Hormones play an essential role in regulating bodily processes and function, so even a minor imbalance can have a large impact on your body. A hormonal imbalance occurs when there is too much or too little of a hormone in your body.
Hormones are produced by the endocrine system and travel around the body via the bloodstream. They tell organs what to do and when they should do it. A severe or prolonged hormone imbalance can have an impact on your brain’s ability to function.
As we get older our hormone receptors become less sensitive, meaning our endocrine function generally declines. While the production of most hormones will likely decrease, some will remain stable or even increase. Growth hormones, melatonin, estrogen in women and testosterone in men will likely decrease with age.
We produce over 200 different hormones, each affecting different parts of the body and causing different symptoms. Here are 12 signs that you may have a hormone imbalance.
Changes in weight
If you haven’t changed your diet or exercise routine but have lost or gained weight, or find yourself carrying weight in places you don’t normally, you may have a hormone imbalance. Estradiol, a form of estrogen that helps to regulate your metabolism and weight, will decrease after menopause. Some hormone imbalances can cause your body to go into a stress response and lose weight, though this is less common.
Changes in your hair
If you have noticed your hair becoming thinner, thicker or drier or changes in the texture, this may be a sign of a hormone imbalance. Progesterone and estrogen help to control your hair growth, so lower levels of these hormones can cause your hair to grow slower, to thin or shed more. During menopause women will produce more testosterone and less estrogen. This may cause the thinning of head hair and thick or fuzzy hair to grow on your body and face. These are natural changes that come with getting older, but indicate a major shift in your hormone production.
If you notice sudden changes in your skin, such as dryness, redness, splotchy patches, acne or increased visibility and prominence of veins, hormones may be to blame.
There are a number of hormone-related factors that can cause you to struggle to get to sleep or stay asleep. Insomnia can result from imbalances in estrogen and progesterone Night sweats are common in perimenopausal women and can wake you up throughout the night. Hot flushes are caused by a sudden surge of adrenalin, making you feel uncomfortable, on edge and make it hard or impossible to sleep.
Changes in menstrual cycle
While we tend to think that menstrual complications affect only postmenopausal women , with hormonal imbalances, this may not be true. Postmenopausal women may experience heavy bleeding, breakthrough bleeding, spotting or prolonged cycles. These changes are a simple way for women to tell if they have a hormonal imbalance.
Changes in energy
Imbalances in the adrenal glands and thyroid can cause fatigue – finding it hard to get motivated or even get up in the morning. The adrenal glands produce cortisol, a primary stress hormone. If these levels are too high or low at different times they can cause you to struggle to sleep and feel exhausted throughout the day.
If your body thinks you’re unable to carry a child, either because of poor diet, high stress levels or high or low body fat levels, it can do what is called a ‘ progesterone steal’. This means your body will conserve energy by cutting back on progesterone production and instead prioritise producing cortisol. Progesterone is a hormone that helps your brain to calm down and relax. Cortisol puts your mind on edge and causes your brain to ‘freak out’. The shift in these hormones can cause you to experience, stress, anxiety, mood swings and depression. It’s important to eat a balanced diet to give your body the nutrients it needs to stabilise itself.
Drop in fertility
If your body doesn’t think you are healthy enough to carry a child, often because of stress levels, diet or carrying too much or too little weight, it will make it harder to conceive a child, prioritising your survival and health. It is important to make sure you find a healthy balance between exercise and relaxation, and a balanced diet that contains healthy fats.
Changes in digestion and bladder function
If you’ve noticed issues such as constipation, IBS or changes in bladder function, a hormone imbalance may be to blame. Needing to urinate more frequently throughout the day and night, losing bladder content when you sneeze or cough or experiencing more UTIs are signs of hormonal changes.
If you are easily overwhelmed, struggle to think straight or remember names you may be experiencing changes in brain function. Ongoing and persistent changes that impact your daily life may be caused by hormonal changes.
Drop in libido
High stress levels, adrenal fatigue and high cortisol levels are linked to hormonal changes and may be causing a drop in your sex drive. Erectile dysfunction, vaginal dryness, stress and irritability are common side effects of hormonal changes and can all contribute to a drop in libido. The side effects of other hormonal changes such as bloating, fatigue, weight gain or hair loss can also make us feel less attractive and interested in sex.
Loss of bone density
It can be hard to notice this one until something goes wrong, but changes in calcium regulating hormones can often impact joint health, cellular and tissue health. Joints can lose their elasticity and regenerate slower. A drop in estrogen levels can cause a loss of bone density, making osteoporosis more likely.
It is important to note that hormone replacements, such as estrogen in older women, can be harmful, and such therapy does not appear to prolong life or reverse ageing.
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Health disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.