Signs Your Hormones Are Imbalanced (And How to Balance Them Naturally)

Signs Your Hormones Are Imbalanced (And How to Balance Them Naturally)

Hormones are incredibly vital to all aspects of daily biological and physiological life.

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College permits pushing the boundaries of self-care. Or at least, we permit it to permit us. It's so much easier to surrender sleep to the demands of an essay, a presentation, or a night out. And in many cases, this may be worth it (at least, I told myself this).

Feelings of fatigue and general malaise are therefore part and parcel of the college experience—the symptoms of a difficult workload, good times, and late night philosophizing. But they could also be part and parcel of something else most universities don't openly discuss: hormone imbalance.

When I hear this phrase, I hear all of its attached assumptions: "hormone imbalances" often seem to refer to women, and menstruating women at that. But the term can be applied to men, women, and non-binary individuals, because we all have hormones, and not just those related to our reproductive organs.

Hormones are, in fact, substances all organisms produce to send messages and stimulate actions within the body's tissues and cells. They are incredibly vital to all aspects of daily biological and physiological life.

Hormone imbalances are hard to spot, as many of their symptoms can be attributed to other minor or major medical conditions. Yet they can occur easily, particularly due to stress, which can profoundly altar hormone production.

Here are the signs that you may be experiencing an imbalance and tips on how to align those helpful chemicals appropriately.

Excessive Fatigue

Fatigue is the sensation of heightened exhaustion, particularly that which is said to lie "in your bones." Fatigue can accumulate as a result of sleep deprivation—a common state of affairs in college—emotional issues, nutrition, and chemical imbalances in the body.

In some cases, this fatigue may be related to your adrenal glands, which are critical manufacturers of hormones and regulators of blood pressure and heart performance.

A hormone imbalance may be in play if you've done everything you can to address fatigue with little results: catching up on missed sleep, modifying your diet, or taking steps to boost mental health.

Moodiness or Emotional Swings

Once again, college can be the season of heightened emotion, and for good reason. It's a place of high demands, limitless possibility, and devastating setbacks. Personal life often intervenes helplessly with academic life, and this can generate some serious roller coasters.

It's okay to ride the waves of emotion as they arise. Yet if you feel as if your emotions are wild, unpredictable, and posing a serious impediment to your performance—especially despite attempts to treat them via medication or counseling—you may want to take a look at your hormones.

Digestive Issues

Hormones are essential when it comes to regulation of digestive processes. This is all too easy to forget, especially when it's far easier to blame foods, allergies, and stress.

A hormone imbalance can lead to nausea, constipation, and general stomach upset, and these symptoms are likely to persist for the extent of the imbalance, particularly if compounded with other symptoms like fatigue and vertigo.

How to Address a Hormone Imbalance

You don't have to visit your physician or sign up for hormone therapy to realign your hormones, although such options do exist for the right individuals. The secret to hormone balance lies first in body awareness—recognizing, for example, that there may be something larger and biological behind your persistent symptoms and that the symptoms exist in the first place.

To cultivate this awareness, try some simple meditations or body scans. Sitting quietly with yourself can be one of the most powerful means of identifying symptoms and their locales. Body scans, in particular, can help you isolate individual symptoms and even guess at their origin.

Next, note your diet. Some practitioners suggest that eating a diet high in protein, fat, and fiber and low in inflammatory foods such as sugars and grains can keep hormonal imbalances at bay. For this reason, it may be wise to trade that late-night pizza slice for something designed to counteract adrenal fatigue, such as amino-acid packed meats and fat-dense avocadoes.

If you are currently following a vegan or vegetarian diet, see if you can amp up your protein intake, making use of more beans, leafy greens, and gluten-free grains.

Adaptogenic herbs, those that specifically target stress, can also supplement this type of hormone-healthy diet. Check out ashwagandha or holy basil for natural remedies to anxiety and thyroid dysfunction. Immune-boosting supplements can also offset adrenal fatigue and ensure that your hormone imbalance does not lead to illness, particularly if finals are on the horizon!

Sleep is also medicinal when it comes to hormone imbalances of any kind. Sleep can be a rarity in college, but it is a key factor in the timing and extent of hormone production. In fact, your body regulates the stress hormone cortisol around midnight. If your body is already pumping out high amounts of this hormone, you may not have the chance to effectively manage it if you are climbing under the sheets at 2 A.M.

Proper sleep—at least 7 or 8 hours a night—can also help alleviate common symptoms of stress, including depression, anxiety, and moodiness. When paired with other stress-relieving habits, such as deep breathing, bed-time rituals, and general mindfulness, sleep can get those hormones back on track in no time.

Lastly, exercise is your best friend when it comes to balancing those important chemical messengers in your body. Aim to get outside or visit the gym three times a week for at least twenty minutes of vigorous exercise, which can—over time—aid in your body's ability to regulate cortisol and process healthy fats. Be sure, however, that you are not over exercising.

Too much time spent at the gym can actually topple your hormone levels, stimulating the overproduction of cortisol, that pesky stress hormone.

It's important to note that some hormone imbalances are more severe than others; some are due to allergies, autoimmune disorders, and other serious medical conditions. For this reason, it's wise to consult a practitioner if your strategies for natural balance prove ineffective.

Even if you aren't currently experiencing a hormone imbalance, these tips can be vital in promoting general heart, mind, and spirit health. And ladies, if it's that time of the month, give yourself some extra love in this department!

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An Open Letter To The Men Who Love Women

#MakeWomenFeelSafeAgain

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I'm going to cut right to the chase and just get a few facts out of the way.

1. Sexual assault is an issue. It exists, 100%.

2. Sexual assault is far too common and happening far too often.

3. Women are being told how to prepare and defend themselves from sexual assault, and men aren't being taught how to avoid doing it.

Do you not understand that the number of women who are speaking out about sexual assault is nothing compared the total number of women in the world who have been sexually assaulted?

Being accused of sexual assault is a horrible thing, but being a victim of it is a lot worse.

As women, we prepare to defend ourselves and watch our backs to keep from ending up in a situation where we are taken advantage of. It is time to stop saying "boys will be boys" and teach our men about consent and respect for women. Men need to be taught how to ask for consent and how to directly discuss their sexual intentions with a female without making them feel pressured or insulted.

How on earth could you say a woman was not sexually assaulted if a man never asked for consent or both people involved were not in the right state of mind to consent? This goes for any man or woman in any situation. Whether the woman in question is a stranger, a life-long friend, or an old flame you, need to ask for consent every single time. Prior sexual experiences with another person or a close relationship with a person does not disqualify them from needing to consent.

You need direct consent from anyone you intend on touching.

The men you hear of being accused of sexual assault and their reactions tend to be similar: confused, angry, embarrassed, and defensive.

I understand that many men who have been accused feel as if they didn't sexually assault anyone and felt as if the sexual experience was something both parties agreed on. If men would take more time to consider their situation at hand, they wouldn't have to justify or defend it later. Know exactly how a woman feels before you touch her. Know exactly what a woman expects before you touch her. Know exactly what an unforced, relaxed "yes" to consent sounds like.

You may not have meant to cause a woman harm, but you did because you neglected to fully understand a woman's worth and show her respect before becoming intimate. Mistakes happen, but you cannot stop something that you didn't even attempt to prevent.

When it comes to defending yourself or another man against sexual assault accusations or charges, think of a woman that you love. You have at least one woman in your life who you love whether it be you baby sister, your mother, your daughter, your cousin, the waitress who always remembers your order and so on.

How would you feel if a woman you love was sexually assaulted and wanted to come out about her experience to help other women from having to experience such a traumatizing experience or to take back the dignity that was physically stripped from her body?

You would want that woman to come to you. You would want to defend her and protect her. You would want to do everything in your power to ease her pain.

Respect your women, love your women, and believe your women. Make women feel safe again.

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How to Talk to People Who Don't Agree with You

These difficult conversations can be the linchpin of meaningful change.

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I hate to reiterate a truism that is nearly become cliché: we live in divided times. I feel these divides when I brew tea in the morning, scroll through Instagram, and chat with peers. I especially feel them when I visit my family or read the news.

These divides appear most painfully (and sadly) in conversations. Words are more powerful now than ever before, and they are leaving an alarming trail of debris and damage behind them.

Divided times mean more difficult conversations. It's easy to sidestep these conversations; I'm guilty of avoiding challenging chats. (I'd prefer to read a book and drink espresso, you know?)

Yet these difficult conversations are urgent. They may be the linchpin of meaningful change. They may also be the linchpin of personal change and community growth. We need to talk about what's going on out there, and especially with those "from the other side."

Keep these things in mind as you go about preparing to have those tough talks with people who don't quite share your perspective.

Drop the "us vs. them" mentality.

Conversations about the pros and cons of vaping, who should be president next, or abortion (eep!) can easily create "sides." These camps of support or opposition are ultimately not helpful for anything beyond political polls. They can be fundamentally divisive when brought into a conversation.

It can be tempting to join these camps once the other party begins to speak. Do what you can to abandon this mentality, however. Ask the other party to do so as well—respectfully and kindly.

You may struggle to step into this mental space of neutrality. The next few tips can help you lay down this boxing-ring mentality more easily.

Take a breath before you speak—every time.

I made the same point in my post about productive arguing. Having conversations with people who don't share your perspective can feel like arguments. They may hover over vast wells of emotion. They may become an argument.

To ensure that your conversation doesn't tip so closely into a shouting match, focus on your breath.

Take a deep belly breath before you speak, and try to do so every time you open your mouth. Be sure the other party is done speaking before you respond, and ask if he or she is finished before doing so.

A single breath can give you grounding, disintegrate any latent spiky emotion (anger, fear), and help you speak more slowly.

Ask more questions.

I love questions. They are vehicles for productive discussion and they can flatter, in a way, the person you're conversing with. Questions give you a chance to catch your breath and your partner to explore their perspective further.

Both can be valuable, especially if you're feeling resistant to or triggered by something the other person has said. The more time your conversation partner has to really outline their reasoning, the more insight you can have into their perspective—which can neutralize triggering emotions and even bring some empathy into the mix.

Ask considerate, open questions, such as "Can you elaborate on that point more?" or "Can you give me an example?" These questions show your interest in learning more and can be delivered sans emotion.

End the conversation with agreement.

After a difficult conversation, things may feel a bit rocky. Try to smooth out these normal rocks by ending the conversation in the spirit of agreement.

This may mean changing the subject. It may mean asking your partner: "What can we agree on here?" Mention that you'd like to close the conversation on brighter terms. This means that the last word will be a positive, shared one—you may even go out to ice cream after!

A lot of what I discuss here has to do with active listening and presence. It can be hard to channel these habits into a prickly conversation, so even if you're only able to integrate these tips for part of a discussion, bravo!

Here's to productive conversations—and the positive change they enforce.

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