Hormones are powerful actors in our body, which means a hormonal imbalance can really throw us off. Our hormones impact our day to day experiences like sleep, energy levels, weight loss and gain, digestion, and more. Hormones also play a vital role in the menstrual cycle and trying to conceive. Hormones like luteinizing hormone, progesterone, estrogen, follicle-stimulating hormone, and more all help to regulate cycles and fertility. So what happens when we have a hormonal imbalance?
When hormones are out of balance, there are many noticeable effects, from muscle weakness and unexplained weight gain to depression and blurred vision. It can even affect our ability to get pregnant. Where does this stem from? It depends on the individual, but luckily, there are a variety of treatments and solutions depending on where your hormonal imbalance is coming from.
Hormonal imbalance defined
What is a hormonal imbalance? Simply put, a hormonal imbalance is when a person has too much or too little of one or more hormones.
While your hormone levels fluctuate naturally — like during your menstrual cycle — a hormonal imbalance happens when there’s irregularity or disruption in the levels or functioning of hormones in the body. A hormonal imbalance isn’t tied to one specific hormone, but includes any abnormal level of any hormone.
What causes hormonal imbalance?
Hormonal imbalances can have many causes, such as medical conditions, habits, prescription changes, life events, and more. The cause often depends on which hormones or glands are affected. Here are some common causes of imbalances hormones:
- Hormone therapy
- Cancer treatments such as radiation or chemotherapy
- Cancerous or benign tumors
- Pituitary tumors
- Eating disorders
- Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism
- Premature menopause
- Hormonal drugs, such as birth control
- Poor diet
While these conditions and situations do not mean you will definitely experience a hormonal imbalance, they are important to keep in mind. If you start to feel off or unlike yourself, and you have any of the causes above, you may want to ask your doctor about testing your hormones.
Signs of hormonal imbalance
There is a wide range of symptoms when it comes to hormonal imbalances. Your symptoms may depend on which hormone is too high or low. Some common symptoms of hormonal imbalances include:
- Stomach problems
- Weight gain or unexplained weight loss
- Muscle weakness, aches, tenderness, or stiffness
- Pain in your joints
- Change in heart rate
- Frequent urination
- Increased thirst or hunger
- Increased sensitivity to heat or cold
- Mood swings
- Low sex drive
Hormonal imbalance test
If you started to feel some common hormonal imbalance symptoms and are not sure why, ask your doctor about a hormonal imbalance test. There’s no one hormonal imbalance test that shows you all of your hormone levels, but different tests will measure your unique hormone levels for specific hormones.
Understanding your hormone levels could be the first step in getting answers, and relieving the symptoms.
The doctor might recommend:
- Medical history evaluation: Before they run any diagnostic tests, a doctor will likely review your medical history, including your menstrual history, history of hormonal disorders in your family, and review your symptoms. This will help them understand what you’re going through and give you a recommendation of what tests to proceed with.
- Physical examination: Although not a quantitative hormone test, a healthcare professional might do a physical exam to look into any of the physical symptoms you’re having and test for other common hormonal imbalance signs.
- Blood tests: Blood tests can measure hormone levels in the body, like estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, thyroid hormones (TSH, T3, T4), cortisol, insulin, and more.
- Ultrasound: A doctor might run an imaging test on an ultrasound to check on specific glands or organs, like the ovaries, thyroid, or adrenal glands.
- At-home test: An at-home test like the Oova kit, which uses a urine sample, can help you get an accurate picture of specific hormone levels. Oova measures your progesterone and luteinizing hormone levels.
How do you fix hormonal imbalance?
A hormonal imbalance can be fixed with lifestyle changes, medication, supplements, and hormone therapy. Your treatment plan may depend on the kind of hormonal imbalance you are experiencing.
Lifestyle changes can help you improve some of hormonal imbalance symptoms and re-regulate your hormone levels. Some changes you can make include:
- Keeping a balanced diet: A nutritious diet full of foods like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, magnesium, and zinc can help support hormone production and regulation.
- Exercising regularly: Exercise can help you manage some of the symptoms you might experience with hormonal imbalance, like increased stress and weight gain.
- Sleeping for seven to nine hours each night: Adequate sleep can help support hormonal regulation. Not sleeping well can disrupt hormones like cortisol, insulin, and leptin. (Learn how to create a healthy sleep schedule.)
- Managing and reducing stress levels: Stress can disrupt your hormone levels and therefore contribute to hormonal imbalance. Practice self-care, mindfulness, deep breathing, and setting boundaries.
- Avoid hot flash triggers: Hot flashes occur from a decrease in estrogen, which means you’ll want to stay away from hot flash triggers, like hot or spicy foods.
If lifestyle changes don’t work for you, there are other options available. Each person may require a slightly different treatment plan.
If lifestyle changes aren’t helping, a doctor may prescribe medication to help you manage your hormonal imbalance. These medications, including supplements and hormone therapy, aim to help boost or lower a certain hormone level:
- Hormone medications such as birth control
- Estrogen tablets or rings
- Hormone replacement medications
- Anti-androgen medications
- Clomiphene (clomid) and letrozole (femara)
- Progesterone supplements
- Vitamin D supplements
Hormonal Imbalance: Takeaway
Most people will experience a hormonal imbalance at one point of another in their lives. They are most common during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause, but people can get them at any time.
If you’re experiencing a hormonal imbalance, don’t hesitate to speak with your doctor. They can help you come up with a plan to relieve your symptoms and balance your hormones.
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