When you think of hormones, you may immediately think about the sex hormones that we hear a lot about, such as testosterone and estrogen. However, there are more than 50 hormones working in your body as you read this, and they are all equally important.
Hormones are chemicals secreted by glands in the body in order to send messages to different organs via the bloodstream. These chemical messengers play a role in essentially every bodily function and system.
What is Hormone Imbalance?
Produced by the endocrine glands, including the adrenals, thyroid, pancreas and reproductive organs, hormones communicate with the nervous system to perform essential bodily functions.
Hormones are the body’s chemical messengers and play a role in everything from mood, sleep patterns, heart rate, fertility, and metabolism. Your hormones make sure your body is running as it should and that your body systems work as they should in order to keep you healthy.
When your hormones are in sync and balanced, you probably won’t give them much thought. When they’re imbalanced, they can cause a host of symptoms and health issues that can impact your day-to-day life.
A hormonal imbalance can develop when your body makes too little or too much of a hormone. When you have a hormonal imbalance, you may feel “off” or that something isn’t quite right, but you can’t pinpoint what that is. Since all of your hormones work in tandem, too little or too much of one hormone can have a ripple effect and affect the others, throwing your body off balance.
There are many hormones — such as adrenaline, cortisol and insulin — that affect everybody in the same way, regardless of your biological sex.
Some hormones affect people in a sex-specific way. For example, if a woman has an imbalance in estrogen levels, she may experience weight gain and mood swings or irregular menstrual cycles. A man with a testosterone imbalance may experience fatigue, loss of muscle mass, and a decrease in libido.
Many people experience hormonal imbalance at some point in their lives, particularly as they age. Lifestyle and any health conditions play a role in hormonal imbalance, too. Each hormone is responsible for its particular role in the body, and hormonal imbalances can vary widely and cause a host of symptoms.
What Are the Causes of Hormone Imbalance?
Hormonal imbalance can be caused by a number of things.
For example, any health conditions you have, foods you eat, and prescription medications you take can have an impact on your hormones. Identifying the causes of your hormonal imbalance early on can ensure you get an early and accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment to put your system back into balance.
Some of the most common causes of hormonal imbalance include:
- Cushing syndrome
- Eating disorders
- Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
- Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
- Lack of sleep
- Poor diet
For women, hormonal imbalance may be related to reproductive hormones that may be affected by:
- Birth control pills
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
Hormonal imbalance symptoms can vary from person to person and depending on which hormone is out-of-balance. However, there are some common symptoms that may indicate that hormonal imbalance is to blame.
What Are the Symptoms of Hormone Imbalance?
Hormone levels naturally fluctuate throughout your life — they peak during puberty and naturally decline as you get older. Hormonal fluctuations can cause changes in your energy, body shape, and overall health.
Symptoms of a hormonal imbalance may include:
- Brittle hair and nails
- Changes in heart rate
- Dry skin
- Excessive sweating
- Difficulty sleeping
- Hair growth in places it doesn’t normally grow (e.g., on the chin in women)
- Low libido
- Worsened or severe PMS symptoms, like breast tenderness
- Vision changes
- Weight gain
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to speak with a healthcare provider to determine if you have a hormonal imbalance.
How is Hormone Imbalance Diagnosed?
There is no single test that can diagnose a hormonal imbalance. Because there is not one specific test to determine which hormones are imbalanced, your doctor may need to do some investigating and do more than one test to get to the root of your symptoms.
When you see your doctor, it is important that you share all of your symptoms so they can explore your particular experience and determine which diagnostic tests would best help to provide a diagnosis.
When you visit your doctor, they will ask about your medical history, family history, and ask about any symptoms you are experiencing.
If your doctor suspects you have a hormonal imbalance, they may order certain diagnostic tests, such as:
- Blood tests. Your doctor will take samples of your blood to test for hormone levels. Most hormones can be detected in the bloodstream. Your doctor will take some vials of your blood to send it to a lab for testing. This will include testing your thyroid as well as cortisol levels, estrogen levels, testosterone levels, and human growth hormone levels.
- Pelvic exam. Your doctor may perform a pelvic exam to determine if your reproductive hormones are imbalanced. If you’re female, your doctor may perform a pap smear. If you’re male, your doctor may check your scrotum and prostate for any abnormalities.
- Ultrasound. Ultrasounds make sound waves to produce pictures of the inside of the body. Your doctor may perform an ultrasound to look at your thyroid, ovaries, uterus, testicles, or pituitary gland.
Your doctor may also perform additional tests, such as x-ray, MRI, biopsy, and a thyroid scan. They may also request a sperm sample to check your sperm count and motility if you are male.
Treatments for Hormone Imbalance
Treatment options for hormone imbalance vary, depending on your age, sex, symptoms, and the type of hormonal imbalance you are experiencing. Every individual may require different treatments to remedy the hormonal imbalance.
Common types of treatments include:
- Testosterone therapy. Testosterone levels impact many aspects of a man’s health. With a deficiency in this vital hormone, your body may lose muscle mass and strength, or you may experience weight gain and a loss of libido. You may also experience depression and a loss of motivation and energy. For men with a testosterone deficiency, testosterone therapy is an effective treatment to restore and balance testosterone levels.
- Estrogen therapy. For women who have experienced a decline in estrogen and progesterone, estrogen replacement may be a viable treatment option. These medications are helpful in reducing symptoms associated with hormonal imbalances in women, such as night sweats, mood swings, and hot flashes.
- Human growth hormone (HGH) therapy. As we age, our bodies produce less of the important hormone known as human growth hormone. HGH deficiency can result in muscle loss, weight gain, fatigue, and mood swings. HGH therapy may help you restore energy levels, strength, and lean muscle mass as well as your libido.
- Anti-androgen medications. These medications block androgens, i.e. the male sex hormones. Anti-androgen treatment can help reduce acne and excessive hair growth or hair loss.
Natural Remedies for Hormone Imbalance
In addition to hormone therapy treatments, there are things you can do to help balance your hormones.
To restore hormone balance, try to:
- Avoiding processed, pre-packaged foods
- Drink plenty of water, at least eight 8-ounce glasses a day
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of omega-3 fatty acids and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli
- Eliminate the use of cleaning products that contain toxins, and replace them with organic, non-toxic options
- Exercise for 30 minutes a day, which can help burn excess calories, regulate neurotransmitters like serotonin, and regulate blood sugar levels
- Get plenty of sleep. Aim for 7-9 hours a night
- Lose weight and/or maintain a healthy body weight
- Meditation and/or mindfulness
- Reduce stress levels
- Talk to your doctor about certain supplements, like magnesium
Hormone imbalance is a common occurrence, but that doesn’t mean you have to live with it. Symptoms of hormone imbalance include unexplained weight gain, insomnia, fatigue, loss of libido and skin changes.
You know your body best, so if you suspect you have a hormonal imbalance, seek the care of a healthcare professional. Along with a healthy diet, exercise and plenty of sleep, hormone therapy can help balance your hormones and restore your health and well-being.
At Elite HRT, we are here to help you determine if you have a hormone imbalance and provide treatments in the form of hormone therapy.
Contact us today to learn more. Our wellness consultants are happy to share information, answer your questions, and invite you in for a consultation with our team of doctors.