I’m fascinated by hormones. I’m far, far from a complete understanding of how they work, but the more I read and ask questions, the more I’m starting to make sense of what may be going on in my body. It all began when, with the help of my dermatologist, I figured out that I have an androgen imbalance.
Symptoms of androgen imbalance may include PCOS, acne around the chin and jaw line, irregular periods, difficulty conceiving, and hair loss. After more research and reading, I learned that androgen imbalance is closely link to hypoglycemia and insulin resistance.
Depending on its severity, insulin resistance can be managed with diet, exercise, and lifestyle. I’m always trying to improve my lifestyle through stress-reduction (not always successful!), diet (yay, veganism!), and exercise, but my mess of androgens can still be unpredictable. Knowing that there were still gaps in my knowledge, off to hit the books I went.
Oddly enough, androgen imbalance may be a symptom of Estrogen Dominance.
Symptoms of estrogen dominance:
PMS (in all of its forms: moodiness, cramps, bloating, weight gain, fatigue, tender breasts, headaches).
Hypoglycemia (a.k.a. blood sugar hell)
Estrogen dominance may be caused by:
Gastrointestinal microbial imbalances (i.e. improper amount of healthy gut flora or an overgrowth of harmful bacteria, both of which can be caused by extended use of antibiotics and/or a poor diet).
Excess body fat
Impaired immune function
Environment (xeno-estrogens in plastics, body products, pesticides, etc.)
How to address estrogen dominance:
Improve your diet. Consume a diet high in nutrients, fiber and minerals. A diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables with moderate amounts of healthy fats will help balance your hormones. Because estrogen is removed through the bowels, it’s important to eat a diet that encourages healthy elimination.
This tip may be the most fun. Healthy food is colorful and so enticing.
Decrease stress. Ugh, this one is hard for most of us. In the past year, I’ve moved towns twice and juggled between 2 and 4 jobs at a time. (And I have it so easy compared to many.) I keep thinking that I’ll be better able to reach a state of balance once things have “settled down.” But I’m not sure when that will be. My best advice for managing stress is to follow a routine whenever possible. It sounds dull, but that’s the point—it’s one less thing to think about, and your body will hopefully reach more “routine” functioning as a result.
Reduce environmental toxins. Use glass containers to store food and drinks. Opt for “green” cleaning and body care products. Eat organic whenever possible.
Discuss natural hormone therapy with your doctor. Some alternative doctors may recommend trying a natural, bio-identical progesterone cream. Unlike synthetic hormones, bio-identical hormones are synthetized from natural substances like soy and Mexican yam and perfectly “match” hormones created by the body. Progesterone cream has been promoted as a panacea for just about any female ailment, including estrogen dominance and all of its attendant woes. Indeed, many women find natural progesterone cream a true miracle product. That being said, we’re still learning about its long-term effects, and healthcare providers have conflicting opinions on whether or not one builds a dependency on these creams. Proceed with caution.
The above are very general guidelines, and aside from natural progesterone cream, these wellness tips apply to just about any imbalance. This can be kind of frustrating since I often feel that I’m already doing these things to the best of my ability. As I grow, I make tweaks and deepen my wellness practices, but I think I’ll always be searching for more answers and more specific ways to naturally improve my health.
What about you? Have you experienced estrogen dominance?
Related: Could You Have Androgen Imbalance?
Photos: Thomas Hawk via Flickr, r. nail bradshaw via Flickr, Peaceful Dumpling