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A hormone imbalance can cause wide a range of symptoms in the body and is far more common than you may think. Find out 5 possible causes of a hormone imbalance.
Hormones are chemical messengers in the body that control most major bodily functions, from hunger to reproduction and even the emotions and mood. As hormones influence and control a number of different processes, it is no wonder that if they become unbalanced or start declining as we age, we can suffer the consequences.
A hormone imbalance occurs when you have too much or too little of a certain hormone. Even tiny changes can have serious effects throughout the body. There are a broad range of symptoms associated with a hormonal imbalance. Although symptoms depend on which hormones or glands aren’t working properly, common symptoms may include fatigue, low mood, unexplained weight loss or weight gain, low sex drive and thinning hair.
During times of stress, the body produces cortisol, a steroid hormone that plays a role in most of the body’s functioning including regulating blood sugar levels, metabolism, salt/water balance, blood pressure and inflammation. Although cortisol is important during the body's fight or flight response, continual elevation of cortisol levels can lead to health problems including digestive problems, heart disease, headaches and insomnia.
Insulin is a hormone that is important in regulating metabolism and how the body processes glucose. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body is unable to use insulin properly and can increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Excess insulin can also cause other hormones to become out of balance as well, including testosterone, cortisol, thyroid, and progesterone.
The thyroid gland produces and regulates two hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). Whether it is determining how fast your heart beats or how quickly your intestines process your food, the thyroid hormones control the speed at which your body's cells work. As all cells in the body are targets for thyroid hormones, an imbalance can cause a range of symptoms. Excess production of the thyroid hormone results in hyperthyroidism while inadequate amount causes hypothyroidism.
For those taking manufactured androgenic hormones such as testosterone, excess testosterone aromatises into oestrogen in the body which can lead to the development of female characteristics including gynecomastia (man boobs). For women steroid users the opposite can occur and they may develop male characteristics such as excess hair growth [i]. As taking excess hormones can cause a hormonal imbalance, it is very important for those taking artificial hormones to monitor their health regularly.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a condition in women that affects the ovaries - resulting in the development of cysts on the ovaries which can become enlarged. PCOS is a common condition and in the UK affects around 7 in every 100 women. Many women with PCOS are found to have an imbalance in certain hormones, including raised levels of testosterone, luteinising hormone (LH) and low levels of sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG). Many people with PCOS may also have features of metabolic syndrome such as excess visceral fat and insulin resistance [ii].
Although hormonal balance is so important, it is not always our first line of thinking when it comes to identifying why we can’t shift those extra pounds, why we are suffering from anxiety and mood swings or our hair and skin is dull and lifeless or even our sex drive has disappeared. And yet a simple test can identify whether your hormones are to blame. Our comprehensive Well Woman and Well Man UltraVit tests both include a diabetes check and tests for key hormones including those checking thyroid function plus testosterone and oestradiol. The perfect way to investigate any niggling symptoms and get to know yourself inside and out!
[i] Yourhormones.info. (2018). Testosterone | You and Your Hormones from the Society for Endocrinology. [online] Available at: http://www.yourhormones.info/hormones/testosterone.aspx [Accessed 4 Oct. 2018].
[ii] AT, A. (2018). Polycystic ovary syndrome and metabolic syndrome. - PubMed - NCBI. [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26265416 [Accessed 4 Oct. 2018].