Hormonal imbalance can be due to the release of different hormones in over or undertones. A hormone is a chemical substance secreted by a cell that affects cells in other parts of the body. The body releases hormones that regulate functions including the menstrual cycle, hunger, thirst, body temperature, heart rate, and sleep patterns. A lot may result in hormonal imbalance they include; Age, stress, hormone therapy, menopause, medications, eating disorders, injury or trauma.
Ovarian hormones are responsible for regulating the menstrual cycle and fertility. Hormonal imbalance in women is characterized by changes in the production of reproductive hormones like estrogen and progesterone. This hormonal imbalance can be a result of surgical removal of the ovaries (ovariectomy) or the use of Hormone replacement therapy. This hormonal imbalance can result in physical and mental changes including hot flashes, mood swings, insomnia, night sweats, and vaginal dryness.
Symptoms of hormonal imbalance vary depending on the cause and severity of the imbalance. Some common symptoms include increased or decreased appetite, weight gain or loss, mood swings, depression, fatigue, and sleep problems.
It is important to conduct personal tests to determine the underlying cause of hormone imbalance before treatment is administered. A doctor may use a blood test to measure hormone levels which can help determine if more testing is needed or treatment should begin.
Most Common Hormone Imbalances In Women
- Low Estrogen Levels -Estrogen is a hormone that is produced by the ovaries. Most hormone imbalance problems result from the underproduction of estrogen. This often occurs in women approaching menopause, when their ovaries gradually begin producing less and less estrogen. However, this can also occur in pre-pubescent girls, who tend to have low estrogen levels in their bodies as a result of insufficient production by the ovaries. Estrogen is essential to female reproductive health. For instance, estrogen plays an important role in the development of the vagina and breast tissue. Without estrogen, women will often experience difficulty in achieving orgasm and have a lower sex drive.
- Low Progesterone Levels – Many women experience hormone imbalance as a result of an underproduction of progesterone. Progesterone is produced by the ovaries in cooperation with the adrenal gland. This can be caused by an underproduction of both the adrenal progesterone. High levels of estrogen can cause significant problems for the adrenal gland, which is responsible for progesterone. Though it is not as commonly noticed, a very small percentage of women are born without adrenal glands and are thus unable to produce progesterone.
- High Testosterone Levels – Testosterone is produced by the brain in males and adrenal glands in females. In both males and females, too much testosterone can be damaging to the body. Too much testosterone leads to overproduction of other hormones such as estrogen and growth hormone, while too little testosterone can result in low libido, lack of energy and even depression
- Low Thyroid Hormone Levels – The thyroid gland is responsible for producing thyroid hormones, which are also called thyroxine and triiodothyronine. Women with low thyroid hormone levels tend to experience symptoms such as fatigue, weight gain, muscle weakness and chronic infections.
Causes Of Hormonal Imbalance.
- Thyroid disease can cause a hormonal imbalance because of the disruption to hormone production caused by hypothyroidism. This can lead to mood swings and weight gain.
- Infections from microorganisms such as yeast and bacterial vaginosis can also cause hormone imbalances by disrupting hormone production in the ovaries and uterus.
- Birth control pills: When a woman stops taking birth control pills there is often an increase in estrogen levels which results in a hormonal imbalance. Following discontinuation, many women experience withdrawal symptoms such as mood swings, headaches and nausea. Postpartum hormone withdrawal occurs when a woman’s estrogen and progesterone production is disrupted causing symptoms such as depression and anxiety.
- Medication: Some forms of cancer can be treated with drugs that interfere with the production of hormones. These drugs, like Tamoxifen, can cause side effects by increasing the risk of developing a hormonal imbalance.
- Genetics: Some women may experience a hormonal imbalance due to genetic factors. Inherited traits or defects of genes can alter the way the body produces hormones which causes an imbalance. This imbalance can cause physical symptoms such as irregular periods, abnormal growth of breast tissue and reduced fertility.
- Stress: Infertility caused by low levels of reproductive hormones can cause hormonal imbalance associated with emotional stress. Women with infertility may undergo hormone therapy to stimulate ovulation, but this treatment is known to cause emotional problems such as low self-esteem and lowered sexual desire.
- Alcohol consumption and other drug abuse can cause hormonal imbalances which disrupt normal function of hormone production.
- Hormone therapy is a treatment used to treat menopausal symptoms, but for some women, the therapy can cause hormonal imbalances.
- Injury: Injury to the vagina and uterine tissue can cause hormonal imbalances. Surgery such as adhesiolysis for pelvic floor dysfunction, may need to correct the hormonal imbalance. Some women may have a complete loss of function in their reproductive organs and some will be able to produce hormones normally despite nerve damage.
- Premenstrual syndrome is a disorder that affects many women between 10 and 50 years old caused by high levels of hormones. This disorder results in physical and emotional symptoms that include abdominal bloating, constipation, breast tenderness and headache. Hot flashes are abnormal sensations that occur as a result of low estrogen levels in perimenopausal women resulting in burning or warmth sensations.
- Caffeine: High levels of caffeine in a woman’s diet can cause hormonal imbalances because of increased production of adrenaline, which stimulates the adrenal glands to release hormones such as cortisol. This can lead to anxiety, fatigue and disturbed sleep patterns.
- Ovariectomy: Women who have had their ovaries removed will no longer produce estrogen naturally causing hormone imbalance. Those who have had a hysterectomy will also experience hormonal imbalances due to the removal of the uterus.
- Eating disorders such as bulimia, anorexia and binge eating can contribute to hormonal imbalances by disrupting the normal function of the hypothalamus, a small gland located at the base of the brain. This can disrupt hormone production in the pituitary gland and alter levels of other hormones throughout the body.
- A pituitary tumor (pituitary adenoma) that releases hormones into the body can cause a hormonal imbalance due to increased hormone production.
Hormonal imbalance caused by medications may be the result of taking drugs used to treat an illness or condition. It is important to discuss use of these medications with a doctor before taking them to ensure they are appropriate medicine for you.
Tumors in other areas of the body can also cause hormonal imbalances by over or underproduction of hormones.
- Postpartum depression occurs in 10 – 15% of women after giving birth and is often treated with estrogen therapy. This can cause a hormonal imbalance if the woman has not yet fully recovered from giving birth.
- Environmental toxins, like pesticides and endocrine disruptors, are harmful to a woman’s reproductive system. These substances can cause hormonal imbalances by disrupting hormones in animal testing.
Symptoms Of Hormonal Imbalance.
Hormonal imbalance may vary depending on the cause and degree of the imbalance. symptoms include
- Weight gain.
- Irregular periods.
- Difficulty sleeping (insomnia).
Some women may have no symptoms while others experience severe consequences.
The Proper Diagnosis For Hormonal Imbalance.
You will need to have your doctor take a blood test that measures the levels of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone in your body. To do this, bring in a sample of blood from your arm (non-gel cap) by 9 AM Monday-Friday. Do not eat or drink for one hour prior to taking the sample.
Have your doctor order a basic hormone panel.
If the results of your blood test show that your hormone levels are low, your doctor may recommend additional tests to determine which hormone or hormones are out of balance. Your most likely possibilities are as follows:
The final thing to do in correcting a hormonal imbalance is to treat it. If you’re feeling symptoms of fatigue, weight gain, decreased sex drive and mood swings, see your healthcare provider and discuss treatment options.
Treatment For Hormonal Imbalance
Hormone imbalances can be easily corrected by supplementing your diet with natural hormonal boosting foods, and medication prescribed by your healthcare provider.