5 Signs Your Hormones Have Gone Haywire + How to Repair Them
For many women, the arrival of their menstrual cycle brings about resistance and negativity every month – and for good reason. It usually indicates the arrival (once again) of bloating, intense cramping, headaches, fatigue, relentless cravings, and a whole smorgasbord of emotions.
Although, with all of these pesky, and sometimes downright unsettling symptoms, our bodies are communicating a great deal of information about our hormone health. By observing our cycle and the symptoms that come along with it, we can learn a ton about our health and what our bodies are asking for from us.
Many of us just simply haven’t been taught how to decode this information. Today I hope to provide you with information that can help you begin to sort through these hormonal signals, so you can start to take control of your hormonal health. I want to help you get to the place where your monthly cycles feel balanced, smooth, *and dare I say it* - enjoyable and where your femininity shines through.
How do you know if your hormones have gone haywire? There is no perfect monthly cycle, but here are 5 signs and symptoms that commonly point to a hormone imbalance.
1. Your Flow is Full of Clots or Is Irregular (Abnormally Heavy or Light)
A Healthy Flow Looks Like:
Your flow should last around 4-7 days and should not be longer or shorter than this. Your period should also be a bright red liquid just like cranberry juice. This shows that there is healthy blood flow from your uterus. Clotting, brown colored, or dark red blood may signal a hormone imbalance such as Estrogen Dominance, or it may relate to poor uterine circulation.
2. You Have an Inconsistent Cycle or Absent Periods
If the number of days in your cycle varies heavily from month to month or your period is a no-show regularly, you may be dealing with a hormone imbalance.
A Healthy Cycle Looks Like:
Your menstrual cycle should only vary about 1-2 days a month in length, and it should be between 26-32 days long. If it is outside these parameters, this could be a sign of a hormone imbalance. If your cycle runs for fewer than 25 days, it may be related to Estrogen Dominance, which can cause a short luteal phase – the part of your cycle that occurs after ovulation.
If your cycle is longer than 35 days, you may have PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome). And if you are skipping periods, you may have Amenorrhea, which is the abscense of a period.
3. You Experience Anxiety, Depression, or Mood Swings Commonly
Anxiety, depression, and extreme moodiness during any part of your cycle points to a hormone imbalance. It could be related to one or more of your hormones being unbalanced (testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, or cortisol). If you suspect an imbalance, it may be a good idea to get your hormone levels tested to identify the underlying issue.
A Healthy Cycle Looks Like:
Experiencing minimal mood changes before, during, and after your period is the norm versus what is commonly accepted as the “standard” period. When your hormones are balanced, you are instead actually able to experience energy, focus, and a desire to accomplish things around the time of your period.
4. You Have Mid-Cycle Spotting or Breakthrough Bleeding
Bleeding during any part of your cycle besides your period can indicate a progesterone deficiency.
A Healthy Cycle Looks Like:
You should only be experiencing bleeding during your actual period and not during any other time of your cycle, apart from if you have ovulation spotting the 1-2 days near the time you ovulate.
5. You Suffer from Intense Cramping, Fatigue, Bloating, Cravings, Breast Tenderness, or Other PMS Symptoms
Most of these physical PMS symptoms are considered common, but in a normal, healthy cycle balanced hormones do not naturally cause these symptoms. Maxing out your daily dose of Advil the first 2 or 3 days of your period points to a likely hormone imbalance.
A Healthy Period Looks Like:
You may experience warming sensations from your uterine area, but on a healthy cycle, it does not manifest as unmanageable pain.
Some common causes of imbalanced hormones are:
- Previous birth control use or use of another hormone replacement therapy
- Ongoing stress or traumatic events
- Eating too few calories, disordered eating habits, and certain nutritional deficiencies
- Excessive exercise
- Thyroid imbalances
Hormone imbalances can lead to bigger concerns such as PCOS, Endometriosis, and Fibroids. These can manifest into many other physical complications such as scarring, infertility, and more serious complications such as cancer.
Avoid birth control. If you're currently taking birth control pills or other hormone replacement therapies, I suggest looking into other natural methods for birth control that do not interfere with hormone levels.
I also recommend working with a natural health practitioner or doctor to identify the specific causes of your symptoms.
Meanwhile, here are 4 steps that you can take to begin balancing your hormones immediately:
1. Focus on Getting Quality Sleep
Sleep is one of the most significant areas to focus on when balancing your hormones. Make sure that you’re aiming to get between 7-9 hours of sleep as often as is possible for you. Adjust your bedtime routine until it feels calming and to where you are easy able into transition to sleep. You can experiment with taking a warm bath, reading, or drinking a hot cup of tea, and turning off your electronics at least an hour before bed.
2. Reduce or Eliminate Gluten and Dairy from Your Diet
Gluten and dairy are commonly inflammatory foods for many people, and much of the time this goes unrecognized. Continuing to include inflammatory and symptomatic foods into your diet regularly can manifest into more exasperated problems such as hormone imbalances, IBS, other digestive issues, infertility, and a host of other issues. Try cooking with gluten-free grains such as quinoa, millet, brown and black rice, buckwheat, or oats instead. As for dairy, there are plenty of nut-based milk and cheese alternatives in the market today, or you can experiment with making them at home. Check out this delicious, whole food, plant-based Nacho Cheese Sauce recipe on Oh She Glows.
3. Concentrate on Reducing Stress
Having consistent, unresolved stress in your daily life can worsen hormonal imbalances plus it can cause many other health issues. Your body is only able to heal itself when in relaxation response and this can only be brought on through meditation, yoga, deep breathing, or quality sleep. Focus on adding some of these stress-reducing activities into your weekly routine, and test what activity is most enjoyable for you.
4. Experiment with a Whole Foods, Plant-Based Diet
Having a diet high in fiber is important for assisting in processing extra hormones out from the liver and permanently out of the body. Regularly consuming whole and gluten-free grains, organic vegetables and fruits, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds can be a huge step in transforming your hormone health. This step was a biggie for me in being able to overcome my irregular periods and drastically improve my PMS.
Also, incorporating lots of healthy fats into your diet is vital. Include fats from healthy sources such as avocados or cold-pressed avocado oil, coconuts or extra virgin & cold-pressed coconut and olive oils, nuts, seeds, olive oil, dark chocolate.
If you include animal-based fats in your diet, some clean sources include pastured eggs, grass-fed ghee and butter, wild caught fish and other seafood. If you are consuming meat, make sure it is pastured or grass-fed as traditional practices of raising animals are extremely cruel, produce inflammatory meat, and contain antibiotics most of the time.
Additionally, try to work on reducing or eliminating your consumption of alcohol and processed foods, including sugar as these substanes can greatly disrupt hormone health.
By incorporating these steps into your lifestyle slowly, you can begin to transform your hormonal health. Also, using a cycle tracking app like Kindara can assist you in documenting the signs and signals from your body so that you can make connections between cycles and become an expert on your own body. Also realize, that it can take 3-4 cycles for lifestyle changes to show concrete results in balancing your hormones, so don't be discouraged if you don't see immediate results.