Hormone Imbalance in women is one of the most common health problems that we have observed amongst our patients at Medhya Herbals.
While it is natural for hormones in women to go out of balance; it is not something that you should ignore. You should always strive for natural hormone balance to prevent the onset of disease.
This is simply because unaddressed hormone imbalances can keep piling up. And eventually, they can become the root cause of chronic health conditions such as PCOS, Endometriosis, Diabetes and Hypothyroidism to name a few.
Even though it is so common, hormone imbalance symptoms in women can actually take a toll on her physical and mental health.
As one tries to figure out the real reason of constant fatigue, irregular periods, severe acne breakouts, or hair loss; one can easily get caught up in the mess of several unbalanced hormones.
If you are struggling with the wide range of hormone imbalance symptoms and yet trying to get a handle on your health. Then, this post is for you!
We will clear up the confusion of unbalanced hormones by looking into the causes and signs. Also, we will go through Ayurvedic Diet and Lifestyle tips to naturally balance hormones and address the root cause of hormone imbalance symptoms.
What are Hormones? What do Hormones Do?
Hormones act as chemical messengers. They transfer information from one part of the body to the other. Hence, they make your body organs respond to what is happening on the other body part.
For example, when you are hungry, there is a hormone that sends the signal to your brain. And when you eat and eventually fill in your belly, there is another hormone that sends the signal of fullness to the brain. The hormones typically involved in hunger and satiation mechanisms are Leptin and Ghrelin.
Also, hormones are important for the fight or flight response of our body.
For example, when danger is sensed, Adrenalin hormone swings into action. It passes message to the brain and several other body organs. Thus, your body organs act together to help you escape the danger or deal with it accordingly.
Similarly, Cortisol is released when we undergo stressful situations such as presenting in front of a crowd, job interview, an exam or anything that puts us in an uncomfortable situation.
Aside from all these, hormones are also involved in menstrual cycles, pregnancy, and childbirth. Even when you are breastfeeding, hormones are still in charge. They are in control of reproduction as a whole. Hormones also regulate menopause.
You can begin to appreciate the magnitude of the importance of hormones.
Hormones such as Estrogen also help to maintain and provide a typical womanly body. Learn here about Estrogen function for women.
Now, all of these are just but a few of the numerous functions of hormones.
But there’s a Problem when Hormones go Out of Balance!
Hormones are produced in endocrine glands located around the body. That is why the body system that produces them and regulates their level in our body is called as the endocrine system.
Sometimes, they are made when they’re needed and then released. At other times, they are made in advance, stored, and released when needed.
However, the production of hormones does not go well sometimes. A hormone is said to be imbalanced when it is produced in higher or lower quantities than normal.
Each of the numerous hormones has optimal ranges. So, when the levels of a particular hormone are outside of those optimal ranges, problems begin to occur.
The fact that these hormones are interdependent doesn’t help the matters at all.
An imbalance in one hormone can cause an imbalance in another hormone. The problems then keep compounding and cascading.
Causes of Hormone Imbalance in Women
Hormone levels fluctuate normally as part of the body’s regular processes. For example, your sex hormones fluctuate with your menstrual cycle and others as insulin and cortisol fluctuate throughout the day.
Additionally, life stages as Pregnancy, Lactation, Perimenopause, Menopause, etc, can also cause changes in hormone levels.
Yet, all of these are normal changes that your body can handle very well. The problem arises, when these regular changes go beyond a limit that your body can handle and also when they stay out of the normal range for longer than usual.
How does that happen?
Hormone imbalance in women can also arise from changes in your diet, lifestyle and environmental factors:
- Eating disorders
- Lack of sleep
- Environmental Chemicals and Pollutants
- Obesity or excessive fat stores in the body
- Nutritional Deficiencies
- Emotional or Physical Trauma
- Hormone therapy
- Concurrent Diseases such as tumors of the endocrine glands
These, among others, can disturb one or more hormones leading to hormonal imbalance symptoms.
How are Hormonal Imbalance in Women Detected and Diagnosed?
Usually, the body has its ways of telling you when something is wrong. If you pay attention, you will know. Many women go to the doctor’s because they ‘feel’ something is wrong, even if they are not sure how.
There will usually be hormone imbalance symptoms to show.
But for a definitive diagnosis of hormone imbalance in women, it is best to see a health care official rather than self-diagnose.
In the case of hormonal imbalances, problems can be detected by:
- Blood tests to measure specific levels of hormones.
- Ultrasound to get a picture of what’s going on in there.
- Pelvic exam to feel for any unusual lumps or cysts.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).
- Thyroid scan, etc.
Checklist of Hormone Imbalance Symptoms in Women
- Weight Problems
- Weight Gain or Hard to Lose Weight
- Unexplained, sudden weight loss
- Poor Muscular Strength
- Muscle weakness and/or muscle atrophy
- Muscle aches, tenderness, and stiffness
- Skin and Hair problems
- Acne and Rashes
- Dry Skin
- Hair Loss
- Purple or pink stretch marks
- Period Problems
- Short Menstrual Cycle (less than 21 days) leading to Early or Frequent periods
- Heavy Bleeding or Menorrhagia
- Long Periods that last beyond 7 days
- Clotted blood flow during menstruation
- Spotting or Bleeding in between periods
- No periods for more than 2 months
- Irregular periods
- Low menstrual flow
- PMS and period cramps
- Poor Mental Wellness
- Mood Swings
- Poor Fertility
- Inability to conceive
- Low sexual drive
- Digestive Problems
- Irregular Digestion and Appetite
- Food Cravings
- Constipation, Bloating and Gas
- Sleep Disorders
- Inability to sleep
- Broken Sleep
- Excessive Sleep
- Body Temperature
- Excessive Sweating and Smelly Sweat
- Frequent urination
- Increased thirst
- Increased sensitivity to cold or heat
Common Symptoms of Hormone Imbalance in Women
Hormonal imbalance in women come with the following common symptoms:
1. Weight Gain or Hard to Lose Weight
It would be almost impossible to talk about symptoms of hormonal imbalance in women without mentioning weight gain.
After all, weight gain and hormone imbalances are like inseparable twins. The one aggravates the other.
Imbalances in several hormones can result in weight gain, directly or indirectly.
Excess cortisol and weight gain
Cortisol is called the stress hormone. Usually, when we get stressed, it should be relieved after a while.
Unfortunately, with the constant bustle of the modern lifestyle, it’s almost impossible to regulate stress.
When the stress levels remain high for long periods, cortisol also remains, as it tries to help us cope. These prolonged periods of excessive cortisol causes several effects, including abdominal weight gain.
Hypothyroidism and weight gain
The hormone thyroxine is produced in the thyroid gland. One of its major functions is to regulate metabolism.
In hypothyroidism, the thyroxine levels are too low. Consequently, metabolism is slow. This leads to weight gain also.
Insulin Resistance | High Estrogen and Hard to Lose Weight
Other hormones whose imbalances can lead to weight gain include insulin (as in PCOS) and estrogen.
High Estrogen levels and insulin resistance are intricately related. Each of them can trigger the other or may make it worse. That’s why it is often difficult to discern the exact root cause of hard to lose weight in PCOS, in which all of the hormones get disturbed.
Both High Estrogen and Insulin Resistance severely affect the fat metabolism of the body. You end up accumulating fat in the belly, around the hips, thighs and on your arms.
Not just that, it also causes severe muscle loss, making you feel very weak and tired.
2. Unexplained, sudden weight loss
As weight gain arises from hormonal imbalances, weight loss can also be a result.
Hyperthyroidism and weight loss
This is the opposite of hypothyroidism. It means that there is excessive thyroxine. Consequently, metabolism is beyond normal, burning nutrients extremely fast. This leads to weight loss eventually.
Excess Stress and weight loss
An excessive physical and mental stress in the form of too much exercise and lack of sleep can also disturb your metabolism hormones and digestive system.
You lose appetite, struggle with diarrhoea and nutritional deficiencies. This also causes weight loss.
It is normal to feel tired. You rest and you are revitalized. The body says, “I need a break.” Once it gets its break, it’s back to work.
However, it is not normal to feel constantly fatigued. While there are myriads of factors that can cause fatigue, it could also be a symptom of hormone imbalance.
Low Thyroxine and Fatigue
You may feel constantly fatigued because of hypothyroidism. Recall that in hypothyroidism, there is a low rate of metabolism.
When your metabolism is low, it will cause low energy production for your daily needs. This makes you feel tired, fatigued and lacking enough energy.
This is caused by constant stress, and it also involves the stress hormone, cortisol.
As you stress yourself increasingly, the adrenal glands keep producing more cortisol to keep up and help you cope. This is called the resistance phase.
Until, eventually, the glands can’t keep up anymore. The cortisol levels then progressively decline.
If you then try to accumulate anymore stress, it might not be possible. The cortisol that was helping you cope is gone. You might then find that you burn out.
As a result of this, you lose the zest or your capability to react to “any situation” – dangerous, exciting, motivating, or requiring any kind of action.
4. Muscle weakness and/or muscle atrophy
Muscle weakness, is, of course, when your muscles feel like they are not there. The muscles are weaker than usual.
Muscular atrophy isn’t very much far away from this track. The muscles are said to reduce in size and volume in this process.
This can be caused by lack of use. Or loss of nerve supply to the specific muscles. Or it could be a symptom of hormonal imbalance such as low Testosterone.
When muscles reduce in mass, they will certainly grow weaker.
Growth hormones and muscle mass
A study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology reports that the pituitary gland produces ‘growth hormones’ that stimulate tissue growth. The hormones in turn work with insulin to affect tissues, including muscle mass.
An underproduction of growth hormones will result in muscle atrophy and weakness.
High Blood Sugar and Insulin levels can also affect muscle growth
Hyperglycemia is a condition in which there is too much glucose (sugar in the blood). It ultimately leads to high insulin levels.
These are both related to insulin resistance. Here, the body resists the action of the hormone, insulin, to push the excess sugars inside the body tissues.
Consequently, nutrients that should go into tissue building remain in the bloodstream. Muscle tissues are also affected in the process.
Low androgens and problems with thyroxine can also cause muscle atrophy and weakness.
Also, vitamin D (technically a hormone) deficiency can also cause muscle weakness and fatigue.
5. Excessive Sweating
Research by scientists at Harvard Medical School has confirmed that sweating can be a symptom of hormonal imbalance.
This is because hormones such as Adrenaline and Cortisol are involved in regulating sweating.
Sweating and hyperthyroidism
Hyperthyroidism causes an abnormally high rate of metabolism. With higher than normal metabolic activities, sweating is also increased.
Sweating can also be a result of high levels of testosterone.
6. Skin problems and Hair Loss
Again, a lot of factors could lead to these. However, they could also be hormone imbalance symptoms.
High levels of androgens
Androgens are male hormones, but they are present in females also, though in lower quantities.
Usually, women have 10x less testosterone (the major androgen in play here) than men.
However, if this increases more than normal in a female, it is called hyperandrogenism. It causes symptoms such as acne outbreaks, unwanted hair growth or hirsutism, and hair loss, among other skin problems.
This is because, when androgens are in excess, they stimulate the overproduction of sebum-the oily substance that lubricates hair follicles.
Excessive sebum blocks up these pores, trapping microbes inside. This eventually causes an acne outbreak.
A similar mechanism causes hair loss and growth of unwanted hair on female body.
Thyroid gland disorders can reduce the quality of hair and other integuments. This can cause dry hair, hair loss, brittle nails, thin skin, etc.
7. Decreased Sex Drive
A balance of hormones is needed for a healthy sex drive. The sex drive normally fluctuates during the menstrual cycle, as the hormones regulating the cycle also fluctuate.
A decreased sex drive results when the production of the hormones estrogen and testosterone drops. This usually happens after menopause, when your levels of hormones naturally drop as part of aging process.
However, hormone imbalances can seriously affect your libido and desire to get intimate with your partner during your reproductive years.
8. Anxiety, Depression, and Mood Swings
You must have felt blue during your period before. This is because your hormones were messing around.
You go from extreme highs to lows along with the fluctuations of your hormones. Studies have shown that women are more prone to anxiety.
Estrogen and Cortisol
A study has shown that estrogen helps to calm the fear response and to reduce anxiety. The phenomenon was found to occur in humans as well as in rodents (like rats!). So, it really is true that estrogen can help keep anxiety and stress levels down.
However, when the levels of estrogen have dropped, then the calming effect estrogen has on the nerves is lost.
As a result, anxiety shows up as one of the signs of hormonal imbalances.
Brain fog can also result from excessive cortisol or declining estrogen levels.
9. Acidity, Bloating, Heaviness and Irregular Appetite
Sometimes when you feel stressed, you seem to have a specific ‘gut feeling’ and your stomach gets upset. This is because of the hormones that are messing around.
Cortisol and Gut Flora
When stressed, these hormones affect the gut microflora – a natural community of microorganisms (friendly bacteria) – in the gut.
The bacteria in this community help you to manage stress also. But unfortunately, when there are excessive levels of Cortisol, they are unable to function effectively in this regard.
Have you ever felt abdominal cramps, bloating, and alteration in bowel movement patterns during your period?
This is because of the underlying hormone imbalances, which get aggravated further during menstruation. And hence the symptoms of digestive issues arise!
Leptin, Ghrelin, and Hunger
The hormones leptin and ghrelin need to be in balance to maintain hungry-full cycles.
When you are hungry, it is ghrelin that makes you sense hunger, and you go to eat. It is the hunger hormone.
On the other hand, when you are full, leptin helps you know that, so you don’t overfill your stomach and burst. It is the satiety hormone.
When these hormones are not in balance, however, there can be problems. For example, excessive Ghrelin makes you feel hungry constantly.
Note that lack of sleep can also make you feel the hunger pangs more often or in short fake hunger as your hormones are upside down. You have probably experienced that when working late into the night.
10. Sleep Disorders as signs of Hormone Imbalances
Sleep seems to have dropped off our list of priorities these days. But it is even worse when our lack of sleep is a symptom of hormonal imbalances.
Sleep disorders can arise when there is a discontinuity of communication in the hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis. This is the junction between your endocrine system and your nervous system.
HPA is deeply connected with the levels of cortisol and melatonin, which are both involved in sleep regulation.
Melatonin and sleep disorders
Melatonin regulates your circadian rhythm, your sleep-wake cycles. If melatonin is too low, you may have trouble falling asleep.
Melatonin production is dependent on light. So, in the day, while there is enough light, melanin is low, and you’re more active.
In the night, however, when it’s relatively darker, melatonin is produced more, and you get sleepy.
Unfortunately, even at night, you’re still peering into your phone screen or at the TV, with all that light reflecting on your face.
This tricks the body into thinking it is still day, so melatonin levels are kept low. Thus, you remain awake.
Cortisol and sleep
By this time, you already know without thinking twice that cortisol is the stress hormone.
If cortisol levels are high when it’s approaching bedtime, you may find it difficult to sleep.
This is why it is advisable to avoid exercises closer to bed time. You will still have too much cortisol by bedtime to fall asleep. Rather, have a relaxing bedtime routine.
11. Irregular Periods, Period Cramps and Heavy Bleeding
Your menstrual cycle is really an intricate play of the hormones. These are produced during different phases of the menstrual cycle so that everything happens at the right time.
Thus, they affect your menstrual cycle and also get affected by it.
Thus, when the hormones as Estrogen and Progesterone go out of balance, your period becomes irregular, painful and unpredictable. You may observe:
- Missed Periods or no bleeding
- Periods that are too far away
- Too frequent
- Heavy Bleeding
- Scanty Flow
- Menstrual cramps
- Spotting in between the periods
12. Fertility Problems
Hormone Imbalances such as high Estrogen and low Progesterone can create several problems that directly affect your fertility and ability to get pregnant. Some of these are:
- No Ovulation or Irregular Ovulation, means you are not consistently producing eggs. And when eggs aren’t there, they won’t get fertilized for pregnany.
- Very thin uterine lining that is unable to hold the fetus after fertilization. This often results in bleeding during early days of pregnancy and loss of pregnancy prematurely.
- pH imbalance in vagina or lack of cervical mucus, which cannot support passage of healthy sperms. Thus, the sperms die off even before they get to meet the egg for fertilization.
13. Other Symptoms of Hormone Imbalance
- muscle aches, tenderness, and stiffness
- pain, stiffness, or swelling in your joints
- increased or decreased heart rate
- increased sensitivity to cold or heat
- constipation or more frequent bowel movements
- abnormally darkened skin or acanthosis nigaricans
- frequent urination
- increased thirst
- blurred vision
- dry skin
- water retention and edema
- puffy face
- rounded face
- purple or pink stretch marks
- painful intercourse
- hot flashes
- a hump of fat between the shoulders
- back pain
Ayurvedic Remedies for Hormone Imbalance in Women
Hormone Imbalance in women should be addressed at the root cause to avoid the cascade of the health issues.
According to Ayurveda, hormone imbalance in women indicate presence of “Ama” or toxin buildup in your body and dosha imbalances.
Toxin build up can poorly affect your metabolism and function of hormones. This further causes nutritional deficiencies and triggers multiple symptoms of hormone imbalance in women.
That’s why, Ayurveda provides guidelines on natural balance of hormones with suitable diet, lifestyle and herbs.
- Identify your specific imbalances such that you can adopt a suitable diet and lifestyle regime to balance your body.
- Eat a healthy diet consisting of freshly prepared foods from vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and dairy.
- Exercise regularly to keep your body moving and give enough stimulation to your muscles.
- Sleep on time and get sufficient sleeping hours.
- Spend time with your family, friends, and other things that relieve stress.
- Take time off and practice self-care to manage your health and stress levels.
- Maintain your body’s natural rhythms by following the circadian rhythm guidelines.
Early detection is key! It is easier to restore if it isn’t too far gone. On the other hand, the longer you delay, the more difficult and worse these signs of hormone imbalance become.
If you notice any of the hormone imbalance symptoms, then you should immediately take steps to improve your health.
Now, we want to hear from you. Do write to us for any queries and feedback. We will get back to you the soonest. Have you adopted natural ways to balance your hormones? What worked and what could be better? Do share your thoughts and story with us.
Wishing you vibrant health!