Hormone imbalances are a common cause of anxiety, especially in women. In this article, we’ll review the connection between anxiety and hormone balance and provide tangible methods to treat anxiety from this root cause.
Which Hormone Imbalances Cause Anxiety?
Progesterone is a reproductive hormone which prepares the body for a potential pregnancy. The majority of progesterone is produced by the ovaries with a smaller amount produced by the adrenal glands. A woman’s body must ovulate in order to produce progesterone from the ovaries. Some conditions, like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
, may cause you to irregularly ovulate or not ovulate at all. Other women may ovulate but still produce inadequate amounts of progesterone (this is known as a luteal phase defect). Progesterone has calming qualities, so low levels of this hormone can lead to anxiety and insomnia
What May Help
It’s crucial to encourage ovulation each month for adequate progesterone levels. Not sure if you are ovulating? You can use ovulation predictor kits or track your menstrual cycle to detect ovulation using basal body temperature and changes in cervical mucus. Of note, the birth control pill prevents ovulation even though certain types may include a synthetic form of progesterone called “progestin.” This is not the same as the body’s form of progesterone and does not produce the same calming effects. To encourage regular ovulation, we recommend the following:
- Balance your blood sugar levels by following our PFC Balance Method of meal planning.
- Try Ovasitol, a supplement which encourages hormone balance and regular ovulation.
- Prioritize daily stress management techniques.
Thyroid hormones regulate many vital body functions like metabolism, growth and development, heart rate, and body temperature. Hypothyroidism occurs when your thyroid gland does not make enough thyroid hormones to meet your body’s demand. On the other hand, hyperthyroidism occurs when your thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone. Both of these conditions may cause anxiety.
What May Help
If you suspect a thyroid disorder, we recommend asking your doctor to run a full thyroid panel to rule out hypo- or hyperthyroidism. A full thyroid panel includes:
- Free T4
- Free T3
- Thyroid Peroxidase Antibodies (TPO Ab)
Thyroid antibodies are ideal to include in a thyroid panel to screen for an autoimmune disorder called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Hashimoto’s is the most common cause of hypothyroidism. Treatment for these conditions vary, but correcting a thyroid hormone imbalance can often reduce symptoms of anxiety. Our Thyroid Support
supplement contains all of the important nutrients you need to support healthy thyroid hormone levels and conversion. We often order a full thyroid panel for members of our functional medicine membership program.
Cortisol is a stress hormone produced in varying levels throughout the day. During a stressful event, the body raises your cortisol levels as part of the “fight-or-flight” response. Unfortunately, many individuals suffer from imbalanced cortisol levels due to chronic stress. Both high and low cortisol levels can lead to symptoms of anxiety.
What May Help
Stress is a natural part of life and it’s not always possible to remove the stressors we experience each day. This means we must find a productive way to reduce the effects of everyday stress on the body.
- Prioritize 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Avoid coffee, alcohol, and screens as much as possible before bedtime.
- Incorporate at least one stress reducing activity into your routine each day. Proven therapies to reduce cortisol include yoga or tai chi, breathing exercises, nature walks, and meditation.
- Consider taking an adaptogen, like Ashwagandha. Adaptogens are herbs that have cortisol balancing effects and may help reduce anxiety.
You may be surprised to hear that vitamin D is actually considered a hormone. Vitamin D deficiency is fairly common, especially in people who live in colder climates with less sunlight during the winter. Research suggests that a vitamin D deficiency is associated with mental health disorders, like anxiety. Fortunately, increasing vitamin D levels may reduce symptoms of anxiety (1
How to Treat
You can request a vitamin D blood test through your primary care doctor. Most conventional providers consider a vitamin D level greater than 30 ng/ml as normal. However, updated research and clinical practice suggests that an optimal vitamin D level is actually closer to 50-70 ng/ml. Most people require a vitamin D supplement
, at least through the winter, in order to achieve this ideal range. Read more about optimal vitamin D levels
Your lifestyle plays a tremendous role in treating anxiety and hormone imbalances. Simply put, it is very difficult to effectively treat anxiety if you are living a stressed, sleep deprived, and inactive lifestyle. Changing your lifestyle may be simple, but it’s not necessarily easy! Start small and stay consistent even when setbacks occur.
Healthy lifestyle modifications to treat anxiety and support hormone balance may include:
- Daily physical activity/exercise
- Stress management
- Sleep hygiene to encourage 7-8 hours of sleep each night
- Avoid smoking
- Limit alcohol
- Spend time in nature
- Socialize with people who lift your mood
It’s important to add that lifestyle modifications can help anyone with anxiety, no matter which treatment protocol (including conventional medicines) you decide to pursue!
Anxiety and Hormone Balance: Takeaways
Imbalances in progesterone, thyroid hormones, cortisol, and vitamin D may all cause or worsen your anxiety. Treatment of these imbalances may include diet, lifestyle modifications, supplementation, and/or medication when needed.