4 Signs You're Experiencing a Hormonal Imbalance, According to Doctors


Hormone health is one of those aspects of well-being that not many people pay close attention to, but which can significantly impact overall health.

Hormones are chemical messengers that send signals throughout your body. They play critical roles in several vital bodily functions, including blood sugar control, blood pressure, growth and development, fertility, metabolism, mood, sleep, and sex drive. Having too many or not enough of a specific hormone can cause hormonal imbalances and lead to common endocrine (hormone-related) disorders, such as diabetes, hyperthyroidism, PCOS, and low testosterone.

The causes of hormonal imbalances vary, ranging from certain periods of your life—such as puberty, pregnancy, and menopause—to lifestyle factors like stress, medications, and steroid use. However, recognizing common signs of hormonal imbalances can help you know when to pause and course correct your lifestyle, and when to visit your doctor. Read on to discover four conditions a doctor says are surefire signs of a hormonal imbalance.

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Severe PMS
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If you regularly endure premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms, you're not alone. Roughly 75 percent of women experience PMS symptoms at some point. While most women have mild symptoms, such as bloating, breast tenderness, irritability, mood swings, headaches, less than five percent of women of childbearing age develop premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)—a severe form of PMS that causes various physical and emotional symptoms every month during the week(s) leading up to your period.

Hormonal imbalance is often the culprit behind severe PMS. Amy Killen, MD, a regenerative medicine physician and medical advisor at Joi Women's Wellness, tells Best Life, "Some women with high estrogen (compared to progesterone) will experience severe premenstrual syndrome symptoms such as irritability and anxiety. In addition, women with higher estrogen levels will often experience more painful, heavy periods. Adding progesterone therapy can make a huge difference in the quality of life in women with high estrogen symptoms."

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Fatigue and lack of motivation
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While it's not unusual to have lulls in your day, consistently having low energy or lacking a zest for life are common signs that your hormones are out of balance. For example, an over or underactive thyroid may be the culprit behind your tiredness and lack of drive. Your thyroid is responsible for releasing and controlling thyroid hormones that control your metabolism, which affects how your body produces and uses energy. If your thyroid isn't functioning properly, it can cause fatigue and kill your motivation.

"Multiple hormonal problems can manifest as fatigue and lack of motivation, so it's important to get a thorough assessment before beginning a treatment protocol," advises Killen. "Low thyroid can cause these symptoms, but so can low testosterone. Once the problem is identified, a treatment program can be implemented, consisting of lifestyle changes and possibly hormone replacement."

Low libido

A tell-tale sign that your hormones are out of whack is low libido.

Common symptoms of sexual dysfunction related to sex hormone imbalance include infertility, reproduction issues, erectile dysfunction, and pain during intercourse. One hormone that plays a critical role in sex drive is testosterone.

"Low testosterone can show up as low libido in both men and women," says Killen. "If low testosterone is the cause, it's always best to try to improve symptoms by working on simple lifestyle changes first. For example, testosterone can be boosted by improving sleep, reducing stress, lifting heavy weights, and reducing belly fat."

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Weight gain
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If you're gaining weight for no apparent reason, various hormonal imbalances could be why. "Low thyroid, low testosterone, and low estrogen can display as increased belly fat," Killen explains. "These three hormones interact with insulin and can affect how fat is stored. If the hormones are at normal levels and are working properly, fat is more likely to be stored in muscle (assuming you're working out and eating healthy). But even small changes to the levels of these hormones can change the body's chemistry, making it more difficult to gain muscle and lose fat."