While hormones normally fluctuate, such as the hormone cortisol throughout a 24-hour period and estrogen and progesterone throughout a menstrual cycle and even throughout a lifespan (think of puberty to menopause), imbalances are more unwanted changes to hormones that can create a host of symptoms.
Luckily, your hormones are talking to you all day and all month via your symptoms, and with a little insight, you can get a pretty good read on how well-balanced your hormones are. Here are a few ways you can tune into your hormone talk and make sense of what they are saying:
Estrogen & Progesterone: CRAMPS
I know this acronym is a bit on the nose, but it fits:
Letter “C” Is for cramping and clotting. High estrogen or estrogen dominance (elevated estrogen metabolites with normal levels of estrogen being high at the wrong times of the cycle) or low progesterone can all cause an increase in pain or clotting with your period—it can mean issues with iron or inflammation as well.
Letter “R” Is for regularity of timing, meaning your cycle comes at the same time every month. If your cycle is getting longer for you (e.g., it was 28 days and it’s now 35 days), it could be low progesterone due to no ovulating or high cortisol (which impacts ovulation and thus progesterone). If your cycle is coming earlier for you, you may have low progesterone or estrogen dominance.
Letter “A” Is for amount. If your cycle is getting lighter, it can mean low estrogen, and if your cycle is getting heavier, it can be low progesterone or high estrogen/estrogen dominance. Heavier cycles can also mean issues with your thyroid or iron.
Letter “M” Is for moodiness. Low progesterone, high stress, and issues with estrogen (either low or high) can cause changes in mood. Estrogen is closely linked with serotonin, so more depression or brain fog can mean lower estrogen, while progesterone is the hormone that makes you feel even, so without it you may have more anxiety and insomnia during your period.
Letter “P” Is for painful or tender breasts. This can often indicate estrogen dominance, which can be tied to issues with histamine or deficiencies in vitamins like B6.
Letter “S” Is for skin issues. If you break out or your skin is more oily coming up on your cycle, it could be that your testosterone is elevated (e.g., in conditions like PCOS) or that your estrogen and progesterone are lower, perhaps falling abruptly at the end of the cycle, and your testosterone is not necessarily higher but takes center stage as a result. Issues with estrogen metabolism can also lead to breakouts.
While we are only skimming the surface, this is a great place to start when it comes to tuning into your body and fine-tuning your habits to recalibrate. It may sound like a lot of work, but being intimately in touch with your body is a beautiful thing!
Hormones hang in a delicate balance, but they are constantly communicating with you. Once you know exactly how to listen to them, fine-tuning your habits can make a huge difference. They aren’t all operating individually, but together—you’ll notice a negative or positive domino effect, depending on how you eat, sleep, work, and more.