5 Most Common Female Hormone Imbalances
Updated: Aug 18, 2018
Hormones (chemical messengers) effect many aspects of our overall health. A slight imbalance can cause widespread, major health problems. Conventional or synthetic treatments simply mask symptoms, but don't make them better. The main causes of hormonal imbalances of women are diet, life style and environment: Chronic stress depletes adrenal function resulting in low levels of progesterone and other major hormones.
Low Progesterone can mean a couple of things, it can mean overall low production of this. Additionally, a person's progesterone can be normal, but still considered low (relative to estrogen) if their estrogen levels are through the roof. Progesterone is considered normal or low compared to how much estrogen a person has. The ratio of progesterone to estrogen is what matters. When this ratio is off it's often lower progesterone resulting in estrogen dominance.
This hormone imbalance is commonly due to stress. When the body produces too much cortisol. What occurs here is that cortisol steals the show at the expense of progesterone production. Please see my post on cortisol here. When this happens it is called pregnenolone steal, this means that instead of progesterone being made, more cortisol (stress hormone) is produced. To make matters worse, cortisol and actually block receptors in the body making these receptors less responsive to progesterone. Think of a lock and key analogy. Basically, the receptor (lock) gets jammed with cortisol, so that progesterone (key) can't get in and open the lock.
Another cause of low progesterone are xenoestrogens these are man made chemicals commonly found in cleaning supplies and body care products (soaps, lotions, and make up). These chemicals mimic estrogen in the body causing estrogen dominance and lower progesterone in the body. Plastics, pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides also contain these toxic chemicals. Hormonal birth control also lowers progesterone.
Symptoms of Low Progesterone
Difficulty getting or staying pregnant
Breakthrough bleeding during second half of menstrual cycle
PMS or PMDD
Heavy menstrual flow
Irregular or more more frequent menstrual cycles
Bloating in the abdomen
Swollen or painful breasts
High Estrogen (Estrogen Dominance)-the flip side of low progesterone. Estrogen dominance is caused by high cortisol, low progesterone, xenoestrogens, excess body fat, and excessive consumption of alcohol.
Symptoms of High Estrogen
Breast tenderness or cysts
Moodiness and frequent meltdowns
Depression or weepiness
Mid-cycle or ovulatory pain
Low sex drive
Dry skin and eyes
Excess androgens in women are commonly caused by high insulin, hormonal birth control (containing progestin), high cortisol, excess body fat, PCOS, and genetics. Androgen excess can cause unstable blood sugar, infrequent ovulation, menstrual cycles lasting longer than 35 days, ovarian cysts, mid-cycle pain, acne or oily skin, hair growth on the face, hair loss on the head, and PCOS.
The final common hormone imbalance is low androgens. Androgens are associated with the many facets of youth including: high sex-drive, shiny hair, supple skin, even the way we present ourselves (confidence). Women with lower androgen levels often exhibit decreased confidence. Low androgens can be caused by: birth control pill and/or dysfunction in adrenal glands or ovaries. Nearly all of women's adrogenic hormones are produced in the adrenals and the ovaries, so it's critical to keep these glands healthy and working optimally.
Low sex drive
Less powerful orgasm
Decreased muscle mass
Lack of motivation
Hormones and hormone imbalances don't exist in a vacuum. With such a complex and delicate system of glands and hormones working together, when one hormone is off, it's very certain that there is at least another imbalance as well. Common combinations of hormone imbalances include: high estrogen & low progesterone, high cortisol & low progesterone. Hormonal imbalances affect many millions of people worldwide, in the forms of common disorders. The good news is there are many natural treatments including eating anti-inflammatory diet, consuming enough omega-3's, getting good sleep, exercising, and controlling stress. This is where health coaches come in. Any of these health goals are attainable. Walking through the process together can make it easier, faster, and a lot more fun.