Hormonal imbalance is sometimes hard to identify. In fact, 80% of women have experienced some form of hormonal imbalance at some point in their lives and about 70% do not even know that certain annoying symptoms they experience is due to hormonal imbalance and simply just “live with it.” Although hormonal imbalance can affect women of any age, it is often most prevalent in women between the ages of 22-55.
Warning Signs That You Might Have a Hormonal Imbalance
Irregular periods, acne, mood swings, fatigue, weight gain, hair loss, low libido, hot flashes, digestive issues, insomnia, brain fog, and infertility are just a few examples of abnormalities that could be caused by hormonal imbalance. Here are twelve most common warning signs of a potential hormonal imbalance.
Are you experiencing irregular periods? If so, you are not alone. Many women have dealt with the inconvenience of an unpredictable menstrual cycle, and the underlying cause may be a hormonal imbalance. An irregular period is defined as a menstrual cycle that falls outside the average cycle of 21-35 days (ACOG, 2019). When hormones like estrogen and progesterone are imbalanced, it can affect menstrual flow and cause heavy bleeding, spotting, or cramps. For some women, these symptoms can be debilitating and significantly impact their daily lives.
Do you find yourself dealing with acne breakouts way past your teenage years? Women are particularly susceptible to hormonal acne, which often appears around the jawline, chin, and cheeks, mostly during pregnancy, menstruation cycle, and menopause. Fluctuations in testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone can stimulate the sebaceous glands in your skin, causing increased oil production or sebum (oily waxy substance), clogged pores, and unwanted breakouts.
Mood swings are a very common manifestation in hormonal imbalance. Sometimes, this is the first symptom a woman notices when her hormones are not in equilibrium. An imbalance of hormones can disrupt neurotransmitters in the brain (which are the body’s chemical messengers), leading to mood swings, irritability, anxiety, and depression. Estrogen and progesterone imbalances can contribute to emotional instability, while low levels of serotonin and dopamine can lead to feelings of depression and anxiety.
We all deal with occasional fatigue, but feeling tired and drained all the time can be frustrating, especially when you don't know the cause. During certain times, such as perimenopause or premenstrual syndrome (PMS), hormonal fluctuations can make you feel like you cannot keep your eyes open. This is normal and temporary. However, some abnormal hormonal fluctuations, such as low levels of thyroid hormone, can also contribute to fatigue. If you struggle to stay energized, it may be worth exploring whether hormonal imbalance is an underlying cause.
Weight gain can result from a less than optimal lifestyle, including inactivity and excessive caloric intake. However, some weight gain, especially those stubborn extra pounds, can be a sign of hormonal imbalance. Fluctuations in hormones can cause weight gain, especially in areas like the abdomen, hips, and thighs. Hormones like cortisol (the stress hormone) or conditions like insulin resistance can also contribute to weight fluctuations. Low levels of thyroid hormones can affect our metabolism and make it harder to shed those pounds. Despite a healthy diet and regular exercise, hormonal imbalances can make weight loss an uphill battle.
Hair loss can be a frustrating and distressing experience for both men and women. It can leave people feeling socially isolated and depressed. For men, high levels of androgens, specifically testosterone, can contribute to hair loss. Women, on the other hand, may experience hair loss due to low levels of thyroid hormone. Hormonal imbalances can also lead to thinning hair, brittle hair, or slow hair growth, all of which can be difficult to deal with.
Having a healthy sex drive is an important part of overall well-being. It is natural to experience fluctuations in libido at different points in life. However, if you've noticed a significant and sustained decrease in your sex drive, it could be due to hormonal imbalances. Low levels of testosterone or estrogen could be the culprit. Women in perimenopause and menopause may be particularly susceptible to a decrease in libido due to declining estrogen levels. Low estrogen levels can cause vaginal dryness as well as make sex uncomfortable or even painful.
Hot Flashes and Night Sweats
If you have ever woken up at night completely soaked in sweat for no reason, your hormones might be partly at fault. Hormonal changes, particularly before and during menopause, can cause hot flashes and night sweats. This is due to fluctuating estrogen levels that can disrupt the body's thermostat, causing sudden heat flashes and sweating. Other hormonal causes of hot flashes and night sweat include endocrine imbalances, such as an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism), an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), and primary ovarian insufficiency (POI), which is premature ovarian failure before the age of 40.
One of the most common signs of hormonal imbalance is gastrointestinal (GI) problems. While you might not typically consider your hormones as potential culprits of an unsettled stomach, the population and function of bacteria in your gut can be affected by hormonal changes. It is often easy to overlook a hormone-mediated digestive problem since an upset stomach is a common symptom of many other disease conditions. However, if you experience unexplainable digestive issues, such as bloating, nausea, constipation, and diarrhea, you should not rule out hormonal imbalance. For instance, diarrhea is common before and during your period due to the changes in progesterone and estrogen levels. Also, low thyroid hormone levels or high cortisol levels can all affect your digestion.
Sleepless nights can be frustrating and exhausting, and hormonal imbalances can make it even harder to catch some much-needed rest. Women who experience low levels of estrogen and progesterone may find their sleep patterns severely disrupted, leading to insomnia and difficulty falling or staying asleep. Also, elevated levels of cortisol, our stress hormone, can make it difficult to fall asleep at night. Other hormones that can affect sleep include growth hormone, melatonin, leptin, and ghrelin. Irregularities in any of these hormones can worsen insomnia and increase sleep difficulties.
Have you ever found yourself struggling to remember important details or feeling mentally fuzzy and unfocused? Hormonal imbalance could be to blame. Although cognitive impairment can be caused by genetics, lifestyle, environment, and aging, hormonal fluctuations can cause a decline in brain function. A hormonal imbalance can have a real impact on cognitive function, leading to frustrating symptoms, such as difficulty concentrating and memory problems. Low levels of estrogen and progesterone can affect brain function and cognitive abilities. Abnormal levels of cortisol can impair memory and cause brain fog.
Low levels of sex hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone, can interfere with ovulation and sperm production, making it harder to conceive. Additionally, imbalances in other hormones, such as thyroid hormones or insulin resistance, can also impact fertility. For women, imbalances in thyroid hormones can cause irregular ovulation or a lack of ovulation, while insulin resistance can cause hormonal imbalances that interfere with ovulation.
Although there are many different reasons why you may experience any of these warning signs of hormonal imbalance, you shouldn’t have to “live with it.” There are plenty of home remedies for hormonal imbalance, and a doctor can always help too. Recognizing and addressing some of these symptoms can make a significant difference in restoring hormonal balance, enhancing quality of life, and preventing long-term health issues.