THE HORMONE HIGHWAY – Listening to your Body By Dr. Quinn Hand, ND #wellbeingwednesday
When the word “hormones” is uttered, it often conjures images of raging menstruating or menopausal women. While this is a sad and negative association, it belies the incredibly powerful chemical messengers hormones are in the body. They control everything from reproductive function to mood to sleep and almost every other aspect of daily life.
For women, some of the most pronounced changes occur during the years leading up to menopause, during their forties and fifties. Yet, more and more women in their younger years are experiencing hormonal imbalances. These changes have much to do with our hectic lifestyle and poor nutrition, but also the pollution and toxins we are exposed to daily.
So, how do you know if you are on the highway to hormonal havoc versus hormonal harmony? Here are the top three symptoms of hormonal imbalance every woman should know how to interpret:
- Anxiety and/or Depression
Anxiety and depression can often be signs that we are not nourishing our bodies the way we need. This can lead to low levels of the hormone serotonin which powerfully influences mood and emotions, along with appetite. Commonly known as our happy, feel-good hormone, serotonin production requires plenty of sunlight, a healthy diet rich in protein, minerals and vitamins, and regular exercise and good sleep. When we measure our current lifestyle against all these elements, it is no wonder we have an epidemic of depleted serotonin.
Almost every day I see a patient who complains of fatigue. Cortisol is our main stress hormone secreted by the adrenal glands, which sit on top of our kidneys. When under chronic stress, our adrenal glands begin to crank out cortisol to help us remain energized. Eventually, however, our adrenal glands can become tired and less capable of pumping out the cortisol, leading to fatigue.
Another common cause for fatigue is low thyroid function—or hypothyroidism. Without enough thyroid hormone, every system in the body slows down. Those who suffer from hypothyroidism feel tired; tend to sleep a lot; have dry skin, hair loss and brittle nails; feel cold all the time; experience constipation; and typically have difficulty losing weight. To cap it all off, these two hormones play off each other—when cortisol levels are high, thyroid function can be inhibited.
- Persistent belly fat & weight gain
So many women experience a slow thickening of the middle, especially near menopause, despite strong efforts to shed the pounds. Unaddressed or emerging insulin resistance is often the main culprit. Insulin’s main function is to process sugar in the bloodstream and carry it into cells to be used as fuel or stored as fat. However, in the face of stress and nutrient-poor, carb-rich diets, we end up secreting higher and higher levels of insulin. Slowly our cells stop responding, with the exception of belly fat cells which continue to respond and grow. This slow loss of response to insulin can culminate in persistent weight gain and ultimately diabetes, if left unchecked.
I see so many women who suffer from these three symptoms of hormonal imbalance that go under-treated and often unrecognized. If you suffer from any one of these three symptoms, stop and listen to your body. It is telling you to take the detour off the hormonal havoc highway.
DR.QUINN HAND, ND, is a naturopathic doctor and natural health educator with clinical interest in women’s health, hormonal balance, fertility and sports medicine. qwellness.ca
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