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How to Know if You Have a Hormonal Imbalance

Navigating Symptoms, Tests, and Treatments for Hormonal Harmony

Wondering if you have a hormonal symptoms?

We are a naturopathic clinic with a focus in women’s hormonal and digestive health, and therefore we get lots of patients who book due to a “hormonal imbalance”. Sometimes after a thorough assessment we determine that in fact, there was another (non-hormonal) cause of their concern. In this article we’ll outline symptoms that do actually point to a hormonal imbalance, guide you on testing you can consider to confirm, and possible treatment options.

That being said, hormonal concerns are endemic in our female population. Hormonal symptoms shouldn’t be normalized or dismissed, but they should also not always be pathologized. The female body is SUPER complex, and doesn’t always thrive in our ever too common circumstance of low nutrient diets, high stress sedentary lifestyles and community isolation. Usually a woman doesn’t need to be patronized, nor diagnosed, they actually just need gentle (but consistent) nutritive and hormonal support, and their hormonal symptoms vanish.

To fully understand the root cause of a woman’s hormonal and overall health concerns, she needs to be properly assessed via clinical investigation including lab testing. We need to split the hairs of the possible underlying mechanisms that are contributing to her concerns. She needs a truly individualized investigation and treatment plan, and often the support of various health team members who work collaboratively.

Need help figuring out if you have hormonal issues?

Recognizing Genuine Hormonal Imbalance Symptoms

Physical Symptoms of Hormonal Imbalance

  • Irregular Menstrual Cycles:
    • Unpredictable menstruation patterns, such as missed or frequent periods.
    • Menstrual flow variations and changes in duration.
  • Unexplained Weight Changes:
    • Sudden weight gain or difficulty losing weight despite efforts.
    • Unintentional weight loss that is not attributed to diet or exercise.
  • Persistent Acne or Skin Issues:
    • Hormonal acne that flares up cyclically, especially around the jawline.
    • Skin dryness, oiliness, or changes in complexion not linked to skincare routines.
  • Changes in Hair and Nail Health:
    • Thinning hair or increased hair loss beyond normal shedding.
    • Brittle nails or changes in nail texture.
  • Breast tenderness and/or swelling
  • Change in body odor
  • Cyclically recurrent vaginitis (yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis)
  • Premenstrual headaches or migraines

Emotional Symptoms of Hormonal Imbalance

  • Mood Swings and Irritability:
    • Unexplained mood fluctuations, from heightened irritability to sudden sadness.
    • Feeling emotionally on edge without apparent external triggers.
  • Persistent Anxiety or Depression:
    • Unwarranted feelings of anxiety or depression that persist over time.
    • Emotional lows or persistent worry affecting daily life and well-being.
  • Sleep Disturbances:
    • Insomnia or difficulty staying asleep throughout the night.
    • Irregular sleep patterns affecting overall energy and mood.

 

By recognizing these physical and emotional symptoms, individuals can gain valuable insights into potential hormonal imbalances. But really, any symptom that has a cyclical pattern (occurring at the same time in a woman’s cycle) can potentially be of hormonal origin. However, sometimes the cyclical hormonal shift can just exacerbate an ever-present underlying symptom. The clinical expertise of a well-trained experienced naturopathic doctor is really valuable for determining how deep to go to determine the root cause.

Digging Deeper: Hormonal Testing Options

The  more data we get, the closer we can get to determining the root cause, and the more precise and effective the treatment plan. Though many hormonal concerns can be improved upon by using gentle interventions like herbs and dietary changes based on their symptoms, getting some proper lab numbers can really give us confidence in the treatment strategy.

  • Blood Tests
    • Hormone panel for estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, prolactin, DHEA, etc
    • Thyroid function tests
  • Saliva Testing
    • Cortisol levels throughout the day
    • Hormone levels for a more comprehensive picture
  • Urine Testing
    • Comprehensive hormonal metabolite analysis, such as the DUTCH test (estrone, estradiol, estriol, androgens including testosterone, androstenedione, DHT, cortisol, DHEA, melatonin, etc)

Understanding Non-Hormonal Causes

Imagine a sturdy sand castle built on the beach. It’s pretty good, no issues most of the time. But every time the tide comes in, havoc is wrecked! The walls soften and crumble, all integrity is lost, and it generally is not doing well. Between tides it’s fine, and with care, it even gets rebuilt. But the reality is that a castle made out of sand is really vulnerable to the change that comes with the tides. 

A little stone structure on the other hand is pretty resistant to the cyclical change that comes with the tide. It’s just made of more appropriate stuff to withstand the strains of that beach environment. This is the same as a women with “hormonal imbalance”. If she is already VERY healthy, has a great nutritive diet, does regular exercise, tries to keep her stress low, she may not have any cyclical symptoms that come with the monthly hormonal fluctuations that are healthy and normal. If however, she has a diet which may be considered “healthy” but that doesn’t actually fuel her as she needs in this stage in her life, or if her stress level is just not actually tolerable to her, or if she has blood sugar concerns, or gut health issues, then she will be particularly sensitive to the hormonal flux. It is not a hormonal problem, but her hormones do sure cause her problems. The first step here is to correct this underlying issue. The best news is that when we do this, the body is so resilient and intelligent that it takes care of the rest, and any “hormonal symptoms” clear up on their own.

  • Stress and Cortisol
  • Nutritional Deficiencies
  • Blood sugar irregularities
  • Gut Health
  • Lifestyle Factors

Treatment Options for Hormonal Imbalances

  • Dietary and Nutritional Guidance
  • Herbs and Supplements
  • Lifestyle Changes (stress management, sleep hygiene, exercise)
  • Bio-identical Hormone Therapy (if necessary)

 

Many women suffer with hormonal symptoms for years which are often played off by those around her as a personality flaw or character weakness, but the truth of the matter is that her body undergoes tremendous change every month, and without the proper support, it makes sense that she experiences some physical and emotional changes. She would have to be a robot not to. But if the body is nourished for the precise hormonal stage it is in, and corralled to be pushed when it’s able and cradled when it needs rest, and if we can use herbs, supplements and possibly bioidentical hormones to ferry her through complex phases, she can navigate the turbulent waters with grace and calm.

Sarah Goulding naturopathic doctor

Your Doctor: Meet Dr. Goulding

Dr. Goulding is a Naturopathic Doctor who has a special focus on digestion and hormone health. She completed her doctor or naturopathic medicine degree at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, and holds a Bachelor’s of science in neuroscience and biology from Dalhousie University

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