While you might want to think that you have total control over your body, the fact is, hormones are the real game players when it comes to regulating how you feel and function on a day to day basis.
The primary sex hormones – testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone, are the key hormones that make a man a man and a woman, a woman. When these hormones start to shift, which they can for a wide variety of different reasons, problems often result.
During the early puberty years, these hormones should normally start being produced in higher concentrations, which then causes the secondary sex characteristics to begin to occur.
And while for some people this goes off without a hitch, for others, it doesn’t go quite as it should.
Still, other people may be fine during pregnancy, but then later on in life, start running into issues related to hormonal imbalance.
It’s during these times that hormonal testing can be extremely beneficial.
Check out the video below to learn a little more about what hormonal testing has to offer.
So now that you have a primer on what hormonal testing is all about, let’s talk about who might want to do hormonal testing and what you can do to help balance your hormones.
Who Should Utilize Hormonal Testing?
While you may initially think that only a few groups of people are candidates for hormonal testing, it can really benefit a wide range of individuals.
Here are some of the main categories of people who can benefit.
Couples Who Can’t Get Pregnant
The first group of people who most commonly go for hormone testing are those couples who are struggling with fertility.
While it can take some time to get pregnant naturally so it’s important you don’t stress if it hasn’t happened in the first couple of months, if you have been trying for 6-12 months without any luck, hormonal testing will likely be recommended.
Whether the issue is on the female side of things or the man’s, hormone testing is typically done for both partners to see where the biggest problems exist.
Then once the hormones are checked (usually with a blood analysis, however a urine analysis may be better), treatment procedures can be then carried out.
Also keep in mind that if the woman is over the age of 35, she may want to get her hormones checked sooner than the 6-12 month mark. Beyond this age, the chances of successful pregnancy start lowering dramatically, so time is really of the essence.
For women who are serious about getting pregnant as quickly as possible, there shouldn’t be a delay in waiting to investigate hormonal options.
Men Who Are Losing Mass And Strength Rapidly
The second group of people who may want to consider hormonal testing is men who are starting to notice rapid losses in strength and mass.
The male sex hormone, testosterone, is the primary hormone responsible for helping with the building of lean muscle mass, so when it starts declining, it’s not abnormal to see lean muscle decreasing dramatically as well.
While there is a natural decline in testosterone with age (and this is to be expected), when it starts declining at a much faster pace than normal, this is a good sign that something may be up.
Testing should be done to investigate what the problem may be. As there are many lifestyle factors that can lead to decreased testosterone levels in men, these should be evaluated after the testing is undertaken.
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Women Who Having Irregular Menstruation
Whether associated with fertility issues or not, women who are not menstruating should also undergo hormonal testing as well.
Unfortunately in today’s world, many physicians are too fast to prescribe birth control pills to women who are not getting regular periods.
As there are unwanted side effects from lack of menstruation such as an increased risk of osteoporosis the longer the period is absent, taking birth control pills can help clear up this issue.
The real reason that menstruation is not occurring is never addressed. So while a woman who is not getting her period may start getting it upon taking the birth control pill, when she comes off, those hormonal problems may still be there.
Only now, they have been taking place for a number of months or years (however long she was on the pill) and straightening those hormone issues out becomes an even greater problem.
If a woman is not menstruating, she should be working hard with a team of doctors to figure out what the problem is and how they can get it straightened out.
This includes going for regular hormonal testing to see where her hormones are at during various points in the monthly cycle.
Women Who Are Entering Menopause
The next group of people who can benefit from hormone testing are women who are entering menopause or who have just entered it and are having a hard time.
While a woman’s body will go through regular changes each month when she gets her cycle, when she stops getting her cycle, continued changes will still occur.
Hot flashes, fatigue, emotional symptoms, and aches and pains in the body are all common side effects that can occur during menopause.
Women who go for hormone testing can get a better assessment of all that’s taking place during this time and can better put together a plan to help feel as well as possible.
Often shifts in hormones can be minimized through medication and/or lifestyle changes that can make the transition to menopause that much easier.
Athletes Looking To Optimize Their Performance
Outside of the people who are focusing on fertility and issues associated with reproductive function, we have athletes who are looking to optimize their performance.
Don’t overlook the impact that all the sex hormones can have on physical performance.
When levels of testosterone are low, the individual (especially if he is a man) will be slower, maintain less strength, and be less able to generate improvements despite hard training sessions.
Men who are low in testosterone will also find they don’t quite feel like their normal selves. They may not be as aggressive as normal, and this can also impact their overall physical performance.
As in many sports, aggression is key to successfully overtaking an opponent, when this aggression is lacking, it can lead to a mediocre performance at best.
Don’t think that men are the only ones who will be impacted by this either. Females can be just as likely to experience issues related to hormonal dysfunction.
While testosterone levels are typically much lower in women than men, they do still have smaller amounts circulating throughout their body and this hormone will still play a role in keeping them strong, quick, and recovering optimally between workout sessions.
Perhaps more importantly though, if their female sex hormones are not lined up properly (say they have too much estrogen in their body), this can impact everything from energy level to body weight.
Many women will already experience this to some degree on a monthly basis as they move to their menstrual cycle. During certain times in the month when estrogen is higher, they may notice they aren’t feeling as strong or energetic and their workouts just aren’t what they are at other times during the month.
If there is an even greater hormonal imbalance at play, this will only be amplified and the entire situation that much worse.
It’s a good idea for high level athletes who are looking to improve their performance and/or manage their body weight to get routine hormone testing done a couple times per year to ensure everything is at the level it should be.
Think of this as taking preventative steps so that future problems don’t come into play.
Men Who Experience Erectile Dysfunction
Along with women who are not getting their normal monthly menstrual cycle, men who are experiencing erectile dysfunction should also consider undergoing hormonal testing as well.
Low levels of testosterone can also play a big impact in this area. While many men experience this to some degree as a natural part of aging, if it’s suddenly come on or has seemed to have gotten a lot worse over the last little while, those are both indications that a full hormonal assessment would be a good idea.
Too many men are scared to admit they are dealing with this problem and as such, don’t get the help they need. If the issue is simply moderately low testosterone levels, this can often be remedied by a few lifestyle changes.
If you don’t get tested, you will never know for certain what’s going on.
Adolescents Who Are Slow to Develop
Finally, the last group of people who may want to consider hormonal testing are those who are slower to develop during their adolescent years.
While the physician they/their parents are working with will typically guide them on when they should start growing concerned, there will likely come a point where if they are not seeing the normal secondary sex characteristics develop, hormonal testing may be done to see where their levels are currently at.
So as you can see, the range of people who can benefit from hormonal testing is quite vast. It’s not just for couples who can’t get pregnant like many people have come to believe.
Both genders across all age ranges can potential benefit from getting hormonal testing into place.
Now let’s talk about how you can best strive to balance your hormones once the testing is completed.
How To Balance Hormones
So let’s say you’ve done your hormonal tests and the results are back. Your hormones aren’t where they should be.
First, try not to panic. There are plenty of strategies you can use to help bring your hormones to proper concentration levels depending on what may be going wrong.
You and your physician will likely work out a game plan that will help you get from point A to point B, and he or she will have you follow up with more testing shortly to assess how your plan is working.
To give you a head start on some things you can begin doing to help balance hormones initially, consider the following tips and strategies.
- Lower Stress
If you’re under great amounts of stress, this will upset the natural hormonal balance taking place in the body.
High stress lifestyles lead to the release of cortisol in the blood stream and this cortisol can then lower overall testosterone production.
Too much cortisol in your body will also encourage the accumulation of more body fat and fat cells themselves will release estrogen into your system. This can then elevate your estrogen levels and will cause problems for both genders.
- Check Your Calorie Intake
It’s also a good idea to take a closer look at your current calorie intake. Are you eating enough? Women and men can both suffer when a very low calorie diet is followed.
In men, a low calorie diet can lead to plummeting testosterone levels and a loss of muscle strength as well.
In women, the low calorie diet or eating disorders can cause menstruation to stop entirely, really messing up the natural female hormonal balance that occurs each and every month.
While using a lower calorie diet to lose weight if you are carrying excess body fat can help tilt your hormonal balance in the right direction, if that diet becomes too low in calories or you are getting too lean, problems will occur.
Men should not go below around 6-8% body fat at their very leanest and women should not go below 12-14% body fat. These are minimum levels necessary to ensure optimal hormonal balance.
- Monitor Your Fat Intake
Along with checking your calorie intake, also watch your dietary fat intake as well. Diets that are too low in overall fat content can also throw off hormonal balance.
In men especially, when fat is brought too low, testosterone production will decline and they will start noticing unwanted symptoms such as strength and muscle mass loss.
You want to get a nice balance between all types of fats – including saturated fat. Saturated fat is actually one of the most important forms of fat as far as hormonal balance is concerned.
Choose your saturated fat from naturally occurring sources such as eggs, grass fed beef, or higher fat dairy products rather than refined and deep fried foods (which are not a healthy option).
Watch Your Fiber
Along with monitoring your healthy fat intake, also be sure that you are paying attention to your dietary fiber intake as well.
While you do want to include some dietary fiber in your diet plan, too much fiber can also cause issues.
Men who have high fiber, low fat diets show remarkably lower testosterone levels than men who have lower fiber, higher fat diets.
Just don’t go overboard. With all things related to nutrition, balance is key. If you use proper balance with your nutrition, you’ll balance your hormones nicely.
- Check Your Sleep Habits
Sleep is also a critical thing to keep in mind when looking to balance your hormones. Sleep is when the body repairs itself and restores the normal homeostasis that it likes to maintain.
If you aren’t sleeping enough at night, it will impact your hormones, your energy level, your metabolic rate, your mood, and how your body functions overall.
You should be aiming to get at least 7 hours, if not 8 hours of sleep each and every night.
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Analyze Your Exercise Behaviors
While a good amount of exercise per week is a healthy way to manage your body weight and control your hormones, take note that too much exercise can have the opposite effect.
For instance, women who are over-exercising (and often under eating), experience what is referred to as the female athlete triad. This is characterized by a very low body weight, the loss of menstrual function, and a higher risk for stress fractures and other bone related problems.
Likewise, if a man starts exercising too heavily, he too will find that his testosterone levels drop and this can also lead to erectile dysfunction.
Both genders will also show signs of a decreased libido when they are doing too much exercise on a regular basis.
Once again, moderation is key.
Consider Your Soy Consumption
Soy rich foods have been shown to have estrogenizing effects on the body, so if you are consuming too much soy in your diet, this is also something to consider removing entirely.
While some studies suggest that women may benefit from including soy in their diet as it can help lower breast cancer rates, there isn’t a lot of positive evidence for men to include this type of food – in fact it’s the opposite.
Men will do best keeping soy out of their diet to ensure optimal hormonal balance.
Always read the labels of foods you are eating as sometimes soy can hide in places you normally wouldn’t expect it.
• Avoid Refined/Processed Foods
Which brings us to another type of food to avoid – refined and heavily processed foods. These foods are not only going to provide very little nutrition for the body, but they can also cause high blood sugar levels, which can mess with natural hormonal balance.
Furthermore, these foods often lead to rapid fat gain and as noted earlier, excess fat accumulation can lead to increased estrogen production in the body.
This is one reason why you often find that males who are very overweight are showing some female-like characteristics (such as breast tissue and more feminine face structures).
Their testosterone levels have been dropping due to the higher estrogen content in their body being produced by their fat cells.
This also means that losing any excess body fat you have on your frame right now is another great way to help minimize hormonal imbalances.
Come Off Hormonal Birth Control
If you are currently taking a hormonal birth control pill, it would be a good idea to come off it for the time being.
These pills are essentially just a cover up to whatever is really going on in the body and will be putting man-made hormones into your system.
There are just no longer-term benefits to doing this and a number of unwanted side effects.
Women may experience everything from digestive issues to nervous system issues to mood related disturbances while on the birth control pill.
• Consider A Probiotic
Finally, consider using a good probiotic if you want to improve your hormonal balance. Your gut health is going to dictate how strong your immune system is and how well your body functions overall.
It is imperative to sustaining optimal hormonal levels and body functioning. Most people simply do not have the level of healthy bacteria they need in their body, so a proper probiotic can help them restore proper balance.
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So there you have the key facts to know about hormonal balance. Make sure that if you are suffering from an imbalance, you get the proper guidance and treatment plan you need.
Seek out a knowledgeable specialist who can walk you through all you are doing in your day to day life and help you find the places you should be making changes and if necessary, prescribe the proper medication to go along with your treatment plan.
Whatever you do, don’t let hormonal balance continue to impact you. The longer you are in that imbalanced state, the worse the damage will get.
What has been your experience with hormonal imbalance in the past? How did you overcome it?
Dorgan, Joanne F., et al. “Effects of dietary fat and fiber on plasma and urine androgens and estrogens in men: a controlled feeding study.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 64.6 (1996): 850-855.
Trock, Bruce J., Leena Hilakivi-Clarke, and Robert Clarke. “Meta-analysis of soy intake and breast cancer risk.” Journal of the National Cancer Institute98.7 (2006): 459-471.
ABRAHAM, SUZANNE F., et al. “Body weight, exercise and menstrual status among ballet dancers in training.” BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology 89.7 (1982): 507-510.
Stewart, Donna E., et al. “Infertility and eating disorders.” American journal of obstetrics and gynecology 163.4 (1990): 1196-1199.
Ghoneim, Magdy A., and Said S. Moselhy. “Antioxidant status and hormonal profile reflected by experimental feeding of probiotics.” Toxicology and industrial health (2013): 0748233713506768.