If you are noticing sudden changes in your weight, energy levels, skin, mood, or irregular menstrual cycles, your body is signaling to you there is an imbalance. Your body communicates internally through the use of hormones, which are chemical messengers that impact how our cells and organs function. They control a number of bodily functions, including our appetite, sleep, libido, and stress response.
Imbalances occur when there is too much or too little of a hormone in the bloodstream – essentially cutting communication with the organs they deliver messages to or sending far too many messages and mixing up signals. In some cases, even slight imbalances can cause significant changes in the body. So, if you feel something is “off” with your health, know this is not just a normal symptom you need to live with – it may be a hormone imbalance!
The good news is once pinpointed, hormone imbalances can be brought back to normal, healthy levels so you can get back to living your healthiest and best life.
Symptoms of hormone imbalances
It can be difficult to tell whether symptoms are caused by hormonal imbalance or another underlying issue. For instance, fatigue could be caused by lifestyle factors, or it could be due to an excess of the hormone progesterone. That’s why hormone testing is crucial when determining the root cause of your symptoms.
Here are some symptoms of hormonal imbalance to watch out for:
- Hot flashes or night sweats
- Urinary leaking, frequency, or urgency
- Depression or anxiety
- Irritability or mood swings
- Memory issues
- Hair loss
- Tender breasts
- Low sex drive
- Dry skin
- Pain during sex
- Weight gain despite exercise and healthy diet
- Sudden weight loss despite eating the same diet and maintaining the same level of exercise
- Digestive issues
- Sleep problems, such as trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
- Chronic acne, dry and brittle hair, and other skin conditions
- Brain fog and difficulty concentrating
- Headaches and migraines
- In women, irregular menstrual cycles and PMS
It’s important to discuss your symptoms in depth with a hormone specialist so they can help. They may recommend hormone testing to discern whether or not you have an imbalance.
Common hormone tests
A variety of methods can be used to test hormone levels to get to the root cause of your symptoms. The test you receive will be based on your diagnostic needs.
Common hormone tests functional practitioners perform include:
- Saliva test – This simple test shows which hormones are freely available to the body, rather than the total amount of hormones in the bloodstream. It is particularly useful in detecting the hormone cortisol, which is linked to stress. This is because just thinking about blood tests and needles can raise people’s cortisol levels, providing an inaccurate picture of the hormones’ typical role in the body.
- Blood spot test – Blood spot is ideal for measuring hormones such as insulin, estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and Vitamin D. It offers distinct advantages over serum because it eliminates the need for a blood draw – saving patients time and money.
- Blood serum test – This test allows your practitioner to look at the concentration of hormones in the bloodstream. Blood serum tests can measure important hormones, such as insulin and hormones connected to the thyroid.
Hormone testing may be worth looking into if you feel concerned about imbalances. Some hormonal imbalances can be temporary, while others are chronic (long-term). They may require treatment so you can maintain good health and feel your best.
Conditions can be diagnosed by hormone testing
Hormone testing can address dozens of conditions caused by hormonal imbalance. Some of the most common include:
- Infertility – Hormonal imbalance is the number one reason women have difficulty conceiving. The most common hormonal disorder in women is polycystic ovarian system (PCOS), which can lead to infertility, irregular periods, ovarian cysts, and weight gain.
- Thyroid disease – There are two types of thyroid disease: hypothyroidism (low thyroid levels) and hyperthyroidism (high thyroid levels). Hypothyroidism (or underactive thyroid) occurs when the thyroid gland doesn’t make enough thyroid hormone. Over time, hypothyroidism that isn’t treated can lead to other health problems, such as high cholesterol and heart problems. Hyperthyroidism causes excess levels of thyroid hormones that can then speed up the body’s metabolism, trigger anxiety, and cause unexplained or unplanned weight loss.
- Irregular menstrual cycles – Many hormones play a role in the menstrual cycle, so an imbalance in any can lead to problematic periods. Most women’s periods arrive every 21-35 days, but if your periods are arriving late or not at all some months, it may be a sign of an imbalance of the hormones estrogen or progesterone. Painful and heavy periods can also be a sign of hormonal imbalance.
- Acne – Hormones are involved in the amount of oil that your skin produces. Androgens or “male” hormones are responsible for this, and in excess they can cause your glands to produce too much oil, thus clogging the pores.
Should you get your hormones tested?
Since your hormones control so much, including sleep, hunger, and reproduction, it’s crucial to your health to keep them balanced. Your hormone production will naturally decrease as you age; however, an imbalance in hormones can amplify symptoms of brain fog, fatigue, and joint pain. When taking the initiative to get hormone testing, you can ensure your control center is in balance!
If you feel you may be suffering from a hormonal imbalance, dealing with a condition such as PCOS, or are approaching the age of menopause, getting your hormone levels tested can be an important first step in developing a holistic treatment plan.
From there, you can work with your hormone practitioner to create a treatment plan to restore your body’s balance and get your health back on track.
Randi Mann, WHNP-BC, NCMP, APNP, is a woman’s hormone specialist and the owner of Wise Woman Wellness LLC, an innovative wellness and hormone center at 1480 Swan Road, De Pere. Mann is the author of the eBook: A Guide to Gluten and Going Gluten Free. She is a board- certified Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner and NAMS Certified Menopause Practitioner, one of a handful in Wisconsin and less than 1600 worldwide to achieve this distinction. She combines the best of conventional, functional, and integrative medicine to help women with female, thyroid, and adrenal hormone issues to live healthier, more abundant, joy-filled lives using a blend of compassion, cutting edge science, practical guidance, and humor. Contact her at 920-339-5252 or via the Internet at www.wisewomanwellness.com. Join the introductory virtual seminar, “End Hormone Havoc – Crazy Hormones Cause Fatigue, Weight Gain and Brain Fog and How to Fix Them!”, offered bi-monthly, to learn about specialized thyroid, adrenal, and female hormone testing and customized, bioidentical hormone treatments to achieve lifelong optimal hormone balance, increased vitality, and longevity.
Sources: Dennett CC, Simon J. The role of polycystic ovary syndrome in reproductive and metabolic health: overview and approaches for treatment. Diabetes Spectr. 2015 May;28(2):116-20. doi: 10.2337/diaspect.28.2.116. PMID: 25987810; PMCID: PMC4433074.
Bae J, Park S, Kwon JW. Factors associated with menstrual cycle irregularity and menopause. BMC Womens Health. 2018 Feb 6;18(1):36. doi: 10.1186/s12905-018-0528-x. PMID: 29409520; PMCID: PMC5801702.