Causes of Hormone Imbalances
Environmental Causes of Hormone Imbalances
1. Gut ImbalancesYou have a host of bacteria in your gut, including estrobolome, which refers to several different microbe strains with one very important role. They work to help your body metabolise estrogen. When these bacteria levels are low, it can negatively impact how well they're able to metabolise it, or whether they are able to metabolise it at all. In turn, you can end up with an excess of estrogen. This can cause issues like constipation, diarrhea, fatigue, nausea and inflammation.
2. DietWhat you eat plays a large role in your overall health. Many foods contain an abundance of endocrine disputing chemicals (EDCs). These EDCs are also common in herbicides and pesticides that are commonly used in commercial crop growing operations. They can disrupt your natural hormone signalling process, causing hormones like estrogen and progesterone to either overproduce or drop their production rates.
3. StressStress creates a direct response in your central nervous system, particularly in terms of the hormones cortisol and adrenaline. If you're constantly experiencing a high level of stress, it prompts your body to release a steady stream of these hormones, leading to an overload. Chronic stress can actually change the way your body is able to handle these hormones. It can desensitise you to them. When this happens, your body can create more as a response, and this can lead to a more severe imbalance.
4. XenoestrogensXenoestrogens are chemicals that can mimic the natural estrogen in your body. Xeno translates as "foreign", referring to the fact that these compounds come from a foreign source, often a man-made chemical. Two common examples are phthalates and parabens. You will find these in certain shampoos, deodorants and lotions. Many household cleaners contain Triclosan, another xenoestrogen, and this is especially prominent in household cleaners that claim to be antibacterial or antimicrobial.
Natural Causes of Hormone ImbalancesNow that you know the biggest environmental causes of hormone imbalances, we'll take about the biggest natural causes. They are:
PerimenopausePerimenopause is the very beginning of menopause. It can happen several years before the actual menopause onset. During this time, your body's natural levels of estrogen production drop. It also impacts your body's natural levels of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). As these hormones drop, it starts to cause imbalances. This is when you experience hot flashes, night sweats, heavy periods, mood changes and vaginal dryness. It can last up to eight years before active menopause starts.
MenopauseMenopause, by definition, occurs when you go through 12 cycles without having your period. The rate in which your ovaries produce hormones slows down. You stop releasing eggs (5). Your hormones will go through a regulation process once you complete the menopause period. Many people choose to use natural supplements to help regulate their new hormone levels at a quicker pace. Once they regulate, you'll be free of the common symptoms that come with perimenopause and menopause.
Post MenopauseThe final stage of menopause is post menopause. This stage refers to the years after menopause, and can continue for as many as 8 to 10 years following the menopause phase. During this time, your estrogen and progesterone levels continue to drop until they reach a plateau and level out. When these hormones drop, you develop a higher risk of heart disease or osteoarthritis (7). Many women choose to use some type of hormone therapy to combat this, including taking the incorporation of herbs in their diet.
The Top Seven Hormone Balancing Herbs
1. Maca RootFirst up is Maca Root, although you may know it by the name Peruvian Ginseng. For centuries, the indigenous people of the Andes have utilised this root to help with a variety of common health issues. The most common issues included hot flashes, infertility, night sweats, sleep disruptions and sexual dysfunction. It's also an effective aphrodisiac. Researchers performed a double-blind study involving 20 female outpatients who reported discomfort with their early-post menopausal symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats. Researchers split the women into groups and took blood tests to measure their levels of progesterone and estrogen before the trial and at the end. Group A got a placebo and group B got 500mg of Maca Root in capsule form twice a day. At the end of the study, blood tests and reported findings by the volunteers found that group B had significantly better regulated hormone levels. They reported fewer hot flashes, night sweats and discomfort compared to group A.
Chasteberry is native to central Asia, and comes from the Chaste tree. It has a long history of use for helping with menopausal symptoms, and impacts the hormones that relate to menstruation, pregnancy, and breastfeeding. There isn't a lot of hard research surrounding this supplement as its use in this capacity is relatively recent. However, there are promising results from trials so far. The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and the University in Australia analysed 12 controlled and randomised trials involving Chasteberry's effectiveness. Eight focused on premenstrual syndrome, two focused on hyperprolactinaemia and two focused on premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Seven out of the first eight trials found that Chasteberry worked better than the placebo.
3.BerberineBerberine has a long history of medicinal use in ancient Chinese and Indian medicine. This medicine is a natural alkaloid that you can find in a large variety of herbs. It's in the plant's roots, stem, bark and rhizomes. Recently, it's been on the rise as a popular supplement to help balance hormone levels. It travels to your cells and binds several molecules to change how they function. A pilot study set out to evaluate how Berberine impacted the menstrual patterns and hormonal profiles of 102 women. The study's organisers gave every women 0.4 grams of Berberine three times a day for four months. At the end of the trial, 98 participants had completed the full course. They found that 14 participants regained their normal menstrual patterns. They also found that the levels of total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, total triglyceride and sex hormone binding globulin decreased. In turn, participants experienced a higher sex drive and more balanced hormones.
4. Rosemary ExtractRosemary is a popular natural remedy for muscle aches, and it's a part of the fragrant mint family. It has a long history dating back to ancient Egypt as a plant to help memory and for remembrance of deceased family. It's prized for the natural salicylic acid content, which helped it become the forerunner to modern aspirin. Today, it has a broad range of uses both internal and external and a myriad of health benefits associated with it. Rosemary can be an incredibly helpful detoxing agent for your liver. It helps to flush the excess estrogen, testosterone and other hormones out by stimulating the pathways in the organ. One study involving mice fed them 5% rosemary extract for two weeks against a control group. At the end of the trial, the mice who got the rosemary extract showed much lower levels of estrogen and other hormones than the control group.
5. Rhodiola Rosea
You'll find Rhodiola Rosea growing wild in the colder mountainous regions of Asia and Europe. It comes packed with over 140 active ingredients, and it helps your body adapt to stress (8). People in Scandinavia and Russia have used this herb for centuries to treat depression, anxiety and fatigue. It has positive impacts on hormonal and oxidative stress biomarkers, and this can lead to more balanced hormone levels and reduced inflammation.
Ayurveda is an ancient form of natural healing that largely centres on the use of Ashwagandha. This herb has a medicinal history that dates back over 3,000 years. The name translates into "smell of the horse" in Sanskrit, and this references Ashwagandha's unique smell and the way it increases strength. You may have heard it referred to winter cherry and Indian Ginseng, and you can find it growing in North Africa and India. A double-blind randomised study took 64 participants who had a history of chronic stress. They measured their stress levels via an assessment, and they measured their cortisol levels. They split the participants into two groups. One group took 300 mg of Ashwagandha plant root extract twice a day for two months, and the other group got a placebo twice a day. They had telephone conferences on day 15, 30 and 45. At the end of the trial, researchers found that the group who got the Ashwagandha root had substantially reduced cortisol and stress levels. Since stress has direct links to reduced estrogen levels, lowering these levels helped to regulate their menopausal symptoms. Their estrogen levels started to balance after the stress levels and cortisol reduced due to the Ashwagandha.
7. Black CohoshBlack Cohosh is part of the buttercup family, and it's a perennial herb. You may have heard it called rattleweed, snakeroot or bugbane. It grows wild in eastern North America. Native Americans have utilised it for centuries to treat menopause symptoms, irregularities in their menstrual cycles and to help ease the pain of childbirth. People have used it as a popular supplement since the 1950s for short-term use, rarely exceeding a year. A 12-week placebo-controlled trial of 244 women who were experiencing hormonal imbalances due to menopause supports this use. Group A got 40 mg of Black Cohosh per day, and group B got 2.5 mg of Tibolone (hormone therapy drug) once a day. At the end of the study, it was found that group A were able to regulate their hormones just as well as group B.
BONUS: What You Eat is Also ImportantOn top of adding these hormone balancing herbs to your diet, there are several foods you should and shouldn't eat if you want to help regulate your hormone levels. Take a look.
Foods to Avoid and Why:
- Dairy- Dairy can cause inflammation in your intestinal tract that can decrease your estrogen levels. It can also introduce artificial growth hormones into your body, and this can hinder your natural hormone production of estrogen and progesterone by disrupting the receptors that trigger hormone production. In turn, you can experience lower levels of estrogen and progesterone.
- Sugar- Sugar can prompt an inflammatory response in your body (9), which can disrupt hormone production.
- Gluten- If you have a sensitivity to gluten, your body will attack the gluten whenever you eat something that contains it. This can lead to surface damage in your intestines. In turn, it can trigger inflammation that has a negative impact on your hormone levels.
Foods to Eat and Why
- Cruciferous Vegetables- This vegetable class includes foodstuffs such as broccoli, cabbage and asparagus. Eating these vegetables activates the NRf2 detoxification pathway. In turn, this removes excess estrogen from your body and helps overcome estrogen dominance.
- Protein- Dietary protein gives your body essential amino acids, which cannot be produced naturally without modifying your diet in this way. These essential amino acids help to regulate the hunger hormone that controls your food intake and hunger hormones.