Hormonal balance is essential for a sound mind and body. However, hormonal fluctuations can occur naturally in the cases such as puberty, menopause and perimenopause. Hormones work by relaying chemical messages throughout the body, which help manage your emotions and body systems. The reproductive system is one of the key body systems that are affected by the imbalance of the hormones. Hormonal imbalance in females can lead to heavy periods, infertility and endometriosis.

What Causes Hormonal Imbalance?
Hormone imbalance is predominantly caused by toxins, unbalanced lifestyle, high stress, insufficient sleep, an unhealthy diet, diabetes, menopause, pregnancy, thyroid problems, and other conditions. Discovering the causes of hormone imbalance helps to prevent and regulate hormonal imbalance particularly at midlife. Changes in hormones can easily be noticed from noticeable symptoms and other health problems.

What Are These Hormones Exactly?
As mentioned initially, hormones act as messengers between body systems and help in regulating body physiology and behaviour, like digestion, metabolism, respiration, tissue function, reproductive cycles and reproductive function, general growth and development, mood and stress levels. To put simply, hormones tell your body when you’re hungry when you’re sleepy or tired. It also tells you when you need to wake up and when you need to stop eating.

The two main hormones responsible for a healthy female reproductive system are oestrogen and progesterone. These hormones control and trigger processes like puberty, ovulation, pregnancy, and menopause.
Oestrogen is the primary female hormone. It regulates the reproductive system, stimulates libido and plays a key role in developing the female body: breasts, hips and bottom.
Progesterone primarily regulates the cycle, menstruation and pregnancy. It is also the key factor in the production of sex and stress hormone. It improves the quality of sleep.

The Signs & Symptoms of Hormonal Imbalances
Everyone experiences periods of hormonal imbalance at certain points in her life, but these can also occur when the endocrine glands are not functioning properly.
The symptoms of a hormonal imbalance depends on which glands, and hormones are affected. Common symptoms include the following:
• Inexplicable weight gain or weight loss
• Inexplicable or excessive sweating
• Trouble sleeping
• Changes in sensitivity to cold and heat
• Dry skin or skin rashes
• Fluctuations in blood pressure
• Ups and downs in heart rate
• Fragile or weak bones
• Changes in blood sugar concentration
• Irritability and anxiety
• Unexplained and long-term fatigue
• Heavy, irregular, or painful periods
• Vaginal dryness
• Breast tenderness
• Indigestion
• Constipation and diarrhoea
• Acne during or just before menstruation
• Uterine bleeding not associated with menstruation.
• Increased hair growth on the face, neck, chest, or back
• Infertility
• Brittle hair/nails
• Belly Fat
• Puffy Eyes

Internal Bodily Symptoms:
• Night Sweats
• Water retention
• Tingling hands/feet
• Decreased energy
• Hot flashes
• Sugar/carb cravings
• Migraines/headaches
• Vaginal dryness
• Hot flashes
• Heavy menstruation
• Cysts in ovaries/breasts
• Constipation

If you experience 2-3 symptoms from this list, chances are high you’re dealing with hormonal imbalance.

Other causes of hormonal imbalances include:
• Chronic or severe stress
• Type 1 and type 2 diabetes
• Overproduction of glucagon
• Overactive thyroid
• Poor diet and nutrition
• Being overweight/Obesity
• Hormonal replacement or birth control medications
• Abuse of anabolic steroid medications
• High levels of the hormone cortisol (the stress hormone)
• Benign tumours and cysts
• Endocrine gland injury
• Severe allergic reactions or infections
• Cancers that involve endocrine glands
• Chemotherapy and radiation therapy
• Iodine deficiency (goitres)
• Hereditary pancreatitis
• Anorexia

Exposure to toxins, pollutants, and endocrine disrupting chemicals, including pesticides and herbicides Extra risk factors, if you’ve got a history of:
• Smoking
• Birth control
• Breast cancer
• Hormone replacement therapy
• Weight loss problems

The right nutrition and lifestyle habits can actually restore balance in your hormone system.

How To Balance Your Hormones Naturally
The most critical step is to take the decision to promote a healthy lifestyle. Eating a nutritious diet and making healthy lifestyle choices will help improve your hormonal health and allow you to feel and perform your best.

1. Eat Enough Protein at Every Meal
Consuming adequate amounts of protein every day provides essential amino acids that your body needs in order to maintain muscle, bone and skin health. Equally, protein influences the release of hormones that control appetite and help you feel fuller for more extended periods, thus lowering your food intake. Aim for a minimum of 20–30 grams of protein per meal.

2. Engage in Regular Exercise
Physical activity strongly affects your hormonal health. Exercise isn’t only beneficial in maintaining healthy body weight, reduce the risk of disease and protects muscle mass during the ageing process. It equally has the ability to reduce insulin levels and increase insulin sensitivity.

Insulin is the hormone responsible for enabling the cells of the body take up sugar amino acids from the bloodstream and convert it into energy used by the body and in maintaining muscle. Too much insulin can be downright dangerous.
High levels of insulin have been linked to inflammation, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Physical activity has been found to increase insulin sensitivity and reduce insulin levels. Exercises like aerobic exercise, strength training and endurance exercise are good examples. A combination of resistance and aerobic training appears to provide the best results. Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily.

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3. Avoid Sugar and Refined Carbs
Consuming foods high in sugar and refined carbs have been shown to drive insulin resistance. Sugar and refined carbs have been linked to a number of health problems and avoiding these foods are essential in optimizing hormone function and avoiding obesity, diabetes and other diseases. Reducing overall carb intake may decrease insulin levels and increase insulin sensitivity.
Additionally, drinking sugary beverages leads to excessive calorie intake because it doesn’t trigger the same fullness signals that eating solid foods does. Avoiding sugar-sweetened beverages may be one of the best things you can do to improve your hormone balance.

4. Learn to Manage Stress
Cortisol, known as the stress hormone, is produced in huge quantities when the body undergoes chronic stress. Stress significantly affects cortisol and adrenaline, which is also called epinephrine. Cortisol helps your body cope with stress over the long term. Adrenaline hormone provides your body with a surge of energy to respond to immediate danger.
However, the hormone adrenaline can be triggered by an intensely hectic and stressful lifestyle. Chronic stress causes cortisol levels to rise, which can lead to excessive calorie intake and obesity, including increased belly fat. Increased adrenaline levels can cause high blood pressure, rapid heart rate and anxiety. You can lower your cortisol level by engaging in stress-reducing activities like talking to a loved one, meditation, yoga, massage, taking a walk, praying and listening to relaxing music. Try devoting at least 10–15 minutes per day to stress-reducing activities, even if you don’t feel you have the time.

5. Consume Healthy Fats
Adding foods high in natural fats to your diet can help reduce insulin resistance and appetite. Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are high-quality fats that are taken up by the liver and immediately converted into energy to be used. They have been shown to reduce insulin resistance in overweight, obese and diabetic people. Good examples of MCTs are found in coconut oil, palm oil and nuts.

6. Avoid Overeating and Under-eating
Overeating and under-eating are literally birds of the same feather and both cause havoc to your hormonal balance and weight problems. Overeating can increase insulin levels and reduce insulin sensitivity, particularly in overweight and obese people who are insulin resistant.
Undereating, on the other hand, can increase levels of the stress hormone cortisol and high levels of cortisol can lead to weight gain. Eating within your personal calorie range can help you maintain hormonal balance and a healthy weight. Aim to eat at least 1,200 calories per day for optimal health.

7. Drink Green Tea
Green tea is one of the healthiest beverage you can drink. It is a better substitute for coffee. Studies show that drinking green tea regularly can increase insulin sensitivity and lower insulin levels in both insulin-resistant people and healthy people. In addition, green tea contains an antioxidant known as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which has been credited with several health benefits.
Aim for at least two cups of green tea per day.

8. Eat Fatty Fish
Fatty fish is one of the best sources of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, which has impressive anti-inflammatory properties. They also have essential nutrients that are beneficial in promoting hormonal balance. Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids may help lower cortisol and epinephrine, increase insulin sensitivity and decrease insulin levels in obese and insulin-resistant individuals. Aim to consume at least two or more servings per week of fatty fish like salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel.

9. Get Consistent, High-quality Sleep
Insufficient amounts of sleep have been linked to imbalances of many hormones, including insulin, cortisol, leptin, ghrelin and growth hormone. Poor-quality sleep has also been shown to decrease fullness hormones, increase hunger and stress hormones, reduce the growth hormone and increase insulin resistance. Quality, uninterrupted sleep is vital for a healthy brain and body. Aim for at least seven hours of high-quality sleep per night.

10. Consume a High-Fiber Diet
Fibre is an important component of a healthy diet. High fibre intake has been linked to improvements in insulin sensitivity and the hormones that control hunger, fullness and food intake. Consuming foods high in fibre like Lentils, Beans, Peas, Broccoli and Brussels Sprouts.

11. Eat Eggs
Eggs are extremely nutritious. They help reduce insulin resistance, suppress your appetite and make you feel full.

12. Use glass containers to store and heat foods and drinks.
13. Do not microwave foods and drinks in plastics.
14. Restrict the use of cleaning products that contain toxic chemicals, such as bleach.
15. Buy fruits and vegetables that have not been sprayed with pesticides or ripening chemicals.

Read More On How Toxins May Hinder You From Conceiving

Although ageing and other factors that can affect your hormones are beyond your control, there are many steps you can take to help your hormones function optimally. Consuming nutritious foods, exercising on a regular basis and engaging in other healthy behaviours can go a long way toward improving your hormonal health.

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