Hormones have a powerful impact on women’s health. Many of us have felt the compelling effects that hormones can have on the body, but even if you haven’t experienced these effects, hormones still very much play a role in your health behind the scenes.

From PMS to menopause, hormones can affect your mood, your weight, your food cravings – even your desire for sex.

Women can be, and many are, greatly affected by hormone fluctuations. Sometimes it gets to the point of feeling totally overwhelmed—as if for a time they have lost control of their life.

What are Hormones?

Hormones are special chemical messengers in the body that are created in the endocrine glands, which are all part of the endocrine system.

These messengers control most major bodily functions, from simple basic needs like hunger to complex systems like reproduction, and even the emotions and mood.

The body has many different hormones, but certain types have a bigger role to play in the body’s health and wellbeing. Here are a few of the main hormones that affect women’s health:

For women, estrogen (or estradiol) is the main sex hormone. It causes puberty, prepares the body and uterus for pregnancy, and regulates the menstrual cycle. During menopause, estrogen level changes cause many of the uncomfortable symptoms women experience.

Progesterone is similar to estrogen but is not considered the main sex hormone. Like estrogen, it assists with the menstrual cycle and plays a role in pregnancy. It works in the body to balance the effects of estrogen and is often referred to as the relaxing hormone.

Cortisol has been called the ‘stress hormone’ because of the way it assists the body in responding to stress. Brief rises in cortisol are completely fine, and actually essential for health. However, increased and prolonged periods of stress and elevated cortisol levels can contribute to a host of symptoms such as low libido and weight gain.

Insulin is the hormone responsible for maintaining normal blood sugar (glucose) levels in the body. The foods we eat break down into glucose, and insulin’s job is to transport that glucose into the cells that turn it into fuel for energy. This hormone is important to note because if you develop insulin sensitivity it can lead to weight gain and contribute to reproductive issues.

Testosterone is the main sex hormone in men, and an important sex hormone for both women and men, although women have much lower levels. Is produced by the ovaries and adrenal glands (right on top of the kidneys), and has a surge at time of ovulation and slight rise just before the menses. Testosterone helps women maintain muscle mass and bone strength, enhances sex drive and helps with overall sense of well-being and zest for life.

When they are in proper balance, hormones help the body thrive, but an imbalance with any of hormones can negatively impact your quality of life. Bloating, fatigue, irritability, hair loss, palpitations, mood swings, problems with blood sugar, trouble concentrating, infertility—these are just a few symptoms of hormone imbalance.

Some hormonal shifts are normal, like monthly fluctuations responsible for menstruation and ovulation or the changes that occur during pregnancy.

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) refers to physical and emotional symptoms that occur in the one to two weeks before a woman’s period. Symptoms often vary between women and resolve around the start of bleeding. Common symptoms include acne, tender breasts, bloating, feeling tired, irritability, and mood changes.

Some women are more affected by PMS than others depending on their unique hormone levels.

How to Naturally Balance Hormones

A few methods were already mentioned above, such as getting adequate sleep, managing stress, and having a healthy, balanced diet.

Some additional tips for maintaining hormone balance are:

  • Engaging in regular exercise, which can reduce insulin levels and increase insulin sensitivity.
  • Limit sugar and refined carbs.
  • Consume healthy fats such as those found in nuts, seeds, fish, olive and avocado oil, and these fats help keep you full and satisfied, absorb nutrients, reduce inflammation, improve insulin sensitivity, and more.
  • Drink green tea, which has also shown to improve insulin sensitivity, metabolism, and can reduce inflammation.

Bottom line: Your hormones are involved in every aspect of your health. You need them in very specific amounts for your body to function optimally. Use the above-mentioned strategies to help keep your hormones in check and feeling your best.

If you have concerns about any of your hormones, talked to your doctor and work with a healthcare team, including a qualified endocrinologist.

Read Part 2 of our hormone health series here, giving you everything you need to know about hormone cycles!

About the Author

Felicia Newell is a Registered Dietitian (RD), Nutritionist, and Health Coach. She is also the owner of Sustain Nutrition, and helps clients from all around the globe fight through the misinformation in the online world, and master their health goals in a way that also allows them to also enjoy life. After many years in practice and through extensive research, Felicia knows that the ‘restrictive dieting’ technique never works long-term, and she takes the realistic approach of the ‘80/20 rule’, as well as working with clients to find the specific strategies that work best for them. You can download her FREE Meal Planning Starter Kit to help get you on your way to crushing your health and wellness goals.

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