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When you hear the word hormonal, you probably either think of a teenager with skin problems or an older menopausal woman going through the change. Unfortunately, hormonal changes happen to the best of us and a sudden change in the level of hormones in the body can result in some pretty nasty side effects. Hormonal changes occur right from birth all the way up until death, and yet we all seem to still have a negative connection with the term hormonal.

For females, the most apparent changes occur during menopause, but they can also be seen well in the 20s and 30s for some women. There have been studies and claims of women facing menopausal-like hormonal changes earlier on in life due to their diet, lifestyle and even their environment. We’re living in a time now when we’re surrounded by pollution, toxic substances and chemicals known as xenoestrogens, which are found in many food products that actually mimic the hormones in the body. Most women are exposed to one or all of these issues daily, so it’s no surprise that hormonal imbalances are an all too common occurrence.

There are a range of symptoms that come with a hormonal imbalance, so understanding what these side effects are and knowing how to change them will help tremendously in terms of your health and well-being.

Signs That You Might Have a Hormonal Imbalance

1 – Persistent and Sudden Weight Gain

Your lifestyle, diet and level of physical activity determines your weight, but this isn’t necessary the end story to sudden weight gain. A lot of women have underlying hormone problems that make it almost impossible to maintain a healthy weight and get rid of body fat. Emerging resistance to insulin that goes unaddressed is often the most common, with many women falling into the pre-diabetic range on blood glucose tests. A lot of women also have PCOS, which can interfere with hormone production in the body and cause weight gain that is often unexplained. In order to tackle this problem, it’s vital that you make changes to your diet and exercise levels, and for you to make regular trips to the doctor to ensure that your reproductive and blood health are in check.

2 – Midsection Fat and Loss of Muscle

When your body’s hormonal system is out of balance, there is often an underproduction of specific hormones and an overproduction of others, like cortisol. Cortisol is directly linked to midsection belly fat. If you’re noticing that you have gained a lot of weight recently, but a lot of that weight is around your stomach area, it is most likely due to an overproduction of cortisol, which is a type of stress hormone. This particular hormone is responsible for making your body store its fat for future use during stressful situations. Centuries ago, this particular hormone came in handy during times of famine and war, but now it can be triggered by simple stress-inducing life events like going to work, changing jobs or dealing with annoying family members.

3 – Low Sex Drive

If you’ve noticed a change in your libido, or sex drive, it’s probably due to hormonal changes within the body. This often starts by noticing disturbances in your sleep. If you’re having trouble sleeping at night, your sex hormones will diminish in production and you’ll be left feeling uninterested in what used to tickle your fancy.

4 – Constant Fatigue

Even if you’re getting a full night of sleep, if you’re having issues staying awake during the day without a pick-me-up or nap, it’s probably due to an onset of hormonal changes. It typically isn’t normal to feel confused, scatter-brained, sluggish and foggy throughout the day, especially if you’re getting a full night of sleep each night. Making easy changes to your diet, like eliminating gluten and grains, can help to stabilize blood sugar levels and reduce fatigue.

5 – Anxiety, Mental Issues and Depression

If you’re just not feeling like yourself and are dealing with a cacophony of mental issues, it’s likely due to hormonal changes. This is especially true if the changes came on suddenly as opposed to an issue you’ve been dealing with for years. Anxiety and severe depression are clues that your body is experiencing a hormonal imbalance. Many people also deal with irritability and sometimes even an onset of mental issues like OCD, derealization and chronic fatigue syndrome. This hormonal imbalance is directly related to the way that you’re living. By nourishing your body and getting the exercise that you need, you may be able to reverse the damage done to your hormonal system.

6 – Insomnia and Trouble Sleeping

Unfortunately, not getting enough sleep starts the stress cycle that increases cortisol production within the body and leads to major hormonal imbalances. There isn’t one area of your life that poor sleep won’t touch. Just think of a daily night for yourself and if you’re constantly tossing, turning and getting up, you’re experiencing disrupted sleeping patterns. In order to combat this, you need to make your nighttime routine more scheduled and relaxed. Turn off gadgets before bed and consider making changes to your physical activity throughout the day. If you keep yourself extra busy during the day, it’ll be easier to fall into bed each night.

7 – Sweating

For most ladies, dealing with hot flashes and night sweats are one of the first signs that something is not right. This isn’t necessarily the time to run to your doctor to start hormone replacement therapy, because the issues are likely related to the way you’re eating and living. Keeping a journal of your emotions and the foods you’re eating might give you clues to why you’re sweating all the time. In fact, our emotions are directly linked to our internal temperature. When you are stressed, angry or anxious all the time, sweating is almost to be expected.

8 – Digestive Issues

Bloating, extreme gas and slow digestion aren’t commonly linked to hormonal balances, but they can usually be rectified with proper eating habits. Changing the foods that you’re eating and getting away from processed junk can help with these problems. You should also make sure that you’re chewing your food enough and that you’re drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Oftentimes, eating too much and taking in too many calories will cause digestive issues and weight gain.

9 – Cravings

We all have cravings from time to time. You might pass by the bakery section of your local supermarket and crave a cake on display or reach for the chocolate bar at the checkout line. The problem surfaces when you’re having cravings all the time. These cravings can be triggered by insulin resistance, hormonal imbalances and adrenal fatigue. Again, reducing the amount of sugars, dairy and wheat in your diet will not only help eliminate cravings altogether but assist in digestive health.

Remember that just because you’re dealing with all or some of these issues, it doesn’t mean that you have a hormonal imbalance and that it isn’t something bigger. For example, anxiety and depression are real mental disorders that can affect anyone of any age and don’t necessarily have to be linked to hormone changes within the body. Going to your doctor and having a simple blood test and neurological evaluation done will eliminate the chance that there’s something more major wrong that can be corrected with medication and therapy. However, if your issues are hormone-related, you simply need to make consistent changes to the way you eat, move and reduce stress to get your body back in check.