Are your hormones out of whack and causing unwanted symptoms like fatigue, weight gain, itchy skin, or low mood? Hormonal imbalances can occur when there's too much or too little of a hormone, and they can affect processes in the body such as appetite, metabolism, sleep cycles, reproductive cycles, sexual function, body temperature, and mood. Even the slightest imbalance can have noticeable effects on overall health and wellbeing. Hormone levels naturally fluctuate during different life stages, but they can also be affected by lifestyle and certain medical conditions. It's important to recognize any symptoms and seek help from a qualified healthcare professional for appropriate treatment, which may involve medication, complementary therapies, or lifestyle changes to restore balance and good health.
Here are 10 signs of hormonal imbalance to look out for and what you can do about them:
1. Mood swings
The fluctuation of estrogen, which is a female sex hormone, can affect neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, which can impact mood. This can cause PMS or depressed mood during perimenopause and menopause.
To improve mood, dietary and lifestyle changes like regular exercise, less alcohol intake, quitting smoking, and herbal remedies, such as St John’s Wort, can be adopted. Additionally, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can also be considered, especially for those who are perimenopausal or menopausal. It can be useful to keep a symptom diary to help the patient and doctor identify whether hormonal changes are causing the mood swings.
2. Heavy or painful periods
The condition of heavy or painful periods may be accompanied by other symptoms such as abdominal pain, constipation, lower back pain, a frequent need to urinate, and painful intercourse which could indicate the presence of non-cancerous growths called fibroids in or around the womb. The cause of these fibroids is not fully understood, but it is believed that estrogen stimulation and a family history can increase the risk of developing them.
If you experience such symptoms, it is recommended to seek the advice of a qualified healthcare professional who can prescribe medication to shrink the fibroids. If medication is not effective, surgery may be considered to remove them.
3. Low libido
This is a common occurrence in women during perimenopause or menopause because of the decrease in estrogen and testosterone levels. Women also have testosterone despite its reputation as a male hormone. Other menopausal symptoms such as night sweats, fatigue, low mood and anxiety can also impact sex life.
To address this issue, women going through menopause may consider consulting a women's health specialist about using testosterone as part of their hormone replacement therapy. This can improve libido, mood and energy levels. Testosterone is administered in small amounts as a gel that is applied to the skin.
4. Insomnia and poor quality sleep
The decrease of estrogen and progesterone that comes with perimenopause and menopause can negatively affect sleep, leading to insomnia and poor-quality sleep. Night sweats, which are also associated with falling estrogen levels, can contribute to sleep disruptions, which can cause fatigue and decreased energy.
To address this issue, the first step is to obtain an accurate diagnosis from a qualified health professional. For those experiencing perimenopause or menopause, discussing the benefits of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) with a doctor can help to restore estrogen and progesterone levels. Additionally, practical measures can be taken to improve sleep, such as wearing cotton nightwear, sleeping between cotton sheets, keeping the bedroom cool and dark, engaging in physical activity, and reducing alcohol and caffeine consumption.
5. Unexplained weight gain
Hormone-related conditions such as an underactive thyroid, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and menopause can cause weight gain. PCOS is a hormone-related problem that causes small cysts on the ovaries, while menopause can result in hormonal changes that can make it easier for you to gain weight around your abdomen.
If you are experiencing unexplained weight gain with no changes in your diet or exercise levels, you may want to seek advice from a women's health expert to determine if there are any underlying conditions like thyroid problems or ovarian cysts. If you are going through menopause, you may also want to discuss the advantages of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) with your doctor.
Despite the common belief among some women that HRT causes weight gain, there is no scientific evidence to support this claim.
6. Skin problems
The low levels of estrogen and progesterone and high levels of androgen hormones could be responsible for chronic adult acne. This issue may also indicate polycystic ovary syndrome. Hormonal imbalances during pregnancy or the menopause can cause itchy skin, while dry skin is a symptom of menopause or thyroid problems.
If you suspect a persistent skin problem is caused by a hormonal imbalance, you may consider consulting a women's health expert to get an accurate diagnosis and treatment for the underlying issue.
7. Fertility Problems
One of the main reasons for female infertility is a hormonal imbalance. As women age, their fertility naturally decreases after the age of 35 due to changes in hormone levels. A high level of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) can decrease the likelihood of getting pregnant, while low levels of luteinizing hormone (LH) can also cause fertility problems. Hormone-related conditions like PCOS and early menopause can also have an impact on fertility.
If you have been trying to conceive for a year, or less if you are over 35, you may want to see a women’s health expert for a diagnosis. Your GP can arrange a blood test to measure FSH and LH levels to determine if there is an underlying cause of your difficulty conceiving.
Headaches are a common problem for many women due to changes or imbalances in hormones during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, or menopause.
To identify the triggers of your headaches, you can keep a symptom diary, which can help you and your doctor find ways to manage them. Eating small, frequent snacks and maintaining a regular sleep pattern may also be helpful. If you experience regular attacks, your doctor may prescribe anti-migraine medications or recommend taking the contraceptive pill or hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to manage your symptoms.
9. Weak bones
Bone loss can occur due to decreasing levels of estrogen during perimenopause and menopause.
To improve bone health as you age, it's important to make lifestyle changes. This may include engaging in weight-bearing exercises such as running, tennis, or dancing, consuming a healthy diet with sources of calcium and vitamin D, and considering hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to manage menopause symptoms. It's essential to adopt these changes to prevent brittle bones, as women may not be aware of the problem until they experience a fracture.
10. Vaginal dryness
A decrease in estrogen levels, particularly during perimenopause and menopause, is the primary cause of vaginal dryness. This problem can also arise due to changes in hormone levels resulting from taking certain medications like the contraceptive pill or antidepressants.