I usually pride myself on being a healthy person. I consistently eat the right foods, stay hydrated, and work out four times a week. It wasn't until this year that I realized I may not be as healthy as I thought. I was devastated and I still am. For me, the key symptom was my inability to lose weight. This went on for eight months and continues to go on.
No matter how much I kept a clean diet, burned calories, and tracked my macros, the weight would not move. It seemed so simple – eat right, do cardio, and lift weights. At least, that's what we're told. It's what we read and see on our social media feeds. My personal trainer was patient yet frustrated. And I was even more frustrated and had no patience. Nothing he did, or I did was working.
For months there was no progress or results. I could not understand it. I thought to myself, You can’t tell me I’m going to be stuck weighing 180 pounds for the rest of my life, it makes no sense. Something is wrong with my body.
In February 2022, my primary care physician referred me to an endocrinologist. It was then I learned about the role of hormones in our bodies. Of course, I know about reproductive hormones at a basic level. At my big age of 37, you would think I would understand that other hormones regulate our entire body. But I didn't know until I did.
After extensive blood work, the results showed I was insulin resistant and diagnosed with metabolic syndrome. Now, what does this mean? It means that the cells in my muscles, fat, and liver don't respond well to insulin and can't use the glucose from my blood as energy. Therefore, I store fat instead of burning fat. As a result, my body overproduces the insulin hormone.
What I understood was that I'm metabolically messed up. I now have what is known as a hormonal imbalance.
Since I learned of my diagnosis, I started doing all the things to begin to heal myself. When I learned I had uterine fibroids, I changed my diet. I reduced the intensity of my workouts. But because I have fibroids coupled with a hormonal imbalance - this still wasn’t enough. My body was completely unresponsive. I desperately scrolled the 'gram trying to learn more about hormones and what I could do to balance my hormones.
I started following every single hormone coach and functional doctor I came across. A friend of mine slid into my DMs and sent me the profile of Dr. Jolene Brighten. Dr. Brighten is a board-certified naturopathic endocrinologist, clinical sexologist, and leader in women's medicine. She is known for educating women on hormones through a variety of resources and uncovering the root causes of hormonal imbalances in women.
Let’s take a closer look at what a hormonal imbalance is, the symptoms, the types of hormonal imbalances, and how to balance your hormones through natural practices.
What Is a Hormonal Imbalance?
Did you know our body produces over 50 different hormones that contribute to how our body functions? I did not. A hormonal imbalance occurs when the body has too much or too little of one or more hormones. When this happens, it can lead to different medical conditions.
According to Dr. Brighten, "Many women experience hormonal imbalances that manifest in menstrual cycle issues. Irregular periods, for example, can be due to elevated testosterone, which is common among women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Hypothyroidism, when there is too little thyroid hormone, can result in heavy periods, long cycles, irregular periods, and failure to ovulate. PMS, heavy periods, and breast tenderness can be due to lower levels of progesterone, which creates a state in which the tissues can be stimulated by estrogen."
Symptoms of hormonal imbalances vary. An article by the Cleveland Clinic states that if a hormonal imbalance affects your metabolism, you might experience fatigue, constipation, diarrhea, depression, anxiety, dry skin and hair, high cholesterol levels, unexplained weight gain or weight loss, skin tags, and extreme thirst.
Sex hormone imbalance symptoms include acne, hair loss, heavy periods, excess body hair, hot flashes, infertility, irregular periods, loss of interest in sex, and vaginal dryness.
How to Diagnose a Hormonal Imbalance
Hormonal imbalances are discovered by testing specific hormones and other markers through a series of blood tests. I lost count of how many times I drew blood from my veins this year. For me getting a proper diagnosis seemed like the most discouraging thing. My doctors were not listening to me. I was told, "Your lab results are perfect. You are healthy," except I wasn't. And I knew it. I mean if I was, my body would not be fighting my efforts to lose weight."
In addition to unexplained weight loss or weight gain, symptoms of a hormonal imbalance can include tachycardia (or a slow or rapid heartbeat), constipation, fatigue, anxiety, depression, high levels of blood cholesterol, and even diarrhea. If you are experiencing these symptoms, Dr. Brighten advises seeing a "primary care physician, gynecologist, or naturopathic physician who can help you in troubleshooting hormonal symptoms. If they are significant, that may warrant a referral to an endocrinologist."
It Starts With Your Diet
The saying "you are what you eat" is true. Foods play a vital role in our health. What we put into our bodies ultimately dictates how our body functions. I personally have eliminated the foods that cause inflammation and may make my symptoms worse. In Dr. Brighten's book, Is This Normal, she mentions that, "Women should include nutrient-dense foods that provide us protein, fat, and fiber at each meal. This trifecta helps stabilize blood sugar, while also keeping us full and our bowels regular. Because many women experience menstrual cramps, I often recommend focusing on increasing omega-3 fatty acids in the diet, while decreasing omega-6, the latter can make cramps worse."
Some foods that women with hormonal imbalances are encouraged to avoid are caffeine, sugar, alcohol, red meat, soy, dairy, processed foods, gluten, fried foods, and white carbs (potatoes, pastries, white rice, or white bread). These foods may cause inflammation and worsen current symptoms. When I removed these foods from my diet, there was such a big difference in my skin, energy, and my period. Not to mention, my fibroids have not grown any bigger either.
Prioritize Lifestyle Changes
When it comes to lifestyle changes, we automatically think of food and exercise alone. While nutrition and movement are daily essentials, we often neglect the role sleep, stress, mental health, and other environmental factors play in our health in general. It really is a holistic practice to heal the body, let alone hormones. Women must consider every aspect of their bodies and health. I had to and I do daily. I’m in bed by 9 p.m. and my phone is on do not disturb.
"Making quality sleep and stress management a priority is a must," Dr. Brighten emphasizes. "Both of these issues can create problems for our hormone and metabolic system that makes it very difficult to maintain optimal hormone levels."
Did you know certain household products or home goods can contribute to your hormonal imbalance? One example is candles – they contain phthalates (usually found in scented candles) which are endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals, or endocrine disruptors, mimic the body's hormones and can therefore interfere with the body's hormonal functions. While there has been some opposition to whether or not scented candles are truly harmful to you, Dr. Brighten says "removing endocrine-disrupting chemicals from your personal care products, cleaning supplies, and kitchen can have a tremendous impact on hormonal health."
For me, this meant switching to glass food containers, non-toxic cookware, clean beauty products, and a metal water bottle because plastics have synthetic estrogen in them.
Supplements Are Your Best Friend for Balancing Hormones
As a woman in her late 30s, I have learned vitamins are key. Vitamins help support the body and provide the nutrients I may not get enough of daily. I have a whole kitchen shelf dedicated to vitamins and supplements which I take daily. Multivitamins, vitamin C, fish oil, and biotin. Supplements to support your hormonal imbalance are dependent on the type of hormonal imbalance. Dr. Brighten believes "including supplements in a routine that is focused on nutrition and lifestyle changes can really move the needle with regards to your hormone goals."
She adds, "For estrogen issues, I often recommend DIM, sulforaphane, and Calcium D-Glucarate. When progesterone is the problem (which is common), I like to use Vitex and vitamin B6. Clinically, I've seen a lot of patients benefit from these, which is why we included them in our Balance Women’s Hormone Support formulation."
Healing a Hormonal Imbalance Naturally
Every woman and every hormonal imbalance is different. You have to be intentional and make a conscious effort to want to heal, which is what I am learning about myself. And while most struggle with making such a dramatic change to their life, for me it came with ease. I love a good time, but I value my health more. I jokingly tell my friends it all starts in your thirties. I swear. I don’t want to be on medication ever or have surgery for anything.
I had to learn acceptance. I had to accept my body was not functioning how it should, even though I looked healthy.
The lab results revealed the truth. And I know I’m one of many women that have a hormonal imbalance. It’s a common thing. But for me, it was a big deal and was a hard pill to swallow when you keep being told you’re healthy. I also had to accept that hormonal imbalances do not go away overnight. It takes time to get your hormones back at the right levels and stay there. Our hormone levels are constantly changing.
When asked how often women should test their hormones and how long it takes to correct a hormonal imbalance, Dr. Brighten states that "it really depends on what is going on. For example, with hypothyroidism that is treated with medication, we often retest 6-8 weeks following dosage changes. Once the thyroid levels are stabilized, we may only follow up every 6-12 months or if symptoms arise. My approach to testing is very individualized, as are most providers."
Maria Korneeva/Getty Images
If you think something in your body is off, don’t ignore the signs. It’s probably your hormones. The slightest symptom could be a sign of something more serious.
If you've been struggling with a hormonal imbalance, there is hope. Forgive yourself for not knowing what you didn’t know before. Any healing journey begins with forgiveness of self. I had to do this very thing.
Hormonal health is trending. And in 2022, women are taking control of their health by being their own advocates with the help of doctors like Dr. Jolene Brighten.
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Camille is a lover of all things skin, curls, music, justice, and wanderlust; oceans and islands are her thing. Her words inspire and her power is her voice. A California native with Trinidadian roots, she has penned personal essays, interviews, and lifestyle pieces for POPSUGAR, FEMI magazine, and SelfishBabe. Camille is currently creating a life she loves through words, self-love, fitness, travel, and empowerment. You can follow her on Instagram @cam_just_living or @written_by_cam.
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
Every now and then, a celebrity name drops a tool or regimen that they swear by to keep their beauty and fitness game on lock. And every now and then, those finds make us think that whatever product they're using might be worth the investment. Today, Kelly Rowland just so happens to be that girl.
Over the weekend, while headling Beautycon, the 42-year-old singer revealed to PEOPLE that her biggest beauty splurge comes in the form of LED light therapy. She told the outlet, "There's this light by Shani Darden, the LED light, and it's not cheap. But I literally sleep under it every night."
LED stands for Light Emitting Diode, and in light therapy, these little diodes emit different wavelengths of light to benefit your skin. LED light therapy has seen an uptick in popularity for its benefits, which range from acne reduction and skin rejuvenation to pain relief and a more even skin tone.
She continued, “It's like a 20 to 30-minute time limit. When I'm under there, it [has] red lights, blue lights, and other colors of light. But those are the ones that I use the most, and they are so awesome because of the simple fact that they are like killing germs and [helping with] anti-aging, which is amazing."
Kelly didn't lie when she said her go-to beauty device was a "splurge." Retailing at a whopping $1,900, the Shani Darden best-selling LED Light Therapy Mask "is clinically proven to reduce acne, pigmentation, and wrinkles." Per the website, the re-engineered "diode LEDs deliver the highest dose of red, blue and near infrared light therapy in cutting-edge wavelength combinations for smoothing, clearing and brightening benefits."
Kelly is someone who gets badder with age, and over the years, the wife and mom have been vocal about her dedication to self-care through the use of beauty products. In a 2022 interview with PEOPLE, she shared her inner beauty philosophy, "Give yourself as many compliments as you possibly can. You start with one, you can have two. You have two, you can have four."
Keep scrolling for some of Kelly Rowland's other beauty faves, including a couple of additional Shani Darden finds:
Pat McGrath Labs Sublime Perfection Foundation
Pat McGrath Labs
"For me [with foundation] it was either not enough coverage or too much coverage … Pat [McGrath] found the perfect blend of them both," Kelly told PEOPLE. "This is actually my color, and it blends in beautifully with the skin – the texture of it is just like silk. I brush it on, or, sometimes I use the little sponge and push it into the skin. It's my favorite. She just nailed it, she really nailed it."
Regarding this product, Kelly revealed to The Cut, "I go up my cheekbones, across my skin and my temples with her wand — it’s incredible."
"I've been with [esthetician] Shani [Darden] for almost 10 years. I was having the toughest time with my skin after I had Titan [seven years ago]. Before she sold this, she put it in a little tube for me and told me when and how to use it–she likes to educate, which I really appreciate–and my skin changed in a matter of two weeks." - via PEOPLE
“Sometimes I use the Rich Cream, and sometimes I just use the Cream," she explained to The Cut about her product preferences.
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Featured image by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Beautycon™