Have you often felt bloated, irritable, or just like “something is not right”? You wonder whether you ate something wrong, if you might be coming down with something, and then, just like that, it dawns on you. A hormonal imbalance could be to blame.
Hormones are the chemical messengers in your body, produced by endocrine glands (glands secreting hormones directly into your blood). They help control major bodily processes, including metabolism and reproduction.
A hormonal imbalance means that you have too much or too little of a hormone. Even slight changes in the levels of hormones can have serious effects on your body.
The imbalance of hormones leads to different problems in different people. Although hormonal imbalance affects both men and women, some causes and symptoms are specific to women.
Common causes of hormonal imbalance in women include hormonal drugs such as birth control pills, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), primary ovarian insufficiency (when the ovaries stop functioning normally before age 40), menopause, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and ovarian cancer.
Let’s have a look at a few signs and symptoms of hormonal imbalance in women.
Symptoms of Hormonal Imbalance in Women
1. Unexplained Weight Gain: A sudden and unexplained increase in weight, even after maintaining a balanced diet and physically active lifestyle can be due to hormonal imbalance.
An underactive thyroid gland (which produces hormones that regulate metabolism), PCOS, menopause, and high levels of cortisol (the primary stress hormone) make it difficult to lose weight.
2. Acne: Hormonal imbalance can lead to hormonal acne, which is usually seen as painful and large pus-filled pimples along the chin and jawline area.
Persistent adult acne can be a sign of low levels of estrogen and progesterone (female hormones responsible for sexual and reproductive health) and high levels of androgen (male) hormones. Acne can also indicate PCOS and resistance to insulin hormones.
3. Abnormal Menstrual Cycle: PCOS, a condition in which your body makes higher levels of male hormones, can lead to a hormonal imbalance and abnormalities in the menstrual cycle, such as heavier than normal periods, painful periods, and missed periods.
Changes in the menstrual cycle are usually related to altered levels of female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone.
4. Emotional/Behavioral Changes: Hormonal imbalance can lead to sudden mood swings, prolonged anxiety, or depression. Estrogen affects neurotransmitters (chemical messengers that carry signals between nerve cells) including serotonin and dopamine (these regulate mood and emotions).
Thus, fluctuations in estrogen levels can cause premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or mood changes during the menstrual cycle or menopause. Thyroid hormone imbalances may also lead to mood changes.
5. Low Libido: A drop in estrogen levels can cause a low sex drive. Hormonal imbalance can also cause vaginal dryness, which may further contribute to uncomfortable sex.
Women’s bodies also make the male sex hormone testosterone. If your testosterone levels are lower than usual, it can adversely impact your interest in sex.
Lifestyle changes such as eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy body weight may help prevent hormonal imbalance and reduce its symptoms.
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