The chemical messengers of your body, hormones, travel to each organ through your bloodstream and regulate vital processes, such as metabolism and reproduction.
The most commonly fluctuating hormones of your body are estrogen, progesterone and testosterone (sex hormones), thyroid (metabolism hormone), adrenaline (energy hormone), cortisol (stress hormone) and melatonin (sleep hormone).
Women experience greater hormonal changes than men. While both boys and girls go through puberty, women experience several additional defining stages throughout their lives – menstruation, pregnancy, postpartum, premenopause and, finally, menopause.
All these greatly change a woman’s body and cause her hormones to fluctuate. Being vital to key processes in the body, hormonal fluctuations significantly affect her overall mental and physical well-being.
Whenever we hear the phrase “hormonal imbalance”, our mind instantly procures an image of a flustered, hyperactive woman. This is a sad state of affairs as it reflects the negativity and insensitivity associated with this condition.
While one should consult a doctor when a hormonal imbalance occurs, the first step toward treatment begins with identifying the issue.
Here are 10 signs that you may have a hormonal imbalance.
1. Weight Gain or Loss
If you are noticing fluctuation in your weight, it can be due to hormonal changes in the body.
The thyroid gland secretes hormones that regulate metabolism and, consequently, weight gain or loss. If chills, fatigue, dry skin and constipation are accompanying symptoms, your thyroid gland might be producing fewer hormones than needed to control your weight.
Furthermore, when your hormones are out of balance, you stress profusely. This causes your body to pump adrenaline to produce energy and cortisol to maintain that energy.
Also Read – How to Balance Hormone Levels Naturally
2. Constant Fatigue and Weakness
Fatigue is a common symptom of a hormonal imbalance, especially in menopausal and postmenopausal women. Cortisol, a hormone produced in the adrenal glands during times of stress, is often a contributor to fatigue.
Cortisol levels directly affect the secretion of serotonin – a hormone that makes us happy. Hence, if you’re experiencing depression and worthlessness while also feeling tired, it is a sure-fire sign of a hormonal imbalance.
Furthermore, fatigue can be due to lack of a thyroid hormone that controls the body’s metabolism.
3. Hot Flashes and Night Sweats
If you suddenly feel heat coming from nowhere and spreading through your body, accompanied by sweating, palpitation and body tingling, you might be experiencing “hot flashes”.
If you also find yourself inexplicably and profusely sweating at night, it might be a case of night sweats.
The hypothalamus is a part of the brain responsible for controlling several body functions, including body temperature.
A hormonal imbalance disrupts your body’s levels of estrogen – the primary female sex hormone – and diminishes its production.
Reduced estrogen levels send confusing signals to the hypothalamus, causing it to suspect body overheating. This causes the hypothalamus to activate its coping mechanism to cool down the body through excessive sweating.
According to a 2012 study published in the Journal of Women’s Health, hot flashes and night sweats affect 75 percent of perimenopausal women and are the most common symptoms of menopausal transition.
4. Insomnia and Sleep Problems
Insomnia is a common symptom of menopause in women. Not one but several hormones are responsible for causing insomnia when they fall out of balance.
The role of progesterone – a female sex hormone – has recently emerged in hormone-related insomnia. A 2005 study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine states that progesterone has a drowsy, sleep-inducing effect on the body. When progesterone levels drop, we feel alert and awake.
In addition, estrogen promotes REM sleep – a deep sleep characterized by random eye movements, relaxed muscles and vivid dreams. It also increases the hours of sleep and reduces the number of post-sleep abrupt awakenings.
Furthermore, estrogen helps regulate the body’s temperature. Therefore, low levels of estrogen cause poor sleep and increase sleep-obstructing night sweats.
Perpetually high cortisol due to hormonal stress also disrupts REM sleep.
5. Hair Loss
While more common among men, hair loss is also a common premenopausal, pregnancy and post-pregnancy symptom in women.
According to the American Hair Loss Association, testosterone (a male hormone present in women in trace quantities) converts to its derivative hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT) by interacting with an enzyme found in hair follicles.
DHT harms and kills hair follicles, leading to hair loss. A hormonal imbalance accelerates the production of testosterone, causing more DHT conversions and greater hair loss.
A 2007 study published in the International Journal of Dermatology notes that when hair follicles were treated with 5 microg/ml concentration of testosterone, they exhibited reduced growth and elongation.
6. Mood Swings and Depression
A 2011 study published in Psychological Medicine notes that the risk of major depression is higher in women during and immediately after menopause than when they are premenopausal.
Serotonin and endorphin are your body’s “happiness-producing” hormones. While endorphins are produced by the pituitary gland, serotonin is secreted by the thyroid gland.
At high levels, these hormones inhibit the perception of pain, while at low levels they inhibit feelings of happiness and positivity.
Mood swings are caused when these hormones go haywire. A hormonal imbalance can cause your glands to go into overdrive one minute, creating bouts of ecstasy.
Similarly, your glands may slow down the next minute, inhibiting production of these happy hormones and leading to feelings of misery.