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Hormones are special chemicals secreted by the endocrine glands in your body. They are chemical messengers that send signals to the body cells and tissues and aid in several functions such as metabolism and reproduction. (1)
When the hormone levels of your body are affected by some factors, hormonal imbalances can occur. A hormonal imbalance is a common issue affecting many teenagers and adults today, particularly women. (2)
It is often ignored or unnoticed due to its varying symptoms such as fatigue, irritability, and weight gain. These are general symptoms that can happen in many health conditions and are thus not recognized as indications of a hormonal issue soon enough in many women. (3)
Hormones are secreted by the endocrine glands into the bloodstream and aid in a number of body functions such as:
Signs and Symptoms of a Hormonal Imbalance
Here are some common signs and symptoms of a hormonal imbalance you should keep an eye out for:
1. Weight gain
Many types of hormonal imbalances can affect your body weight. Polycystic ovarian disease (PCOD), thyroid issues, and menopause are known to affect metabolism and cause weight gain in many women. (7)
Abnormal levels of cortisol and aldosterone are also associated with weight gain. (8)
If you constantly feel fatigued, sleepy, or unable to concentrate during the day, you may be having a hormonal issue. Fatigue can be a sign of an unhealthy lifestyle, sleep disorder, or abnormal levels of thyroxine (a hormone produced by the thyroid gland). (9)
3. Sleep problems
Sleep problems and hormone fluctuations go hand in hand. Unhealthy sleep schedules, sleeping disorders, etc., can affect your hormone levels. Interestingly, lowered levels of some hormones (such as estrogen and progesterone) can affect sleep patterns as well. (10)
4. Mental health problems
Thyroid problems can cause mental health issues. (11) Abnormal thyroid hormone levels can cause restlessness, anxiety, or depression.
5. Fertility problems
Hormones are responsible for maintaining proper reproductive systems in both men and women. Women are more prone to developing hormonal issues that can affect fertility. These include PCOD and anovulation, which affect ovulation and the menstrual cycle, making it difficult to conceive. (12)
Men can also be affected by hormonal problems such as abnormal testosterone levels, which can affect sperm quality and quantity. (13)
6. Low libido
Low libido is another problem that mostly affects women near menopause. It occurs due to lowered levels of estrogen. (14)
7. Brain fog
Brain fog technically refers to feelings of confusion, inability to focus on tasks, or trouble making decisions. It is hard to identify and can be brought on by hormonal issues.
8. Chronic acne
Acne is a telltale symptom of hormone fluctuations. It usually occurs during adolescence due to the rising hormone levels that act on the sebaceous glands, making them produce more sebum or oil.
Some women may also experience acne during menopause due to lowered hormone levels.
Cystic acne or chronic acne can be due to hormonal imbalances in both men and women. (15)
Estrogen can have a moderate effect on the digestive process. This can lead to constipation or diarrhea in different phases of the menstrual cycle. (16)
10. Excessive sweating
Estrogen can also affect body temperature. Fluctuations in estrogen levels can thus cause sweating, irritability, etc.
The hot flashes or night sweats that occur during menopause are caused by estrogen deficiency. (17)
11. Hair loss
Increased testosterone levels can lead to a form of alopecia. Hair loss due to testosterone problems is seen in both men and women and can be genetic.
In women, hair loss can also be caused by PCOD. (18)
12. Raised blood sugar levels
Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, is responsible for maintaining blood glucose levels within the normal range. Insulin problems can lead to type 1 or type 2 diabetes, both of which are characterized by increased blood sugar levels. (19)
13. Muscle and joint pain and swelling
Estrogen has anti-inflammatory properties and can help protect you from heart disease, joint pain, and swelling. Thus, reduced estrogen levels after menopause can cause an increase in joint pain and inflammation in women.
14. Dry eyes and hormonal changes
Certain receptors for testosterone and estrogen are present in the eyes. Hence, dry eyes can also be a lesser-known symptom of a hormonal imbalance. (20)
Testing, Treatment, and Follow-Up Care
If you have more than three of the symptoms listed above, you may be suffering from a hormonal imbalance.
Do not self-diagnose, and visit a doctor for a proper assessment. Your doctor will be able to diagnose hormone disorders by asking about your symptoms and running a few blood tests.
Treatment may include lifestyle changes, dietary modifications, and medication.
Risk Factors for Hormone Disorders
Risk factors for hormone disorders include:
- Genetics: Hormonal issues such as diabetes and PCOD have a strong genetic component. If your parents or siblings have them, you are at risk of developing the condition. (21)
- Age: Age is a major factor in hormonal imbalances in women. The menstrual cycle and its regulating hormones fluctuate as you grow older.
- Ethnicity: Certain ethnicities are more prone to developing hormonal issues such as diabetes.
- Medications: Steroids, birth control, etc., can affect your hormone levels.
- Previous ovarian surgery: Ovarian surgeries put women at higher risk of hormone disorders.
- Tumors: Ovarian tumors or adrenal gland tumors can affect the hormone production from these organs.
Prevention Against Hormonal Imbalances
To prevent or lower your chances of hormone imbalances:
- Maintain a healthy weight of BMI below 25.
- Consume a healthy, nutritious diet with lots of greens.
- Get at least 7–8 hours of sleep every night.
- Avoid processed and fatty foods.
- Avoid the use of plastic containers.
Hormones are important for the proper functioning of the body. Any fluctuations in their levels can bring about a number of changes in your general health.
Follow the preventive measures given above to reduce your chances of hormone diseases.