Insomnia, fatigue, low mood, problem skin, irregular periods and bloating so severe that your jeans won’t fasten – it’s all part and parcel of something that every woman experiences at some stage of their life: the hormone imbalance.
Chemical imbalances are more common than we might suspect. We often pause to consider the impact of hormones during pregnancy and menopause, but an imbalance within the endocrine system can occur at any time, influencing our general wellness, and sometimes resulting in serious health conditions.
A hormonal imbalance occurs when chemical levels become out of sync, fluctuating from a level that’s normal for you until there is either too little or too much of a particular hormone. These chemicals influence every cell in your body – so you can imagine, even the most minor imbalance can have a noticeable effect on your general health and wellbeing.
So, paying more attention to our hormones might pay off. What can we do to restore the balance? First, we have to understand a little more about hormones and their function.
Hormones are chemical messengers that are naturally produced by endocrine glands in minute volumes. Endocrine glands can be found in the brain (pituitary glands, hypothalamus and pineal body), the ovaries or testicles, the pancreas, the neck (thyroid) and the kidney (adrenal). Once produced, hormones are released into the bloodstream where they are transported to various organs and tissues ready to interact with receptors and influence our physiological functions.
Hormones are of paramount importance when it comes to regulating a whole host of biological processes. These include metabolism, circadian rhythm, body temperature, appetite and mood. Therefore, where hormones may be minuscule, they are of huge significance and the slightest deficiency or excess of a particular hormone can cause problems.
Symptoms of Hormone Imbalance
It’s natural for your chemical levels to fluctuate throughout the day and at different life stages such as puberty, pregnancy and menopause. These fluctuations are expected and indicate a normal functioning body.
However, unexpected hormonal imbalances can occur where an endocrine gland produces too much or too little of a chemical. This can be caused by some health conditions, medications or environmental and lifestyle factors such as diet, obesity and stress.
So what are the signs of a hormone imbalance? Both men and women can experience them, and the symptom list is extensive depending on the chemical affected and the glands involved. Some of the most common signs include:
- Fatigue and/or insomnia
- Mood swings
- Unexplained weight gain
- Heart rate and blood pressure changes
- Sweating excessively
- Heavy and/or painful periods
- Skin problems such as adult acne
The Endocannabinoid System
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a complex cell-signalling system that we all have but that is not yet fully understood. However, strong evidence has emerged relating to the role of the ECS in endocrine regulation and maintaining homeostasis (balance) in the body. The ECS is particularly known for its regulation of stress, sleep, mood, memory, pain perception and immune function.
The ECS consists of three main components: endocannabinoids, enzymes and cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2). Primarily, the ECS regulates the body’s response in releasing neurotransmitters that affect nerve impulses. It is closely linked to the endocrine system.
The ECS can be stimulated by the use of CBD (cannabidiol), a naturally produced, non-intoxicating substance of the hemp plant which is increasingly used for its medicinal benefits including pain relief, anxiety relief and improved sleep quality.
Could Cannabidiol Restore a Hormone Imbalance?
We already know that there are a plethora of wellness-boosting reasons for taking CBD oil or gummies, but we rarely hear of the impact of CBD on hormone levels and women’s health. Yet if the endocannabinoid system and the endocrine system are so closely related, and CBD influences the ECS, surely CBD intake must have some effect on hormonal fluctuations.
In short, yes, CBD has an impact on hormones including melatonin, insulin and cortisol and is becoming increasingly popular as a natural treatment for hormonal issues. However, current studies are limited and further research is required. As a result, we do not understand the full extent of cannabidiol's influence on hormones, but anecdotal reports support the theory that CBD can help restore a chemical balance.
CBD and Insulin
Insulin is produced by the pancreas, and an imbalance can result in serious health conditions including obesity, diabetes and heart disease. While studies are preliminary and we do not yet know of a direct impact of CBD on insulin production, we understand that CBD has powerful anti-inflammatory properties which can be valuable for inflammatory diseases such as diabetes. Furthermore, some research has shown promising results in minimising insulin resistance and therefore moderating blood sugar in Type 2 diabetes sufferers not taking insulin.
CBD and Cortisol
Cortisol is linked to our stress response; a physical response that can negatively impact our mental health, blood pressure and physical health if when levels are persistently elevated. For instance, if too much cortisol is produced due to prolonged stress, symptoms can include mood swings, elevated anxiety levels and weight gain. CBD has been shown to reduce levels of cortisol and symptoms of anxiety and stress. Anxiety relief is one of the most common uses for CBD.
CBD and Melatonin
Many of us fail to obtain enough good-quality sleep and our general well-being suffers as a result; this is due to various factors such as hectic lifestyles, heightened anxiety and evening use of digital devices. Melatonin is the hormone responsible for your circadian rhythm (your internal body clock). Naturally, melatonin is high at night and low in the morning.
This sleep-wake cycle is regulated by the ECS. While further studies are required, it is understood that CBD influences CB receptors of the ECS which affect how easily and quickly you fall asleep while boosting levels of melatonin. This helps you achieve deeper, better quality sleep.
What Else Can I Do to Balance My Hormones?
While it may be worth giving CBD a try to keep your hormones in a more balanced state, don’t neglect the basics. The following are natural ways that contribute to maintaining a healthy chemical balance.
- Keep active – exercise has a strong impact on hormone health. It boosts blood flow and hormone receptor response, elevating the delivery of essential hormone signals and nutrients.
- Consume sugar moderately – high sugar diets have been linked to insulin resistance and disruptions of the gut microbiome. Limiting sugar intake may play a significant role in the optimisation of hormone function and reducing the risk of diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
- Increase your protein intake – protein is a source of essential amino acids that your body requires to produce certain peptide hormones. Eating sufficient protein increases the production of hormones that can suppress appetite.
- Reduce stress – cortisol is known as the stress hormone as it is released in response to stress to help your body cope. However, chronic stress results in prolonged elevated cortisol levels which increases appetite and often results in increased consumption of sugary and fatty food. Try techniques to reduce stress and cortisol, such as meditation and yoga.
- Aim for regular good-quality sleep – sleep is crucial for optimal hormone health. Lack of good quality sleep can be linked to many hormone imbalances including insulin, ghrelin and cortisol. For example, sleep deprivation can promote insulin resistance and raise cortisol levels. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time daily, aiming for 7 hours of sleep per night.