Contributed by- Dr. Snehal Singh
Surprised by your mood swings and weight shifts? Feeling changes in yourself? You can blame your hormones. Yes, that’s right. Hormonal imbalance can take you on a roller coaster experience and much more than you can imagine. Let us understand about hormonal imbalance and ways to balance hormones.
What is hormonal imbalance?
Hormones are secretions from your glands, which travel throughout the body and give signals to the organs regarding their functions. All actions and reactions of your organs are regulated by hormones. For example, growth and development, hunger, sleep, metabolism, mood and reproductive functions.
Normally, specific hormones are secreted in the required amounts to maintain their respective functions. However, when the hormone levels in the blood become too low or too high, it is called hormonal imbalance. Hormone changes are common during various life phases, but sometimes, they can go out of control, making you feel whacky. This affects bodily functions, which explains the sudden changes in appetite, mood or other problems. Knowing the hormone imbalance symptoms is important to seek timely medical help.
Hormonal imbalance can affect both men and women, due to changes in growth hormones, thyroid, adrenaline, steroids and insulin. Additionally, female hormones like oestrogen and progesterone are responsible for hormonal imbalances in women. These are often seen around menstrual periods and pregnancy. Many women commonly experience hormonal fluctuations during perimenopause, which is a premenopause period.
Hormonal imbalances in men are often a result of fluctuations in male hormones and are usually seen during puberty and aging.
What are the causes of hormonal imbalance?
Normally, hormones are secreted, stored and released, as required by the endocrine glands. While some hormonal fluctuations are a part of normal growth and development, excessive and prolonged changes may cause a problem. Certain medical disorders, dietary, lifestyle and environmental factors can influence the functioning of the glands.
Some of the conditions that can cause hormonal imbalance include
- Diabetes, thyroid problems or other metabolic disorders
- Overproduction or underproduction of the particular hormone
- Certain congenital problems like adrenal hyperplasia, Turner syndrome
- Cysts, polyps and growths in the concerned gland
- Tumors or cancers of the related gland
- Use of oral contraceptive pills, hormone replacement or steroids
- Injury or surgical removal of a particular hormone-producing gland
- Certain treatments like chemotherapy, radiation therapy
It is also believed that excessive and prolonged stress, faulty dietary habits, sedentary lifestyle, being overweight, consumption of certain plant oestrogens, exposure to harmful chemicals, pollutants or toxins can result in hormonal imbalances.
What are the symptoms of hormonal imbalance?
Hormonal imbalances can sometimes present with weird symptoms, making you feel different than usual. Some common signs that may point to hormonal problems include changes in appetite, food cravings, changes in sleep patterns, difficulty in concentration and memory problems.
Hormonal imbalances in women are reflected by symptoms like weight shifts, changes in periods, acne before periods, excessive hair growth on face and neck, breast tenderness and fertility problems. Some may also experience fatigue, headache, indigestion, constipation or diarrhea and hoarseness of voice. Other hormonal problems in women and premenopausal symptoms often include dryness and hot flashes, loss of sex drive, sleep problems, thinning of hair, weak or brittle bones, back pain, irritability, anxiety and mood swings.
Hormonal imbalances in men too show typical symptoms like loss of libido, loss of muscle mass, weak bones, lesser body hair, erectile dysfunction and low sperm count. Some may experience the development of breast, hair loss, sleep disturbances and digestive troubles.
What are the Tests and Treatment?
Hormonal imbalances can occur due to various reasons ranging from physiological phases to medical conditions. If any of these complaints are noted, seeking medical advice can help in managing the condition better. As the treatment depends on the underlying cause, proper diagnosis is necessary.
Important tests help to confirm the diagnosis. Some of these include checking:
- Blood glucose levels
- Thyroid levels
- Vitamin D3
- Oestrogen and progesterone levels
- FSH is often done for premenopausal women
- Specific hormones that may be involved based on the symptoms.
Other tests may include scans of a particular gland, which is suspected to be involved.
Treatment of hormonal imbalance includes treating the underlying cause. The possible treatment options include prescription medicines, nutritional supplements and hormone replacement. For some cases, like cysts and tumors, surgical treatment may be considered.
How to balance hormones?
It is noted that these areas affect the stress hormone – cortisol, which in turn affects several hormonal functions. A faulty diet and lifestyle disturb the blood sugar controller hormone – insulin, which then triggers a set of hormonal problems. Hormones work in sync with each other. So, when one hormone is affected, others too gradually begin to show up. But if you are able to manage one hormone, it can help balance the others too.
Hence, to balance hormones you need to:
- Plan a healthy, balanced diet – Have complex carbs, fresh veggies and fruits, protein-rich food and drink plenty of water. Stay away from alcohol and caffeinated drinks, as they not only affect your blood sugar levels but can worsen hormonal imbalance.
- Exercise regularly – Regular physical exercises, sports, yoga or simple walk can be a great idea.
- Manage stress – Involve in hobbies and activities that help you relax. Understand your strengths and limitations before you plan your goals, to avoid stress.
- Sleep well – Adequate sleep at night is all your body and mind needs to recover from the daily stress, thus helping to maintain hormonal balance.
Hormonal imbalance is a common problem and the basis of many other health problems. Detecting hormonal imbalance with appropriate hormone tests and getting the condition diagnosed is essential to plan timely treatment. Natural ways to balance hormones are effective; many of them can also be practiced in addition to medical treatment.