The Bottom Line: The More Info You Have The Better
Whether or not you’re experiencing symptoms that might be related to excess or deficient hormone levels, learning more about your body and how hormone regulation works are great first steps. Paying attention to what you’re feeling and discussing any concerns you might have with your healthcare provider is always important. At the end of the day, the more information you have, the better.
This article was reviewed by Dr. Temeka Zore, a Modern Fertility medical advisor and reproductive endocrinologist at Spring Fertility in San Francisco.
Hormone Imbalance And Hormone Level Testing
Last Reviewed Date: Apr 29, 2020 Apr 29, 2020 Dec 05, 2018
Chapter 1: Hormone Imbalance Introduction Chapter 2: Causes and Symptoms of Hormonal Imbalance Chapter 3: Hormonal Imbalance and Men Chapter 4: Hormonal Imbalance and Women Chapter 5: More about Cortisol
Your entire endocrine system is composed of glands and hormones. It is one of two systems that help coordinate all the functions of your body.
This managerial role, of maintaining hormone levels over time and in various situations, is important for both your survival and well being. Hormone testing has shown that hormone levels decrease with age and that hormone replacement therapies may be helpful in maintaining youthful vigor.
The other critical system that regulates the functions of your body is the nervous system. Both the endocrine and nervous system work closely together to control a number of important functions:
- Your bodys growth and development
- Your metabolism
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What Is A Hormone Imbalance
Hormonal imbalance is commonly used to refer to too low or too high hormone levels, but that term is a bit of an oversimplification of the very complex process of hormone regulation. The production and release of hormones involve a chain of events that begins in the brain.
Reproductive endocrinologist and Modern Fertility medical advisor Dr. Temeka Zore, MD, FACOG explains that the feedback loop that triggers the menstrual cycle, which is “known as the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis, or HPO for short,” goes like this:
Hormonal changes happen day to day and throughout your cycle, but sustained highs or lows that dont reflect typical patterns have a ripple effect on other hormones in the feedback loop. Take hypopituitarism, for example: a condition where the pituitary isnt able to make certain hormones. If hypopituitarism causes LH and FSH deficiency, the ovaries wont get the message to produce E2 and signal follicle growth disrupting your cycle.
Ultimately, hormone regulation is a little more complicated than a “balancing” act. Its more like a pinball machine with occasional obstacles that shoot the ball in different directions.
Can Hormones Cause Acne
Many women experience monthly breakouts before or during their period. However, chronic acne is something different. Acne that does not go away may be due to excess androgens, male hormones like testosterone that both women and men have. Excess levels of these androgens make oil glands extra productive. Androgens also affect skin cells that line hair follicles. Excess oil and skin cell changes clog pores, leading to acne. A doctor may prescribe birth control pills, corticosteroids like prednisone , or anti-androgen medications to treat hormonally influenced acne. High androgen. levels may sometimes indicate polycystic ovary syndrome . Women with PCOS may experience infertility. High insulin levels can stimulate the production of androgens and may be associated with insulin resistance. Weight loss can help reverse insulin resistance.
Female Hormone Imbalance: Causes And Treatments
Hormones are essential to your overall wellbeing. They relay chemical messages throughout the body, helping to keep your emotions and body systems in check. One of the key body systems affected by the balance of the hormones in your body is the reproductive system. A female hormonal imbalance could cause heavy periods, infertility, and endometriosis.
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What Are The Causes Of Hormonal Imbalance
Almost everyone experiences periods of hormonal imbalance at specific phases in their lives. However, most cases of hormonal imbalance occur when one or more endocrine glands do not perform their function properly.
The human body has several endocrine glands, each producing its own specific hormones. These endocrine glands are:
Some of the causes of hormonal imbalances include:
- Abuse/ Overdosing On Steroid Medications
- Addisons Disease
- Benign tumours on endocrine glands
- Cysts which affects endocrine glands
- Cancers of the endocrine glands
- Chemotherapy And Radiation Therapy
- Injury to the endocrine glands
- Exposure to toxins, pollutants, and endocrine-disrupting chemicals
- Specific hereditary conditions such as pancreatitis
- Hormonal replacement therapy
- Consumption of birth control medications
- Overproduction of the parathyroid hormone
- The underproduction of parathyroid hormone
- Extreme allergic reactions or infections
- Turner syndrome
Eat Enough Protein At Every Meal
Consuming an adequate amount of protein is extremely important.
Dietary protein provides essential amino acids that your body cant make on its own and must be consumed every day in order to maintain muscle, bone and skin health.
In addition, protein influences the release of hormones that control appetite and food intake.
Research has shown that eating protein decreases levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin and stimulates the production of hormones that help you feel full, including PYY and GLP-1 .
In one study, men produced 20% more GLP-1 and 14% more PYY after eating a high-protein meal than after eating a meal that contained a normal amount of protein.
Whats more, participants hunger ratings decreased by 25% more after the high-protein meal compared to the normal-protein meal .
In another study, women who consumed a diet containing 30% protein experienced an increase in GLP-1 and greater feelings of fullness than when they ate a diet containing 10% protein.
Whats more, they experienced an increase in metabolism and fat burning .
To optimize hormone health, experts recommend consuming a minimum of 2030 grams of protein per meal (
This is easy to do by including a serving of these high-protein foods at each meal.
Consuming adequate protein triggers the production of hormones that suppress appetite and help you feel full. Aim for a minimum of 2030 grams of protein per meal.
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Supplement With Vitamin D
A Vitamin D deficiency is more common than you may think, with over a billion people worldwide suffering from either a deficient or insufficient supply of this critical vitamin. Vitamin D plays an extremely important role in a number of bodily functions, such as immune function, cell differentiation, and inflammatory response. Low levels of Vitamin D have been associated with an increased risk in colon, prostate, and breast cancer, as well as tuberculosis, influenza, and heart disease. A relationship has also been found between hypothyroidism and a vitamin D deficiency.
Ideally, we would get our daily dose of Vitamin D from 10 to 30 minutes of uninterrupted sun exposure, but this is unrealistic for most. Thats why its important to take a Vitamin D3 supplement and eat foods rich in Vitamin D, such as pastured eggs and wild salmon. Its also important to note that as we age, our production of Vitamin D decreases, so make sure youre monitoring your levels and getting them checked by your primary care provider.
What Are The Symptoms Of A Hormone Imbalance
Hormone levels are carefully balanced to support the smooth functioning of your body and mind, but menopause can cause some serious disruption to this equilibrium. Low levels of crucial hormones can cause several significant side effects that can affect your day-to-day life, such as:
- Vaginal dryness and itching
- Pain during intercourse
A lot of these symptoms can be caused by other health issues, so how do you know that hormonal imbalance is to blame?
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Female Hormone Imbalance: What Is It
Hormonal imbalance occurs when the amount of estrogen, progesterone or both is altered, disturbing the delicate balance between these powerful hormones. Imbalances in these vital female hormones can stem from a number of underlying causes. The most common cause is perimenopause, the transitional phase leading up to menopause, during which the production of estrogens and progesterone begin to decline. Other common causes of hormonal imbalance include pregnancy, endocrine disorders, certain drugs, especially oral contraceptives, drugs used in hormone replacement therapy and cancer medications, and lifestyle factors that include stress, overweight or obesity, poor diet, sleep deprivation and lack of exercise.
What Are The Types Of Hormonal Imbalance In Men
Testosterone is considered the primary male hormone, along with other hormones like cortisol, insulin, and thyroid hormones. Imbalance in any of these hormones may result in any of the 4 main types of hormonal imbalance in men.
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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.
Cut Back On The Alcoholic Beverages
Ive often been told Im the bearer of bad news, but I promise that laying off the liquor will be a game changer.
A glass of alcohol is like consuming a handful of sugary cookies, just via another delivery method. It immediately hits your bloodstream, sending your blood sugar levels on a roller-coaster ride.
Alcohol also raises estrogen levels, because it creates a whole lot of extra work for your liver, so it cant effectively detox estrogen, which is one of its main jobs. This estrogen excess can trigger heavier, longer periods, breast pain, headaches, and raging PMS.
See the connection between what we eat and drink and our period problems?
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Houston We Have A Problem
Fatigue, weight gain, low libido, irritability if you asked Google, or even one of your girlfriends, what these symptoms add up to, chances are theyd give you the diagnosis of hormonal imbalance. But as Dr Worsley explains, this doesnt really answer your question.
There is no medical diagnosis for hormonal imbalance, she says. You can use it in normal conversation and say things are out of balance or a particular hormone is out of balance. But the term hormonal imbalance itself is very imprecise. What hormone are you talking about? What sort of imbalance?
It ends up being a catch-all type of phrase that often means I dont feel well or something doesnt feel right.
Treatment For Hormonal Imbalance
Treatment for hormonal imbalance depends upon the cause and also the person. Furthermore, women and men have different treatments for their conditions. For instance, women who are suffering from irregular menstrual cycles can use medications containing female hormones such as estrogen and progesterone can use birth control medications. For men with hypogonadism, stunted puberty or other similar conditions, testosterone patches and gels can help with the condition.
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Causes Of Hormone Imbalance
You might experience changes in your hormones due to aging its natural to see sex hormones alter in women around the time of menopause and men in their older years. Excessive stress or exercise can lead to an imbalance in your adrenals. Thyroid hormone imbalances may be caused by disease.
Regardless of why you have an imbalance in your hormones, you dont have to tolerate the discomfort. The Well for Health can help. We identify the imbalance and offer solutions whether that be replacement hormones, a personalized program of dietary and other lifestyle changes, or adrenal or thyroid optimization.
If youre ready to feel like yourself again and banish the symptoms of erratic hormones, call The Well for Health or schedule an appointment online.
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What Is Hormonal Imbalance In Men
The most common hormonal imbalances in men are related to testosterone levels. Men may experience low levels of testosterone due to disorders, like hypogonadism for example when the testes cannot produce an adequate supply of testosterone. More commonly, aging is the underlying cause, with testosterone production gradually diminishing over time, beginning around age 40. For some men, levels fall so low that the body’s basic needs for the hormone cannot be fulfilled, which can lead to many of the symptoms listed above. Other factors that can contribute to low testosterone levels include excessive stress, poor diet, obesity and regular excessive alcohol use.
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Why Should You See A Hormone Specialist
Hormone specialists are physicians who have expertise in diagnosing, treating, and preventing conditions and illnesses related to hormones. Hormones are natural chemicals produced by the endocrine glands and serve as messengers in the body. Injected directly into our bloodstream, they send signals to the different parts of the body to regulate bodily processes and functions.
Hormonal imbalances can affect our growth and development, mood, metabolism, reproduction, sexual function and drive, heart rate, sleep cycle, and body temperature. Hormones are critical for our wellbeing and when an imbalance happens, it can wreak havoc on our bodies.
Breast Changes Might Be An Estrogen Imbalance
Estrogen that is too high or too low may lead to changes in breast tissues. High estrogen may cause lumpy or dense breast tissue, even cysts. Estrogen levels that are too low may cause decreased breast tissue density. In one study, postmenopausal women who took estrogen plus progesterone hormone replacement therapy experienced an increase in breast density compared to women who took a placebo. Xenoestrogens are compounds that mimic estrogen function in the body. They are naturally occurring in some plants and fungi but they are also found in some drugs, industrial by-products, and pesticides. Non-naturally occurring xenoestrogens may produce a number of harmful effects in the body, including effects on breast density and the risk of breast cancer. They may also disrupt the endocrine system. If you notice any breast changes or are concerned about your estrogen levels, see your doctor for an evaluation.
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Typical Signs Of Hormonal Imbalance In Women
Symptoms associated with the most common causes of hormonal imbalance include the following
- Unexplained weight gain or loss
- Problems sleeping
- Very dry skin and rashes
- Irritability and anxiety
- Changes in blood pressure, heart rate, and blood sugar
Women suffering with hormonal imbalance have many of the above symptoms, but they also have some additional signs like heavy, irregular, or painful periods, hot flashes, breast tenderness, acne before and during menstruation, hair growth on the face, neck, back, or chest, skin tags, deepening voice, clitoral enlargement, and darkening of the skin along neck creases, in the groin area, and under breasts.
Hormone Balance And Tummy Trouble
Cells lining the gastrointestinal tract have receptors for both estrogen and progesterone. Levels of these hormones change throughout the course of a woman’s monthly menstrual cycle. When they do, they impact the function of the gastrointestinal system. Women often experience abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, and nausea before or during their periods. These symptoms can also occur with many other conditions. If a woman experiences them along with mood changes and fatigue before or during her period, it may be more likely that the GI disturbances are occurring due to monthly hormonal fluctuations.
How To Treat Hormonal Imbalances
At the Center for Womens Health in Wichita, Kansas, we develop a personalized plan to help get your hormones and your life back in balance. Depending on your issues, treatment options may include:
- Low-dose antidepressants for mood and hot flashes
- Omega-3 supplements for distress and depression
- Vaginal estrogen to treat vaginal dryness
- A healthy diet and regular exercise program
- Hormone replacement therapy
- BioTE® Hormone Pellet Therapy
Why Cortisol Testing Is Important
Cortisol testing is important because that system does not always function in the normal, healthy manner outlined above. Sometimes cortisone levels can stay too high for too long, which can have far-reaching effects on your health, such as:
- Problems with memory and/or concentration
Issues That Can Cause Abnormally High Cortisol Levels include:
1- Chronic stress: The bodys natural fight-or-flight stress response system is set up to manage short-term stress situations. Stress in todays world is often a longer-term health issue. Rather than being stressed by a sudden encounter with a predator, a situation that can be resolved quickly by running away, we are more likely to face ongoing problems that cause stress, like job pressures, for instance, or financial ones. This can cause long-term activation of the stress response system, leading to chronically high levels of cortisol.
2- Problems with the pituitary gland: Tumors on the pituitary gland or excess growth of the gland can cause it to release too much ACTH, increasing cortisol levels.
3- Problems with adrenal glands: Tumors on the adrenal glands can cause overproduction of cortisol.
4- Other tumors: Growths in other areas of the body can increase cortisol production.
5- Medications: Overuse of corticosteroid medications or long-term use of them can lead to abnormally high cortisol levels.
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