Does it take a whole lot more than soft music and a glass of wine to get you in the mood? Do your menstrual cramps take you down for an entire week? It turns out your hormones could be responsible for a lot more than mood swings and midnight cravings!
In fact, hormonal imbalances can have a dramatic impact on your sexual health, from puberty to menopause, not just during your period or when you’re pregnant. In this guide to understanding your hormones, we’ll explain what they do, how imbalances can affect your sexual health, and what you can do to rebalance them naturally.
What are hormones and what role do they play in the body?
Hormones are chemical messengers that are produced by your endocrine system. These tiny molecules regulate many essential body processes, including blood pressure, hunger, cognitive function, and sexual desire.
In fact, hormones influence all of your body’s systems, from breathing and metabolism to moods and reproduction. While hormones do flow throughout your entire body, they only affect specific cells that are designed to receive their messages.
Whether you are a man or a woman, your hormones shift continuously throughout the day. For example, when you eat a meal, insulin (a hormone produced by the pancreas) increases to regulate your blood sugar.
Or, when you slam on your brakes to avoid running into the car in front of you, adrenaline is pumped out of your adrenal glands to help you react fast. And, when it’s time to go to sleep at night, the pineal gland makes melatonin, a hormone that encourages restful sleep.
To sum it up, your hormones and hormone receptor cells work together like a lock and key. Even the slightest fluctuations and imbalances in your hormone levels can have a dramatic effect on how you feel.
Conditions and Symptoms That Could Indicate a Hormonal Imbalance
When your body produces too much or too little of any hormone, it can have a host of negative effects on your body. In women, these conditions and symptoms could include:
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Painful, heavy, or irregular menstrual periods
- Low sex drive
- Inability to conceive
- Breast tenderness
- Vaginal dryness
- Hot flashes/night sweats
- Thyroid disorders
- High blood pressure
- Constipation, diarrhea, and other digestive issues
- Premenstrual acne
- Irregular uterine bleeding not caused by menstruation
- Increased hair growth on the neck, chest, or face
- Thinning or loss of hair
- Unexplained weight gain
Interestingly, hormonal imbalances and fluctuations affect every woman differently. Some women are more sensitive than others. That may explain why one woman experiences severe premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or postpartum depression, while another woman has very mild symptoms or may not even experience these conditions at all.
How Hormonal Imbalances Can Affect Your Sexual Health
In women, sex (or reproductive) hormones are produced by the ovaries. These include progesterone, estrogen, testosterone, and androgens.
The level of these sex hormones in your body fluctuates throughout your entire life. During puberty, these reproductive hormones control the development of your sexual organs, breasts, and body hair.
Sex hormone levels also shift throughout the month to regulate your menstrual cycle during your reproductive years. When these hormones are out of balance, you may not even experience the desire to have sex at all.
As you can imagine, hormone imbalances also play a major role in your ability to become pregnant and carry a baby to term. And, when you are pregnant, your hormone levels shift more dramatically than any other time in your life. They trigger the creation of an entirely new organ, the placenta, which secretes a hormone called progesterone.
As you age, your reproductive hormone levels naturally decrease, eventually triggering menopause.
Interestingly, some women are more sensitive to the effects of hormonal imbalances than others. That could be why some women experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS), postpartum depression, and menopausal discomfort while other women have very mild symptoms or may not even experience them at all.
Hormonal imbalances can affect your sexual health throughout your entire life.
How to Balance Your Hormones Naturally
Conventional treatments for hormonal imbalances usually include birth control pills or hormone replacement medications. While these treatments can be very effective, they also come with a host of side effects many women want to avoid.
Thankfully, there are several steps you can take to rebalance your hormones naturally, without harmful side effects.
Rebalance Your Hormones by Optimizing Your Nutrition
If you’re looking for natural ways to prevent and correct hormonal imbalances, optimizing your nutrition to support healthy hormone levels is the best place to start. Eating a clean, high-fiber diet and taking the right supplements every day can make a huge difference.
Here’s what you need to prioritize:
- Even the cleanest diet can be deficient in key nutrients, so be sure to include a high-quality multivitamin in your daily routine.
- Selenium is an essential mineral necessary for thyroid function and healthy hormone levels.
- B-complex vitamins help balance serotonin, estrogen, and progesterone levels. B-vitamins are also key for detoxifying the liver, improving energy levels, and regulating your moods.
- Vitamin D is necessary for the production of sex hormones, as well as mood and immune health. Many people are deficient, so be sure it’s in your daily supplement, especially if you don’t spend much time in the sun.
- Probiotic-rich cultured and fermented foods are also essential for a healthy gut and regulating hormone levels. Taking care of your gut is also essential to your overall mental and physical health, so prioritize probiotics every day.
- Omega-3 fatty acids are crucial for reducing inflammation throughout the body. Healthy fats like omega-3s are also necessary for the production of many hormones, so make sure they’re in your daily supplement, especially if your diet doesn’t include plenty of fatty fish.
- Avoid or limit uncooked cruciferous vegetables, processed soy, refined sugars, and refined carbohydrates.
Lifestyle Changes to Support Healthy Hormone Levels
Certain lifestyle factors can also play a major role in hormone production.
- Chronic stress plays a major role in hormonal imbalance, so finding ways to lower your stress level is key. Explore meditation, yoga, exercise, and other healthy ways to de-stress.
- Avoid toxic chemicals that could interfere with hormone production or mimic estrogen in the body. Choose organic foods and supplements, avoid BPA in plastic water bottles, and drink plenty of water to support detoxification.
- Get plenty of sleep. Many hormones are produced when the body is at rest, so a lack of proper sleep can play a key role in hormonal imbalances.
- Exercise regularly to support healthy hormone production, energy levels, and help you maintain a healthy weight.
Using Herbs to Help Rebalance Your Hormones
Certain herbs may also help to rebalance your hormones and reduce some symptoms related to hormonal imbalances. Be sure to talk to your doctor before starting any herbal supplements, especially if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, taking medication, or have a health condition.
- Raspberry leaf has been used for centuries to balance female hormones. It may also relax muscles, which makes it useful for reducing menstrual cramps.
- Black cohosh can help regulate hormone levels, especially estrogen. It may be helpful for hot flashes, moodiness, and painful periods associated with hormonal imbalances.
- Dong Quai is a Chinese herb popular for balancing female hormones and reducing PMS. It may also help with menopausal symptoms by regulating estrogen levels.
- Chasteberry, also called vitex, decreases the level of prolactin in the body, while balancing estrogen and progesterone. It’s ideal for treating PMS, hormonal acne, and may also improve fertility.
The Bottom Line
Menstrual cramps, mood swings, and low sex drive aren’t just a part of life that you have to learn to live with. Taking proactive steps can help you rebalance your hormones and improve your sexual health naturally. When you take good care of yourself and your hormone health, the benefits will be evident, not just in the bedroom, but also in how you look and feel on the day-to-day.