Ladies, if you feel stressed, if your mood is all over the place or if you can't seem to strike the balance between starving and being completely full, you are not alone.
A major key to understanding these fluctuations in our daily lives is to understand hormonal imbalance. Unfortunately, hormonal imbalance is one of those hard to avoid life situations. Every female will experience some level of hormonal imbalance, and in turn the side effects, which include an erratic metabolism, mood swings and most notably stress.
Studies have shown that when you experience stress, the nervous system is activated which releases neural hormones and impulses that affect behavioural and cognitive functions, which include those relating to decision-making.
While, we'd love to say it's great to know the reason we experience the aforementioned symptoms, quite frankly, knowledge isn't power when it comes to hormones. Like many of us, Olympic swimming champion and co-founder of Happy Healthy You, Lisa Curry has lived with hormone related anxiety and stress for many years, and this has led to turmoil in her life. In 2014, Lisa realised enough was enough and she set out to find some answers.
Lisa decided to stop 'dealing' with her hormones and start 'living' with them. Partnering with naturopath Jeff Butterworth, Lisa and Jeff co-founded a lifestyle space called Happy Healthy You (HHY).
The HHY platform aims to help thousands of women find balance in their life with the support and experience from specialists, naturopaths and Lisa herself.
"I've battled with my hormones for many years and always blamed my bad choices in life on them – like emotional eating, my quick-to-anger temper and my weight continually going up and down," Lisa said.
"One day I realised I needed to change my approach to life and – yes, I can blame my hormones on all these things, but I can also take control of them and take my life back.
"I started taking my symptoms seriously and transformed my lifestyle in small ways to combat simple bad choices such as changing the way I ate and reintroducing moderate exercise, not trying to train like I used to as an Olympian which is very stressful on the body, and of course taking my Happy Hormones which has been a saviour for me," she said.
Like Lisa, a host of everyday Australians have joined forces with more than 300,000 Australian women as members of the online Happy Healthy You lifestyle space, where they can share their own personal experience with hormonal imbalance in a safe, supportive community.
Gail Bradbury from Hervey Bay, Monique Gill from Sydney and Simone Arndt from Melbourne have all been in situations in which their hormones have gotten the best of them.
Sharing an anecdote about how hormonal imbalance has affected her, Hervey Bay resident, Gail Bradbury says that her hormones have played havoc on her memory – "I've been married for over 34 years and one day I was looking at my hubby and l forgot his name!"
Like Gail, Sydney woman, Monique Gill has also experienced memory lapse as a result of hormonal imbalance – "I forgot my pin number at the ATM (which I have had for over 10 years) and couldn't get any cash out! I still can't remember it off the top of my head, so I wrote it down but lost the piece of paper."
For Melbourne mother, Simone Arndt, hormonal imbalance led her to use the radio dial to try and increase the volume of her son's voice – "My son spoke to me in the car so quietly I could barely understand him, so I turned the volume up at the radio button!"
Global Naturopath, Lauren Scinetti (BHSc, Naturopathy; BBSc, Psychology) said it's especially important for young people to realise the role that hormonal imbalance and stress can play in their lives and how it can actually affect their decision making.
"Hormones are a natural part of life and it's critical for young women to educate themselves on how an imbalance affects the logical decision-making centres in the brain, heightening the stress response and generally making them feel more emotionally susceptible," Lauren said.
"If women can take charge of their lives and reset, rebalance and restore their health, this can have a major impact on their wellbeing and quality of life – especially when it comes to their hormonal behaviour.
"Understanding what is going on with your body and taking charge early (like implementing health and wellness programs) can help change the course of your life," Lauren said.
Happy Healthy You offers free nurse and naturopath support on their website as well as an online community of over 300,000 women who provide support for one another. Happy Healthy You encourages Australian women of all ages to take the first steps in learning about their hormone levels by visiting the Happy Healthy You website where they can complete a free online assessment, access a free eight week eating guide and to find out more information.
Question: What is hormonal imbalance?
Lauren Scinetti: The hormones are regulated by a bodily system called 'The Endocrine System,' which is a network of glands that run throughout the human body, allowing cells and hormones to talk to each other. When the endocrine system isn't functioning properly and hormone levels are either too high or too low, it results in hormonal imbalance. A hormonal imbalance can occur at any time in someone's life.
Question: How common is hormonal imbalance in Australian women?
Lauren Scinetti: I think almost every Australian woman would say she has experienced a symptom of hormonal imbalances; there are so many different ways that hormonal imbalances present in the body. The number of younger women experiencing hormonal imbalance, with PCOS, Endometriosis, and irregular cycles more frequently recognised.
Question: What symptoms and side effects associated with hormonal imbalance?
Lauren Scinetti: The side effects of hormonal imbalance are so varied, however mood swings, anxiety, depression and fatigue are some of the more regularly occurring. Other symptoms of hormonal imbalance can include weight gain, hair loss, menstrual cycle changes, acne and pain.
Question: What is the relationship between stress and hormonal imbalance?
Lauren Scinetti: Stress hormones and sex hormones originate from the same place. When your body is undergoing constant stress and or trauma, it throws out the stress hormonal responses, and imbalances the other hormones along the way.
Research shows that stress can impact your immune system, decreasing immunity levels by as much as 80 per cent. Stress really affects your body and the mechanisms it uses to relay the correct messages between cells, meaning that stress can impact on how well all of the different systems in your body run.
Question: Why is it important we are aware of the symptoms associated with hormonal imbalance?
Lauren Scinetti: Hormonal imbalances should not be the "normal" every day experience for anyone. We need to recognise the symptoms and understand just how damaging hormonal imbalance can be on quality of life, which can be so much better.
Question: How can we stop 'dealing' with her hormones and start 'living' with them?
Lauren Scinetti: You shouldn't have to "deal' with hormonal imbalances.
Question: How can we take charge of our hormones?
Lauren Scinetti: There are so many things we can do to take charge of our hormones. Lifestyle habits are key to taking charge. Start with the basics – exercise (Lisa Curry is always posting motivational exercise clips on our Facebook page), diet (at HHY we have an easy eight-week program designed specifically for hormonal rebalancing) and making sure you are sleeping well.
Remove external disruptors like screens, stand up or move around regularly, avoid body care products, plastics or cleaning products that have too many chemicals in them, as chemicals are big hormonal disruptors.
Question: What message do you hope to spread ahead of Women's Health Week?
Lauren Scinetti: I encourage all women who live with hormonal imbalance to begin making some changes to their diet and lifestyle, and to do this naturally to help them live their best lives. Take our free online assessment, join our Facebook community, and ask questions about your health. If you don't feel like your hormones are balanced, speak to a naturopath about how you can resolve some of your hormonal imbalances.
Question: Can you tell us about Happy Healthy You?
Lauren Scinetti: Happy Healthy You was established by Olympian, Lisa Curry and Naturopath Jeff Butterworth in 2014 to combat the lack of support and education for Australian women seeking a natural alternative to pharmaceutical solutions for various health and hormonal issues.
We are a community with more than 130,000 Australian women. We support women by providing free access to healthy recipes, naturopaths and wellness coaches and provide a safe environment where women can share their experiences of weight, menopause, fertility and general health concerns with a professional naturopathy team available to offer advice and support.
Interview by Brooke Hunter