Hormones are the most potent chemical messengers in our bodies, telling your body what to do and when. That’s why when your hormones are out of balance, you may be able to feel the effects, whether it be via insomnia, fatigue, weight gain, hair loss, or mood swings. But usually these imbalances are reversible — learn how to balance hormones naturally and turn your hormonal imbalance around.
Produced by our endocrine glands — adrenals, thyroid, pancreas, female or male reproductive system — hormones perform essential functions, relay important warnings and communicate messages throughout the body.
That means, they make sure everything is running smoothly and that your rhythms stay in sync.
Hormones can impact your appetite, metabolism, heart rate, sleep patterns, reproduction and mood.
Many things can challenge your endocrine system, disrupting hormone balance and function. The longer a system is “out of order” the more difficult it can be to bring it back into harmony. Identifying and correcting the causes of hormonal imbalance early on will help maintain your health and prevent the onset of chronic disease.
Potential causes of a hormonal imbalance: Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism); Overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism); chronic stress; diabetes; birth control or hormonal replacement; poor diet; cushing syndrome; and exposure to endocrine disruptors.
These seven major symptoms can help you determine if you have a hormonal imbalance.
Fatigue. Everyone is tired sometimes. But you should recover with adequate rest, hydration, and a healthy diet. If you feel you are taking care of yourself but are still exhausted or just can’t seem to get back to your best, consider having a comprehensive evaluation of your hormone levels. Adrenal fatigue and hypothyroidism are more prevalent in our high-paced society than you may think and a hormonal imbalance test can help diagnose this.
Anxiety. Nope, it’s not all in your head. Nearly 18-percent of Americans suffer from an anxiety-related disorder and 7-percent from a major depressive disorder each year. Women may be at a higher risk because changes in estrogen during menstrual cycles, pregnancy, or menopause are associated with worsening depression. A study on the effect of estrogen receptors in the brain found that estrogen calms the fear response and anxiety in both humans and rodents. Higher levels of estrogen were correlated less fearful responses when stimulated by fear-inducing scenarios. Men with low levels of testosterone are more prone to developing anxiety or major depressive discover when compared to those with normal levels.
Weight gain or difficulty losing weight. Why do so many people struggle with weight loss and maintenance? Usually, it’s because they are eating too little and working too hard. The body processes this hard work as stress and when the body is stressed, it goes into survival or “fight or flight” mode, producing cortisol. When you’re chronically stressed, your cortisol is always high and in an effort to protect itself from whatever danger it senses, your body holds onto fat as a form of energy.
Trouble sleeping. Insomnia can be linked to a dysregulated hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis, which is your central stress response system, where your endocrine system and central nervous system interact. It’s also responsible for regulating the sleep-wake cycle through the release of hormones, such as melatonin and cortisol. Melatonin works on the part of the brain that controls our circadian rhythm, allowing us to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. An inability to secrete melatonin may result in difficulty falling asleep or adjusting to a new sleep pattern. Similarly, when your cortisol levels are too high in the evening, you may have trouble falling asleep and feel wired but tired in the evening.
Forty percent of women going through perimenopause, the phase in which your body is nearing menopause, also report sleep disturbances, such as waking up in the middle of the night with chills and drenched in sweat.
Digestive issues. There are more neurotransmitters in the gut than there are in the brain, so it should be no surprise that anxiety and depression are sometimes accompanied by digestive symptoms. Hormones influence gut function through the microbiome and bacterial system in our intestines, so a hormone imbalance can impact the population and function of the bacteria in your gut, leading to symptoms like bloating, diarrhea, or nausea.
Skin and hair changes. A sudden increase in acne is one easy way to identify a possible hormonal imbalance. One of the few hormones involved is androgens. Androgens, typically referred to as “male hormones,” but found in both males and females, regulate your skin’s sebum production., If your body produces androgens in excess, sebum can build up in your pores and cause a pimple to surface.
Meanwhile, the quality and vitality of your hair is also directly related to your hormones. Thyroid abnormalities, for example, may cause dry hair or skin, thinning hair, or brittle nails. Hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, and parathyroid disorder can also cause hair loss.
PMS and low sex drive. Low testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone are all associated with a decreased sex drive in both men and women. This is especially common after age 50 when estrogen and testosterone production declines. Since estrogen is one of the main hormones regulating a woman’s menstrual cycle a decrease in production can also lead to irregular periods that are too long, too short, unpredictable, heavy, or painful, infertility, hot flashes, mood swings, or painful intercourse.