A number of factors from genetic to lifestyle to even normal ageing can result in hormone imbalances. Hormones naturally decline as we age but there are natural ways to boost hormone levels as well as taking hormone treatment, if needed, to keep symptoms at bay. The following, are some of the most common culprits to disrupting hormone balance that I encounter in clinical practice for both men and women.
Stress – the higher the stress levels the lower the progesterone levels in women and the lower the testosterone levels in men, as the body essentially ‘steals’ these hormones to increase production of the stress hormone cortisol.
Alcohol – consistent heavy alcohol consumption can impair testosterone levels in men due to a direct toxic effect on the testes. In women it can impair oestrogen and progesterone levels causing menstrual period problems, infertility and even miscarriage.
Caffeine – caffeine increases stress hormone release which can, in turn, lower progesterone production in women and testosterone production in men.
Diet – a diet that is high in sugary, refined foods stimulates excessive insulin release. High insulin levels can disrupt oestrogen production and inhibit progesterone release.
Abdominal fat stores – carrying too much body fat around our middles can raise oestrogen levels causing an oestrogen-to-progesterone imbalance.
Lack of exercise – exercise helps to boost testosterone levels as well as reduce stress hormone levels. A lack of exercise has been associated with lower circulating levels of testosterone.
Lack of sleep – sleep deprivation causes excess stress hormone release, which, as mentioned above, can disrupt hormone balance.
Ageing – as we age our production of hormones naturally declines. At menopause hormone levels drastically reduce, which can cause various symptoms including hot flushes, poor sleep and memory, irritability, low sex drive, vaginal dryness, and a change in body fat stores to be more centred around the abdomen. Andropause is a term used to describe the male version of menopause when testosterone levels decline. This happens from about the age of 40 for men and results in a lowering of sex drive, muscle mass, and an increase in body fat stores. There are various complementary and hormonal treatments available for the management of these symptoms as explained below.
Environmental hormone disruptors – there is preliminary research to suggest that the chemicals and hormones in our food, cosmetics, plastics and cleaning products may disrupt our hormones. As much as possible choose hormone-free meat and chicken products. Also choose natural cosmetics free from preservatives such as parabens. With regards to plastics make sure they as BPA-free e.g. drink bottles, containers.