It’s a buzz term, and yet many people remain in the dark about hormonal imbalance. Hormones are special chemical messages produced by endocrine glands that control most major bodily functions, dictate our mood and behaviors. All of them play big roles in our health and well-being. When they act like expected we manage to co-exist in peace and quiet. However, if something goes wrong, certain red flags won’t be long in coming. We’ll take a look at some of the signs of hormonal imbalance, but first it’s important to distinguish between the two relatively similar notions.
Hormonal changes vs. Hormonal imbalance
A woman's hormonal cycle undergoes natural changes during the periods of:
- Aging processes
And it’s a perfectly normal thing that also needs to remain under a watchful medical eye. That’s why it’s important to see your gynecologist and endocrinologist for routine check-ups.
Hormonal imbalance can be defined as having too much or too little of certain hormones. And the reasons for it are plentiful:
- Dysfunctional endocrine system
- Faulty hormone therapy
- Eating disorders
- Pollution, toxins, xenoestrogens (latter is a synthetic chemical that masquerades like estrogen)
- Effect of certain medications and treatments
- Trauma or injury
When long neglected, hormonal problems can promote diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and cancer unless treated. That’s why it’s important to understand what causes hormonal imbalance in the first place to be able to catch those signs early.
Signs and symptoms of hormonal imbalance
1. Chronic fatigue
Can’t make it through the day without a bunch of stimulants? If you feel like you’ve been feeling tired all the time lately, mark it as a red flag. It can happen because your progesterone levels are over the limit, or if your thyroid gland failed to produce enough thyroid hormone.
2. Weight gain or weight loss
You’re eating right, exercise regularly and, yet, keep gaining weight, or on the contrary can’t build enough muscle. Drops in some hormones—like estrogen—or overproduction of others—like cortisol—are often linked to weight gain or loss of muscle mass.
3. Constant headaches
For some women splitting headaches are directly linked to low estrogen levels. That’s why it’s common for them to have headaches before or during periods, when their estrogen is dipping.
4. Poor vaginal lubrication
Vaginal dryness is often accompanied by painful sensations during sex, so it’s hard to miss. It's okay to experience it from time to time. But in case your vagina feels dry and itchy for a long time, low estrogen may be the one to blame. Estrogen helps vaginal tissues to stay properly lubricated and when its levels plummet you can feel tight and uncomfortable down there.
5. Low sex drive
If you have lost interest in sex it may be because your levels of estrogen are too low. Women’s bodies also produce testosterone which is usually thought of exclusively as a ‘male hormone’. If you've lost your libido, it’s usually a hallmark sign that your testosterone levels are also lower than usual.
6. Painful or/and irregular periods
Yes, ladies. In spite of what they say, excruciating cramps are not ‘perfectly normal’, even during the first days of the cycle. Chronic menstrual pain is definitely a warning signal that your hormones are acting up.
Consistent irregularity is also an alerting pattern that one shouldn’t ignore. This includes missed periods, stopped or too frequent periods.
7. Chronic acne
If you have a breakout during or before your period, it’s nothing to worry about. But if it’s there to stay and you’ve already tried pretty much every anti-pimple cream there is and no luck, it might be your hormones talking. A hormone called androgen—when it’s overproduced by our body—can clog pores and cause acne.
How to know if you have a hormonal imbalance
Lab test results - as simple as that. Routine annual blood tests—called thyroid panel and female hormone panel—help us be on a lookout for the slightest changes in hormonal levels. If they are too high or too low, these tests will show it right away.
Be ahead of the game
Hormones shift throughout our lifetime, and yet major hormonal imbalances may often be prevented, and many health conditions can be helped if certain steps are taken in due time:
- Healthy changes in your eating habits, i.e. cutting out refined sugars and carbs, processed foods
- Learning to manage stress and relieve anxiety
- Engaging in an active lifestyle
- Consuming healthy fats, omega-3 acids, enough fiber, protein and iron-rich foods
- Keeping iron intake under control
- Getting enough beauty sleep
Many signs of hormonal imbalance can be attributed to other health problems. That’s why it’s necessary to order a complete hormone panel to see whether or not there is a cause for concern.
Also, it’s essential to remember that eating right, engaging in regular physical activity and adopting other healthy habits can significantly improve your hormonal health.