Hormones are a part of all of our lives – the Hormone Health Network explains that hormones are messengers that control what our bodies does, everything from hunger to reproduction, and our moods and emotions. Hormones change throughout our lives – and for women that also includes before and after your period each month, pregnancy, and menopause.
But sometimes our hormones become imbalanced, and this can cause real issues that affect our quality of life – from mood swings to cycle changes and even migraines. For women, these symptoms can arise naturally if they are going through a major hormone change like menopause, but it can also be onset by medications, certain health issues, or even leading an unbalanced lifestyle. Here we’re going to list the signs and symptoms for women to look out for if a hormone imbalance is suspected.
Irregular periods: Most women have their period every 21 to 35 days, according to WebMD. So if yours is coming sooner, or much later than that – even skipping months – you may have too much or too little of either estrogen or progesterone. If you’re in your 40’s and 50’s this may be due to perimenopause – the time before menopause. Either way, if your periods are irregular you should talk to your doctor.
Sleep problems: If you’re having trouble sleeping lower progesterone levels could be at play. This hormone, which is released by your ovaries, helps you catch zzz’s.
Chronic acne: Acne is normal during your period, as is the occasional breakout which can be due to a poor diet or even stress. But acne that won’t clear up could be the work of excess androgens hormone. This male hormone – that both men and women have – affects skin cells and can clog pores causing acne.
Feeling foggy: Hormones impact our brain, but doctors still aren’t totally sure about all of their effects. They do know that estrogen and progesterone can make you head feel foggy – and like things are harder to remember.
Belly issues: The hormones of estrogen and progesterone also affect our gut – so a hormone imbalance can affect how you digest food too. This can lead to diarrhea, stomach pain, bloating, and even nausea.
Fatigue: The feeling of constantly being fatigued is a common symptom of a hormone imbalance. Excess progesterone can make you sleepy, and your if your thyroid makes too little of the thyroid hormone that can also tap out your energy. A blood test can help determine if your thyroid is the issue here.
Mood swings & depression: Researchers don’t totally understand all the effects of estrogen, but they do know it affects brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine which can cause mood swings, and even depression if not released properly.
Increase appetite & weight gain: Experts say that when estrogen hormone levels dip it usually causes people to want to eat more – so in this way, estrogen can affect weight gain and appetite.
Headaches or migraines: For some women drops in estrogen can bring on headaches and migraines. But for some women it’s a common symptom before or after their period.
Vaginal dryness: This is normal to have occasionally, but if you notice that you’re dry or irritated down there often, it could be a sign of low estrogen levels.
Loss of libido: While testosterone is a male hormone, women’s bodies produce it too. If your testosterone levels dip, you might have less interest in s*x than normal.
Breast changes: Lower levels of estrogen can make breast tissue less dense, and an increase can make it thicker – even causing lumps or cysts. If you notice any of these changes talk to your doctor – even if there aren’t other symptoms that concern you.
Hot flashes & night sweats: Hot flashes can make it like someone’s turned up the heat inside you and you can’t turn it down – and night sweats can wake you up in a total sweat. The Women in Balance Institute explains that too much estrogen, and too little progesterone causes this – as does other hormone imbalances from the adrenals, ovaries, thyroid pancreas or gastrointestinal tract.
Treating a hormone imbalance
There’s a myriad of ways to treat hormone imbalances. Sometimes it’s a combination of relatively simple lifestyle change that your doctor may prescribe like:
– Taking time for yourself. Relaxing and reducing stress
– Boosting your omega 3 and vitamin intake
– Changing your diet, like drinking more water and eating healthier
– Quitting smoking –
The Women in Balance Institute says women who smoke experience menopause 2 years earlier and more severely than non-smokers.
There are also hormone therapies that can help regulate the hormones in your body, and even over the counter progesterone options. It is important to note, increased estrogen and progesterone can lead to blood clots in women, so talk to your doctor about the side effects of these treatments and your risk factors.
When it comes to hormone imbalances, custom treatment is key. Each person will experience hormone imbalances differently – you may experience many of the symptoms above, or you may experience just one or two. So figuring out a plan to combat these symptoms and get your hormones in balance is something that needs to be thoroughly discussed with your healthcare provider.