In August, Veracity is celebrating our inaugural Hormone Health Awareness Month. Join the conversation at one of our virtual panel discussions throughout the month and post on social using the hashtag #ItsYourHormones.
When I tell other women about my hormonal imbalance saga, almost every one of them responds with her own account of a crazy hormone experience. Every time I hear one of these stories, I get excited. I feel for them, of course, but I am also so happy that they feel free to share with me – that these issues are no longer being kept secret.
Yesterday, I was having lunch with a friend when suddenly we started laughing about yeast infections. Anyone who’s had one (and who hasn’t!) knows there’s nothing funny about living through one. But when the topic comes up during lunch, it’s hard not to giggle. We can all relate to the experience, and it felt good to be able to openly talk about it and how hormonal imbalances can cause such an uncomfortable situation. I want us to do that more.
When my hormonal imbalance issues first started, I felt like I was on my own little island figuring things out all by myself. Today, it feels like more women are coming together to share their stories to not only build community around these issues, but also to pass on vital information about what treatments and lifestyle changes have helped them heal. This is especially important because we now know that these problems are all too common. Around 80% of women will experience some sort of hormone imbalance (aside from menopause) in their lifetimes.
I didn’t even know what the thyroid was when I was first diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, much less that it played a part in everything from metabolism and temperature control to being able to grow skin, hair, and nails. Now I know that at least 25% of women have a serious issue with their thyroid. Other hormone problems have similarly staggering numbers. It is conservatively estimated that one in ten women are diagnosed with PCOS, a condition caused by an imbalance in testosterone and DHEA, and that 25 million Americans, the majority of whom are women, have an autoimmune disorder, many of which are driven by hormone issues. The list goes on.
That’s why I am so passionate about spreading the word about hormone health. As women, we often chalk up subtle shifts in our health to just feeling “a little off” or as a personal failing (we didn’t work out enough or we indulged in a pizza night…you get the picture). But hormone problems are incredibly common, and no one should feel ashamed to have one.
When you have a baby, you leave the hospital fully educated about the signs of postpartum depression. I think we should extend this practice to all hormone imbalances. We should be equipped with the knowledge to not only understand our hormones and their natural fluctuations (like your monthly cycle), but also to notice the signs that something is out of balance.
For example, all women should know that it’s normal to have some pain when you’re on your period because your uterus is contracting. But it’s not normal — and it’s not something you should ever be ok just living with – to be curled up in bed in pain for days during your cycle. Yet, that’s what so many women with fibroids, endometriosis, and other hormonal issues have to deal with.
Three things that I do to help me keep my hormones in mind as I’m thinking about my larger picture of health are:
Keep a health journal: Our lives move fast and it’s easy to forget things, especially subtle signs and symptoms that something might be off. As a runner, I learned to keep a training log so I could identify small issues early on before they caused major problems. The same goes for our mental and physical health. Take 2 minutes out of your day to write down some brief notes about how you feel and anything that might be out of the ordinary. This can help you begin to notice your own biological patterns and identify early signs that something might need to be addressed.
Have your hormones tested: If you want to know what’s going on with your hormones, just ask them! Well, sort of. Saliva-based hormone tests like Veracity’s at-home Hormone Wellness Test can give you a good indication of whether the tested hormones are low, normal, or high. The results also contain personalized tips on how to keep your hormones in balance to look and feel better. For a deeper picture of your hormone health, ask your doctor for a full hormone panel that will give you an even more detailed look at what’s going on inside.
Remember, doctors aren’t know-it-alls: Doctors are the MVPs of our healthcare, but they don’t know absolutely everything, especially if we don’t tell them. Educate yourself about your health so you can show up to appointments fully prepared to be a partner in addressing any concerns you may have. And don’t forget to mention everything you’re experiencing, even if you don’t think it’s relevant to the doctor in question. Remember, when it comes to health, it’s all connected. Just because you're going to the dermatologist for a laser treatment to address hyperpigmentation doesn't mean that you shouldn't mention that you are having heavy periods. Those things may be related.
Hormones can seem mysterious since they’re hidden from view, but once you get familiar with them, they’re not so tricky. They are the building blocks of a happy and healthy life.
We need to come together to celebrate our hormones when they’re healthy and balanced and to surround each other with knowledge, support, and resources when our hormones need a little extra help. When I see women getting back into balance by sharing knowledge and working together, I could not be more excited.