Graceful Guide to Hormonal Imbalance
Updated: Apr 11, 2022
Do you ever feel irritable, bloated, tired or generally not at your best? It’s likely that this could be brought about by a shift in your hormonal levels. Up to a certain level, it is completely normal to experience these hormonal shifts throughout the month, and it may happen before and after your period, during pregnancy, or during menopause. That is mostly because your body produces different hormone levels throughout the different phases. However, in some cases, it could be a result of health issues or medication. But don’t be alarmed. Let’s first start by understanding what hormonal imbalance truly is.
What is hormonal imbalance?
Having a hormonal imbalance would mean that there is either too little or too much of certain hormones, and your body isn’t working 100% as it could. That isn’t necessarily life-threatening, or cause of big worries, but most important to keep an eye on if you notice long-term signs and symptoms pointing to it.
A simple example to help you understand is: Let’s say you’re cooking a soup. The soup should have a certain quantity of water, salt, spices and vegetables. When the chef (in this case the hormones) is too stressed and/or out of balance, they will perhaps oversalt the soup. Sometimes it’s just a bit, sometimes a lot, which spoils the soup. The same applies to your hormones: If you have too little or too much of just one ingredient (in this case, a hormone) it could ruin the final product. Whether man or woman, hormone levels do fluctuate throughout a person’s lifetime but for anyone with a uterus, the menstrual cycle plays a big role in the fluctuations, which is normal. But what if it’s caused by something else? How then will you know the difference?
Hormonal imbalances are caused by…
Hormones are responsible for managing your body’s energy levels, reproduction, metabolism and some other things. We all need a good balance of several hormones for the body to function properly. However, certain lifestyle habits, diets, medications and pre-genetic conditions might affect how your body produces and balances those hormones, sometimes simply temporarily, sometimes not.
Stress, for instance, might cause a temporary hormonal imbalance. Because stress produces a hormone called “Cortisol”, and when there’s too much of this hormone taking over for too long, it can create an imbalance.
Certain medications, or birth control too. As they might contain certain levels of hormones, it is not advisable to take them without consulting a doctor or specialist, since these “synthetic” hormones in medications or birth control might not mix well with your own body’s hormones. Alternatively, when you come off certain medications or birth control, your body might take a while to re-adapt, causing a temporary hormonal imbalance.
Now, in more serious cases, certain medical conditions could be the issue. For example, when your thyroid is over or underactive, it causes hormonal imbalances as possibly a symptom of something bigger; such as an autoimmune disease or else. It is crucial to get examined if you suspect this to be the case.
Being underweight or overweight can also affect your hormone levels. Eating too little for example can decrease estrogen levels, sometimes making periods stop coming for several months. Sudden changes in body weight too. These are just some of the causes and symptoms that could point to a hormonal imbalance, but what are the others?
Signs and symptoms of hormonal imbalance
There’s a wide variety of signs and symptoms that could point to a hormonal imbalance. Some symptoms are present in both males and females such as; sweating, increased hunger, sweating, fatigue, unexplained weight gain & weight loss just to name a few. In females of reproductive age, some of the most common signs and symptoms specific to just women include:
Heavy or Irregular periods. Including missed/delayed period.
Pain during sex
Darkening of the skin - along the neck, in the groin, and underneath the breasts
Hirsutism/excessive hair on the face, chin, or other parts of the body
Keep in mind that some people have these “symptoms” simply as characteristics of their body, and that doesn’t necessarily mean that you are experiencing hormonal imbalance. The easiest way to tell is by noticing if those symptoms “suddenly” start showing up, usually more than one at a time. Make sure to not self-diagnose, and get examined before taking any action.
How is hormonal imbalance diagnosed?
The first step would be to book an appointment with your doctor. Grace health always advocates against self-diagnosing. During the doctor’s visit, you will be asked a bunch of questions to better understand your signs and symptoms. The answers will help inform which tests you should undergo. Some of the possible tests that could be conducted are:
Blood test: Checking the estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, thyroxine, TTH, insulin, and cortisol levels in the blood.
Ultrasound: To observe images of your uterus, ovaries, thyroid, and pituitary gland can be obtained.
Pelvic exam: A health care provider will search for any lumps or cysts.
MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
Treatment options for hormonal imbalance.
The method of treatment will depend on what is causing the hormone imbalance. Some of the possible options include:
Estrogen therapy - For those who experience hot flashes/ menopausal symptoms, your doctor may recommend a low dose of estrogen.
Vaginal estrogen - For those who experience vaginal dryness/ pain during sex, an estrogen cream, tablet, or ring could be prescribed to you.
Hormonal birth control - May be used to regulate menstrual cycles, improve acne and reduce extra hair on the face and body.
Thyroid hormone therapy - Hypothyrdositm can be treated using an oral medication that restores the hormone balance while tending to the symptoms
Can I treat hormonal imbalance naturally?
The majority of the natural treatments for hormonal imbalance in women can be found in supplements. However, certain lifestyle changes can help resolve the issue such as:
Maintaining a healthy diet
Managing a healthy weight
Getting enough sleep
As you’ve seen, hormones are an important part of our bodies. A slight change could affect the normal functionality of our body system. This is why it is advised to test early and get the treatment you need before it leads to advance effects.
What have you learned about hormonal imbalance?
Stay informed, stay in control.