Hormonal Health: for Women in Your 20's, 30's, 40's and Beyond, An Introduction
I suggest to all my female clients to consider hormone balance as a key aspect of health from their early 20’s, right through to their mid 50’s. Hormone balance is important for everyone, but especially for women as their bodies may go through huge hormone shifts in these decades, such as pregnancy in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, and pre-menopause (starting from your mid 30’s), peri-menopause and menopause in their early 50’s.
We are also subject to so many more hormonal stressors in today’s modern society, such as environmental toxins, electrical stressors, poor quality food, medications, and inactivity, that we need to be pro-active in our approach to a healthy endocrine system.
I urge female clients to have considered their hormonal health years (not months) before they wish to start a family, or before menopause starts. I have just turned 37 and am really focusing on stabilizing my cortisol and insulin, and managing my estrogen, so I can sail through menopause!
Hormone imbalances can cause:
- weight gain or weight loss
- low energy and fatigue
- disrupted sleep
- lowered immune system
- irregular or painful menstrual cycles
- fertility challenges
- poor skin, hair, and nails
- lack of focus and concentration
- low libido
- mood swings
- storage of excess body fat
Factors affecting hormone balance include:
- lifestyle (e.g. stress, not getting enough sleep)
- environmental toxins
- gut health
A part of the Endocrine System that we don’t always take into consideration are our fat cells. It wasn’t until quite recently that fat cells were thought to be benign, but we now know they are hormone-producing factories, producing hormones involved with sexual and reproductive function, inflammation regulation, blood clotting, blood pressure, insulting and blood glucose, and energy production from fat.
How to test for hormone imbalances:
The tricky thing about testing for hormonal imbalances is that quite often symptoms can look very similar from imbalance to imbalance, and as we know if one hormone is out of balance the others will most likely be too.
Also when we see a conventional doctor for blood panels sometimes they are reluctant to do them, and the ranges they look at are in the ‘surviving range’ as opposed to the ‘thriving range’.
But I think perhaps the biggest challenge here is the conventional medicine viewpoint on hormonal health, sadly, most of the time you will either be dismissed as just tired or stressed, or given a medication to treat the symptoms (rather than deal with the cause) such as an anti-depressant or the contraceptive pill.
There are two options here: if you have a doctor willing to do the panels (there will be a co-pay), then you can come to see a nutritionist or health coach like myself, who understands how to read blood work and is experienced in doing it (always ask first).
If you were to come to me I would ask you to keep a diary of symptoms for a couple of weeks, review this, and give you a list of blood tests to ask your doctor for. I would also ask you to bring me your most recent bloodwork from your yearly appointment as there is so much we can tell from fasting glucose levels, inflammation markers, vitamin and mineral status, etc. before we go into specific endocrine panels.
If we do take the hormone testing route, then it will always be a couple of panels, for example, Cortisol and Thyroid, as these imbalances often go hand in hand. Then you can get your tests and bring them back to me, we can go through them looking at them through the lens of being pro-active, preventative, and helping you thrive, not survive. We can then develop a nutrition and supplement, fitness and wellbeing program armed with this information.
If you do not have a doctor willing to run the bloodwork for you (and take you seriously), then I suggest you find a healthcare provider who does (look for a Functional MD / Integrative / Holistic Doctor. They can then run the bloodwork, then do the same as I would do, or refer you out to someone like me.
- Hormonal balance should be a health priority
- Take small proactive steps every day (such as my PRIME Principles) to balance hormones
- Prepare for big hormonal changes such as pregnancy and menopause years (not months) in advance
This blog post is part of a series on Hormonal Health. For the next part of the series on Cortisol, our stress hormone, head to: