Have you found yourself feeling “off” these days or just not feeling like yourself?
Maybe you have less energy, unexplained mood swings, a change in your libido or trouble or the inability to sleep.
You may have chalked it up to stress, being too busy at work or simply part of the changes in your body that come with aging.
But what if there’s a medical reason for the way you’re feeling?
And even better, what if it can be fixed?
You may be experiencing what’s called a hormonal imbalance.
Hormones are chemicals produced by the glands in your endocrine system and released into the blood stream.
Your body produces eight different types of hormones:
- Thyroid Hormones
These 8 types of hormones serve as your body’s chemical messengers, controlling and coordinating activities throughout the body. Each type of hormone has specific, very important functions it’s support to perform.
These include appetite, metabolism, sleep and reproductive cycles, sexual function, body temperature and mood.
So, it’s no surprise that even the slightest imbalance can have a noticeable effect on your overall health and wellbeing.
What do we mean by a hormone imbalance?
Levels of hormones naturally fluctuate at various life stages, most noticeably during puberty and in women during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy and the menopause. They can also be affected by lifestyle and certain medical conditions.
The body has a normal range for each type of hormone. When the range is higher or lower than normal, that’s considered a hormone imbalance, which leads to the variety of symptoms we’ll talk about below.
The roles each hormone play differ greatly between men and women, which means signs of a hormonal imbalance in men versus women can look very differently. We’ll cover hormonal imbalances in men in a future blog.
10 signs of a potential female hormonal imbalance:
1. Mood swings
The female sex hormone, estrogen, has an effect on neurotransmitters in the brain including serotonin (a chemical that boosts mood). Fluctuations in estrogen can cause premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or depressed mood during the perimenopause (the phase before periods stop completely) and the menopause.
2. Heavy or painful periods
If this is accompanied by other symptoms such as abdominal pain, a frequent need to urinate, lower back pain, constipation and painful intercourse, then you may have fibroids. Fibroids are non-cancerous growths that develop in or around the womb. The exact cause is unknown although they are thought to be stimulated by estrogen while having a family history may also increase your risk.
3. Low libido
Low libido is particularly common in women going through the perimenopause or menopause due to falling levels of estrogen and testosterone. Testosterone is most often associated with men but it also plays a role in a woman’s libido (or lack of). Other menopausal symptoms such as night sweats, fatigue, low mood and anxiety can also have an impact on your sex life.
4. Insomnia and poor-quality sleep
During perimenopause and menopause, the ovaries gradually produce less estrogen and progesterone, which promotes sleep. Falling estrogen levels may also contribute to night sweats which disrupt your sleep, contributing to fatigue and lack of energy.
5. Unexplained weight gain
A number of hormone-related conditions can cause weight gain including an underactive thyroid (when your thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones which regulate metabolism), polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) (a hormone-related problem causing small cysts on the ovaries) and the menopause (which results in hormonal changes that can make you more likely to gain weight around your abdomen).
6. Skin problems
Chronic adult acne can be a sign of low levels of estrogen and progesterone and high levels of androgen hormones and can also indicate polycystic ovary syndrome. Similarly, hormonal imbalances during pregnancy or the menopause can cause itchy skin while dry skin is a symptom of the menopause or thyroid problems.
7. Fertility problems
Hormonal imbalances are one of the leading causes of female infertility and with changing hormone levels, a woman’s fertility naturally drops after the age of 35. High levels of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) can reduce a woman’s chances of getting pregnant while low levels of luteinizing hormone (LH), which stimulates the ovaries to release an egg and start producing progesterone, can also cause fertility problems. Early menopause and other hormone-related conditions such as PCOS will affect your fertility.
Many women suffer headaches due to hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy or menopause.
9. Weak bones
Falling levels of estrogen during the perimenopause and menopause can cause bone loss.
10. Vaginal dryness
Vaginal dryness is most often caused by a fall in estrogen levels, especially during the perimenopause and menopause. Taking the contraceptive pill or antidepressants can also change hormone levels, resulting in the problem.
Diagnosing and treating a hormone imbalance:
Luckily, diagnosing a hormone imbalance is as simple as a blood test where we test the levels of all 8 hormones. The results often provide much insight (and relief) as to why you’re experiencing certain symptoms.
“It started in my teen years with heavy, painful periods and unexplained depression. Fast forward to my college years and the depression just got worse, regardless of what medication I was taking. I’d always had trouble sleeping but never thought much about it. I’ve always suffered from a low libido but blamed it on the depression medication. My husband and I did fertility treatments for a year until I was able to get pregnant. I turned 40 and all of a sudden, my energy level was almost non-existent and the mood swings increased.
Someone suggested getting my hormones tested and the results were so eye opening. It was like my whole health history could be linked to a hormone imbalance that I’d likely had for more than 20 years.
I was frustrated and relieved at the same time. But, finally I had an answer and a way to get back to being ME again.”
Hormonal imbalances can occur at any age and can ultimately lead to more serious diseases.
One of the ways hormone imbalances are treated is through a process called Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy. You may also hear it referred to as simply Hormone Replacement Therapy or Hormone Optimization.No matter what it’s called, it’s the process of balancing out your hormone levels by using man-made hormones almost identical to the ones your body naturally produces.
If you’re experiencing many of these symptoms, don’t suffer in silence.
Schedule an appointment for a consultation and blood test and we can get you back on road to feeling like yourself again.
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