Hormone Imbalance 101: 4 Little-Known Causes Your Doctor Didn’t Tell You About

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Written By

Lauryn

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Expert Reviewed By

Dr. Lauryn Lax, OTD, MS

Dr. Lauryn, OTD, MS is a doctor of occupational therapy, clinical nutritionists and functional medicine expert with 25 years of clinical and personal experience in healing from complex chronic health issues and helping others do the same.

Hormone Imbalance - Woman Bored, Tired

Metabolic and hormone imbalance is exactly what it sounds like—your hormones get out of whack. 

Metabolic and hormone imbalance is characterized by tons of symptoms, including some of these on the screen:

  • Fatigue
  • Gaining weight — despite eating healthy and working out; or the flip side, inability to gain weight despite trying
  • Increased body fat and/or difficulty toning up 
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Night sweats, nighttime waking or insomnia
  • Mood swings, irritability, anxiety and depression
  • Constipation or bloating
  • Irregular periods 
  • Skin problems like acne or dry skin
  • Hair loss or thinning 
Hormone Imbalance - Woman Suffering Headache At Work Using A Desktop Computer In The Office

Basically if you’ve felt out of balance yourself, there’s a good chance your hormones have something to do with it. 

Moreover 70% of cycling women experience estrogen dominance ALONE and 1 out of 4 of men experience low testosterone…

And we aren’t even scratching the surface of other chronic hormone imbalances like: HPA Axis Dysregulation, PCOS, missing your period, crazy PMS symptoms, Hypothyroidism & Hashimoto’s. 

Which brings us to our next question: How does hormone imbalance happen in the first place? … and what do we do about it?

4 Most Common Triggers Causing Hormone Imbalance

Beyond just “hormonal fluctuations” — the ups and downs that happen for menstruating women in particular every 28 days— let’s BRIEFLY discuss the top 4 common triggers causing hormone imbalance. 

#1. Blood Sugar Dysregulation

Hormone Imbalance - Close-Up Of Young Woman Having Stomach Pain

As mentioned, at least 9 out of 10 people have blood sugar imbalance…which not only leads to low energy, feeling snacky-and-hangry during the day, brain for and weight loss resistance, but also creates HIGH CORTISOL (ie. Inflammation) and throws your other hormones off. 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3891203/

As blood sugar goes down too low or up too high, cortisol and adrenaline — your stress hormones — are called in to help try to re-regulate it; and consequently, excess stress acts like a domino effect for other hormones in your body. 

Blood sugar dysregulation happens for several reasons, but mostly is diet and lifestyle related, including:

Gut bacteria imbalance—an interesting fact since about 90% of people also have dysbiosis the same amount of people with blood sugar problems (discussed in a minute) 

Low protein/low meat diets are a huge factor—most people are NOT consuming 1 G protein per pound of healthy bodyweight daily

Excess intake of sugar/sweeteners, seed oils & inflammatory foods is huge (like gluten and conventional dairy)

As is Sedentary lifestyles or overtraining.

Then we’ve got—Toxin exposures—in our homes, water, foods and hygiene products—all of which effect the liver, which in turn effects blood sugar regulation

Enough said here. 

#2. Circadian Rhythm Disruption

Hormone Imbalance - Woman In Bed Struggling To Fall Asleep

This is a big one we need to discuss. 

Circadian rhythm is your body’s natural built-in biological “master clock” that keeps all of your body systems on a schedule, working in tip top shape.

Circadian rhythm is what naturally wakes you up in the morning, makes you hungry at noon for lunch, causes an energy dip in the afternoon as your cortisol levels decrease, and makes you sleepy when the sun goes down.

In an ideal world, our bodies THRIVE on a circadian clock aligned with the sun—higher in energy early on in the day and, like a bell curve, gradually decreasing in energy as the sun goes down. 

Unfortunately, in modern day, we live in a war with our circadian clock—and our hormones (especially cortisol levels) and our gut microbiomes suffer from it. 

We wake up to startling alarms, and feel anxious out of the gate…then reach for our bluelight infused phones in the pitch black dark room to further “spike” our cortisol levels and jump into the day to see what messages, emails and social media comments we missed over the past 8 hours…

Then, after getting ready, we are out the door…since we are intermittent fasting, we then hastily grab a cup of coffee with two shots of espresso on our way to work or taking the kids to school…and our cortisol—and circadian—gets ANOTHER one-two punch! More stress poured on top…

Or we hit a treadmill, CrossFit or other cortisol spiking workout…followed by skipping breakfast or the flip side—a carb rich bagel or bowl of oatmeal and banana…and we even more in the red. 

And this is all before 10 am. 

The rest of the day is highlighted by…sitting at desks, in cars…under flurocenst lights…scrolling through more blue lit screens on our computers and phones…taking very little movement breaks, very few breath breaks, very few (if any) sunlight breaks…

By the time 3 pm hits, our energy levels, brain concentration and overall pep in our step is suffering, so we reach for more coffee or a granola bar or something sweet to get our energy up, followed by perhaps another jarring workout or Netflix couch watching binge…with more blue screens and artificial lights…

Then we eat dinner, followed by a late night snack…and bed…scrolling on our screens.

Wash, rinse, repeat. 

If your circadian rhythm is off, then your hormones like melatonin (your sleep hormone) get off…insulin—blood sugar balance and hunger fullness hormones get off…cortisol and sex hormones get off…AND your gut bacteria get off a healthy, balanced schedule too. 

Hello hormone imbalance!

#3. Gut (Estrobolome) Imbalance

Hormone Imbalance -  Girl Lying Rest At Home In Living Room Buried Her Face In Couch Feels Exhaustion

Your gut is  the “largest endocrine organ”—hormone producing and balancing organ— in your body–also known as the “estrobolome”. 

Your gut microbiota regulate all hormones, but are particularly responsible for balancing estrogen levels in your body by degrading—eating up— extra estrogens so excess doesn’t stick in your body.

Healthy gut bacteria act like the video game Pac Man—they chew chew chew any excess estrogens in order to keep all hormones in check. 

Gut bacteria ALSO are the key messengers between your gut and brain axis. In fact, for every one signal to the gut, there are 9 to 10 more that come back up from the gut!!!

Hence, if your brain perceives and signals STRESS down the vagus nerve to the gut, your gut microbes go CRAZY and send a message right back up to the brain—which then disrupts the HPA AXIS and signals MAY DAY, MAY DAY — STRESS— throughout the rest of your body. It’s wild. 
Unfortunately, if you ALSO have underlying gut problems–SIBO, parasites, candida, dysbiosi—these not only impact your gut– but it impairs hormone balance and circulating cortisol levels which can result in symptoms GALORE… 

From weight gain and weight loss resistance, to constipation and bloating, irregular cycles, low libido, hair loss, anxiety, low energy, poor muscle mass, the list goes on. 

#4. Sluggish Liver & Gallbladder

Your detox pathways—including your liver, gallbladder, kidneys, colon and lymphatic system—all help with clearing out excess hormones.

If any of these detox pathways are UNDER-FUNCTIONING—especially your liver and gallbladder— from either excess toxin exposure, or disruptive diet and lifestyle factors, then once again, Houston, we have a problem.

In my clinical practice, it is safe to say that 75% of the patients I see need liver and gallbladder support in particular—greatly due to the fact that we are inundated with over 100,000 toxins in our daily environment and MOST people never got a lesson in “HOW TO SUPPORT YOUR LIVER & GALLBLADDER 101.”

Your liver  in particular is responsible for hormonal balance—the liver transforms or removes any excess hormones from the body…and if your liver can’t metabolize them very well through PHASE 1 and PHASE 2, we can end up with estrogen dominance, thyroid issues, high cortisol, insulin resistance and beyond.

Hormone Imbalance -  Woman Sitting At Table In Kitchen With Box Of Pizza Breaking Diet Eating Potato Chip From Bowl

Similarly, the gallbladder is responsible for clearing out excess circulating hormones, toxins and wastes through your poo; as well as stimulating digestive enzymes. If the gallbladder unhealthy or congested from an environment, diet or lifestyle that does not support it…you also end up with hormone imbalance and irregular bowel habits. 

Gallbladder congestion is SUPER COMMON in people with dietary imbalances—like anyone on a long term high fat ketogenic or carnivore—low carb, low fat/vegan diet or carnivore meat-based OR processed foods diet—ALL of whom can run into the ‘dilemma’ of over-demanding the gallbladder to work harder to assist in digestion compared to those who eat a BALANCED diet. As a result, many chronic dieters end up with excess estrogens in their body. 

The same thing happens with women who have been on birth control for a long time—a xenoestrogen—fake estrogen-mimicking toxins—that clog up both liver and gallbladder function…creating more inflammation, more cortisol and hormones with no where to go. 

That is just a couple of many dilemmas….and we didn’t even fully unpack TOXINS.  

Toxins are PERVASIVE in modern day—over 100,000 unregulated toxins to be exact that are like the ELEPHANT.

From TIDE detergent…to Herbal Essences shampoo…to Neutrogena face wash….GLADE Plug-In fragrances…mold and mycotoxins…pesticides and weed killers in our produce…chemicals in our medications, car exhaust, yoga pants, plastic water bottles…we are inundated…

Without properly supported detox pathways, voila, hormone AND gut imbalance is inevitable.

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