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S2E44: Natural skincare for chemically sensitive MTHFR folks with Renee Harris

Red Flags for Women’s Hormone Issues

 

This week, let’s talk about some of the things that women tend to accept as “normal” but that could be indicators of something more serious.

red flags for infertility, red flags for women's hormones,

For all that we talk more than we used to about hormone issues and “female troubles,” we still don’t talk enough. Lots of symptoms that women accept as “normal” because their mother has the same symptom or their sister, or their bestie, might actually be a sign that there is a hormone imbalance, and those hormone imbalances may lead to infertility, sub-fertility, or other serious issues for women. Also, keep in mind the people you’re most likely to talk with about hormonal symptoms, like your mother or your sister, are genetically related and may have the same red flags as you.

Women’s Hormone Red Flags That Could Mean Fertility Trouble or Infertility

  • Skipped periods – Skipped periods can be a normal response to stress, new medications, or changes to your exercise routine – especially if you’ve recently started endurance training. It can also be a response to viruses or vaccines, as in the Covid virus and vaccine, which have both been shown to often result in a harmless skipped period. It is normal to skip up to two cycles per year, but more than that should be examined by your doctor. Also remember that skipping a period is different than having long cycles, or only having your period every 40+ days.
  • Heavy bleeding/flooding – All women bleed differently and heavy bleeding can be normal, but it is important to talk to your doctor about your actual amount of bleeding. Heavy bleeding or flooding can be an early warning sign of endometriosis, fibroids, or perimenopause. Also, it can increase your risk of anemia, which would also interfere with a normal pregnancy.
  • Scanty bleeding – Every woman would love a scanty period and for some women this level of bleeding is their usual. A scanty period, however, indicates that your uterine lining is not thickening very much during the month and may not be sufficient to support a pregnancy. It often indicates low progesterone or low relative progesterone in an overly-high estrogen picture. 
  • Hirsutism – Normal hair growth patterns vary widely between women and especially if you’re comparing women from one ethnic group to another. Facial or body hair is really only a concern if it is new or different from your usual level of face and body hair growth since puberty. New, dark hair around your nipples or chin can also be an indicator of a more complex hormone disorder like PCOS or other disorders that increase your levels of androgens.
  • Hair loss – Just like hair growth can be a concern, new or changing loss of hair on your head can be a concern. Some women are sensitive to any hormone fluctuation and will respond with temporary hair loss to every change. Certainly, hair loss during pregnancy or in the postpartum period is both normal and also temporary. Other reasons for hair loss can include PCOS, low thyroid, or high thyroid levels. Also, some women experience hair loss in perimenopause or menopause.
  • Pelvic pain and cramping – It is so easy to think of cramping as a normal part of having your period, and mild cramping can be, but if it interferes with your normal life, stops you from going to work, or keeps you on the couch all day, it isn’t normal. Pelvic pain and cramping is also called dysmenorrhea and it can be a sign of endometriosis, fibroids, sometimes PCOS, or ovarian cysts. It generally indicates a shift in your hormones toward too high estrogen and can certainly be an issue for your fertility even without one of the bigger conditions like fibroids or endometriosis. 
  • PMS/PMDD – Many women experience mild emotional changes in different parts of their cycle, and that can be normal but some women are emotionally more sensitive to hormone fluctuations. For these women, severe PMS or PMDD can be a big issue. This can also indicate an imbalance in hormone levels that could be a sign of deeper issues.
  • Nosebleeds at start of or during menses – Although it isn’t common, some women with endometriosis actually experience nosebleeds at the beginning of their menstrual cycle that is caused by endometrial tissue that has begun to grow in the nasal passages.
  • Chronic acne – Acne during puberty and even during menopause, although annoying, is entirely normal. Ongoing acne troubles in adulthood, especially cystic acne, can represent hormone imbalance. This is typically a sign of an androgen issue like PCOS, but of course it can be more complex and multifactorial than that as well.
  • Lower abdominal bloating – Lasting lower abdominal bloating is often dismissed by doctors as a vanity complaint, or referred for GI workup, which is a great first step. If you have persistent bloating and everything from your gastroenterologist comes back normal, it’s important to rule out ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer is often missed in the early stages because its hallmark symptom, lower abdominal bloating, is reasonably general. Make sure to ask your doctor to rule this out if you’re at all concerned.
  • Fatigue – Occasional fatigue is a totally normal part of life, but ongoing fatigue can indicate a deeper problem. Fatigue by itself isn’t a very clear symptom because it can be related to so many things, but be sure your doctor checks your thyroid, and your progesterone levels. Hypo or hyperthyroid can both lead to infertility and it is incredibly important to get a proper work up with your doctor. Excess progesterone, whether it’s natural or from a progesterone birth control pill or the Mirena IUD, can be a cause of fatigue. Also, chronic fatigue, also called CFS/ME, or myalgic encephalomyelitis, is more difficult to diagnose, but important to rule out. CFS/ME can indicate an underlying MTHFR gene polymorphism, which is linked to hormone irregularities and an increased risk of repeat pregnancy loss.
  • Hot flashes or night sweats – Hot flashes, or night sweats which are essentially hot flashes that happen during sleep, often indicate a drop in estrogen levels, and are common around menopause. They are also common in the postpartum hormone washout and also when you stop breast feeding. Hot flashes and night sweats do not have to be part of menopause, and hormone replacement therapy can help you to manage them.
  • Persistent weight gain – Persistent weight gain if you have stopped your exercise routine or started doing something like covid baking, but if you haven’t changed anything about your diet or lifestyle and you’re gaining weight for no reason, then it can be a problem. This can be a sign of insulin resistance, PCOS, adrenal/stress hormone imbalance, or thyroid troubles.
  • Pain during intercourse – Pain during intercourse can be normal for a short time after having a baby, but outside of that it should be considered a problem. It can be a sign of low estrogen, which can cause vaginal dryness and micro tears in your vaginal tissue with intercourse. This can also be a sign of endometriosis, fibroids, or other growths in your abdominal cavity.
  • Breast discharge – Discharge from your nipples when you’re not actually breastfeeding can indicate an overproduction of prolactin from your brain. This is treatable, but it’s important to get a full diagnostic workup, because it can also be a sign of a prolactin secreting tumor. Discharge can also be a sign of ductal carcinoma in situ, so talk to your doctor right away.
  • Low libido – Low sex drive if it’s always been low might just be your physiological set point. But if it’s normally high and it has become low outside of relationship or other emotional issues then that might indicate an issue. Of course loss of sex drive during a relationship issue is normal and doesn’t indicate a problem, outside of the problem with the relationship. Decreasing sex drive can be common in women after having babies and as they age, especially in perimenopause and menopause. Early loss of libido can also indicate early ovarian failure.
  • Infertility – An ongoing issue with difficulty conceiving or repeat pregnancy loss can actually be the first sign of hormone trouble for some women. Of course, as we learned in episode 1 it can be a sign of a million other things as well.
  • Sores that won’t heal on your breasts – Sores that won’t heal are never a good sign, anywhere, but when they occur on your breasts they can be a sign of a different type of breast cancer called ductal carcinoma in situ. This isn’t linked to infertility, but it should be evaluated by your doctor.
  • Sudden change in your cycle – If you’ve always had one type of period and all of a sudden something different is happening, it can indicate a shift in your hormones. This is a good time to check with your doctor because sudden hormone shifts are strange.
facial hair and infertility, hair loss and infertility, infertility signs and symptoms.

What are the 5 hormonal imbalances?

There are many hormonal imbalances that can affect women. Here are five common hormonal imbalances:

Estrogen dominance: Estrogen dominance occurs when there is an imbalance between estrogen and progesterone, resulting in high levels of estrogen with respect to progesterone. This can cause symptoms such as irregular periods, weight gain, mood changes, and breast tenderness.

Thyroid imbalance: The thyroid gland produces hormones that regulate metabolism and energy levels. An imbalance in thyroid hormones can cause symptoms such as fatigue, weight changes, and mood changes.

Adrenal gland imbalance: The adrenal glands produce hormones that help the body respond to stress. An imbalance in adrenal hormones can cause symptoms such as fatigue, anxiety, sugar cravings, increased belly weight, and mood changes.

Insulin resistance: Insulin resistance occurs when the body becomes resistant to the effects of insulin, a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels. This can lead to high blood sugar levels and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): PCOS is a hormonal disorder that affects the ovaries and can cause irregular periods, infertility, weight gain, and acne.

If you are experiencing any symptoms that may be due to a hormonal imbalance, it is important to speak with a healthcare provider to determine the cause and receive appropriate treatment.

How can you fix a hormonal imbalance?

There are several ways to address hormonal imbalances, depending on the specific cause and symptoms. Some common treatment options include:

Medications: Hormonal imbalances can sometimes be treated with medications that help balance hormone levels. For example, thyroid hormone replacement therapy can help regulate thyroid hormone levels in people with hypothyroidism.

Lifestyle changes: Making lifestyle changes can help address some hormonal imbalances. For example, losing weight and exercising regularly can help improve insulin resistance, reduce excess estrogen, and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Herbal remedies: Some people find that certain herbs can help balance hormone levels and alleviate symptoms of hormonal imbalances. For example, seed cycling can help to balance excess estrogens and regulate symptoms associated with excess estrogens. However, it is important to speak with a healthcare provider before using any herbal remedies, as they can interact with medications and have potential side effects.

Diet changes: Making changes to your diet can help address some hormonal imbalances. For example, eating a healthy, balanced diet that is low in refined sugars and processed foods can help improve insulin resistance and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

It is important to speak with a healthcare provider to determine the best course of treatment for your specific hormonal imbalance. The treatment plan may involve one or more of the above options, and it may also involve other approaches, such as stress management techniques.

What vitamin is good for hormones?

Certain vitamins and minerals can help support healthy hormone production and balance. Here are a few examples:

Vitamin B6: Vitamin B6 plays a role in the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood. It is also involved in the synthesis of several hormones, including estrogen and progesterone.

Folate: Folate is involved in the production of SAMe, which is the universal methyl donor and is needed for estrogen detoxification.

Vitamin D: Vitamin D is important for the production of several hormones, including those produced by the thyroid gland. It is also involved in the regulation of insulin, which is a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels.

Magnesium: Magnesium is involved in the synthesis of several hormones, including those produced by the adrenal glands. It is also involved in the metabolism of vitamin D, which is important for hormone production and the breakdown of estrogen via the COMT enzyme.

Zinc: Zinc is involved in the synthesis of several hormones like testosterone and insulin. It also plays an important role in the production of thyroid hormones.

It is important to get enough of these vitamins and minerals through a balanced diet or supplements to support healthy hormone production and balance. However, it is always best to speak with a healthcare provider before starting any new supplements, as they can interact with medications and have potential side effects.

How can I reset my hormones naturally?

There are several ways you can try to reset your hormones naturally:

Eat a healthy, balanced diet: A diet that is rich in whole, unprocessed foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, can help support healthy hormone production and balance. Avoiding refined sugars and processed foods may also be helpful.

Exercise regularly: Regular physical activity can help improve insulin sensitivity and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, a condition that can be caused by hormonal imbalances. Exercise can also help improve mood and reduce stress, which can help balance hormones.

Get enough sleep: Adequate sleep is important for hormone production and balance. Aim to get at least 7-9 hours of sleep every night.

Manage stress: Chronic stress can disrupt hormone production and balance. Try stress-reducing activities such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing to help manage stress levels.

Avoid environmental toxins: Exposure to certain toxins, such as certain pesticides and plastics, can disrupt hormone production and balance. Avoiding these toxins can help support healthy hormone production.

It is always best to speak with a healthcare provider before making any significant changes to your diet or lifestyle. They can help determine the cause of your hormonal imbalances and recommend the best course of treatment.

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Amy Neuzil
Amy Neuzil

Dr. Amy Neuzil, N.D. is a leading expert in MTHFR and epigenetics, and she is passionate about helping people achieve optimal health and wellness for their genetic picture. She has helped thousands of people overcome health challenges using a simple, step-by-step approach that starts with where they are today. Dr. Neuzil's unique approach to wellness has helped countless people improve their energy levels, lose weight, and feel better mentally and emotionally. If you're looking for a way to feel your best, Dr. Amy Neuzil can help. Contact her today to learn more about how she can help you achieve optimal health and wellness.

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