What is hormonal imbalance?

Written by: Dr. Amy Beckley, PhD, Founder and Inventor of the Proov test the first and only FDA-cleared test to confirm successful ovulation at home.

Written on 12/19/21

what is hormonal imbalance

Did you know that our hormones need balance as well?

Ah, balance. Many of us strive for it in our daily lives — balance between work and play, spending and saving, the list goes on.

Did you know that our hormones need balance as well? In order to live and feel our best, balanced hormones are so important! Keep reading to learn more about hormonal imbalance.

What are hormones?

Hormones are little “chemical messengers” produced by glands in your endocrine system. They are released in your bloodstream.

Hormones travel to different parts of your body to control and regulate bodily functions and processes, including hunger, sleep, temperature control, blood sugar, reproduction, mood, and growth. Our hormones have very important jobs!

There are two main female reproductive hormones: estrogen and progesterone. These two hormones are mainly produced in the ovaries and adrenal glands, except if you’re pregnant, in which case they’re produced by the placenta.

Together, estrogen and progesterone mainly regulate the menstrual cycle and support reproduction. However, they can also impact libido, weight management, hair growth, bone health, and even your mood.

Estrogen dominates the first half of your cycle — the follicular phase. As your ovaries prepare for ovulation that cycle, they produce estrogen to help thicken the uterine lining in preparation for implantation and pregnancy.

After ovulation, progesterone becomes dominant. It takes a few days for progesterone to reach an optimal level, but ideally it should remain elevated on days 7 through 10 past peak fertility (i.e. the implantation window).

Progesterone’s role during the luteal phase is to stabilize the already thickened uterine lining and make it “sticky” enough to allow implantation and pregnancy to occur. Healthy progesterone levels also promote a healthy luteal phase length and prevent symptoms such as premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or spotting.

If conception doesn’t occur, both estrogen and progesterone levels drop at the end of your luteal phase, so that you may start your period. Then, the whole cycle starts over again!

Why is hormone balance important?

Since hormones regulate our bodily functions, it goes without saying that hormonal imbalances influence your overall health. Too little or too much of a certain hormone may throw the entire system out of whack.

As we saw from the overview of our cycle, estrogen and progesterone should be in opposition to one another. When estrogen is dominant, progesterone levels are lower and vice versa.

This constant seesaw of estrogen and progesterone is what promotes a healthy cycle and the best possible chance at successful pregnancy. In fact, low progesterone after ovulation is a common cause of infertility.

Additionally, since we saw that estrogen and progesterone can both affect our mood, hormone balance keeps us feeling like the best version of ourselves. For those who suffer from PMS, promoting a healthy hormone balance can help relieve symptoms.

In perimenopause, drops in both estrogen and progesterone levels are often the culprit of common perimenopausal symptoms, such as lack of libido, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and osteoporosis.

what is hormonal imbalance

For those who suffer from PMS, promoting a healthy hormone balance can help relieve symptoms.

What is hormonal imbalance?

While oh so important, our hormonal balance is also delicate and can easily be disrupted. Moreover, lack or excess of one hormone may impact the production of other hormones.

The most common hormonal imbalance in people with cycles is the estrogen-progesterone imbalance. As we’ve seen, the importance of this balance stretches beyond reproductive function.

Estrogen dominance may occur when we have too much estrogen in comparison to progesterone. This can happen when we produce too much estrogen or too little progesterone.

Estrogen dominance can cause a wide array of symptoms, which can make it a little difficult to pinpoint it as the cause. It is important to be in tune with your body and to write down any changes that may indicate a potential imbalance.

Some common signs and symptoms of estrogen dominance are:

  • Fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Irritability or mood swings
  • Lack of periods (also called amenorrhea)
  • Irregular periods, longer than 35 days 
  • Short luteal phase, under 12 days
  • Spotting before period
  • Strong PMS symptoms
  • Breast tenderness
  • Weight fluctuations
  • Sleeping issues
  • Low libido
  • Vaginal dryness and painful intercourse
  • Frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs)

What causes hormonal imbalance?

There are many factors that can cause an imbalance between estrogen and progesterone and, sometimes, it can be difficult to determine the root cause. However, the most common is polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

PCOS is a very common hormonal disorder among people with cycles of a reproductive age. It may go undiagnosed for years, due to lack of consensus on diagnostic methods. Its symptoms may vary, but the most common ones are:

  • Lack of periods or irregular periods
  • Weight gain
  • Acne
  • Excess facial and body hair
  • Anovulation
  • Infertility

But PCOS is not the only cause of hormonal imbalance. Your estrogen-progesterone balance may also be disrupted by:

  • Cortisol imbalance caused by excessive stress
  • Abnormal bodyweight (either high or low)
  • Hormonal contraception
  • Ovarian tumours
  • Exposure to certain chemicals
  • Menopause

what is hormonal imbalance

PCOS is not the only cause of hormonal imbalance.

How can I treat hormonal imbalance?

Before treating a hormonal imbalance we always recommend testing your hormone levels and consulting your doctor for the best next steps. At-home hormone tests, like Proov Complete, can help reveal potential imbalances.

Luckily, if you do detect an imbalance, there are several ways you can try to balance your hormones naturally:

Seed cycling

Seed cycling is a natural hormone balance method that consists of eating certain seeds at certain times during your cycle. During the follicular phase you should have pumpkin and flax seed to promote healthy estrogen production. After ovulation, you should start eating sesame and sunflower seeds to support progesterone production.

There is not much scientific evidence confirming the benefits of this method but anecdotal evidence suggests it may help with irregular cycles, PMS, menopause symptoms, endometriosis, PCOS, and improve fertility.

Acupuncture

Studies show acupuncture is supposed to help lengthen the luteal phase by enhancing progesterone production and reducing stress.

Diet

Diet is another factor that can either wreak havoc in your endocrine system or restore your hormones. Eating a well-balanced diet, with less refined foods, less sugar, and more protein and healthy fats may promote healthy progesterone production and maybe even weight loss.

It is important to keep in mind that unhealthy (saturated) fats may increase estrogen production and worsen hormonal imbalance symptoms.

Herbal supplements

Herbal supplements may be an option for improving hormone balance and many studies support their efficiency in regulating your menstrual cycle and PMS symptoms. The best herbal supplement for you likely depends on your specific hormonal imbalance, which is why we always recommend testing before treating!

If you're low on progesterone, you may want to naturally support progesterone production with the Luteal Love herbal supplement. Luteal Love contains maca, ashwagandha, and vitex to help support your levels.

If natural options haven’t worked for you or if your imbalance is affecting your quality of life or fertility, we recommend consulting your doctor.

Balanced hormones can lead to a balanced life! The more you know about hormonal imbalance, the more you can do to keep your hormones in check. 

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“Hormone balance plays a huge role in fertility, and understanding what’s going on with your hormones doesn’t have to be such a mystery.

It’s actually way easier than most people realize.” 

— Amy Beckley, Proov Founder