Hormones out of sync? Here are 7 signs and corrective measures

  • Wellness
  • Monday, 11 Mar 2019

If you constantly face difficulty getting up in the morning, it means that your circadian rhythm is disturbed, which can lead to hormonal imbalance. — AFP

There are many diets and supplements that claim to be a miracle fix for hormone imbalance. Ultimately, the most impactful and lasting approach is a basic one: improving on the things that are already in our daily life such as stress levels, sleep patterns and physical activity.

If you’re not sure you have hormonal imbalance, here are seven indicators and corrective measures that may help,.

1. Difficulty getting out of bed every morning

We all have our days when it seems more difficult to rise and shine in a timely manner, but if you’re constantly struggling to wake up on time, it means that your circadian rhythm is out of sync.

Fatigue sets in because hormones are produced according to the circadian pattern. If your sleep routine doesn’t sync with your circadian rhythm, you won’t produce enough of the right hormones that allow you to thrive.

What you can do

Reduce caffeine intake from sources like coffee, tea, energy bars, painkillers, and even chocolate, as it interrupts your ability to sleep at the optimal time. For those of you who care about work productivity, keep social engagements short on work days and Sunday nights in order to balance your circadian cycle.

2. Lethargy or low mood

Data from the World Health Organisation indicates that depression is rising quickly. Research is beginning link depression and poor sugar control, possibly due to insulin resistance. Our body produces insulin in the pancreas, which functions to convert the sugar in our food for energy.

In diabetics, there is either not enough insulin or the body is resistant to it, leaving high levels of sugar circulating in the bloodstream. This results in frequent bouts of fatigue and low energy, which may lead to depression.

What you can do

See your doctor to get a daily blood glucose test. The ideal time to take the test is in the morning before consuming breakfast, to determine what your fasting sugar levels may be. Or, for a more accurate picture of your blood sugar levels, ask for the HbA1c blood test, which measures your three-month average blood sugar reading.

Different doctors might have slight variations in their ideal reading range, but in both tests, your blood sugar levels should be close to 4.0-6.5/mmol. Seek further help if you get anything lower or higher than that.

3. Always feeling hungry

When you eat a meal, leptin is the hormone responsible for signalling to your brain when it’s time to stop, amongst other functions. If you find yourself often looking for snacks even after a meal, it might be an indication that leptin levels are low, and you run the risk of overeating and gaining weight.

What you can do

Leptin levels get mixed up when high stress is involved. Leptin resistance is believed to be the main biological reason that obesity occurs, causing you to mistakenly think that you need more food than you really do.

There is no quick fix to reducing leptin resistance except to improve on your food choices. i.e. avoid high-calorie snacks and train yourself to eat better ones like nuts, carrots, yoghurt and low sugar fruit. So, even when you find yourself reaching for the munchies, at least they are healthier.

4. Limp hair and feeling cold

Cold hands, dull hair and frequent bouts of fatigue are signs of a languid thyroid. Stress and other lifestyle factors can affect the thyroid’s ability to produce the right amounts of thyroid hormone, causing your body to slow down.

What you can do

Stress causes inflammation, which in turn encourages the thyroid to slow down its hormone production. Eat more foods with vitamin D, zinc, iron, healthy fats and selenium, whilst avoiding food with nitrates, high levels of iodine and gluten.

Watch for signs like anxiety, weight loss, changes in bowel movement and irregular heart rate, and if you experience any or all of those symptoms, get a complete test to determine what’s happening to your thyroid.

5. Belly fat

Belly fat is an indication of how much visceral fat might be surrounding your organs. High concentrations of cortisol is situated in the region where belly fat develops. The more there is, the more your general health is being placed at risk. Cortisol rises according to stress levels, leading to weight gain and a lack of energy.

What you can do

Cut out alcohol, reduce high-carbohydrate foods and start getting more active, in order to lose some of that excess fat.

6. Low libido

Testosterone in males and progesterone in females are vital to maintaining a healthy libido, or sex drive. If these hormones are low, it is almost always attributed to stress.

What you can do

Plan time for things that will help manage and relieve stress. Do some journaling, attend a yoga or sound healing class, and overall, relax more at home or on a vacation to disconnect, recharge and reinvigorate your life.

7. Hip weight gain

Changes in oestrogen causes a few distinct symptoms for women: mood swings, heavier and/or more painful periods, breast tenderness and to our dismay, weight gain in the hips area.

What you can do

Keep your digestive tract and liver healthy by eating the right foods. Improve the amount of good bacteria in your gut by eating foods like yogurt, kimchi and natto. It will help to regulate bowel movement as well.

To clean and detoxify your liver, eat more cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, boy choy, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts and cabbage. In sum, pay attention to the every day symptoms that your body might be telling you, as it may be a sign of imbalanced hormones. Discuss with you doctor how to optimise your hormones.

Datuk Dr Nor Ashikin Mokhtar is a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, and a functional medicine practitioner. For further information, email starhealth@thestar.com.my. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

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