Last week you sent me a tonne of skin care questions, this week I’m answering all your questions on hormone imbalances. You name it, we’re talking about it in todays post – we’re covering sore boobs, PMS, Endometriosis, veganism and blood testing!
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What are you recommendations for supplements for hormone imbalances? What dose should I take and what brands are the best?
Unfortunately there isn’t a one-size-fits-all recommendation as hormone imbalances come in all shapes, sizes and severity! However, I always recommend taking the dose prescribed on the bottle unless you’ve been directed to take more/less by a practitioner. In terms of brands, I have a list of recommended supplements here (US) and here (UK).
What are the different symptoms of hormone imbalances – ie high testosterone, low progesterone, high cortisol?
Analysing your symptoms is a great way of pointing you in the right direction of what the issue. If you are struggling with acne, mood swings, bloating, headaches or sugar cravings in the lead up to your period, you are likely suffering from an imbalance of progesterone/oestrogen. If your symptoms are constant sugar cravings, weight gain and fatigue you could be looking at insulin resistance. If you’re struggling with excess facial/body hair growth, irregular periods, oily skin or male pattern baldness then you have an imbalance of androgen hormones. If you’re struggling with anxiety, depression and weight gain around the face and belly area then high cortisol is the problem!
It’s also possible to have a combination of all these hormone imbalances so you can suffer with low progesterone, high androgens, insulin resistance AND high cortisol.
Can you have unbalanced hormones even though a blood test says everything is normal?
Yes! 100%! The best, and probably most common, example of this is if you have high 5-alpha reductase conversion. This is when you body converts more testosterone into the more potent, acne-causing DHT hormone at a high rate than normal. It essentially means that you are hyper-sensitive to normal amounts of testosterone and will display symptoms of high testosterone even though blood tests show up as normal!
I’m a vegan, what supplements do I need to support my hormones?
A vegan or low protein/fat diet can easily have a negative impact on hormonal health so it’s important that you’re doing all the right things to keep your body healthy and happy. In a vegan diet, the focus on grains, gluten and soy mean that overtime there’s a reduction in thyroid activity, increase in inflammation and increase in bad gut bacteria – all these symptoms mean that the lymphatic and liver are unable to detox properly and excess hormones are unable to be eliminated.
While it is possible to balance hormones and clear acne through a pescatarian or vegetarian diet by eating plenty of ethically sourced fish, eggs, butter and A2 dairy – you must make sure you’re getting enough protein and fat each day to ensure healthy hormone production. For most vegans, this will mean taking protein powders to make sure you’re getting the building blocks for healthy hormones. Anyone who is restricting their diet will also need to take a high quality multivitamin to ensure they’re getting the bare basic nutrients their body needs to heal and repair.
I don’t want to be taking loads and loads of different supplements, what are the best to take for someone with irregular periods (since 14/15yo) and regular breakouts?
Irregular periods can be caused by a number of factors, but the most common are PCOS, underactive thyroid and stress. If you have been struggling with irregularities in your cycle combined with acne since you hit puberty then I would look more into the possibility of PCOS of the cause of your long term menstrual and skin issues. If PCOS is your issue then Inositol, DIM and a good multivitamin will be a great place to start with supplements! You can check out my recommendations here.
I get terrible breast pain each month, what can I do?
Snap! This was one of the most stubborn PMS symptoms I ever experienced and there were times when it was sooo bad! I struggled with painful breasts for a good year after clearing my acne and tried so many different things. What worked best for me was a combination of Calcium D-Glucarate and iodine supplementation. Now this might seem controversial as there is a lot of misinformation out there that “iodine causes acne” which just isn’t true! I explain more in this post here, but basically iodine causes a release of store fluoride into the body – it’s actually the fluoride that causes the breakout and NOT iodine.
If you live in an area that artificially fluoridates their water supply, use fluoridated toothpaste or use non-stick cookware then you may have to be careful with iodine supplementation – I recommend you start really slow and slowly build up to 3mg a day. Despite what doctors may tell you, 3mg a day is perfectly safe! In Japan, they consume between 5-6mg a day!
I’ve been on Spironolactone and want to come off it but scared my skin will freak out – help!
Just like the contraceptive pill, Spironolactone can cause withdrawal symptoms when you come off it because it doesn’t fix your hormonal imbalance, it just covers it up with a sticky plaster! This makes women scared to take their health into their own hands and they end up staying on prescription medication for much longer than they would like, just because they are scared that their skin is going to freak out!
Luckily, this doesn’t have to be the case! The trick is to treat the root cause of your acne BEFORE you come off the medication. As Spironolactone works on reducing androgen activity in the body, you want to focus on these hormones as a priority. Supplements like Saw Palmetto, Inositol and DIM are all effective for reduce androgen hormones naturally.
Do you have any information about HRT after surgical menopause?
This isn’t a subject that I’m confident in talking about but I would recommend checking out Lara Briden’s post here on the natural HRT that is recommended for menopause. It might also be worth researching Black Cohosh to help with some of the symptom associated with the menopause.
Do doctors take hormonal imbalances seriously? Will a blood test give me the info I need?
Unless you’re extremely lucky, most doctors will have one answer for hormone imbalances and that is going on the contraceptive pill! This will never fix the problem as the pill just switches off you hormones. I talk about blood tests in this post here and why they aren’t the most accurate way of testing hormones.
What kind of test would you recommend for hormones?
Blood and saliva tests can give you an indication of where the problems may lie, but they’re not always the full picture so you should never take them as gospel (see my answer above!) My favourite method of testing is the DUTCH test which is a dried urine test. It’s not cheap, but it does give you absolutely everything you need to know about what’s going on in your body!
A perfect example is I had a testosterone hormone blood test done and it showed normal – which is correct, but it only told me what WASN’T the issue, not what WAS the issue. It wasn’t until I performed a DUTCH test that I was able to see that even though my testosterone levels are normal, my body converts testosterone into DHT at a much higher rate than average which means I’m hypersensitive to androgens. The blood tests didn’t give me enough information to actually start healing my body.
I have closed comedones under my chin/neck which all came at once, what can I do?
It could be due to a number of things but if they all came at once out of the blue I would definitely consider repairing your skin barrier. If you skin is ultra congested then it could be that you are over-exfoliating you skin or using skin care products that are much too harsh for your skin. You can check out my skin barrier repair blog post here.
Is it true acne prone women can have worse acne during pregnancy?
Not necessarily! Many of my clients actually find their skin is their best ever whilst being pregnant and breastfeeding! This is usually because progesterone levels stay elevated during pregnancy and progesterone is a calming hormone on the skin. It stimulates hair growth for thick, luscious hair and is also inhibits 5-alpha reductase so is an “anti-androgen”.
What can you recommend for severe period pain and Endometriosis?
Whilst it effects the female reproductive system, Endometriosis is primarily an inflammatory condition and not a hormonal imbalance. That means using tools and supplements aimed at “balancing hormones” just won’t work. You need to treat the underlying inflammation and immunity issues if you want to reduce the symptoms of Endometriosis naturally. A1 dairy and gluten can be big inflammatory triggers but there are also 4 supplements I would recommend to start with:
- Turmeric – is great for reducing inflammation and blocking estrogen’s stimulating effect. Whilst you can cook with turmeric, you will get better results from taking it as a concentrated capsule.
- Multi-Vitamin – so you can ensure that you are getting the minimum requirements of all the nutrients you need to strengthen your immune system.
- Berberine – is also anti-inflammatory and helps to heal the gut lining, therefore improving the immune system too.
- Probiotics – digestive health is at the heart of a strong immune system so ensuring you’re populating your gut with plenty of beneficial bacteria can help with any inflammatory condition.
Why does avoiding sugar reduce my PMS and acne?
When sugars get digested, they can cause the pancreas to produce more insulin and the insulin like growth factor (IGF-1) to help maintain the balance of blood glucose. Too much insulin and IGF-1 will, in turn, trigger a release of androgen hormones and increase the conversion of testosterone to DHT. This surge of hormones is what is responsible for PMS and acne in the lead up to your period.
Why am I breaking out immediately after ovulation?
Breakouts between ovulation and your period is a sign of an imbalance between oestrogen and progesterone. Increasing progesterone by eating plenty of healthy fats and ensuring that you are eliminating excess oestrogen (regular bowel movements) are the first steps to creating better balance!
What’s the best treatment for hirsutism or excess hair growth on the face and body?
Hirsutism (excess facial/body hair) is caused by high androgens – it can either be high testosterone, or hypersensitivity to normal amounts of testosterone. There are a number of things that can help reduce hirsutism but changes wont appear overnight – it can take 3-6 months of consistency to see change!
- Quit sugar! This is the #1 reason women struggle with high androgens.
- Reduce stress! High stress = high cortisol = high androgens!
- Zinc – decreases androgens and inhibits 5-alpha reductase
- DIM – blocks androgen receptors
- Inositol – studies have shown this dramatically reduces hirsutism after 6 months of use (take 2,000 – 4,000mg a day)
I’m suffering from a rash-like flare up on one side of my face, what could this be?
For a rash, I would consider topical issues – have you changes your washing detergent recently? Or is a skin care product you are using not agreeing with you? I would check out this post and this post and look at simplifying your skin care routine while the rash subsides.
How can a cycle be irregular (30-50days) but blood tests and ultrasound show no PCOS?
100% – there are many reasons why your cycle might be so irregular without a PCOS diagnosis, including stress! The main reason behind irregular cycles is an underactive thyroid. An underactive thyroid is a huge strain on your hormonal system and steals celluar energy from your ovaries that are essential for healthy, regular ovulation. Other symptoms of underactive thyroid are:
- Weight gain
- High cholesterol
- Hair thinning
I have been inundated with questions regarding hormonal imbalances and there are a lot of you concern about the use of the contraceptive pill and how it’s effecting your skin so I’m going to do a separate post on all your contraceptive pill questions next week!
Peace, Love & Clear Skin