Hormone Imbalance Symptoms can take a toll on your physical and mental health. As you try to figure out the real reason of your constant fatigue, or irregular periods, severe acne breakouts, or hair loss; you may be 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.
And of course, you will get away with Ayurvedic Diet and Lifestyle tips to balance your hormones and address the root cause of your hormone imbalance symptoms.
Let’s get started!
One Human Body but Several Inter-connected Systems
You are human, aren’t you? Well, here is telling you that it takes more than just a head and two eyes and a mouth to be human.
Beneath the exterior – which is on its own complex enough as it is there is a complex interaction going on underneath to sustain life.
This interaction includes nervous, endocrine, lymphatic, cardiovascular, and so much more. But here, we are only talking about a unit of that: the endocrine system.
What are Hormones? What do Hormones Do?
Hormones are produced in the endocrine glands. That is why the body system that produces them and regulates their level in our body is called as the endocrine system.
Hormones act as chemical messengers. They convey information from one part of the body to the other and initiate responses as appropriate.
For example, when you are hungry, there is a hormone that sends the signal to your brain.
And when you start eating and you get full, another hormone takes action, so that you feel full. 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. When danger is sensed, adrenalin swings into action. It passes its message, and numerous effects are brought on that make you function better so you can escape the danger or deal with it accordingly.
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. Mind you, all these are just but a few of their numerous functions.
And here’s one more important fact about hormones that you should know!
Because of your hormones, you have your figure and stored fats in the womanly places, particularly Estrogen.
But there’s a Problem when Hormones go Out of Balance!
Hormones are produced in endocrine glands located around the body. 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.
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Causes of Hormone Imbalance
Hormone levels can fluctuate normally as part of the body’s processes. For example, your hormones fluctuate with your menstrual cycle.
Pregnancy, Lactation, Perimenopause, Menopause, etc, can all cause changes in hormone levels.
On the other hand, problems can also arise from non-natural events, such as a problem with the gland producing a particular hormone. Others include:
- Eating disorders
- Lack of sleep
- 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 Imbalances 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, 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.
Common Hormone Imbalance Symptoms in Women
You are at home, you don’t have any fancy MRI machines, neither can you perform a thyroid scan on yourself. How then can you tell if you are experiencing hormone imbalance symptoms?
Let’s get to it!
Hormonal imbalances 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 imbalances 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.
Other hormones whose imbalances can lead to weight gain include insulin (as in PCOS) and estrogen.
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.
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.
This means that your body can begin to move too slow. It just won’t go as fast as you would push it.
Have you seen a sloth before? They are those animals that move very slowly and spend most of their time hanging from trees. Upside down! It’s almost like that. Sloths have a very low rate of metabolism.
So, when you, as a human, have a low rate of metabolism, you don’t have enough energy in circulation.
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.
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.
Musclular 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.
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 these muscles 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.
However, a vitamin D 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 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. Don’t be surprised that males have 10x more testosterone (the major androgen in play here) than females.
However, if this increases more than normal in a female, it is called hyperandrogenism. It causes symptoms such as acne outbreaks 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.
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 and Irregular Periods
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.
Sex drive can also decrease with age, as the hormones that promote the sex drive deplete.
Estrogen, Progesterone, and Testosterone
A decreased sex drive results when these hormones drop. Particularly in women that are over 50 years of age.
In these women, the production of the hormone estrogen, in particular, has dropped. Testosterone has declined also.
Effects of this lower estrogen can also present as irregular periods, mood swings, painful intercourse, hot flashes, infertility, vaginal dryness, etc.
Also, excess Estrogen or Estrogen Dominance on the other hand leads to heavy bleeding and short menstrual cycle.
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. Irregular Digestion and 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. Other Symptoms of Hormone Imbalance
- a hump of fat between the shoulders
- 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
- frequent urination
- increased thirst
- blurred vision
- dry skin
- puffy face
- rounded face
- purple or pink stretch marks
PCOS is a whole mess of Hormonal Imbalances
Polycystic ovarian syndrome is primarily caused by hormone imbalances. This in turn has symptoms and complications.
Learn more about PCOS in this guide to PCOS.
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What to do about Hormone Imbalance?
Hormone Imbalance Symptoms should be addressed at the root to avoid the cascade of the health issues.
According to Ayurveda, hormone imbalances indicate presence of “Ama” or toxins in your body that clog your body channels and poorly affect your digestive fire.
This further causes nutritional deficiencies and hence hormone imbalance symptoms. So, the focus of Ayurvedic regime to balance your hormones will be to:
- 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 give you mental peace.
- 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 worse the symptoms become.
Also, the more difficult it becomes to restore the normal balance of hormones.
If you notice any of the hormone imbalance symptoms, then you should immediately take steps to improve your health.
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