When it comes to women’s health, it’s important to not overlook the wild world of hormones and what can happen when they are off-balance. At times, women’s sex hormones (aka estrogen and progesterone) can become largely unbalanced, with estrogen dominating everything. Sound familiar? You’ve probably experienced an estrogen dominance before if you’ve ever dealt with bloating, fatigue, mood swings, PMS, brain fog, headaches, decreased libido and weight gain. 

As women age, hormones continue to shift and change with life and its stressors. Hormones are key. Berrion Berry, women’s health coach and fertility awareness educator, explains that the more regulated a woman’s health and hormones are, the more regulated a woman will be. For women of color, a hormonal imbalance related to cortisol or estrogen, can lead to brain fog, moodiness and even weight retention.

“If there are hormonal imbalances present, no matter the kind, then that can take a toll on a woman’s health – whether it be mental, emotional or physical,” she said.

The Causes of Hormonal Imbalances

Many different things can cause hormonal imbalances. When it comes specifically to estrogen dominance, Berry shares a few key causes. The first is low progesterone. Progesterone is a hormone that somewhat counters estrogen, and so often estrogen dominance occurs in the presence of low progesterone. 

The second cause is a sluggish liver and an imbalanced gut microbiome. 

“Imagine a sluggish liver and imbalanced gut microbiome as a traffic jam,” Berry said. “Basically, when the toxin load is too high in the body, it causes these key organs of elimination to slow down.” 

When this occurs, estrogen might not be able to exit the body the way that it needs to, which often leads to estrogen dominance. 

What Might a Hormone Imbalance Look Like 

There are many symptoms that come with an estrogen imbalance. Berry explains that if a woman has low estrogen, symptoms may include breast tenderness, fatigue, sleep issues, irregular menstrual cycles, disappearing menstrual cycles, mood swings, depression, headaches, migraines, hot flashes, night sweats, frequent urinary tract infections, vaginal atrophy, dryness and painful sex.

If a woman has estrogen dominance, her symptoms may include mood swings, irritability, decreased sex drive, worsening PMS symptoms (like breast tenderness, headaches, acne and mood changes), irregular menstrual periods, heavy and painful periods, bloating, weight gain, anxiety, hair loss, trouble sleeping, fatigue and memory issues.

Common Missteps That Can Cause a Hormone Imbalance

Berry explains that there are so many common mistakes women might make that cause a hormonal imbalance. The top two missteps that Berry has seen her clients make are an addiction to stress and a complex relationship with food. 

An Addiction to Stress

One common mistake women make is not setting boundaries and a propensity to constantly solve problems that are not theirs to solve. Berry explains that a lack of boundaries or an addiction to stress can often lead to hormonal imbalances like high cortisol, estrogen dominance and low progesterone. 

A Complex Relationship With Food 

There’s so much mixed information about the best diets and what to eat to lose weight, gain muscle or burn fat. 

“One thing that remains constant is women don’t seem to know how to intentionally nourish their bodies,” she said. “That lack of clarity can cause so many hormonal imbalances.”

Steps to Regulate Hormones 

When it comes to practical steps women can take to regulate and heal their hormones, Berry suggests implementing something she calls “the Core Four.” These are essentially pillars of health to help women build micro-habits. The four pillars are: proper hydration, remineralization and supplementation, nutrition optimization and regulation. 

Proper hydration means drinking enough nourishing liquids throughout the day, such as red raspberry leaf tea, spring water and coconut water. Remineralization and supplementation is about getting an adequate amount of daily vitamins. It’s especially important for women of color to get enough magnesium and vitamin D. Nutrition optimization means eating healthy, whole foods versus eating less food. Lastly, regulation is about incorporating daily practices (like breath work) to regulate your nervous system.

“Focusing your routines on these four things regardless of the state of your health and hormones is truly going to support the process of hormone regulation,” Berry said.