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Warning Signs of Hormone Imbalance

Updated on September 16, 2021
Written by
Joel
2 sources cited
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Hormones play an important role in the body’s functions. A hormonal imbalance throws the body into disarray and affects overall health and well-being. Understanding the function of hormones and knowing what it looks like when hormones are out of balance helps you restore and maintain good health.

What is the Endocrine System?

The endocrine system is present in all mammals, including human beings. The system includes:

  • Glands
  • Hormones manufactured and released by these glands
  • Receptors in organs and tissues that respond to these hormones
Warning Signs of Hormone Imbalance 1

The endocrine system regulates all biological processes in the body from birth to death. This includes the brain and nervous system development, reproductive system function, metabolism, and blood sugar levels.

The glands involved in the endocrine system include:

  • Hypothalamus: drives the endocrine system and links it to the nervous system
  • Pituitary gland: receives signals from the hypothalamus, and produces and secretes various hormones
  • Thyroid gland: plays a role in the development and maturation of vertebrates and metabolism regulation
  • Adrenal glands: includes the cortex and medulla, both responsible for producing stress hormones and regulating blood pressure, glucose, and salt and water balance
  • Pancreas: responsible for producing insulin and glucagon
  • Gonads: includes the testes and ovaries, which are responsible for producing steroids that affect reproductive development and function

What are Hormones?

 Hormones are chemical messengers released into the bloodstream by glands. They travel to various organs and inform the development and function of these organs. More than 50 hormones play a role in the human body’s functions.

Examples of processes affected or controlled by hormones include:

  • Insulin production
  • Reproductive organ growth and function
  • Body growth
  • Energy production

Many of the body’s hormones work like a lock and key. They bind to receptors produced within cells, which carry the instructions provided by the hormones to the appropriate organ, tissue, or cell. It then works by altering the cell’s proteins or turning on genes that work to build a new protein. Hormones switch on and off specific biological processes in the body’s tissues, cells, and organs. 

The Relationship between Hormones and Health

Hormones play a vital role in your health. Hormones regulate:

  • Metabolism
  • Sleep cycles
  • Heart rate
  • Reproductive function
  • Mental health
  • Body temperature
  • Growth and development

Hormones are everywhere throughout your body. A variety of symptoms arises when one or more hormones is out of balance.

Imbalances in the Levels of Certain Hormones Can Cause Health Problems

Because hormones play such a significant role in the body’s functions, an imbalance affects health. Too much or too little of a hormone in the bloodstream causes symptoms throughout the body.

Some of the most common symptoms associated with hormone imbalance include:

  • Unexplained weight gain or weight loss
  • Excessive sweating
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Dry skin
  • Rashes
  • Changes in response to heat and cold
  • Blood pressure changes
  • Heart rate changes
  • Blood sugar/insulin moderation problems
  • Brittle or weakened bones
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Increased thirst
  • Appetite changes
  • Frequent or infrequent urination and/or defecation
  • Bloating
  • Thinning hair
  • Reduce sex drive
  • Puffiness
  • Infertility
  • Neck bulge
  • Blurred vision
  • Deepening of the female voice
  • Breast tenderness 

Hormones and Your Menstrual Cycle

One of the most important roles hormones play in the female body is controlling the menstrual cycle. It plays a role in both phases of the menstrual cycle, including: 

Follicular Phase

During the follicular phase, the hypothalamus produces gonadotropin-releasing hormone, which triggers the pituitary gland to release follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). FSH travels through the bloodstream to the ovaries where it triggers the growth of a follicle sac that is where the egg develops.

Follicles also produce estrogen as they develop and mature. It takes about 10 to 13 days for estrogen levels to reach their peak. The high level of estrogen alerts the brain and pituitary gland to the maturity of the egg, which results in the release of luteinizing hormone (LH). This surge of LH alerts the follicle to allow the mature egg to break free and travel into the fallopian tube. This is known as ovulation and is the phase in which pregnancy occurs.

Luteal Phase

Once the egg is released, the remaining follicle, now known as the corpus luteum, begins to release the hormone progesterone. Progesterone helps thicken and prepare the uterus for the implantation of a fertilized egg. This continues throughout the entire luteal phase, which is about 12 to 16 days. If fertilization of the egg does not occur, the corpus luteum shrinks and stops making progesterone. The uterine lining then sheds in response to no supporting hormones, which is known as menstruation or a period.

This is the completion of the cycle. The drop in estrogen and progesterone signals the hypothalamus to begin the cycle again.

Stress and Hormone Imbalances

Stress causes hormonal imbalance. Short-term stress that occurs in response to emergencies causes hormones to flood into the system, which helps you respond to your circumstances.

But when stress is chronic, hormone levels remain elevated and are chronically imbalanced. Stress also exacerbates existing health endocrine disorders related to hormonal imbalances, such as obesity and Graves’ disease.

Hormones most closely linked to stress include:

  • Cortisol
  • Insulin
  • Prolactin
  • Thyroid hormones
  • Growth hormone
  • Gonadotropins
  • Catecholamines
  • Vasopressin

Symptoms of Hormone Imbalance 

A hormonal imbalance affects your entire body. It can trigger a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Accumulation of belly fat
  • Unexplained weight gain or loss
  • Sweating
  • Memory fog
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Digestive issues
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Hot flashes
  • Breast tenderness
  • Low sex drive
  • Acne 

Menstrual Cycle Symptoms of Hormone Imbalance

Depending on the hormones out of balance in your body, it could specifically affect your menstrual cycle. 

Symptoms of hormonal imbalance that affect female reproduction include:

  • Irregular periods
  • Light or heavy periods
  • Hair loss
  • Acne
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Painful intercourse
  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats
  • Weight gain
  • Facial hair
  • Skin tags
  • Mood swings

Irregular periods are the most common symptom of hormonal imbalance when it comes to sex hormones. Irregular is defined as periods that occur less than 24 days apart or more than 38 days apart. It’s also irregular if you experience cycle changes of more than 20 days each month.

Keep in mind, irregular periods are normal when an adolescent first begins menstruating and as a woman ages and transitions to perimenopause. This is the phase leading up to menopause and usually begins around age 45.

There are many causes of hormonal imbalance that affect the menstrual cycle. One of the most common is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which occurs when benign cysts develop on the ovaries.

Warning Signs of Hormone Imbalance 2

EverlyWell - Women's Health Test

EverlyWell’s Test for Women's Health will tell you if your hormone levels are abnormal. It will then give you some steps you can take to get them back into balance.

In addition to aging and other issues, polycystic ovary syndrome causes many of the symptoms listed above including irregular periods, facial hair growth, acne, and irregularity. It’s very common and one of the most common causes of hormonal imbalances. In may cases, birth control is used as treatment for PCOS because it affects estrogen and progesterone levels and eliminates symptoms of hormonal imbalance.

Resources

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US EPA,OCSPP. “What Is the Endocrine System? | US EPA.” US EPA, 6 Feb. 2019, www.epa.gov/endocrine-disruption/what-endocrine-system.

Ranabir, Salam, and K Reetu. “Stress and Hormones.” Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, vol. 15, no. 1, 2011, p. 18, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3079864/, 10.4103/2230-8210.77573.

Joel
Content Contributor
Joel is a writer with a passion for the science of DNA and the power of its manipulation.
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