Image via thegrindstone.com
Our hormones are like little messengers in our body, communicating with one another and with our cells. When our hormones are well balanced, we should feel vibrant, with stable moods, minimal food cravings, glossy hair and clear skin, a healthy libido and a regular, pain-free cycle. But female hormones are quite delicate and susceptible to imbalance, which can leave us feeling somewhat crummy (to put it nicely). Here are five signs your hormones might need some lovin':
- Low, or no sex drive. Yes I'm going straight to the pertinent matters in life. If you would rather clean the toilet bowl than have sex with your significant other, then alarm bells should be firing. You might have low testosterone, which is responsible for getting you fired up for some between-the-sheets action or you could have high cortisol, which is your stress hormone. Both of these bad boys are produced by your adrenal glands, so employing stress-reduction techniques, such as deep belly breathing, yoga, meditation and acupuncture, could help bring back the spark
- Acne along the jaw-line or on the back aka "backne." Speaking of feeling sexy! If you have some of these not-so-flattering symptoms, your testosterone might be too high (see how we need to find a nice middle ground?). Try eating more protein-rich foods, avoid sugar (which increases insulin and cranks up testosterone), increase your intake of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids (hello oily fish) and get some exercise to improve insulin sensitivity and help with weight maintenance
- Irregular or no menstrual cycles. Your monthly lady holiday, or lack thereof, should be seen as the canary in the coalmine. If your cycles are irregular or worse still, absent (amenorrhea), take this as a strong indictor that your hormones (and general health) need support. Don't leave it too long, or your fertility, bone and heart health may suffer. There are a number of reasons for menstrual irregularities and amenorrhea, including elevated stress, excess exercise, eating poorly and/or not eating enough, low body fat, the contraceptive pill and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). If you have PCOS, follow the tips for decreasing testosterone, above. If you think the other factors might apply to you, try cutting down on intense exercise, especially cardio (yoga can be a game-changer here), adopt the stress reduction strategies mentioned above, eat well and eat enough and learn to love your boobs and booty!
- Belly fat, low immunity, sleep problems and blood sugar swings are all warning signs that you're burning the candle at both ends and your adrenal glands are running on empty. You have relied on cortisol, your main stress hormone, for too long and it is shutting up shop and leaving you high and dry. Get some spring back in your step by showing your adrenals some love -- cut out caffeine (sorry!) and sugar, manage your stress levels, sleep in a pitch black room for at least seven hours each night, exercise smarter, not harder, and consider a vitamin C supplement
- Constipation, low energy, weight gain and freezing hands and feet could indicate a sluggish thyroid. Your thyroid gland controls your metabolism and is your body's thermostat. Nourish your thyroid by minimizing stress (do you see a theme here?), eating foods rich in iodine (such as seaweed) and selenium (three Brazil nuts per day will do the trick), and including good quality carbohydrates in your diet (such as starchy veggies, fruit, quinoa and brown rice)
If nothing else, ensure you consume a healthy, balanced diet, minimize packaged and processed foods, keep stress levels under control, and be gentle with yourself.