Everyone has an off day here and there. But what if a whole month goes by, or even a whole year, and you still don’t feel like yourself? Maybe you can’t seem to get out of bed even when you’ve struggled to get to sleep all night. Or maybe your mood is all over place — depressed one moment, anxious and energetic the next. Whatever it is, something does not feel right.
If you’ve already tried exercise, adjusting your diet, and other lifestyle changes that can impact your mood and energy, it may be time to consider whether or not you have a hormone imbalance.
What Are Hormones?
Hormones are chemicals that control and regulate a variety of systems and functions in the body. They are produced in the endocrine glands (such as the thyroid, adrenal glands, and pancreas, among others), as well as testes in men and ovaries in women. Two of the most well-known hormones are testosterone and estrogen, although your body secretes around 50 different types of hormones in total. While some of these stimulate specific processes throughout the body, others carry out a wide range of different functions.
A hormone imbalance can trigger a cascade of downstream effects that impacts just about every system of the body. To understand why, it’s important to know what hormones are and the role they play in our lives.
For instance, cortisol is a hormone the body produces in response to stress. It reduces inflammation and can even alter or shut down certain functions that get in the way of the body’s threat response. Insulin, on the other hand, is produced in the pancreas and regulates blood sugar levels. An inability of the pancreas to produce sufficient insulin, or the body not responding effectively to insulin, can result in diabetes.
6 Signs of a Hormone Imbalance
There can be several different reasons why you may be experiencing a hormone imbalance. Oftentimes a hormone imbalance can be the result of an over- or underactive thyroid or long-term stress. The aging process itself can also lead to an imbalance: Menopause in women and andropause in men are both associated with significant declines in estrogen and testosterone, respectively, that come with age.
Whatever the cause, these six possible signs may indicate that hormones are imbalanced:
- Suddenly your scale seems off
Weight and appetite are closely connected to hormone levels — and both can fluctuate widely depending on how off balance they are. For example, one study found that over a six-month period of time, individuals with higher cortisol levels were more likely to have an increased appetite and propensity to gain weight. Likewise, an underactive thyroid (also known as hypothyroidism) can lead to reduced energy and increased weight.
- Your mood is variable
Changes in mood are a well-documented effect of hormone imbalances. Most significantly, sex hormones, estrogen and testosterone, have an incredible influence over our emotional state, as do mood “boosting” hormones like serotonin and dopamine. Any man who has gone through puberty or woman who has a menstrual cycle has likely experienced the impact these hormones can have on their mood. Dietary behaviors, nutritional deficiencies, genetics and gut health can also have an effect on hormone production and utilization. While situational factors may be a play with variable moods, prolonged mood swings, as well as periods of anxiety or depression, may be a sign of a more serious imbalance.
- Constant fatigue
Energy levels can be affected by a range of factors, including hormones. For example, insulin not only lowers blood sugar levels but also plays a key role in stimulating the metabolism of glucose. When this hormone is off, your energy levels may fall dramatically. Thyroid hormone is also central to metabolism, which means those with hypothyroidism may experience fatigue at greater levels than normal.
- Sleep is disrupted
Sleep is vital for many reasons, including boosting your immunity and regulating the production of hormones like leptin (which controls appetite). However, hormones themselves may be a reason why you’re having trouble falling and staying asleep. Specifically, melatonin, which is produced in the pineal gland, helps you adhere to a natural circadian rhythm and get a good night’s rest. Insufficient production of melatonin may lead to insomnia and other subsequent symptoms, such as depression.
- No interest in intimacy
Low libido may be another sign of a hormone imbalance. Decreased levels of testosterone or estrogen could be the reason why your sex drive may not be what it once was, but other hormones may also be the culprit. For instance, an underactive thyroid can reduce your libido by making you feel fatigued or depressed. Less commonly, women with elevated levels of prolactin, a hormone associated with breast milk production, may also lack interest in sex.
- Hair and skin conditions
Finally, watch out for any sudden hair loss or unexpected skin conditions. This may be a sign of either an over- or underactive thyroid. If this is the case, it will typically be accompanied by other symptoms, such as fatigue. The stress hormone, cortisol, can also drastically affect skin and hair health, causing loss of hair, rapid greying, or persistent acne.
What Should You Do if You Have a Hormone Imbalance?
Hormones play a vast and complex role in our bodies. Because of this, a hormone imbalance may encompass some or all of the symptoms mentioned, as well as many others not listed. Regardless, if you are suspicious that a hormone imbalance might be at the root of your symptoms, it’s smart to get specialized testing to check your levels, and frequently retest to track trends over time.
Fortunately, if you have a hormone imbalance, there are plenty of treatment options to choose from depending on your needs. These may range from lifestyle changes to a more structured intervention, such as Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy. With a personalized evaluation, a Precision Health Care provider can help address the root cause of your symptoms and put you on the path to feeling better.
To get started, schedule a meet and greet with us today.