Hormones play a huge role in regulating the majority of your body’s physical and mental functions. They impact your appetite, sleep patterns, and how you respond to stress, libido, and anxiety, to name a few.
Hormonal imbalances occur when there is too much or too little of a hormone in the bloodstream. Because of the essential role that hormones play in the body, even the smallest hormonal imbalance may result in side effects throughout the body. Luckily, there are simple lifestyle changes you can make that help restore healthy levels of hormones.
Hormones travel throughout your bloodstream and organs to regulate important functions. These functions include growth and development, fertility, metabolism, mood and stress, and body temperature. The hormones that usually become imbalanced first are cortisol and insulin. These hormone imbalances in insulin, steroids, growth hormones, and adrenaline can affect both males and females. However, females may notice imbalances in estrogen and progesterone levels, while males may notice imbalances in testosterone.
Here are some of the first signs of a hormone imbalance to look out for:
Unexpected weight gain is the most common sign of hormonal imbalance. While weight fluctuations are normal in healthy individuals, if you’ve gained a significant amount of weight over a short period, it may be a sign to consult with a professional. Not only can hormone imbalance affect your metabolism, but excess cortisol and low thyroid hormones can also contribute to unexpected weight gain.
Fatigue is another one of the most common symptoms of hormonal imbalance. When your body is producing too little progesterone you can have trouble sleeping, and when your body starts to produce excess progesterone, you may start to feel your energy levels drop and begin to feel extra sleepy throughout your day. Low thyroid hormone levels, also known as hypothyroidism, can contribute to fatigue.
One of the many factors that can affect your sleep patterns is hormones. During perimenopause and menopause, your ovaries gradually produce less estrogen and progesterone. These are sleep-promoting hormones. During perimenopause and menopause, you may also experience night sweats, fatigue, and lack of energy.
Cortisol is the body’s primary stress hormone. When too much or too little cortisol is secreted in the body, you may start to experience unusual muscle weakness. If your body doesn’t make enough of this hormone, you have a condition doctors call Addison’s disease, which can result in muscle weakness that grows worse over time.
If your periods are suddenly irregular, it could be a sign of hormonal imbalance, and you should consider seeing your OB/GYN. Irregular periods can also be a sign of polycystic ovary syndrome. PCOS is a hormonal disorder that commonly develops in early adulthood. People with PCOS and hormonal imbalance may experience prolonged menstruation cycles as well.
Muscle and joint pain and swelling is another common sign of hormonal imbalance. Estrogen protects the body against inflammation, so when these levels decrease due to hormone imbalance which can be caused by perimenopause and menopause, muscle pain, and joint inflammation can occur.
Although it’s important to first consult with a doctor about balancing your hormones and to see what changes are best for you, proper nutrition does play a huge role. A nutritious diet and other healthy lifestyle habits may improve your hormonal health and allow you to feel and perform at your best. If dietary changes do not help address symptoms, you should see your primary care provider to discuss your thyroid, hormones, and cortisol levels.
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