Hormones are chemical messengers that have an impact on almost all of our daily activities. Most people attribute acne breakouts and mood swings to hormones that are out of control. However, hormonal imbalances are a lot more than just tantrums thrown by a teenager or a sensitive mother-to-be. Most women face these 7 common signs of hormonal imbalance at some point in their lives.
1. Weight Gain
While weight gain could be a sign of unhealthy eating habits, persistent weight gain may also be an indication of hormonal imbalance. Such imbalance can be of different types:
- On an average, women gain about 2–4 pounds (1–2 kg), during menopause. However, some women are at a risk of reaching higher numbers.1
- When the sex hormones are out of balance, women can add on the pounds and even face obesity.
- Insulin resistance – a condition in which the body cells stop responding to the hormone insulin – also causes weight gain in women, which is another indication of hormonal imbalance. This issue is evident in postmenopausal women.2
2. Reduced Sex Drive
One of the most common signs of hormonal imbalance is a diminished interest in sexual activities or even a reduced sex drive. A drop in the estrogen levels in the body or premature ovarian failure (a condition in which the ovaries stop functioning before the age of 40) may cause this in women. Sometimes, even a minimal drop in testosterone levels, which women produce naturally, may result in sexual disinterest.3
If you find yourself feeling tired most of the time, it could be due to imbalances of certain hormones.
- A reduced estrogen level can cause headaches.
- Progesterone, another hormone responsible for various bodily functions, may cause fatigue – too little of this hormone can make it hard to sleep while too much of it can cause tiredness.
- An underproduction of thyroid hormones may lead to lower levels of energy, causing you to feel tired and weak. Fuzzy or unclear thinking is another symptom of hormonal imbalance, especially during the midlife. Stress, sleep deprivation, and an unhealthy diet can trigger distorted thoughts that can cause mental tiredness.4
4. Anxiety And Depression
The reach of a hormone imbalance goes as far as your mood, causing anxiety, irritability, depression, and other mood disorders. This is especially likely in puberty, pregnancy, and menopause as these are the periods in life that cause a major variation in hormone levels.5 Estrogen, for instance, is responsible for serotonin production – the chemical responsible for happiness and other positive moods. Many women experience mood swings and negative emotions like anxiety and irritation during their perimenopausal years (the period just before the occurrence of menopause) because of a decline in estrogen levels.6
5. Poor Sleep Cycles
Not getting enough good-quality sleep? Your hormones might be at play. Many women experience insomnia, particularly during menopause, because of the decrease in the production of estrogen and progesterone in the body.7 Also, when you experience stress, the body produces more of the stress hormone cortisol. An overproduction of cortisol over a long period of time can disrupt normal sleep patterns.8 Combined with other hormonal imbalances, you can say goodbye to sleep!
6. Excessive Sweating
Sweating more than usual is, sometimes, a sign of hormonal imbalance. An overproduction of thyroid hormones, which causes an imbalance in metabolism, can cause the body’s internal temperature to increase and cause excessive sweating. During menopause, estrogen levels drop drastically and women experience symptoms like night sweat and hot flashes, which are associated with excessive sweating.9
7. Digestive Issues
The female hormones estrogen and progesterone have an impact on the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Any imbalance in these hormones affects the digestive system. Sometimes, it speeds up the process, resulting in diarrhea, nausea, and abdominal pain. Other times, it can slow down the process and cause bloating and constipation.
Thyroid hormone levels also affect the proper functioning of the digestive system. In hypothyroidism (when thyroid levels are low), digestion slows down and the concentration of stomach acid and digestive enzymes may be reduced. These patterns have been reported during pre-menses, menses, and perimenopause in women.10
If you have experienced one or more of these symptoms, know that a hormonal imbalance is likely the culprit. These hormonal changes can be caused due to the normal aging process or due to some underlying health conditions. So, to be on the safe side, discuss the symptoms with your doctor to know your treatment options.
|↑1||Lovejoy, Jennifer C. “The influence of sex hormones on obesity across the female life span.” Journal of Women’s Health 7, no. 10 (1998): 1247-1256.|
|↑2||Howard, B. V., L. Adams-Campbell, C. Allen, H. Black, M. Passaro, R. J. Rodabough, B. L. Rodriguez, M. Safford, V. J. Stevens, and L. E. Wagenknecht. “Insulin resistance and weight gain in postmenopausal women of diverse ethnic groups.” International journal of obesity 28, no. 8 (2004): 1039-1047.|
|↑3||Female Sexual Dysfunction. Hormone Health Network.|
|↑4||Fuzzy Thinking. Women in Balance Institute.|
|↑5||Steiner, Meir, Edward Dunn, and Leslie Born. “Hormones and mood: from menarche to menopause and beyond.” Journal of affective disorders 74, no. 1 (2003): 67-83.|
|↑6||Hormone Balance. Integrative Psychiatry.|
|↑7||Menopause and Sleep. National Sleep Foundation.|
|↑8||Leproult, Rachel, and Eve Van Cauter. “Role of sleep and sleep loss in hormonal release and metabolism.” In Pediatric Neuroendocrinology, vol. 17, pp. 11-21. Karger Publishers, 2010.|
|↑9||Hot Flashes. Pubmed Health.|
|↑10||Heitkemper, Margaret M., and Lin Chang. “Do fluctuations in ovarian hormones affect gastrointestinal symptoms in women with irritable bowel syndrome?.” Gender medicine 6 (2009): 152-167.|