What Causes A Hormonal Imbalance
The causes of hormonal imbalances vary according to the specific hormone involved. However, in general, they are due to changes or dysfunctions of a hormone-producing gland. For instance, a thyroid gland that isn’t functioning correctly may produce too much thyroid hormone, accelerating your bodys metabolism or could produce too little. Thyroid dysfunction can be caused by autoimmune diseases, thyroid nodules, medications or, rarely, thyroid cancer, among other potential causes. Imbalances in male or female sex hormones, such as estrogen, progesterone and testosterone, can be caused by age-related changes, such as menopause and andropause, as well as genetic disorders, stress, nutritional issues, or medications. Excessive stress, poor diet, aging and certain medications can contribute to imbalances in cortisol and other adrenal hormones.
There are many different underlying causes that can result in a hormonal imbalance. Each cause relates to different glands and hormones and, does impact your body differently. Many diseases and other conditions can result in a hormonal imbalance.
Diabetes is characterized by an inability to properly use the insulin hormone. An insulin imbalance can lead to other related hormonal imbalances as well such as disrupting estrogen, testosterone, thyroid, progesterone, and cortisol.
Hypothyroidism or Hyperthyroidism
Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia
Treatment For A Hormonal Imbalance
There are many different treatment options for hormonal imbalances. The treatment you ultimately be given will depend on which hormone exactly is unbalance as well as the underlying cause of the imbalance. Sometimes, a life event might cause such a fluctuation in your hormones, such as menopause. In that case, your treatment would be short term one. However, if you have a genetic disorder that causes a lifelong hormonal imbalance, you will need to pursue a more prolonged course of medications.
Hormone therapy is a common treatment for hormonal imbalances. Women who are witnessing uncomfortable menopausal symptoms may choose estrogen therapy. Testosterone therapy is a common choice for men with low testosterone levels or adolescents facing delayed puberty. Taking thyroid hormones can help individuals with hypothyroidism. Such hormone replacement therapies may come in the form of pills, patches, or even injections. Your doctor will help you choose the appropriate dosage by checking your hormone levels test results. This is how he will determine the right amount of supplemented hormone you will need to recreate the balance.
Bioidentical hormones can be produced by pharmaceutical companies using different doses. Examples include bi-estrogen which is 50 to 80 percent estriol combined with estradiol, or tri-estrogen which is 10 percent estrone, 10 percent estradiol, and 80 percent estriol.
Progesterone Only Birth Control Pills
There are some birth control pills without estrogen. These are called mini-pills and contain synthetic progesterone called progestin. Some women use these because they are breastfeeding or they cant take estrogen in the combined pill because they suffer migraine headaches or have a high risk of blood clots or heart disease.
Taken daily, the synthetic progestin:
Suppresses ovulation by stopping the production of the Luteinizing Hormone in your pituitary gland.
Triggers changes in the lining of the uterus, so that it is harder for an egg to implant there.
Causes a thickening in cervical mucus, which then makes it difficult for sperm to travel far enough to fertilize an egg.
Unlike the combined pill, the progestin-only mini-pill gives shorter birth control protection. If you miss a dose or even take it later than usual, you may not be covered for contraception, and you may also experience breakthrough bleeding.
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Your Hormones Your Health
Feeling bloated, irritable, or just not your best? Shifts in your hormones could be to blame. Hormones are chemical âmessengersâ that impact the way your cells and organs function. Itâs normal for your levels of them to shift at different times of your life, such as before and during your period or a pregnancy, or during menopause. But some medications and health issues can cause your levels to go up or down, too.
Conventional Medicines Approach To Hormone Imbalances
Conventional medicines answer for most hormone imbalances is synthetic hormone medications in the form of birth control pills or HRT, hormone replacement therapy, prescribed as pills, patches, gels, or creams.
Moreover, they do nothing to actually address the underlying cause of the imbalance and instead leave you dependent on potentially harmful pharmaceuticals.
It is also important to note that balanced hormones are essential for various aspects of your health from supporting your immune system and preventing cognitive decline to having a comfortable and healthy sex life.
Hormone Replacement Therapy is a treatment we will utilize in some women with amazing results. But you want to make sure the hormones are Bioidentical which means they are structurally identical to your own hormones and derived from natural substances like yams, not horse urine which is where many synthetic hormones come from.
It is also essential to continually assess how your body tolerates hormones not only with how you feel, but also through the proper testing to see how you are metabolizing the hormones. Remember, we are all unique being which is why each person needs an individualized approach.
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Muscle Weakness And Joint Pain
If you feel like it takes extra effort to move your body, or your joints are stiff and uncomfortable, this may be a symptom of hormonal imbalance. There are several different hormones that contribute to the strength of your musclesthink estrogen, testosterone, even your thyroid hormoneand could be behind your muscle weakness. Declines in both estrogen and testosterone have been associated with loss of strength, and muscle weakness and stiffness are often signs of a thyroid disorder, due the thyroids role in breaking glycogen into glucose, a main source of energy for your muscles.
How Is A Hormonal Imbalance Diagnosed
First, make an appointment with a health care provider for a physical exam. The health care provider will ask about your symptoms. Then, depending on your symptoms, they will suggest which hormone imbalance tests to do. These could be evaluations like:
- Blood test: Estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, thyroxine, TTH, insulin, and cortisol levels can be detected in the blood.
- Pelvic exam: A health care provider will search for any lumps or cysts.
- Ultrasound: Images of your uterus, ovaries, thyroid, and pituitary gland can be obtained.
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Hormonal Imbalance And Men
You may think that women are the ones facing hormonal imbalances. But this is not the case. Men, as well as womens bodies, produce several hormones that are essential for wellbeing. One very well-known male hormone is testosterone. But, did you know that men, also, produce estrogen? Testosterone is mainly produced in the testicles and, a small amount is produced in the adrenal glands. It is responsible for ones manly characteristics, such as:
- Facial and Body Hair
- Muscle and Bone Density
- Deeper Voice
It also stimulates the production of sperm and affects your desire for sex. It also plays a major role in the way one gains weight and, how and where the body will end up accumulating these fat cells. Finally, red blood cells production is linked to testosterone levels.
Estrogen is made from testosterone with the help of an enzyme known as aromatase. As you age, not only do your testosterone levels naturally drop, but your estrogen levels go up simultaneously. The loss of testosterone with age is referred to by some professionals as andropause male menopause.
However, testosterone levels can drop, even in young men, from several causes, such as:
- Injuries to Scrotum or Testicles
- Testicular Cancer
- Liver Disease
But, testosterone and estrogen arent the only hormones that can get out of balance in men. You can suffer a decrease in cortisol levels if you are under a lot of stress, or even an imbalance in the thyroid hormones.
Estrogen Dominance And Birth Control Pills
Natural hormone balance is the foundation of a womans emotional and physical health. During a womans natural menstrual cycle her estrogen levels rise and fall at different times of the month. The pill disrupts this cycle altogether keeping estrogen levels high all month.
Continuously elevated levels of estrogen can overload the liver, which cant perform its essential function of detoxification. As a result, these unhealthy estrogen metabolites go back into your bloodstream and get circulated in your body quickly leading to Estrogen Dominance
ED from the pill also leads to too much estradiol , also known as an aggressive estrogen, compared to estriol , which is the protective estrogen. This imbalance can be behind tender breasts, mood swings, hair loss, weight gain, fibroids, endometriosis, breast, and ovarian cysts, and even breast and ovarian cancer.
High estrogen levels can also cause a rise thyroid binding globulin, which binds up thyroid hormones making less available to do its work in your body. ED has also been linked to the development of thyroid nodules and cancer.
To learn more about estrogen dominance and what you can do to reduce it, read my other blog post on the topic.
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How Does The Male Reproductive System Work
While there are hundreds of hormones that control the bodys chemistry, testosterone is a versatile and critical part of the balance that specifically controls male characteristics and sex drive. When the levels dip, the result can cause a male to experience low sex drive and depression, among other complaints. Low T as it is commonly referred to in the media, can cause a number of symptoms, including:
- Fatigue or generalized weakness
- Memory problems or lack of concentration
- Changes in mood or irritability
- Erectile dysfunction
Some diseases, like diabetes, can cause similar symptoms, so it can be hard to diagnose. To further complicate matters, testosterone decline in men is a slow process and, some healthy men can produce sperm well into their 80s.
In addition, there are variables that affect hormonal decline and speed up the process. These include weight gain, drug use, tobacco or alcohol abuse, mental illness or severe depression, as well as stress and chronic illness. One may need to keep in mind that medical experts still disagree about the link between declining hormone levels in men and their need for HRT.
Appetite And Weight Gain
You may gain weight during hormonal shifts, such as menopause. But hormone changes donât directly affect your weight. Instead, it likely happens because of other factors, like aging or lifestyle. For example, when youâre feeling blue or irritated, as you can be when your estrogen levels drop, you may want to eat more. It can also impact your bodyâs levels of leptin, a hunger-revving hormone.
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How And Why Do Men And Women Experience Hormonal Imbalances Differently
Hormones impact men and women differently, particularly when you’re dealing with those specific to the reproductive system. Men and women also go through different developmental stages. Women will experience hormonal changes with their menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopause, which men do not experience. Women may experience hormonal imbalances that present through:
- Vaginal dryness or discomfort
- Erectile dysfunction
What Are The Signs Of Hormonal Imbalances
Sadly, we all live busier and more hectic lives than ever before. As a result, I see more and more people suffering the woes of hormonal imbalances. You see, there are many things that can throw our bodies out of synch a poor diet of refined carbs and sugars, too much stress on the body, too little fat and protein, too little sleep, or too many toxins.
Signs of hormone imbalance include:
- Mood swings
- You are snappy, irritable and angry
- Your libido is non-existent
- Your periods are heavy or irregular
- Headaches and migraines
- Your periods are MIA
- You have a muffin top or excess weight around the belly
- Skin breaks out
- Difficulty sleeping or staying asleep
- You feel constantly fatigued or have brain fog
- You have tummy cramps, bloating or digestive woes
- You have excess hair on your face and thinning on your head
- You have cravings for carbs, sugars, alcohol or other foods
Any of this sound familiar? However hopeless it may feel, I promise that things can and will get better I am evidence of this! You dont have to accept hormonal imbalance as your norm, and you can lead a healthy, happy life.
When things are thrown out of balance, it can not only affect your day, but your health too, even if everything else is seemingly perfect. I know the feeling I had a season ticket to the hormonal roller coaster for many years, and I also wear the scars of PCOS, hypothroidsim, low progesterone, Adenomyosis and two miscarriages.
- Improve testosterone levels in males
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Different Hormones Different Symptoms
The human body produces many kinds of hormones from different organs, such as the pituitary gland, testicles, ovaries, heart, pancreas, kidneys, thalamus, and hypothalamus. Some hormones are considered proteins, others are called steroids, and yet others are called polypeptides.
But no matter their name or the gland that secretes them, theyre essential for the healthy functioning of your body throughout your lifespan. Heres what happens to a womans body when there is an imbalance:
Possible Causes Of Abnormally Low Cortisol Levels
Also called primary adrenal insufficiency, this is a condition that occurs when the adrenal glands are damaged and become unable to produce enough cortisol and/or other stress hormones. This is most often caused by auto-immune activity, where the immune system attacks the bodys own tissues. Other potential causes include long-term use of steroid medications, certain blood thinners, tumors and infections.
Problems with the pituitary gland
Low cortisol levels can be caused by the pituitary gland failing to release enough ACTH. This latter is important to trigger adequate amounts of cortisol to be released from the adrenal glands. This is typically referred to as secondary adrenal insufficiency, or hypopituitarism and, can be caused by trauma to the pituitary gland, brain tumors, pituitary gland tumors, stroke, autoimmune diseases and tuberculosis, among many other possible causes.
Puberty & Menopause Problems Caused By Hormone Imbalances
Getting First Period too Young or too Old
Typically, a girl will begin her period at a similar age to when her mother began getting hers. Some girls have their first period as early as 10 or 11. Others dont get their first period until theyre 15 or even 16. If you or your daughter are outside those age ranges and are concerned about that first period, it is worth a visit to her Pediatrician, Family Doctor or OBYGN.
Common factors that affect when a girl begins her period are weight changes, environmental factors that stimulate the hormones, or adrenal gland problems.
Irregular Periods in Teens
Pre-teens and teenagers have very irregular periods as their bodies mature. Sometimes, teens have unusual bleeding because they arent ovulating regularly. In this case, they have some hormonal development that isnt complete so the uterus isnt getting a clear enough signal of what to do.
Issues During Menopause
When women approach their mid- to late-40s, their cycles may become irregular as they enter the perimenopausal stage. You can read more about what to expect in perimenopause in our recent article. Signs that you may be experiencing perimenopause include skipping periods and having lighter periods.
If your periods are becoming heavier, more frequent, prolonged, or with spotting between periods, you should mention this to your doctor. These changes could indicate menopause, but they could also be caused by abnormalities in your cervix or uterus.
Final Thoughts On Hormonal Imbalances
- Some of the most common symptoms of hormone imbalances include unexplained weight gain, fatigue, insomnia, and changes in hair, skin, and nails.
- Root causes of hormonal imbalances include compromised gut health, elevated inflammation, and high stress levels.
- Natural ways to balance your hormones include eating anti-inflammatory polyunsaturated fats, reducing your exposure to endocrine disruptors, getting adequate sleep, and using supplements to fill in any nutritional gaps related to gut health and vitamin D levels.
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Exacerbation Of Mental Health Problems
Estrogen is believed to have a protective effect on the brain. It appears to positively impact brain chemicals , cognition, and the ability to withstand stress. Dropping estrogen levels appear to be associated with an increased risk of psychosis. The age of menopause is associated with a second peak of schizophrenia onset in women. Results of preliminary research suggests selective estrogen receptor modulators may improve cognition and other symptoms in women who have psychiatric disorders. They may even reduce the frequency of manic episodes in women who have bipolar disorder. However, these drugs are not without potential risks. See your doctor if you believe decreasing estrogen levels are contributing to serious mental health symptoms.
You’ve Put On Extra Pounds For No Apparent Reason
Lack of zzzs may be affecting your appetite hormones. A study published in Sleep found that after snoozing for only four hours a night, levels of glucagon-like peptide 1, a hormone that controls satiety, decreased in women. “When you don’t feel full, you tend to just keep eating,” says study author In fact, another of her studies showed that women down an average of 329 more calories on days they don’t get sufficient sleep.
Get back on track: Log adequate pillow timeseven to nine hours a night. And start your day with protein-packed eats to keep hunger hormones in check. Overweight women who ate an egg-and-beef-sausage breakfast consumed 135 fewer calories from evening snacks than those who started their day with a bowl of cereal that had the same number of calories, according to a study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The reason: A high-protein breakfast boosts levels of another satiety hormone, peptide YY, all day.
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