photo credit: flicker.com, "Aaahhh!!!" by Evil Erin
As a holistic and Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner, I see a common thread of symptoms running throughout most patients who have a hormone imbalance. It isn't pretty, but it certianly is empowering to understand that there are many, many people out there just like you who are struggling with a set of symptoms that are, at their core, interrelated.
As an aside, I've lived through most of the following in my own journey to better health and have buckets of empathy for every patient that walks through my clinic door experiencing these symptoms.
The list below is offered to give you an understanding of a bigger picture approach, or general package of discomfort that indicates the need for medical help.
Some of these symptoms may not apply to you. The following list is intended to bring to light the interconnectedness of our symptoms and how the body alerts us to areas of our health that need our time, attention, care, and love.
1. ABDOMINAL PAIN/ INDIGESTION
About 70-80% of your immune system resides in your digestive system, so it is no surpise that warning signs start here. Poor gut motility and insufficient or leaky intestinal absorption often lead to abdominal pain and cramping, constipation, diarrhea and and an increased urgency when you need to visit the bathroom. Frequent, strong cravings for sweet and/or salty food are also an indication that there is an imbalance of gut flora.
Punching the pillow at night in frustration? Insomnia may look like trouble falling asleep, waking frequently without the ability to fall back asleep or waking constantly to use the bathroom. Night sweating or a general feeling of heat rising in the body may also be present.
All sorts of emotions come up as ways for our bodies to alert the mind that something is, well,
off. The most common manifestations are excessive worry and anxiety, panic attacks, or an unexplainable feeling of fear. Our emotions have a big effect on our physiology and it can be challenging to untangle. In truth, "what is in our heads" is just as important to our overall health because it directly influences hormone levels. In fact, one of the best medicines can simply be to laugh, or do something that brings us joy!
We may all have our days when we wake in the mornings without feeling rested, but when it becomes a pattern that's when it's time to tune in and take notice. Another common sign of hormonal imbalance that I see quite a bit is feeling extremely tired during the day, but unexplicably wired and awake at night.
5. ACNE/ DERMATITIS
The skin is the body's trash dump and is used as a way to vent, or detox, unwanted or toxic chemicals that you have consumed or been exposed to in one way or another. Hormone imbalances that stem from the gut are often linked to skin problems. On the face, a tell tale sign is acne along the jaw line and chin.
6. CHRONIC INFECTIONS THAT DO NOT HEAL
When your immune system is knocked down, unable to recognize itself appropriately in the body, and/or working against itself, you are left open to a cornucopia of infections. Unfortunately, viral, bacterial and fungal infections spot an open door and imbed themselves more easily in a place with poor defenses. On a clinical level this can manifest in a number of ways, but most commonly I see it as a rash that never seems to go away, chronic yeast infections, or constant reoccuring colds/flus.
7. CHEMICAL SENSITIVITY
Have you ever walked into a room and immediately started sneezing, coughing, having watery eyes, or other respiratory distress? Individuals whose nervous systems and detox pathways are on overload often have chemical sensitivities to chemical cleaners, air fresheners, and synthetic compounds used in indoor furnishings.
8. SUDDEN WEIGHT GAIN/ LOSS
Often the body responds to hormonal changes by padding itself excessively with more and more weight, including retained water (also called "edema"). An accompanying lethargy where the limbs literally feel weighed down and there is a "foggy brain" with unclear thinking describe this pattern well. The other option the body has is a dramatic drop in weight where the metabolic systems go on overdrive and begin to consume energy and actual bodily flesh at a rapid rate.
9. CHANGES IN MUSCULAR TENSION/ MUSCULAR ATROPHY
One of the body tissues affected first in hormone imbalances are the muscles. Without proper moisture, oxygen flow and nutrient absorption coming from your internal environment, there may be an overall change in muscular tone.
10. BODY TEMPERATURE DEREGULATION
Among many things, your endocrine system regulates your internal thermostat. Normally we don't have to think about when it's time to turn up or down the furnace, it's just automatic. However, with hormone imbalance an early indicator is a broken thermostat. What I see quite often is a constant feeling of heat or cold in the extremeties (often hands or feet), a flushed face/ head, heat flashes or waves of heat, or a complete temperature deregulation with cold sweats alternating with feelings of heat.
So what kinds of steps can you take in your life to create more balance and peace of mind? There are plenty of changes that can empower you to start living a healthier life. Stay tuned for a follow up post on "10 Things You Can Do Now to Balance Your Hormones."
Until then feel free to comment with questions, follow my blog on Bloglovin', or share with friends.
Peace, love and light,
Monica Walters, L.Ac.