Eight signs of hormonal imbalance that need checking

27 April 2023 dot 5-minute read
Healthy Body Feature Women's health Live Well Hormonal imbalance
Hormones perform the upkeep of many essential processes in the body, such as appetite, weight, sleep and mood. (Credit: Getty Images)
Hormones play a vital role in maintaining the body to its optimum, from regulating an individual’s mood to their metabolism. In women, life stages like menstruation and menopause highlight the functions of these chemical substances.
As essential as hormones are to life processes, they are exceptionally delicate. Stress, changes in environment, lifestyle and diet can affect their balance. Delayed or missed periods are symptomatic of hormonal imbalances, but other effects include weight loss or gain, anxiety and depression.
Recognising the signs of hormonal imbalances is necessary for optimal health and wellbeing. This way, women can take proactive measures to seek medical attention and receive personalised treatment that addresses their unique needs.

Hormones that affect women’s health

Hormones traverse the bloodstream, allowing various organs to perform their functions accurately. They play a fundamental role in regulating several physiological processes, including metabolism, emotions, cardiovascular condition and bone health.
Below are examples of hormones that significantly impact female health:
  • Oestrogen is responsible for the development and maintenance of female reproductive organs.
  • Progesterone plays a vital role in preparing the uterus for pregnancy and supporting the growth and development of the foetus.
  • Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) stimulates the growth and maturation of ovarian follicles.
  • Luteinising hormone (LH) triggers the release of the egg from the ovary during ovulation. LH is also involved in the production of oestrogen and progesterone.
  • Testosterone in females is produced by the adrenal glands and ovaries in small amounts, influencing sex drive, mood and cognitive function. When combined with oestrogen, testosterone contributes to the growth and maintenance of a woman's muscle and bone mass.
  • Thyroid hormones affect many bodily functions, including weight, heart rate, body temperature, energy levels, skin, hair, and nail growth.
  • Insulin helps transport glucose into cells to fuel for energy and controls glucose (sugar) levels.
  • Cortisol is a steroid hormone the adrenal gland produces in response to stress. It helps regulate blood sugar levels, blood pressure, immune function and metabolism. It also helps control the sleep-wake cycle.
Hormones naturally fluctuate as women go through life stages, making hormonal balance crucial in preventing potential health problems.

Signs of hormonal imbalance

Missed periods, excessive hair growth, weight gain and hormonal acne are possible signs of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). (Credit: Getty Images)
A hormonal imbalance occurs when the body produces too many or too few hormones. Its symptoms can vary, depending on the chemicals involved and to what degree. Here are the most common signs of hormonal imbalance aside from irregular periods.

1. Adult acne flare-ups

An increase in androgens can lead to the overproduction of sebum, a natural oil that can clog pores and cause adult acne. Other hormones, such as oestrogen, progesterone, insulin and cortisol, may also be responsible for flare-ups.

2. Excessive hair loss or growth

Shedding between 50 to 100 hairs a day is considered normal. So are hair fall or thinning during pregnancy or menopause thanks to dropping oestrogen levels. However, excessive hair loss or growth in places like the face or chest may suggest high testosterone levels.

3. Extreme mood changes

Oestrogen and progesterone can affect serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle may cause serotonin deficiency, possibly triggering premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) symptoms.
Johns Hopkins Medicine adds that this severe premenstrual syndrome can come with symptoms like extreme mood changes, lack of control, or agitation. Consult your doctor if these symptoms occur during the week before menstruation and end within a few days after it starts.

4. Hot flushes

Hot flushes are a common menopause symptom due to a decline in oestrogen levels. Thyroid disorders (hyperthyroid) can also cause this effect.

5. Vaginal dryness

Oestrogen helps maintain vaginal health and lubrication. But a low production of this hormone can lead to dryness, which causes irritation, itching and pain during intercourse. Low oestrogen levels can also cause thinning, drying and inflammation of vaginal walls.

6. Insomnia

A Frontiers in Psychiatry meta-analysis examined 13 studies on the gender difference in the prevalence of insomnia. The results showed insomnia was significantly higher in females than males.
The analysis reports females are more likely to experience osteoporosis, fractures, and back problems than males. They also have a higher risk of developing psychiatric issues, such as depression and anxiety. These factors can increase the risk of insomnia in females.
According to a Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews study, higher and lower progesterone levels also seem to worsen sleep quality.

7. Weight gain

Cleveland Clinic says weight gain in the form of fat storage is possible when certain hormones are imbalanced. For instance, having too much cortisol or low levels of thyroid hormones due to hypothyroidism can contribute to obesity.
In a review published in Human Reproduction Update, some studies found that hormonal imbalances, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), may contribute to abdominal obesity. Moreover, Mayo Clinic explains that women who go through menopause experience a decrease in oestrogen levels, which could increase belly fat.

8. Fatigue

Low energy and difficulty concentrating may point to changes in thyroid hormone levels, cortisol levels or other hormones.
Many conditions apart from hormonal imbalance can bring about any of these symptoms. It's important to consult a healthcare provider to determine any underlying causes.

Risks of undiagnosed hormonal imbalance

When imbalance is caused by factors such as ageing, stress, diet and physical activity, a few lifestyle modifications may be enough to normalise your hormones. Other hormonal irregularities, though, can spur serious health consequences if undiagnosed and untreated.
Doctors may check hormonal issues against any of the following conditions.

Make your health a priority

With the proper knowledge and support, women can take control of their hormonal health and feel empowered to live their lives to the fullest. (Credit: Getty Images)
If you are experiencing symptoms of hormonal imbalance, the first step is to schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider, who can develop a treatment plan.
Effective treatment may involve months of follow-up appointments to trace the underlying cause of the imbalance and monitor progress. Medical protection insurance can help cover your financial needs, especially when the doctor prescribes adjustments in medication or lifestyle.
Bookmark this article to start taking control of your hormonal health.
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Journal of Women's Health. 2022. Impact of Stress on Menstrual Cyclicity During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Pandemic: A Survey Study. [online] [Accessed on 3 March 2023]
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Johns Hopkins Medicine. Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) [online] [Accessed on 3 March 2023]
Frontiers in Psychiatry. 2020. Gender Difference in the Prevalence of Insomnia: A Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies. [online] [Accessed on 3 March 2023]
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National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Endocrine Diseases. [online] [Accessed on 3 March 2023]

This is general information only and is not intended as financial, medical, health, nutritional or other advice. You should obtain professional advice from a financial adviser, or medical or health practitioner in relation to your own personal circumstances.

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