Hormonal imbalances are literally becoming an epidemic in the Western world. Cases of infertility, PMS, PCOS, lowered sex drive, impaired thyroid function, diabetes (which is a hormonal imbalance because insulin is a hormone) and irregular mensural cycles have become almost common place instead of being something that one a few people have to deal with. Both men and women can be affected by hormonal imbalance and if you or any one you love has ever dealt with such an imbalance, you know how disruptive it can be to a persons state of well being.
How Do You Know If Your Hormones Are Imbalanced?
The symptoms of a hormonal imbalance are varied and wide. As with any medical condition if you are experiencing several of the following symptoms, I would suggest you look into working along side a naturopath or other qualified health care practitioner to see that you are taken care of in the best way possible.
For the purpose of this article I’m going to focus on the female hormones, and female hormone imbalances. Remember that all hormones work together as a unit, so if one is out of balance chances are it is going to be affecting the others. Here is a list of symptoms that you may experience if you are dealing with a hormone imbalance:
- Weight Gain
- Lowered Libido
- Irregular Menstural Cycles
- Poor Sleeping Habits
- Hair Loss
- Irregular Hair Growth
- Missed Periods
- Painful Periods
- Mood Imbalances
- Heavy Periods
- Hot Flashes
If you have one or two of the symptoms listed above, it does not necessarily mean that you are dealing with an imbalance. However if you have quite a few of the symptoms presented you may want to do some digging to see if a hormonal imbalance is something that you are dealing with.
The Adrenal Glands and Female Hormones
All of your hormones work together. If you have one hormone that is out of balance chances are that a few of your other hormones are going to be out of balance as well. Your body is a system and no part functions independently of the other parts.
Your adrenal glands are two tiny triangular glands that sit on top of your kidneys. These two little glands produce your stress hormones which are called adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline is a life saver if you need to run away from something or win a physical fight. It can lend you super human strength, the ability to make quick decisions and provides you with short bursts of energy.
Cortisol will mobilize stored body glycogen to be converted in the liver to glucose so that you have a boost of readily available fuel. It will also increase mental alertness and your ability to focus and remember things in the short term.
Both of these hormones are super important and when functioning optimally they will help you not only to survive but to thrive in your life. The problem with these hormones is when they are over produced. If you are in a state where you are continually perceiving stress (whether that stress is physical, mental, emotional, real or imagined) these two stress hormones can start to behave in a way that is more detrimental to your overall health and wellbeing.
When you’re producing stress hormones on a regular basis several things happen:
1. You can start to see blood sugar imbalances. This is because you will be over mobilizing those stored glycogen molecules, which will then tax your pancreas because it’s over producing insulin to deal with that extra sugar that isn’t effectively burning off. This is one of the reasons people who are stressed a lot start to develop fatty deposits in their abdomen.
2. You start to increase levels of inflammation in your body. Both of these hormones, when produced over long periods of time will support and encourage the prostoglandin pathways that create chronic inflammation in the body. This can lead to pain, fatigue and overall tissue damage.
3. You start to lose the ability to focus. In the short term these adrenaline and cortisol hormones will help to improve mental clarity so you can think fast on your feet, but over time they will actually contribute to mental fogginess, fatigue and the inability to focus for extended periods of time.
4. You start to have an imbalance in your sex hormones. Your stress hormones are your survival hormones, and your sex hormones are your beauty hormones.
In general, if you’re over producing your stress/survival hormones, you’re going to be underproducing your sex/beauty hormones. This can set you up for for a hormonal imbalance and a number of health issues like impaired sex drive, reduced fertility, bad skin and weight gain. So what does all of this have to do with exercise?
Exercise Is Stress
This is a fact that is often neglected. It is so easy to believe that working out is synonymous with losing weight, and the idea that more is better. But your work out routine could actually be working against your weight loss efforts, especially if you are already in a stressed out state to begin with.
Exercise is a stress on the body, plain and simple. And for the most part, that’s the point. When a healthy body is stressed, it adapts. Muscle tissue will be torn, cardiovascular tissue will be taxed, respiratory tissues will be taxed, stress hormones will be produced, the lymphatic system will be pumped and overall the body will be asked to perform tasks at a higher rate and speed than in normal everyday life.
When everything is working well, this will actually encourage the body to become stronger. Your systems will adapt to the new levels of stress making your body more resilient. The muscle tissues will be repaired and built up stronger than they were before. Stored body toxins will even be removed through sweating and through lymphatic drainage.
The key here is taking time for recovery and knowing what is helping you versus what is harming you with your workouts. Excessive cardio, weight lifting and too little recovery time doesn’t give your body a chance to fully repair, heal and create a new foundation. When your hormones are imbalanced, it gets even tougher and your body can break down.
If you’ve got a hormonal imbalance, working out one to two times per week is more than enough, combined with gentle yoga practice for deeper healing and relaxation. If you need guidance, seek a practitioner who can help you and provide the proper testing you need to identify how your hormonal health is doing and what you can do to be proactive about coming back into balance.
The best thing you can do if your hormones are out of balance is prepare a healthy eating plan, along with a gentle exercise routine that doesn’t include marathon running or intensive weight lifting routines.
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