Set of pictures of a woman from happy to very sad

The 4-1-1 on hormones

Ever heard  someone say “they’re just being hormonal”? The reality is we are all hormonal. Our hormone levels aren’t always the same – they are basically the traffic cops of our body telling us when we need to slow down, chill out or change lanes. And, while you’re probably aware that life stage can affect them, you might not be aware that the environment, medication, things we eat and drink, and stress can have a big impact and can contribute to imbalances.

Hormonal imbalances are something that everyone will experience at some point in their lives, and they impact everyone differently – they can affect weight, mood, appetite, energy, hair, blood pressure, libido and even your memory. If you suspect you’re experiencing a hormonal imbalance, it’s best to talk to your doctor to figure out the cause of it – especially if it isn’t associated with aging or life stage (like having a baby).

About those hormones

While there are around 50 hormones produced by the human body, here are some of the common ones you might hear about and that are affected by imbalances.

  • Endorphins
    This is a group of hormones that can reduce your perception of pain, and increase your positive feelings. These are released when we work out or engage in physical activity.
  • Adrenaline
    The ‘flight or fight’ hormone that provides our body with a surge of energy in response to danger. 
  • Cortisol
    This is known as the ‘stress hormone’ because it helps our bodies cope with stress.
  • Ghrelin 
    The ‘hunger hormone’ tells your body when it needs to eat.
  • Insulin 
    Linked to diabetes, it’s clear that a little insulin goes a long way. This hormone has many functions, including allowing cells to take up sugar and amino acids from your blood stream that can be converted into energy and help the body maintain muscle.
  • Leptin 
    The ‘satiety hormone’ lets your body know when it’s full. 
  • Melatonin 
    This helps to control our body’s inner clocks, letting us know when it’s time to catch some zzzzzzzzz’s.
  • Testosterone
    While it’s responsible for many ‘male characteristics’, both women and men produce testosterone.
  • Estrogen
    Involved in regulating the female reproductive system, you hear a lot about estrogen when it comes to menopause.

Finding balance

There definitely isn’t a one-sized fits all solution for balancing our hormones, but here are some tips that could help you get a handle on them.

  • Diet changes
    Different diets can impact different hormones. Things like increasing our protein can help decrease Ghrelin levels so you feel full longer. Reducing sugar and refined carbs can decrease insulin production which can help us avoid obesity and diabetes. And increasing Omega-3 Fatty Acids could reduce levels of adrenaline and cortisol. These healthy changes are just plain good for us so they are a great place to start if looking to make a change.
  • Exercise
    Did you know that exercise can help reduce insulin levels? It can also help to reduce stress and limit estrogen levels. In their 30s, many women become estrogen dominant which can increase their risk of breast cancer – but, exercise can help keep things regulated.

  • Sleep 
    Who doesn’t love sleep? The problem is many of us don’t get enough. Poor sleep has been linked to imbalances of hormones like cortisol, insulin, leptin, and ghrelin. Just another reason to stash away the devices at bedtime and get a little extra shut-eye.

  • Chill Out

    Life can be super stressful, but learning to manage it can help get our hormones in check. Things like meditation, yoga, and massage can help us release the weight of stress from our body. And with less stress, that extra shut-eye will come easier.

Don’t these tips just sound like we all need to hit a spa for a relaxing weekend getaway?

Women over 40

It’s true, women over 40 do get the short end of the stick when it comes to hormones. As perimenopause hits, and for some women this can start in their 30s, they experience a series of hormone shifts and imbalances as their bodies adjust to a new normal as reproduction tapers off. But by following the tips above, the inevitable symptoms can potentially be minimized so they feel less like a tsunami of hormone changes, and more of a gentle wave.

But remember, if you suspect a hormone imbalance, your doctor is the right place to start when trying to figure out a solution. And with Blue Cross health insurance, not only can you get comprehensive drug plans, but there is also access to the Blue Advantage discount program for discounts on gym memberships, therapy, services and more to help you reduce stress-inducing cortisol levels.