Hormones are chemical messengers produced by endocrine glands that carry out bodily functions such as reproduction, metabolism, and sleep. Depending on which gland is affected, hormonal imbalances in women may be responsible for weight change, mood swings, and infertility.
Up to 80% of women experience a hormone imbalance at some point.
You can test for hormone imbalances with targeted blood tests, medical history, and a physical examination. Treatment should include lifestyle changes, dietary changes, and safe medications.
The good news is that you can bring your hormones back into balance.
The board-certified providers at PrimeHealth have worked with hundreds of patients to naturally balance hormones. We’ll tailor an individual treatment plan that is both undisruptive to your body’s natural processes and unique to your needs.
Set up a free 15-minute consultation to learn if our providers can help you, too.
Symptoms of a Hormonal Imbalance
If an endocrine gland is over or underproducing certain hormones, the body stops functioning correctly, leading to several health issues. The primary glands responsible for hormonal imbalances in women are the thyroid and ovaries.
Below is a list of the most common symptoms of hormone imbalance in women.
An imbalance in the levels of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone may lead to hormone-related conditions that cause irregular periods and worsened PMS symptoms.
The leading hormone-related condition causing infertility is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). PCOS indicates the presence of many small cysts on the ovaries. This creates an imbalance in the ratio of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) to luteal hormone (LH), which disrupts ovulation.
Fluctuating estrogen levels can cause sudden changes in mood,including:
- Extreme happiness
Lower estrogen or thyroid levels can cause thin, brittle hair and even hair loss.
Excess Body Hair
Excess body hair, known as “hirsutism,” is most commonly caused by Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).
Fluctuations of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone make your skin produce more oil. That oil interacts with bacteria in your skin microbiome, leading to acne.
A wide range of hormonal imbalances may cause unexpected weight gain, including thyroid deficiencies and declining estrogen.
Changes in Appetite
Changes in sex hormone levels can impact when you crave, what you crave, and how long you crave a particular food. Estrogen decreases appetite, while testosterone or progesterone may increase cravings.
Atypical hormone production in the pituitary gland, the adrenal gland, and the hypothalamus may result in chronic fatigue symptoms.
An imbalance of sexual hormones can lead to decreased sexual interest at any age. However, low libido is most common for women experiencing perimenopause and menopause.
Constipation or Diarrhea
Bulge in the Neck
A bulge in your neck may be a goiter, which happens when an underactive thyroid gland is overstimulated by the pituitary gland trying to compensate for low thyroid hormone production.
- Numbness or tingling in hands
- Difficulty regulating body temperature
- Difficulty sleeping
- Irregular heartbeat
- Vaginal dryness
- Above normal blood-cholesterol levels
- Sore breasts
- Sore muscles
- Swollen or stiff joints
- Difficulty concentrating
- Lack of motivation
- Skin tags
- Skin rashes
- Hot flashes
- Weak bones
- Extreme thirst
- Frequent urination
Concerned about hormonal imbalance? The experts at PrimeHealth clinic in Denver, Colorado, are eager to help! Dr. Soyona Rafatjah leads a team of trained providers who have helped hundreds of women overcome hormone dysfunction. Schedule a free consultation today!
Common causes of imbalanced hormone levels include:
- Unhealthy diet
- Toxin exposure
- Hormone therapy
- Eating disorders
- Certain medications, such as birth control pills, steroids, or opioids
The following hormone-related conditions also create hormone imbalances:
- Hyperthyroidism (Graves’ disease)
- Hypothyroidism (Hashimoto’s disease)
- Addison’s disease
- Cushing syndrome
- Congenital adrenal hyperplasia
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Pregnancy and the Postpartum period
- Primary ovarian insufficiency (premature menopause)
No single test can diagnose a hormonal imbalance alone. A combination of the proper tests and a thorough report of your symptoms can help your healthcare provider diagnose and treat your hormonal imbalance.
Physical Exam and History
Your healthcare provider may start with a physical exam (such as a Pap smear) and a symptom questionnaire/medical history. During this exam, provide your doctor with a list of all the medicines, vitamins, and supplements you currently take.
Expect your healthcare provider to ask questions during your initial visit, such as:
- How long ago did you notice any symptoms?
- Does anything help your symptoms go away?
- Did you gain or lose weight lately, but didn’t know why?
- Were you exposed to any potential toxins at work?
- When was your last period?
- Do you experience vaginal discomfort during sex?
Saliva and blood tests are a common way to test if you have high or low levels of certain hormones. These tests detect hormones like testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, cortisol, DHEA-S, and thyroid levels. Blood test levels for hormones look different depending on your gender.
At PrimeHealth, we may also order urine hormone tests to look at how your body is metabolizing hormones.
Imaging tests such as ultrasounds, x-rays, or MRIs allow your doctor to look for abnormalities in your uterus, ovaries, thyroid, pituitary gland, or hypothalamus.
At-home hormone tests are less reliable than targeted testing administered by your doctor. However, these at-home test kits may be all you can afford, or perhaps you want to see if there is anything to be worried about before making an appointment with your provider.
At-home tests can help diagnose many causes of hormonal imbalance. Home testing kits can test for menopause, pregnancy, thyroid dysfunction, and more.
These test kits require sending your blood, saliva, or urine sample to a lab. Your results are typically available online in 5-10 days.
Treatment options for hormonal changes depend on the hormone that’s out of balance, the symptoms, and the underlying cause.
Treatment plans may include:
- Compounded bioidentical hormone supplements: This terminology refers to using a hormone medication that is exactly identical to the hormones made in the human body. Proponents of these plant or synthetically-derived bioidentical hormones say these customizable supplements increase the chance of your body accepting and benefiting from hormone supplementation. Using these compounded hormone medications or supplements is called bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (HRT/bHRT).
- Estrogen medication: If you’re experiencing menopause symptoms, your healthcare provider may recommend low-dose estrogen as hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to reduce severe menopause symptoms, like hot flashes or trouble sleeping. We typically prescribe bioidentical HRT (bHRT), as this therapy offers the lowest risk of side effects.
- Vaginal estrogen: This localized estrogen reduces the side effects of systemic estrogen medication while addressing vaginal dryness or pain during sex. Vaginal estrogen may appear as a cream, tablet, or ring.
- Hormonal birth control: Birth control, in its many forms (pill, patch, shot, IUD), helps to prevent pregnancy by preventing ovulation and can regulate your menstrual cycle. Hormonal birth control treatments may improve acne and reduce excess hair on your face and body. However, these treatments may have significant, long-term side effects. Be careful of birth control’s side effects — talk to your doctor before starting or stopping birth control.
- Thyroid hormone therapy: If you experience hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), levothyroxine can help balance your hormones by replacing thyroxine. Levothyroxine contains only T4. At PrimeHeath, we will prescribe desiccated thyroid gland and compounded T4/T3 in certain cases. These contains both levothyroxine (T4) and liothyronine (T3) to mimic how your body naturally produces these thyroid hormones together.
- Metformin: Although metformin is FDA-approved to balance blood sugar levels for type 2 diabetes, it may encourage ovulation in people with PCOS. Metformin can cause diarrhea or other adverse effects for many women, so we try to recommend alternative solutions, such as inositol and lifestyle changes, to patients before going this route.
- Addyi (flibanserin) and Vyleesi (bremelanotide): These medications are the only FDA-approved medications for treating low sexual desire in premenopausal people. Addyi is a pill, but Vyleesi is a self-administered injection. Both come with potentially major side effects.
- Vaniqa (eflornithine): This prescription topical cream slows excess hair growth on women’s faces.
- Anti-androgen medications: Anti-androgen meds, like spironolactone, block the predominantly male sex hormones called androgens, the most notable of which is testosterone. High androgen levels may lead to hair loss, facial hair growth, and acne in women.
- Testosterone therapy: Available in many forms (injections, patches, gel), testosterone replacement therapy reduces the symptoms of low testosterone levels, such as delayed puberty and lower muscle mass in men or low energy and libido in women.
Hormonal medication often comes with terrible side effects — the medicine is sometimes worse than the disease! That’s why natural remedies are a popular alternative solution. However, the right natural remedy still depends on the underlying cause of your imbalance.
Below are some natural remedies, lifestyle changes, and at-home treatments to discuss with your healthcare provider:
- Non-hormone supplements: Supplements like chasteberry, DIM (3,3′-diindolylmethane), or B vitamins can help regulate hormones.
- Weight loss: For women, reducing body weight may regulate menstruation and increase fertility. For men, weight loss may improve erectile and sexual function. Regular exercise helps with weight loss and improves mental health.
- Yoga & meditation: Some have found that yoga and meditation ease hormonal imbalance symptoms. Yoga improves strength, flexibility, mood, and even the spirit.
- Acupuncture: This ancient practice can help with all sorts of medical conditions, including PCOS. A 2022 study said, “Clinical evidence has shown that acupuncture is effective for regulating hormone levels [and] promoting ovulation…in patients with PCOS.”
- Healthy diet: A balanced diet is important for your whole body’s health, including your hormonal health. Inflammatory foods (such as processed meats or fried foods) are a common culprit in various medical conditions, including obesity and hormone imbalance.
What are the endocrine systems, and what do they control?
There are 8 major endocrine systems, each releasing hormones responsible for various bodily functions.
- Thyroid: A butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of the neck that regulates the body’s metabolic rate; it impacts heart, brain, and digestive functions, as well as muscle & bone maintenance.
- Ovaries: Women have two ovaries located in their lower abdomen; they release sex hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.
- Hypothalamus: A gland located in the brain that tells other endocrine systems when to produce hormones; it helps regulate sleep cycles, body temperature, and appetite.
- Pituitary: A pea-sized gland located at the base of the brain that controls the functions of other endocrine systems; it impacts growth, reproduction, and much more.
- Parathyroids: Made of 4 glands no larger than grains of rice, located next to the thyroid, they maintain proper calcium levels in your blood and bones.
- Adrenals: Made of 2 glands, one on each kidney, they produce hormones that regulate stress response, heart rate, and blood pressure.
- Pineal: Located in the brain, it produces various chemicals like the hormone melatonin that regulates sleep cycles.
- Testes: In men, the testes release testosterone that affects sperm production, muscle strength, and sex drive.
Can I get pregnant if I have a hormone imbalance?
Yes, you can get pregnant when you have a hormone imbalance, but it may prove more challenging. If your sex hormones are imbalanced, pregnancy is unlikely, but if it’s something else like your thyroid hormones, pregnancy is not impossible.
Does getting pregnant cause an imbalance in my hormones?
Yes, getting pregnant will cause a change in your hormones. This considerable change can result in a hormone imbalance, which may lead to symptoms such as mood swings, headaches, and depression.
What does hormonal weight gain look like?
In premenopausal women, hormonal weight gain usually looks like extra weight in the hips and thighs. Men and postmenopausal women typically experience hormonal weight gain around the abdomen.
What are the symptoms of hormone imbalance in males?
The symptoms of hormone imbalance in males include:
- Erectile dysfunction
- Reduced sex drive
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Trouble sleeping
- Depression and/or anxiety
- Difficulty concentrating
- Lack of motivation
- Chronic fatigue
- Muscle weakness
- Decreased muscle tone
- Dry, coarse skin
- Facial swelling
- Development of breast tissue
- Stiff joints
- Sensitivity to cold or heat
- Thin, brittle hair, baldness
- Unexplained weight changes
When to See a Healthcare Provider
A hormone imbalance can wreak havoc on your quality of life. Symptoms of hormonal imbalance may include weight changes, depression, and infertility.
It’s important to seek medical advice as soon as possible. Early signs of hormone imbalance include changes in energy levels, night sweats, mood swings, irregular periods, and excess facial hair.
Don’t wait. Schedule your free phone consultation with a PrimeHealth specialist today! Our team of women’s health experts work with you to formulate an individualized plan that addresses your unique health situation. It’s time to take control of your hormonal health.
- Thompson, J. J., Ritenbaugh, C., & Nichter, M. (2017). Why women choose compounded bioidentical hormone therapy: lessons from a qualitative study of menopausal decision-making. BMC women’s health, 17, 1-18.
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