Common reasons of hormonal imbalance in women
From excessive stress to poor gut health, here are some surprising causes of hormone imbalance in women.
Hormones are chemicals produced by glands in the endocrine system and play an important role in the human body and regulate many functions. Hormonal imbalance may happen when the body makes too much or too little of a hormone. Hormonal conditions can affect both men and women. Women may also have oestrogen and progesterone imbalances, while men may have imbalances related to testosterone and other male hormones. A majority of women suffer from hormonal imbalances although not all imbalances result in serious symptoms. (Also read: Top lifestyle mistakes that lead to hormonal imbalance)
What are hormones and why is there hormonal imbalance?
Hormones are the very important chemical messengers in our body which coordinate the functioning of various organs in our body. Everything from one’s sleep patterns, weight gain, weight loss, anxiety, energy levels, sex drive, regularity in the periods is controlled by hormones.
"Hormones are produced in various endocrine glands like thyroid gland, pancreas, pituitary gland in the brain, ovaries, testes and adrenals just above our kidneys. The reproductive system is controlled by five hormones - oestrogen, progesterone, testosterone, follicle stimulating hormone and luteinising hormone. The hypothalamus in the brain is the master controller of all these hormones. There is a definite rhythm and timings of the presence of these hormones in the body. Even minor fluctuations of the quantity of these hormones can cause the system to go out of control," says Dr Vaishali Chaudhary, Senior Fertility Specialist, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, Pune
Common symptoms of hormonal imbalance
Symptoms of hormonal imbalance include anxiety, difficulty in losing weight, headaches and migraines, insomnia, skin and hair changes, low sex drive, muscle weakness, joint pains, puffiness of face, digestive issues among others.
Causes of hormonal imbalance in women
Women tend to experience hormonal imbalance during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, peri-menopause, menopause, and post-menopause. Certain lifestyle triggers can also cause hormonal imbalance in women like stress, obesity and digestive health. Dr Chaudhary opens up on common causes of hormonal imbalance in women.
Stress is an unavoidable response of our body to difficult situations. Everybody has to go through stress, but if the stressor situation remains for a long time then it can result in anxiety, weight gain, insomnia, chronic body aches and loss of confidence. Under stress, the brain releases CRF, a hormone, into the bloodstream. Through blood vessels, CRF travels to the pituitary gland. Here CRF causes the release of ACTH, another hormone. ACTH travels to the adrenal glands and triggers the release of still more hormones, the most important of which is cortisol. Cortisol helps you cope with stress. If stress is mild, cortisol prevents further release of CRF and ACTH. If stress is intense, the cycle continues. Cortisol or the stress hormone can lead to weight gain
2. Gut health
There is a definite connection between unhealthy gut and imbalances in the hormones. The 'gut' actually consists of the entire digestive tract from your mouth to your colon, containing some 10-100 trillion symbiotic microbial cells. These microbes are referred to as the gut microbiome. These good bacteria play a huge role in maintaining good oestrogen regulation. Poor oestrogen regulation can lead to diseases like PCOS and breast cancer. When the gut is imbalanced, body may struggle to absorb nutrients, store fat, and regulate blood sugar. An imbalance of the gut microbiota might cause a trigger to develop some immunological diseases like psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis. The symptoms of poor gut health can be gas, bloating, migraines, insomnia and weight gain.
Excesses or deficits of hormones can lead to obesity and on the other hand, obesity can lead to changes in hormones. The hormones leptin and insulin, sex hormones and growth hormone influence our appetite, metabolism (the rate at which our body burns kilojoules for energy), and body fat distribution. In obese individuals, insulin signals are erratic, and tissues fail to control glucose levels. This can lead to the development of type II diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
How hormonal imbalance affects women’s reproductive system
"A persistent rise in oestrogen hormone and a decrease in progesterone can lead to PCOS, delayed menstrual cycle, weight gain, acne, infertility and depression. Another hormone which is important to be tested in women trying to conceive is the anti mullerian hormone, AMH. This hormone gives a fair idea about the fertility potential of a woman. A low AMH means reduced chances of conception due to less availability of eggs in a woman. Very often the menstrual cycles become shorter, and women might notice reduced flow. Such symptoms warrant an investigation to rule out low AMH which can lead to early menopause. Talking to a fertility specialist can guide the woman about the right choice of treatment options," says Dr Chaudhary.
- Improve gut health: Include probiotics like yogurt, buttermilk, kanji, kimchi, idli, dosa, paneer, soya milk in your diet.
- Drink 2 litres of water every day.
- Stay away from processed food and sugar.
- Prefer plant-based food and diet rich in fibre.
- Exercise daily: A daily routine of exercise can improve bowel movements and help remove toxins. This helps in maintaining the correct weight and basal metabolic rate.
- Refrain from alcohol and quit smoking.
- Sufficient sleep ensures good working of hormones.
- Practice mindful meditation to prevent stress.
- Take antibiotics only when absolutely needed. Antibiotics can throw your gut flora out of balance. Get involved in creative activities and step out in the sunshine.