Agnus-Castus.
The benefits of correcting an estrogen imbalance are greater fertility, improved mood, higher libido, enhanced cognition, and healthier bones.
Your hormonal status can affect your overall health in both positive and negative ways. Anxiety, stress, depression, your body weight, PMS, and even the severity of menopausal symptoms are all influenced by your hormone levels.
Although your endocrine system is complex, you can take steps today to improve your hormonal health. Regular exercise, a healthy anti-inflammatory diet, stress management, and sleep are the best methods for restoring hormonal balance naturally.
The benefits of improving your endocrine function include fewer cravings, lower blood sugar, more energy, reduced stress, higher libido, and greater fertility.
If you are suffering from severe hormone imbalance symptoms, speak to an endocrinologist or other trusted healthcare practitioner.