When we hear the word "hormones," we often think of a woman’s estrogen and progesterone levels, and occasionally a man’s testosterone level. But there's so much more to these naturally occurring chemicals than you may realize.
We have many different hormones that determine a state of balance or imbalance, from thyroid-stimulating hormone, which regulates the thyroid gland, to follicle-stimulating hormone, which directs ovulation in women. To achieve optimal, sustainable health and wellbeing, we need to strive for hormone health that includes the proper balance of all bodily chemicals. Below are five symptoms that indicate your hormones may be imbalanced.
Sometimes the symptoms of hormonal imbalance can be nonspecific. In these cases, it’s important to consider hormonal imbalance as a possible cause of the symptoms. For example, someone who suffers from fatigue could have an imbalance in her thyroid hormones, causing hypothyroidism; in her adrenal hormone levels, resulting in adrenal fatigue; or in her melatonin levels, causing poor sleep. Any of these imbalances can be the cause of fatigue.
Fatigue in this sense may feel like illness-related fatigue, leaving you tired when you wake up and without energy during the day. Sufferers often describe this as if they're “running on fumes.”
2. Poor sleep
You either have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, which contributes to not feeling refreshed in the morning. This can result from a variety of hormonal issues, including melatonin, cortisol or even the brain neutrotransmitters.
3. Mood swings and irritability
These can become anxiety and even depression. People who have an imbalance in cortisol, testosterone, or estrogen can all have mood swings and irritability. Neurotransmitters that are out of balance can also cause this symptom.
4. Skin changes
Many people notice changes in their skin and hair and wonder if it’s normal aging or just “bad luck,” but the problem may be a hormonal imbalance. Low thyroid levels can cause dry skin and hair, hair loss, and brittle nails.
5. Hot flashes and night sweats
Perhaps the best known symptoms of hormonal imbalances, these are typical of menopause and result from changing levels of estrogen and progesterone. However, other hormonal imbalances can exacerbate these symptoms, especially cortisol imbalances.
The obvious question, then, is how to address these issues and how to return to a state of improved hormonal balance?
First, test your hormone levels. There are a number of hormone tests that look at hormones; blood tests are conventionally used, but salivary tests offer a more functional view of levels available for use in the body.
Once you've tested your levels, you can begin to address the underlying causes of the imbalances by:
- Cleaning up your diet
- Reducing your stress
- Minimizing toxins in your food and environment
- Addressing your digestive function and microbial balance
- Getting more exercise
You may also want to consider appropriate hormone replacement options with your physician. There are many solutions available, giving you many options from which to choose, including:
- Hormone replacement therapy
- Bioidentical hormones
- Herbal remedies, especially adaptogens
- Functional nutritional approaches
Having a state of hormonal balance is a critical component to health and wellbeing. Unfortunately, the signs and symptoms of hormonal imbalance are very common, which can make detecting and remedying problems difficult. While we can all take steps at home to create a healthy lifestyle and reduce the potential causes, we're all unique, which means it's crucial to go through this process with a practitioner competent in individualized medicine.