When I was in my younger years I struggled with my cycle regularity. Yes my period was less than regular! Sometimes my cycle was thirty days, sometimes 45 days and sometimes 50 days. I finally had some bloodwork done as I was considering getting pregnant and I wanted to be sure those hormones were balanced and found my progesterone was very low! So the naturopath I was seeing at the time recommended a progesterone cream daily and it really did the trick (and had no problem getting pregnant). Later I used a compounded supplement for years.
As I began diving into the world of natural health even more I found an incredible holistic health counselor, Kendall Reichart, Natural Vibrant Health. She does specific energy testing for supplements that work your actual body as well as live blood, urine and saliva analysis. Now I use a Chinese herbal blend by Premier Research called Fem Balance. Works perfectly to regulate my cycle and help with premenstrual symptoms.
In this blog I want to talk about some common hormones, their regulation and what you have control over in that process. Whenever you are struggling with something, particularly a mental or physical health issue, it is important to know if there are any underlying health concerns that could be contributing.
When it comes to anxiety or other mood disorders, hormones play a critical role, and often if they aren’t in balance, can cause a variety of health problems. You must take a wholistic view of your symptoms, taking a close look at lifestyle, nutrition, medications and stress. With a well-rounded approach to things you can avoid jumping to conclusions or going down a single rabbit hole that leads to “trying” things and never actually get an answer.
Thyroid disorders occur in about 10% of all women. When the thyroid isn’t functioning as well as it should, it doesn’t release the appropriate amount of hormones in your body. An underactive thyroid is called Hypothyroidism. This is where not enough hormones are being produced. In addition to anxiety, other symptoms that people experience include constipation, fatigue, dry skin, weight gain, heart rate, and irregular heart rhythm.
A simple panel of blood work can check your levels to ensure your thyroid is functioning at optimal levels. Hyperthyroidism refers to hormone levels being too high in your blood and carry similar symptoms to that of an underactive thyroid.
Adrenal Function & Stress Hormones
We are all under a lot of pressure and we live in a fast paced world with high expectations. If not managed properly stress can wreak havoc on our adrenal glands! Cortisol levels are released when your body is under stress. When cortisol levels go high, ANXIETY INCREASES! The opposite effect occurs when cortisol levels are to below normal range, they can cause depression. Testosterone helps to release cortisol so when testosterone is lower than normal, cortisol can increase.
This next one is a little tricky because it’s hard to decipher if the “chicken came before the egg” or vise versa. Adrenal fatigue is a mild form of adrenal insufficiency due to chronic stress. When the adrenal glands (located above each kidney) aren’t releasing enough hormones it may not be detectable because the sensitivities on the blood tests can’t pick up minor changes like this. That being said, your body doesn’t care the source it just knows that it feels the change.
When my life started ramping up a few years ago with a new teenager in the house and two tweens, building a private practice and continuing to challenge my body in new ways, I started to feel it. The fatigue set in, the inflammation of muscles and joints was present and I noticed my hair was thinning, a lot.
I ramped up my self-care, started doing hot yoga, went back to therapy and I use a great supplement by Premier Research Labs called ArenaVen. I order it through Kendall, the holistic health counselor mentioned above but you can also get online through the link. I have noticed that it really does support my adrenal function when I also am careful about eating a clean diet, exercising regularly and getting enough rest.
Other symptoms related to adrenal fatigue include generalized fatigue, weight loss, low blood pressure, dizziness, body aches, skin color changes, and hair loss. Being in a state of chronic stress can be triggered by anxiety or adrenal fatigue can cause anxiety (i.e. chicken and the egg).
Recent studies have shown that low levels of estrogen can increase anxiety, panic attacks and depression. Estrogen also plays its part in maintaining proper adrenal function, so if one is off the other could be as well. Some symptoms of low estrogen levels include:
- Foggy mind
- Hot flashes
- Memory lapses
- Vaginal dryness
- Irregular periods
- Urine leakage
- Sleep problems
- Bone loss
High levels of estrogen create a biochemical imbalance and can lead to changes with your system as well causing a variety of symptoms. One of the major contributing factors for this imbalance is increased exposure to pesticides, herbicides, plastics and PCB’s. Progesterone levels also play a role here contributing to the increase or decrease of estrogen. Some symptoms of too much estrogen:
- Heavy bleeding
- Breast tenderness
- Increased premenstrual symptoms
- Fibrocystic breasts
- Ovarian cyst
- Abdominal weight
- Anxiety, Irritability
- Water retention
- Increased Triglyceride levels
Estrogen levels tend to decrease with age which sets us ladies into menopause, some earlier than others. Levels can still decrease for those that are not of menopausal age due to excessive exercise and other risk factors.
Putting Your Best Foot Forward
So what can you do in relation to hormones to be the healthiest version of you? It starts with proper nutrition and cutting out the processed foods. Processed foods are filled with carbohydrates that turns to sugar once you eat it.
You’ll feel a little energy spike, or sugar rush, but that will quickly go away, and you’ll feel the crash and burn. Of course, that fluctuating energy levels will absolutely affect your mood, especially those with anxiety and depression.
Take a real honest look at your diet right now. Begin to notice how much processed foods you are eating and drinking and where you might be willing to make a change. Processed foods are anything in a box, package, bag, can or bottle. You don’t have to change them all right now, just pick one or two things to start with. But noticing how much you actually consume is the first step. Then we can work towards reducing to eliminating the following:
- Fruit Juice (it is the same as a soda in sugar content) – Eat the whole fruit instead
- Soda (yes, even diet)
- Alcohol (more then 1-2 drinks per week)
- Dressing/Dips that contain sugar, aspartame, or high fructose corn syrup-try making your own
- Dairy Products (milk, cheese, yogurt, sour cream, etc) – There are a lot of non-dairy options available now to replace everything you are used to. If you choose to use dairy in moderation only use organic products. Non-organic dairy contains growth hormones and antibiotics that will aid in the dysregulation of hormones.
- Non-Organic Soybean products-soy is one of the most heavily sprayed crops in the US and is also highly genetically modified. Use soy in moderation and only organic.
- Dried Fruits
- Microwave Popcorn
- Frozen meals
When you honestly reduce and eliminate processed foods from your life, you’ll notice a more sustained energy level throughout the day with less of the crash. You will sleep better through the night, you will notice less bloating and skin issues.
Replace your favorite go to processed food snacks with either a homemade version of the snack (i.e granola bars), or raw vegetables and fruit (i.e. apple slices and peanut butter or celery, carrots and cucumber and hummus, etc.). Check out some of my other posts for more information on whole foods.
My recommendations to improve your health by regulating your hormones can be summed up by Michael Pollan, “Eat real food, not to much, mostly plants”. That means an increased amount of vegetables in almost every meal, clean lean meats and fish, healthy fats like nuts and avocados, and dark leafy greens. That’s a very condensed version of what we go over, but be sure to read to prior articles to take a deeper dive into the nutrition aspect of treating mood disorders with amazing foods 😊
Have you struggled with any of the above medical conditions and found a link to your anxiety? Have you noticed any improvement since beginning a treatment plan to address the medical condition that caused your anxiety? Comment below, your story may just inspire someone else to go seek treatment.
I look forward to connecting with you all! We can get to know each other better in my private Facebook Group! If you’re new here, be sure to join the community today.
References: Mayo Clinic