Hormone imbalance is a serious problem affecting many women. And contrary to popular perception many men are affected by it as well. Hormones are chemical messengers that control and coordinate our bodily activities. There are more than 50 different hormones in our body and they need to be in a delicate state of balance for optimal functioning.
The reason why women are more vulnerable to hormonal imbalance is that the monthly menstrual cycle heavily influences hormone levels in the body. Natural fluctuations occur throughout the month and as long as there are no extreme variations, no noticeable adverse effects occur. Hormone fluctuations also occur during pregnancy, post-pregnancy, breast feeding and menopause.
If you do not stay alert to the changes taking place in your mind and body, you may miss early signs of hormones playing havoc with your well-being. Here are a few things you need to look out for in order to detect hormone imbalance in your body.
1. Weight Gain
Weight fluctuation is a strong possible sign of hormone imbalance. Hormones, especially those secreted by the thyroid and adrenal glands, strongly affect our metabolism. Based on the needs of our body they help us feel hungry, satiated, energetic or tired. Often, they are also the basis for our food cravings.
If you are always feeling tired and hungry, despite having full and timely meals, then it could be a sign of hormone imbalance. Excess of estrogen and, low levels of testosterone and DHEA can lead to weight gain. Also, too much of stress hormone or cortisol in the body can encourage the body to convert blood sugar into fat for storage, and this in turn can increase your weight. Insulin excess is also found to contribute to persistent weight gain.
2. Mood Swings
Unpredictable and erratic mood swings are another very noticeable sign of hormonal imbalance. This can happen when there is fluctuation in the level of estrogen and other hormones. Estrogen is a class of hormones that includes estriol, estradiol and estrone. When estrogen level falls, it affects the production of serotonin, which regulates moods. As serotonin level fluctuates, emotional instability and sensitivity increases. Estrogen production dips post-childbirth and during menopause. It is also lower in women who have very less body fat or are extremely thin. Eating disorders also cause decreased production of estrogen.
3. Persistent Fatigue
Unreasonable and prolonged fatigue is another telltale sign of hormonal imbalance. Adrenal glands are one of the key players in helping us maintain hormonal stability and well-being.
When constantly faced with stressful situations, the gland releases the hormone cortisol, also known as stress hormone. The hormone wakes you up with a burst of energy and prepares you for dealing with emergencies. Prolonged stressful situations lead to high cortisol level in the body, which makes it hard for you to relax or unwind. The result is constant and debilitating fatigue.
Other adrenal gland functions are also affected as a result and hormone levels in the body fluctuate. This causes further adverse health effects like weight gain or loss, blood pressure variation, poor immunity, insomnia and foggy thinking.
4. Hot Flashes
Excessive sweating is one of the most common symptoms associated with menopause. Women who are approaching menopause or are in perimenopause stage also experience it. You experience a quick feeling of heat near the skin surface and break out in a sweat. Hot flashes are a known side effect of dipping estrogen level.
Instead of going in for hormone replacement therapy right away, you can try DIY remedies like reducing the intake of alcohol and caffeine, and learning better stress management techniques. Spicy food and smoking are also believed to aggravate the condition. Also ensure you ask your doctor about hormone testing and discuss whether you need it.
5. Inability to Sleep
Poor sleeping patterns also point to hormonal imbalance. Progesterone is a sleep promoting hormone produced by the ovaries. When its level in the body falls, you will experience difficulty in falling asleep. Also, when coupled with estrogen dominance, you will be more sensitive to sleep disturbances and other environmental factors, making it further difficult to fall asleep.
If you are a new mother, then lack of sleep, moodiness and depression must never be ignored. It is very important that you speak to your doctor immediately. Estrogen dominance is a common occurrence post-childbirth.
6. Indigestion and Gas
When estrogen (estradiol) level in the body falls, the cortisol (stress hormone) level in the body rises. One of the side effects is stomach disorders. Cortisol triggers the ‘fight or flight’ reaction and with added stress comes heath problems associated with indigestion and acidity. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is common among people dealing with high stress. Bloating, colitis, gas and abdominal pain are also experienced by women experiencing hormonal imbalance of cortisol.
7. Continued Hunger
Leptin is a hormone produced by the fat cells in our body. It tells the part of our brain that’ associated with satiety whether we are full after a meal. Modern diet rich in a type of sugar, fructose, and lack of exercise lead to excessive fat storage in the body. As a result too much of leptin is produced, leading to leptin resistance where our brain no longer responds to the signals sent out by leptin. This in turn causes overeating and obesity.
Insomnia is found to be a causative factor in reducing leptin level and increasing ghrelin level in the body. The latter stimulates appetite and contributes to weight gain.
All our bodily functions exist in a delicate state of balance. When one is thrown out of gear, the rest too suffer adverse effects. Hormones play a vital part in ensuring that our body functions as a well oiled machine, and therefore it is very important we do our best in maintaining and promoting hormonal balance.
(Photo via Flickr)