HORMONE HEALTH: Knowing the status of your hormones will change your LIFE

Sooooo overdue to share this with you.

But, the prompt for the post is the popularity of the Almost 30 Podcast episode with Hormone Balance guru, Candace Burch.

People were FREAKING about this one, because it's on a topic that is SO important.

HORMONES.

Which affects EVERY aspect of your life.

Your mood, your patience, your sleep, your weight, your skin, your hair, your appetitie, your body composition, your hair growth, any anxiety...every part of you. 

For me, my hormone journey started a few months after I moved to L.A. 

Most days I felt great, for sure.

But there were days where I felt sluggish, sick, puffy and SO out of it. I knew that it had to be something beyond any normal causes like poor nutrition or lack of sleep. 


More symptom deets (NOT fun at all): 

  • Numero uno weird: weight gain, about 10 lbs. in the past year, when I hadn't changed my workouts or diet. I felt like i was busting my ass at the gym and NOTHING was happening. Nothing good that is, ha. 
  • I was having poor sleep, anxious sleep, not sleeping deeply, when I used to sleep really well, and really deeply
  • More anxious than usual, especially before bedtime 
  • Drinking caffeine makes me feel sick, and almost lethargic 
  • Seasonal allergies were more intense than usual

I would chat (whine and complain) with my friend Ryan about how I was feeling. Like WHAT is going on here, I've never had this before and it doesn't feel like....

me.

As fate would have it, Ryan's mom was a hormonal health doctor, and she suggested I get tested to see if hormones had anything to do with the way that I was feeling.

I mean I thought hormones meant you were 50 and going through menopause?

#Almost30vibes

But really, I came to find out that hormones are present in us all the time (both men AND women) and like anything else, they get affected and out of whack ALL the time dependent on whats going on in your life. It's totally normal to have your hormones out of balance, and especially in your twenties and thirties with so much going on, there's bound to be some changes you didn't predict.

Plus, we all lead SUCH busy lives, so adding stress, life changes, dietary changes, all of the things....can cause a hormonal imbalance.

So,  in the mail that week, I got a spit kit sent so I could share 5 vials of my fluids to get tested.  No needles (yayyy) but there was a blood sample you needed to provide if you wanted to.

Once I sent in my test, I got the results really quickly back. The sheet however, was CONFUSING AF. 

No idea what all these hormones were,  what the graphs and charts were saying and what everything meant.

Was this good, or?


My hormone Imbalances that were identified through testing:

(and all of this was explained to me on a call so it wasn't so overwhelming!)

  • Estrogen Dominance – as indicated by LOW Progesterone/Estradiol (Pg/E2) ratio*: where estrogen despite being within range is in excess relative to low progesterone
  • Estrogen Deficiency – Estradiol, the most potent estrogen is within range but borderline low/suboptimal Note: It is not uncommon in women with fluctuating hormone levels (common in women who have been on and off contraception) to have symptoms of both estrogen deficiency and dominance.
  • LOW Progesterone – see estrogen dominance above
  • Low Pg/E2 (Progesterone/Estradiol) ratio - see estrogen dominance, above
  • High DHEA: Although testosterone was within normal range this may be due to athletics 6 days a week. May also be linked to intake of simple carbs and sugars
  • Evolving Adrenal imbalance/fatigue - indicated by morning cortisol levels that are within range but plummet by noon, and begin to rise in the evening to the high end of the range at night/bedtime, when levels should be going in the reverse direction, dropping to lowest point in preparation for sleep.

Common symptoms associated with Hormone imbalances (might be good to check here if you are feeling some type of way):

Note: Many symptoms overlap and no two people will experience the same symptoms since we all have a unique chemical and hormonal makeup.  So this isn't like a symptom finder to see what's going on in your body, but DEFINITELY serves as a guide. 

  • Symptoms of Estrogen dominance: bleeding changes, mood swings/tearful, water retention, weight gain in hips/butt/thighs and low thyroid symptoms (e.g. sluggish feeling, slow weight loss, cold hands and feet, puffy eyes, etc.)
  • This was happening for me in the weight gain, and sluggish feeling - COMPLETELY explains it
  • Symptoms of Androgen (DHEA) imbalance: acne, oily hair and skin, prone to breakouts, excess facial and/or body hair, irregular bleeding, irregular cycles.
  • I wasn't having this as much, but I wasn't getting my period at all, so that's not completely normal. 

ADRENAL FATIGUE THO.

This was something that I was really struggling with. ADRENAL FATIGUE. My adrenals were TIRED AF from going ALL THE TIME, working out 6+ times a week, never taking a break and always having caffeine. 

Each time that you have caffeine, a stimulant, or even do a hard workout where your body is under stress, you're ask the adrenals to kick out a little bit of adrenaline to give you that buzz. But, when you're asking your adrenals to do that everyday, they can get TIRED. Causing fatigue and these symptoms above. 

Symptoms of adrenal fatigue:

  • Asthma, allergies or respiratory complaints
  • Dark circles under the eyes
  • Dizziness
  • Dry skin
  • Extreme tiredness an hour after exercise
  • Frequent urination
  • Joint pain
  • Lines in your fingertips
  • Loss of muscle tone
  • Low blood pressure
  • Low blood sugar
  • Low sex drive
  • Lower back pain
  • Numbness in your fingers / Poor circulation
  • Weight gain

(via)

For me,  a lot of the exhaustion I was experiencing was directly related to my adrenals being overworked and not being able to replenish themselves. Working out is good, yes, but sometimes doing high intensity workouts everyday can overwork your adrenals. Same with not sleeping as much and even sugar binges. Sugar can wreck havoc on your adrenals, causing them to give you that sugar rush than crash. I was noticing when I would have any intense sugar meals, like desert, I would feel like SHIT after (more than usual). 

I would definitely definitely check out your adrenals or pay mind to your adrenals, since we do so much! You can have a range of adrenal fatigue, very intense or not as intense but these little organs help regulate metabolism, etc and are really important to your overall well being. 


Here are some other hormone balancing supplements that I took in following to the diagnosis and testing:

via Candace at Your Hormone Balance

Progesterone topical cream: natural/bioidentical (e.g. identical to hormones made by the body.) Source and support of adrenal hormone production, natural diuretic that assists weight loss (when used in the right amounts as discussed below), natural calming/sleep promoting properties, mood lifter and “great balancer “of all hormones in the body.

Vitamin B-Complex essential adrenal support supplements to stabilize blood sugars and insulin levels which can help to calm skin breakouts, also boost energy levels overall, maintain body’s ability to adapt to physical, mental or emotional stressors AND maintain your immune defenses against illness.

7-keto DHEA (100 mg daily in the morning) is a metabolite of DHEA that does not convert to other hormones in the body, but can help to increase lean muscle, reduce body fat, and boost basal metabolic rate to help you burn calories more efficiently. It is especially effective when used in concert with weight bearing exercise.

Vitamin D32000 to 5000 IU per day to reach and maintain optimal levels and prevent associated health risks. Note: most people who work indoors, do not exercise outdoors or get enough sunlight every day are low in Vitamin D. Consider spending more time outdoors, exercising, e.g. walking, running, biking, stretching in the sunlight.

D-deficiency is linked to higher body fat (particularly in the abdomen), lowered immune function.

Daily Multi-vitamins/mineral supplementmake sure the formulation you are taking is of high quality that includes balanced amounts of calcium, magnesium, zinc and selenium. Deficiencies of these key minerals can actually inhibit the conversion from inactive T4 to active thyroid (T3) production.

Glutamine –for sugar cravings try supplementing with Glutamine, a benign amino acid that tricks your body into thinking its getting sugar. You can buy it at any health food store that sells high-quality vitamins and supplements to help reduce sugar cravings (1000 mg. is a standard dose when cravings hit.)

Relora – a proprietary formulation of herbs for appetite control and reduction of stress-related fat accumulation in the abdomen; anti-anxiety and anti-depressant properties. Available online or in health food stores. Use as directed. 


Natural Plant and Herbal Hormone Balancers that I used (I've linked it all for you!) 

Adaptogenic Herbs: These are so-called because of their nourishing and strengthening properties - enabling the adrenal glands to adapt to stressors (physical, mental, emotional).

  • Dong Quai (the “female ginseng” for lifting bad moods like magic),
  • Black Cohosh for relief of hot flashes and night sweats,
  • Maca (great overall balancer, libido raiser),
  • Rhodiola (for focus and concentration),
  • Ashwagandha, which is a general stress tonic.

Lifestyle Improvements that can help your hormones naturally (straight from Candace!):

General Tips on Stress Management: Exercise, meditation, unstructured time for fun and enjoyment, reducing unnecessary stress when overworked, overbooked, overcommitted; learning the judicious use of the word NO, not allowing others demands to come before your own; resolving unfinished issues that contribute to ongoing tension and/or resentment; cultivate sociability, avoid isolation, make time for family, friendships, pets, fun and games!

Exercise: While your adrenal glands are taxed based on the low noon levels and borderline high night cortisol levels that showed up in your test report) and following a period of high level stress and exhaustion from use of diet pills and living in the fast lane in NYC!! Continue to practice stress releasing exercise like stretching, yoga, Pilates, and other forms of exercise, e.g. swimming, walking briskly, all great ways to release tension held in the muscles, and thus lower cortisol stress hormones to strengthen adrenal health.  

A word about Yoga: Yoga has been shown to be more effective than other forms of exercise at improving insulin resistance in women with high androgens. Evidently the Savasana (corpse pose) is the most powerful at reducing inflammation caused by high insulin and stress hormones.

Mind-body exercise to focus and support adrenal rest and rebalancing: Keep up the twice a day meditation, deep breathing, etc. as this is a powerful way to lower cortisol/stress hormones naturally.

Strength Training/weight-bearing exercise – work with a trainer to learn proper use of weights (ideally 2 to 3 times a week) to boost metabolism, muscle and bone strength, energy, vitality, libido. Note: As mentioned above, taking the supplement 7-keto DHEA in concert with weight bearing/strength training can raise basal metabolic rate to lower body/belly fat and ability to keep it off.

Sleep – Aim for at least 8 hours in a 24-hour period – this should be the minimal goal. Go to bed earlier and/or sleep in whenever you can until at least 9am, take catnaps to make up for lost sleep. Turn OFF the cellphones and laptops at least 1 hour before bed and don’t have them anywhere near the sleeping area.


A Few Other Dietary Tips for Balancing Your Hormones Naturally (via Candace's suggestions!):

Favor a Low-Glycemic diet:  The Glycemic Index (GI) is a measure of how much the carbohydrates in a food raise your blood sugar. A low GI is less than 55 (out of a 100). The low-GI food plan has been shown to be instrumental in stabilizing blood sugar levels.

FIBER along with a low GI- eating plan is vital to stabilizing blood sugars by slowing the absorption of sugars from the GI tract into the bloodstream, thus reducing insulin spikes and sugar cravings. Steam or lightly sauté vegetables to retain all the fiber. The fruit instead of the fruit juice, the potatoes with skin on, etc. are better choices to increase fiber intake.

Avoid Dairy: You said you are already pretty much off dairy, so best to carry on with it, as milk, cheese and eggs have been shown to increase a protein enzyme that increases inflammation in the body.

Omega 3 Fish Oils daily are the healthy fats the body needs. They lower cholesterol and blood pressure, strengthen the immune system, support brain, joints, heart, and eyes, and reduce inflammation. Note: It’s important to use the correct balanced blend of Omega 6’s and 3’s (e.g. Udo’s Oil is a good blend. Best food sources: Wild salmon, walnuts, grass-fed beef, ground flaxseeds, and sardines. Chia seeds offer a whopping source of Omega 3s…sprinkle on nut-buttered toast or in smoothies.
Fruits to buy organically are thin-skinned fruits like berries of all kinds, grapes, pears, apricots, peaches, etc. that soak up pesticides… go organic with all the above. 

Avoid xenoestrogens - "xeno" means foreign, i.e. unnatural to the body. These are man-made chemicals one is exposed to in the environment that take up residence in human cells and mimic estrogen action to a toxic extent, thus contributing to estrogen dominance, associated low-thyroid complications, and increased breast cancer risks.  Avoidance means: choosing “hormone – free /antibiotic-free protein sources e.g. beef, pork, poultry (ideally grass-fed, you can try venison, buffalo, ostrich too); organic, pesticide-free fruits and vegetables as often as possible*, “RBST-free” dairy products, eggs, cheese etc. Look for the label on all these products that reads: these animals were raised without growth hormones or antibiotics.


For further information Candace suggests the following ‘must reads’:

The Hormone Cure, Sara Gottfried, M.D.

Adrenal Fatigue, The 21st Century Syndrome, Jim Wilson, N.D. 

What Your Doctor May Not Tell You about PreMenopause, John R. Lee, M.D.

The Mood Cure, Julia Ross, M.A.,


For more information about hormones and how they work:

Please visit the Hormone Balance Basics section of Candace's website at www.yourhormonebalance.com or candacebewell@gmail.com

Seriously, DO IT. 


Now I am so much more cautious with what I eat, and what I ingest in my body knowing that it will affect my body for the LONG term. I don't drink caffeine, because I don't need it for energy's sake, and because it wrecks havac on my adrenals. 

I also prioritize sleep more, because that's when my body rebalances my hormones. I watch sugar, not only because it has addictive properties, but because it can f with your hormones too. 

Having the progesterone, and the other herbal help has helped me to get back to a normal  comfortable weight, shed lots of water weight and feel SO much better in my own skin. 

I would HIGHLY recommend chatting with Candace, sharing what's going on with you and getting TESTED. 

As we grow, as we change and evolve, so much happens with our bodies and hormones that we need to pay attention to it. Knowing what's going on is key to living a balanced and happy life. 



Also make sure to listen to the Almost 30 episode we did on Hormones, it was a game CHANGER.

Let me know if you have questions. Happy to chat with you about this, I know it's super deep and honest so I am hopeful it's helpful for you! 

xoxo

Krista