Feeling more emotional or irritable than usual? Or perhaps you’re having unexplainable cravings and breakouts? Shifts in your hormones could be to blame, making you feel not yourself.
There are over 50 hormones in our body and when one of them goes out of track, your body goes out of whack.
“Regardless of our age, the balance of hormones at any given time is key to our health. When our hormones are not in balance—meaning any single hormone is in excess or insufficient amounts, our health can suffer,” US-based Dr William Li, physician, scientist, and author of New York Times bestselling book Eat To Beat Disease, tells Vogue Singapore.
Studies show that 80 per cent of women will experience a hormonal imbalance in their lifetime. Shockingly, some women live with these imbalances without even realising it.
“Many factors can cause a hormonal imbalance, and often, there are tell-tale signs and symptoms that people can see and feel which signal hormonal imbalances,” Dr Li adds.
Vogue Singapore asks hormone experts how to identify tell-tale signs and symptoms that signal hormonal imbalances, including lifestyle habits to adopt to improve hormonal health.
What does hormonal imbalance mean and how will one know they have a hormonal imbalance?
Hormones, also referred to as the body’s chemical messengers are chemical signals in the body that influence how we grow, feel, look, and function.
“However, as we age, hormones deplete and lead to a hormone imbalance. This can impact significantly on wellbeing and ageing,” Dr Rachel Jones, consultant psychiatrist and bioidentical hormone replacement therapy expert practising at UK-based The Hormone Clinic, explains.
Dr Ben Ng, Singapore-based endocrinologist and endocrine specialist adds: “An imbalance in hormones simply means that there is an over or under production of one or more of these hormones. As a result, coordination of the body function is impaired, resulting in a variety of symptoms including abnormalities in weight, energy levels and sleep. In more serious conditions, blood pressure and blood sugars can be affected leading to more serious conditions such as diabetes and hypertension.”
Hormonal imbalance: Signs and symptoms
- Unusual fatigue
- Weight gain or weight loss
- Puffiness of the face
- Unusual body hair growth
- Skin pigment changes
- Frequent urination
- Decreased sex drive
- Low mood, anxiety, and irritability
- Brain fog or poor memory
- Night sweats and hot flushes
- Hair loss, dry hair, and skin
- Rapid ageing
What are the unexpected signs of hormonal imbalance and how does hormonal imbalance affect one’s physical and mental health?
According to Dr Li, fatigue is a general symptom that most people don’t suspect can be caused by hormonal imbalance. In fact, it can be detrimental to one’s overall health if no action is taken.
“Severe fatigue can interfere with your work, your ability to participate in social functions with friends and family and make you irritable and depressed. It makes it harder to be physically active or exercise, which then increases your fatigue setting a downward spiral into motion” he says.
Based on Dr Ng’s experience, he found that the majority of his patients struggle with the long-term mental and physical effects. “Most of them have been struggling with weight, low energy levels and occasionally chronic pain for many months being undiagnosed. This has a long-standing impact on mental health as many have put it down to them as simply ageing and some are even depressed as they think that there is no solution to the problems.”
Is there any test one can take to have their hormones checked?
Unfortunately, there is no single test that can check for hormone imbalance. However, your doctor can examine you after conducting a detailed interview and decide which tests will most likely help to narrow down the hormonal problem.
“There are many tests that can be performed to check your hormonal and metabolic rate. These include blood and urine tests and more complex analysis such as body composition and indirect calorimetry,” says Dr Ng.
Alternatively, your doctor may recommend Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy.
“This treatment involves taking hormones identical in structure to hormones produced in the human body to replenish levels which have fallen in the body. It is used to correct hormone imbalances and is very effective at enhancing quality of life, slowing ageing, and improving wellbeing,” Dr Jones explains.
5 expert-backed nutritional diet and lifestyle habits to adopt to improve hormonal health
There are so many causes of hormonal imbalance and, as a result, there are ways to prevent it. It would be impossible to compile a simple list. However, here are some practical actions that can help everyone keep their hormones in balance as advised by Dr Li and Dr Jones.
“Minimise stress and include mindful practices, such as spending time in nature, yoga and meditation.”
Journaling has also been recommended for years as a way to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, triggered by excess production of a hormone called cortisol.
Consume a nutrient-dense diet
“Keeping your body’s health defence systems in good shape is key to protecting your glands and keeping your hormones in balance. The secret: making sure you are keeping whole plant-based foods and enough dietary fibre every single day, and not overeating.
Opt for fresh unprocessed food, high protein, low carbohydrate diet with good fats such as avocados, nuts, seeds, extra virgin olive oil and oily fish.”
Stay physically active
“Burn excess calories and body fat. Together with eating moderately, exercise will help you lose weight, which protects your hormonal balance.”
Avoid excess alcohol
“Too much alcohol depresses your health and can upset your hormonal balance.”
Don’t skip on your beauty sleep
“Adopt a healthy bedtime routine that allows you to have at least 7 to 8 hours of good quality sleep.”