There have become a need to talk about this Issue of Hormonal Imbalance that is slowly becoming a phenomenon amongst young women.
According to a contributor on The Sun:
For seven years, Mrs Obioma Nwachukwu has been married without a child. She suffers irregular menstruation. Often, when she is in her period, it is with unbearable pain. It is so sharp to the extent that she sometimes needs drugs for a relief. Recently, her last menstruation landed her in the hospital .
She said, “ the pain was so unbearable that my husband rushed me to the hospital. I was asked some questions and the answers I gave made the doctor refer me to the laboratory for hormonal profiling. Before now, I had no knowledge of what hormones were or what they do and that they can even affect my health. I learnt that if one’s hormones are not balanced, it could lead infertility. I am currently undergoing treatment, I am hoping to take in while on medication, I feel different, I am positive.
These cases and many others out there show the importance of hormones and how they function in the body. Hormones are special messengers in the body that are created in the endocrine glands; they are secreted directly into the blood which carries them to the organs and tissues of the body to exert their functions. According to Dr Agumah Nnabuife, a microbiologist at the Ebonyi State University, “hormones are biochemicals secreted by glands and transported by the circulatory system to parts of the body where they carry out physiological functions. They are directly responsible for various forms of behaviours exerted by multi-cellular organisms.”
There are many types of hormones. They act on various aspects of our bodily functions and processes. They control simple bodily functions like hunger, thirst to complex ones like reproduction, development and growth, metabolism of food items, sexual function, maintenance of body temperature, cognitive function and even your mood and emotions. They are of different types and they play a major role in the body’s health and wellbeing. The key to managing and protecting our health is to understand the various roles that they play.
Different glands secrete hormones in the body. They include pituitary gland, pineal gland, thymus, thyroid, adrenal gland, pancreas, testes and ovaries. Nnabuife explained that these glands make up the endocrine gland. “The pituitary gland is considered as the master control gland, it controls other glands, secretes the insulin which regulates the glucose metabolism. It also controls hormones that trigger growth. The pituitary gland(posterior) secretes oxytocin which is responsible for the release of breast milk in females, it also secretes prolactin which is responsible for the production of milk by the mammary gland in females. The pineal gland also called the thalamus is the gland that secretes serotonin derivatives of melatonin which affects sleep. The testes which is only found in males is responsible for the testosterone (development of sexual features in males and libido) and sperm. The ovary which is only found in the females secretes the estrogen which is responsible for the formation of female sexual characteristics. The thyroid gland secretes thyroxine, which increases metabolism.”
Hormones play a very important role in the life of a woman; virtually everything is blamed on hormones, from loss of hair to bad skin to change in voice. Hormones affect the mood, fertility, sexual desire and ovulation in a woman. They are important chemical messengers that affect the many aspects of our overall health.
Reasons for hormonal imbalance
Hormonal imbalance is a global concern, naturally, women are more likely to feel and face the effects of hormonal imbalance as they grow old, their bodies undergo different changes, they notice some hormonal changes. These changes present themselves during puberty, on the onset of menstruation. That is when they are about to start their menstrual cycle as women, pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding and even menopause. During all these stages of their lives, different hormones step in and take responsible for these changes. The problem begins when these hormones that are responsible for these changes start to misbehave, then there is an imbalance somewhere.
There are multiple reasons responsible for imbalance of hormones, but the most common of them all is the lack of accurate balance between the progesterone and estrogen level in the body. Any change or variation in the balance between the progesterone and estrogen can affect a woman’s health, causing symptoms like depression, extreme weakness, hair loss, irregular menstrual cycle, abnormal bleeding, menstrual cramps, weight gain, infertility, anxiety, fatigue, insomnia, low libido, changes in appetite, digestive issues, PMS symptoms and facial hair growth. According to Dr. Chinwe Okafor, “The symptoms could be endless, little wonder women blame all their problems on their hormones.”
Aside from the imbalance between the progesterone and the estrogen, other causes include poor nutrition, lifestyle, stress, exercise, using hormone replacement therapy and birth control pills. “The strangest thing about hormones is that it depends on nutrition, exercise, your lifestyle, amount of exercise for the hormones to function properly. So, invariably the amount of hormones a woman produces may vary from month to month. She definitely needs to keep herself in a perfect healthy condition. Birth control pills, drug use, stress, frequent use of coffee change the proteins in the brain and this not allow the body to ovulate properly.”
“Since most women suffering hormonal imbalance are estrogen dominant, they find out that their breasts seem bigger, tender or sometimes hurt. They also battle with irregular periods, painful periods with large clots of blood present and sometimes, they miss their periods. There may be hair loss also, frequent headache, memory problems, skin problems, the presence of fibroids, endometriosis, and growth of cysts, they become angry and suffer mood swings, they may be depressed too.
“When the level of progesterone is higher than normal, the symptoms to look out for are excessive sleepiness, vaginal dryness, scanty bleeding. When the progesterone level becomes low, it could result to weight gain, water retention, and low blood sugar.
“Hormonal imbalance of androgen could result to lower sex drive, tiredness and feeling sick, excessive acne, excessive hair growth on the face and arms, putting on weight around the stomach, thigh and hips,” Dr Okafor said.
Whether you want to believe it or not, hormonal imbalance is becoming an epidemic. The average female or male over 30 years of age suffers from hormonal imbalance. The condition is a multi-factorial disorder. According to Chinwe, “this simply means that it could be caused by a combination of factors such as your diet, medical history, genetic, stress levels and exposure to the toxins in the environment.
“When we think of the decline in the rate of people who engage in physical exercise, the rise of stressful lifestyles in combination with poor and imbalanced diet, no wonder younger women and men are falling prey and developing hormonal imbalances.”
The effects of such imbalances increases as we age and become more devastating and harder to treat, the longer, the worse they become. Because most of the symptoms come gradually, it is difficult to figure out initially, until the problems become more pronounced and the hormones become even more imbalanced.
Hormones can keep you young, fresh, strong and healthy when checked and available in the right proportions, it determines how your body responds to stress and on the long run how your body manages itself to keep diseases at bay, it determines the flight or fight response of your body, but once imbalance sets in it can not only destroy your looks but also your health.
What to do
“Science has made things easy. It is easy to detect and ascertain when one has hormonal imbalance. The way to diagnose any form of hormonal imbalance is by carrying out a hormone test also known as hormone panel or hormone profiling. Only trained specialists like the gynaecologists, obstetricians and endocrinologists can do so”
To treat hormonal imbalance the natural way, the first thing to do is to start taking a healthy and balanced diet. The body cannot make its hormones when it does not have enough proper building blocks which are gotten from food. Stocking the body with enough high quality proteins, fat and vegetables can help give your body what it needs. In the case where the body isn’t strong enough to break down food or maybe the person is sick, then you can incorporate supplements like Omega-3, Vitamin D, Magnesium etc.
Sleep is another tool to help control and correct hormonal imbalance. It can also help to maintain a proper weight and blood sugar regulation. Striking a balance between your food and sleep is very important.
Individuals should limit the amount of caffeine intake, coffee is a major source of caffeine, therefore, people should watch how much coffee they drink. Caffeine wreaks havoc on the endocrine system especially if there are other hormone stressors involved like pregnancy, presence of toxins or stress. Another factor that should be considered is exercise, one cannot over-emphasise the importance of exercise. If you are having adrenal or thyroid deficiency, you should consider working out. Start with light exercises like walking, swimming, biking and work your way up to what you think your body requires.