Hormones are chemicals produced by glands in the endocrine system. Hormones travel through the bloodstream to tissues and organs, sending messages to the organs about what to do and when to do it.
Hormones are needed to regulate most bodily functions, so hormonal imbalances can affect many bodily functions. Helps regulate hormones:
- Blood sugar
- Blood pressure
- Reproductive cycle and sexual function
- General development and progress
- Mood and stress levels
Imbalances in insulin, steroids, growth hormones and adrenaline can affect men and women alike.
Women may also experience an imbalance in estrogen and progesterone levels, while men may experience an imbalance in testosterone levels.
Symptoms of Hormonal Imbalances
The symptoms of a hormonal imbalance can vary according to which gland is affected and whether the person is male or female.
Symptoms in Females
In women, the symptoms more frequently include:
- mood swings
- constipation or diarrhea
- irregular menstrual cycle
- pain in the abdomen or the back during menstruation
- low sex drive
- unexplained weight gain or weight loss
- brittle bones
- hirsutism, or excessive hair growth
- rashes on the skin
Symptoms in Males
When a male has low testosterone levels, their symptoms will typically include:
- decrease in sex drive
- erectile dysfunction (ED)
- loss of muscle mass
- thinning hair and reduced hair growth
- tenderness in the area of the chest
Acne can be caused by over-production of oil in the sebaceous glands of the skin. This extra oil can block pores and attract bacteria that make the skin more swollen.
The hormones testosterone, estrogen and progesterone can affect the sebaceous glands in a person’s skin. Some of the ways these hormones can affect acne include:
- Testosterone helps regulate sebum production. Excessive amounts can potentially block pores, resulting in acne.
- Increased levels of progesterone potentially play a role in pregnancy-related acne, although doctors aren’t sure how.
- Women may experience post-menopausal acne, which can be caused by changes in estrogen and progesterone levels.
In addition, women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) are more likely to have severe and permanent acne. Doctors believe that resistance to androgen hormones, such as testosterone, and insulin hormones, may increase the risk of acne.
Hormone imbalances can affect several processes in the body that lead to weight gain. Some examples include:
- Thyroid hormones act to regulate the body’s metabolism or the rate it burns energy. Too few thyroid hormones can slow metabolism and result in weight gain.
- Decreasing levels of estrogen can lead to weight gain in menopause.
- Hormonal imbalances due to PCOS can result in weight gain.
- More than 80% of people with Cushing’s disease report weight gain as a symptom. This disorder causes the body to produce excess amounts of cortisol.
Ideally, treating the underlying condition can help reduce weight gain related to hormonal imbalance.
As a result of pregnancy, hormone levels change to support the growing fetus. These include altered levels of the hormones progesterone, estrogen and testosterone. Although hormone levels may vary, they are not necessarily unbalanced during pregnancy.
However, certain hormones that increase during pregnancy can affect a woman’s way of using insulin. It can cause insulin resistance and diabetes during pregnancy.
Male hair loss is associated with a lack of androgen hormones, such as testosterone. For this reason, doctors also call masculine hair loss androgenetic alopecia. This condition causes hair loss in the front of the head and in the crown.
However, not all men experience androgenetic alopecia, although their hormone levels change with age. Doctors explain that some men are genetically predisposed to hair loss.
Causes of Hormonal Imbalances
Everyone will experience natural periods of hormonal imbalance or fluctuations at specific points in their lives. But hormonal imbalances can also occur when the endocrine glands are not working properly.
Endocrine glands are specialized cells that produce, store and release hormones in the blood. There are many endocrine glands throughout the body that control various organs, including:
- adrenal glands
- gonads (testis and ovaries)
- pineal gland
- pituitary gland
- hypothalamus gland
- thyroid and parathyroid glands
- pancreatic islets
Several medical conditions can impact the endocrine glands. Certain lifestyle habits and environmental factors can also play a role in hormonal imbalances.