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Why you can blame hormones for the dreaded belly bloat

Naturopathic physician and licensed acupuncturist practicing in Hawaii since 1993, Dr. Laurie Steelsmith is author of Great Sex, Naturally and Natural Choices for Women's Health.

How a naturopathic doctor might treat your hormonal imbalance

Did you know that there’s a dance happening in your body, right now?

It’s not the wobble, and it’s not the twist. Estrogen and progesterone are dancing a duet, working together to keep you feeling energetic and balanced. If that describes you, your internal hormone chemistry is most likely doing its job. If not, you may be experiencing a hormone imbalance.

Most women experience hormonal imbalance at some point in their lives. All of us go through hormonal changes during our monthly menstrual cycles, and this can escalate as you approach menopause. A lack of harmony in your hormones — which you can think of as minute chemicals in your body — can profoundly affect your quality of life, affecting your weight, mood, libido and fertility.

The key women’s hormones, estrogen and progesterone, affect not only your period, but your whole physiology. Estrogen builds the lining of your uterus, while progesterone maintains it. These hormones even affect breast tissue, energy levels, sleep and stress tolerance. Moreover, these hormones impact neurotransmitters, which influence your mood and behavior. Changing levels of estrogen affect levels of serotonin, while progesterone affects levels of dopamine.

“Well, okay,” you might be thinking. “Is a hormone imbalance all that serious? How do I spot a hormone imbalance? And what do I do if I suspect one?”

Common signs of hormonal imbalance

Symptoms of hormone imbalance can include scanty or super heavy periods along with premenstrual symptoms. These symptoms can be associated with too little estrogen, which leads to a lack of periods, or excessive amounts of estrogen, which leads to super heavy periods and/or lowered levels of progesterone.

Decreased progesterone is most often due to a lack of ovulation. Lower progesterone can result in exaggerated PMS symptoms like breast tenderness, swelling and edema, bloating, mood changes and increased anxiety and irritability.

Sometimes, women produce an adequate amount of estrogen and progesterone but still experience PMS symptoms like breast tenderness, bloating and mood swings. Their symptoms may be due to estrogen dominance, a condition in which in the liver is not breaking down estrogen well.

Causes of a hormone imbalance

There are a number of reasons behind a potential hormone imbalance. The most common cause is excessive stress, which affects every cell in your body. Your endocrine system is super susceptible to stress hormones such as cortisol, which is produced as a result of chronic, unrelenting tension.

Often, a woman under excessive stress will not ovulate, which results in lowered progesterone levels. Using herbs that support healthy ovulation during times of excessive stress can help prevent hormone imbalance. Chaste tree berry, found in the scientifically studied product Asensia, can help promote healthy ovulation and support youthful hormone balance. It’s a herbal supplement I frequently recommend to my patients.

Treat the cause, not just the symptoms

A medical doctor will often treat symptoms of hormone imbalance with birth control pills. Unfortunately, the pill shuts down your hormonal dance, stops ovulation and stops the communication of your pituitary with your ovaries, which only masks your symptoms.

A naturopathic doctor, on the other hand, focuses on treating the underlying cause of an imbalance. He or she will counsel you on diet and lifestyle changes as well as key botanicals and nutrition to help support your body to have more balanced hormones.

Getting your hormones back on track can change the quality of your life. If you suspect hormone imbalance, book yourself in for a check-up and know that there are natural solutions to bring your body back into balance.

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