Hormone imbalances and fluctuations can have a very powerful effect not only on how we feel, but on our lives in general. At times it can be very difficult to see that all the symptoms of hormone imbalances you’re experiencing are actually related, especially when they happen at different times. Research tells us that the average woman experiences at least 8-10 different symptoms of hormone imbalances during the perimenopause and menopause years. And, if not addressed, these symptoms can go on for years. This is why it’s very important to be able to connect the dots in order to understand that the underlying cause behind all of these difficult symptoms is often hormone imbalance.
Technically perimenopause shouldn’t begin for the majority of women until the late 40’s or about 8-10 years before menopause. However, we now see women presenting very definite symptoms of perimenopause in their 30’s. The constant exposure to hormone disrupting chemicals in our food, water and environment may be an important factor in experiencing early perimenopause symptoms.
Hormone Imbalances: The Main Culprits in Perimenopause & Menopause Symptoms
Your hormone levels go up and down throughout your life. Usually your body will make specific adjustments. However, sometimes during these ups and downs the changes may become too extreme or happen too quickly for your body to manage them efficiently.
When your body is unable to keep up wide-ranging symptoms, from fatigue and moodiness to vaginal dryness and joint discomfort, to low libido and fuzzy thinking can happen. In fact, you may wonder if you will ever feel “normal” again.
Hormone Imbalances & Fluctuations Happen in Many Types of Hormones
Many conventional practitioners check only the changes to progesterone and estrogen. What they fail to take into consideration is that your hormones behave more like a symphony than separate instruments. We know that specific fluctuations in estrogen, progesterone and testosterone can determine whether or not you develop symptoms. Even though looking at hormone levels individually should always be done, it’s more a question of balance and ratio.
But it’s not just your sex hormones that can affect how you feel: insulin levels, thyroid function and adrenal health are also connected with your sex hormones. In fact, your thyroid, your adrenals and your sex hormones are like a three-legged stool. If one leg is wobbly or unstable, the other two will be affected. This is the reason conventional thought about menopause is often too simplistic to be safe as well as effective.
Hormone Imbalances: 16 Most Frequent Symptoms of Perimenopause and Menopause
After helping hundreds of women with hormone imbalances, below are the 16 most frequent symptoms that I see pop up on our Women’s Health Questionnaire.
- Hot Flashes and Night Sweats: Hot flashes are the main culprit in sleep deprivation. They can strike once a day or seemingly every 5 minutes. Hot flashes can cause increased heart rate, extreme feeling of heat, sweating, dizziness, headache and even a feeling of claustrophobia. Night sweats disrupt restful sleep – the time when your body does the most healing and repair work.
- Irregular periods: Changes in your period are often the first sign that your sex hormones are beginning the season of perimenopause. For many women irregular periods are more of an inconvenience than anything. However, they can also give a false sense that one’s periods have stopped. The clinical definition of menopause is no periods for 12 consecutive months.
- Sleep Issues: Tossing and turning as you try to sleep or waking up regularly in the middle of the night is bothersome and can even lead to health concerns. And hormone imbalances, especially a progesterone deficiency, is often the culprit in perimenopause or menopause sleep deprivation. At this point it is wise to saliva test your sex and stress hormones as well as serum testing your thyroid.
- Weight Gain: Shifting hormone levels signal your body to store fat in the abdominal area, even if you’ve never before had a weight concern. Unfortunately this fat can be hard to lose even with diet and exercise.
- Fatigue/Loss of Energy: Sleep issues can definitely make you feel tired, but fatigue and loss of energy can happen even when you get adequate sleep. This can lead you to feel physically and emotionally exhausted.
- Forgetfulness or Fuzzy Thinking: One of the most frightful and also common symptoms for women experiencing hormone imbalance is a change in memory such as forgetfulness and/or fuzzy thinking. As one women told me: “I feel like I’m losing my mind because of memory issues.” Balanced hormones can help tremendously with those episodes of forgetfulness and fuzzy thinking.
- Hair Thinning or Hair Loss: It’s a recognized fact that hormone imbalances in estrogen and testosterone can produce thinning hair. Many women panic when they begin to see excess hair in their shower drains and some to the point of depression. Another culprit of causing your hai to thin is your thyroid.
- Vaginal Dryness, Itching & Pain: 50% of women in perimenopause and menopause experience concerns with vaginal dryness, itching and pain. If vaginal itching goes unchecked, an uncomfortable and painful infection can result. Vaginal dryness can also be painful and can cause an upsetting effect on one’s sex life.
- Low Sex Drive: A drop in progesterone levels or a deficiency of testosterone can cause a drop in a woman’s sex drive. This is one reason why it is always a good idea to keep tabs on your sex hormone levels through yearly saliva testing.
- Joint Discomfort: Joint pain or stiffness in the back, knees or hips is a surprising symptom that can be caused by unstable estrogen levels. Artificially elevated levels of estrogen like those found with synthetic hormone replacement therapy and oral contraceptives are strongly linked to joint pain. Research suggests that women who use synthetic estrogen are more likely to experience spinal pain. Synthetic estrogen has also been linked to arthritis. Endocrine disrupting chemicals which act as estrogen mimickers are also suspect in joint discomfort. Unfortunately most practitioners never make this connection in most women.
- Food Cravings: Food cravings can be due to your body’s surging needs for important micronutrients, or to the “crash cycle” pattern of fatigue-carbohydrates (sugar)-fatigue that occur with hormonal imbalances.
- Digestive Discomfort: Constipation, Flatulence, Diarrhea: For many women, humiliating flatulence, diarrhea, and even concerns with constipation increase during perimenopause and menopause.
- Depression-Anxiety-Sadness: Hormone imbalance can increase your stress levels that affect mood and emotional health. An imbalance in cortisol, your stress hormone, can directly affect the production and balance of other hormones.
- Irritability and Moodiness: To the dismay of family and friends, outbursts of anger and emotional swings are some of the first signals that you might be in the beginning of perimenopause. Many women comment that they become moody for no reason and the smallest things begin to irritate them.
- PMS-like Symptoms: Even though stronger cramps, heavier periods, bloating, breast tenderness, increased headaches or mood swings may cause you to think your PMS symptoms are getting worse, these symptoms also mark the beginning signs of perimenopause.
- Feelings of being Overwhelmed: The feeling of being overwhelmed ranks high on the list of common hormone imbalance complaints. Perimenopause and menopause can multiply existing stress levels, causing your body and mind to feel overwhelmed even with the easiest task or life situation. Feeling exhausted usually adds to this mix.
Naturally Reduce Your Symptoms of Hormone Imbalances
Symptoms of hormone imbalances are your body’s way of asking for help. By being aware and listening to your body as well as working with a knowledgeable practitioner, you’ll be able to target the support your body needs to naturally heal and repair your hormones. Effective natural options can include the use of high-quality vitamins and minerals, human identical hormones, herbs, digestive tract and liver cleansing as well as diet and lifestyle adjustments. All of these can help you find relief by working on the root cause of your hormone imbalances and providing your body the natural support that it needs.