Has your body or your health changed unexpectedly lately? Has there been a negative change in your living patterns, such as your sleep or appetite? You may very well be experiencing a hormone imbalance. This troubling condition and its symptoms can be effectively treated by our experts at Your Family Medical, in Lewiston, TX.
What Are Hormones?
Hormones are a group of chemicals that different organs of the body secrete into the bloodstream. Some of them help perform physical functions like regulating our blood sugar level. Others are deeply associated with brain functions, which of course are the directors for many different kinds of other signals to the body.
Some hormones that you’ve probably heard of include estrogen, testosterone, and adrenaline, among others. In fact, there are more than 100 others.
What Is a Hormone Imbalance?
The body always strives for balance, and a healthy body will continue its own self-repair and regulation when it’s under stress or damage. However, in many cases the levels of the different hormones coursing throughout the body become unbalanced. This can lead to a dizzyingly broad range of potential symptoms, both physical and psychological.
Hormone imbalances can have an organic cause and a temporary run. Our hormones change over different stages of our lives This is particularly true for women; menstruation and childbirth let loose a torrent of hormonal activity.
But some imbalances come from external sources. Some foods and even some pollutants that we come in contact with can fool the body into thinking it’s experiencing one hormone level when in fact it is not. This results in an imbalance with its associated problems.
Signs of Hormone Imbalance
One of the most frustrating aspects of a hormonal imbalance is that some symptoms occur for seemingly no obvious reason, although others are easily explainable by significant physical events ranging from menstruation through pregnancy.
The truth is that negative changes in hormonal balance can be quite subtle, though the effects may be anything but. Many of the following symptoms are signs that you may be having hormone issues:
Many people experience minor swings in weight as a familiar aspect of their metabolism. A different diet for a week can often produce noticeable change. However, when weight fluctuates upward or downward for no discernible reason, there’s cause for concern.
Hormones have a direct effect on metabolism, which has a direct effect on digestion and weight. Changes in weight that are otherwise unexplainable may point to a hormonal problem.
This symptom is particularly hard to pinpoint. We all know that stress induces mood swings, and stress usually has external causes. However, our body regulates our reaction to stress through a chemical response.
When our chemistry is out of balance, important stress-relieving hormones like progesterone – our natural stress remedy — may be inadequate. If you’ve been feeling like you’re on an emotional see-saw for longer than a few days, it’s wise to get a checkup for hormonal imbalance.
Changes In Vital Signs
When experienced, symptoms like these should be a cause for concern on many levels. Elevated heart rates, difficulty breathing (which changes our blood oxygen level), unexplained pain, low-level fever that may come and go; these are clear signs that the body is fighting an unknown enemy. In many cases, the enemy is hormonal imbalance.
Every woman has an individual physical reaction to their monthly period. However, painful menstruations are generally not “normal” and are often caused by an imbalance in hormone production. This imbalance can lead to potentially dangerous conditions such as fibroids, ovarian cysts, and even the growth of unwanted tissue near the uterus, a condition called endometriosis.
Rashes and Skin Conditions
Many common skin diseases, such as eczema, are actually spurred by the body’s own immune system. However, when there’s a chemical (hormonal) imbalance in the body, the immune system can easily be fooled, and otherwise unexplainable symptoms such as skin conditions are the result. If–even after your regular hygiene routine–you find that skin has lately become red, itchy, or scaly, the cause is usually more than skin deep.
Fatigue is a natural response to both mental stress and physical overload. What’s more subtle is the physical overload that happens even when you’re not physically engaged, such as when you’re sleeping. When the body senses internal trouble, it sends healing agents out to fight infection and repair damage. When there’s a hormonal imbalance, the body is fighting constantly and almost blindly, trying to correct the situation 24/7.
Changes in Perspiration
This symptom is easy to spot but the source can be hard to pinpoint. Perspiration is our body’s way of regulating its temperature. When there’s a change in hormone production, our metabolism changes along with it.
The heart pumps faster and the immune system works harder. Together, they make the body toil overtime. This extra activity causes our sweat glands to react in kind to cool down the machinery. If you’ve noticed more sweat lately, a checkup is in order.
When our body’s chemistry is out of alignment, our internal systems do our best to restore and replenish organs that may be affected. Because the body is working an erratic workload when there’s an imbalance in hormones, it sends us signals to re-hydrate. If there have been noticeable changes in your level of thirst, it’s a good idea to question why. Hormonal imbalance may be the answer.
This is one of the hallmark symptoms of hormonal disorganization in women and is typically experienced during major physiological changes, such as menopause. The primary cause of these hot flashes, which can be intense and last for months or even years, is typically low estrogen.
This hormone has major effects on brain activity that not only regulates temperature but also sleep, appetite, and sex drive. When hot flashes get out of control, hormone therapy can help.
Changes in Sex Drive
Here’s another symptom that seems like it could come from almost anywhere. Aging, emotional issues, stress, and fatigue are obviously major culprits for a diminishment of sex drive. That said, imbalances in hormone production can also ruin the libido.
A key hormone called progesterone naturally decreases its production around menopause. This results in an overabundance of estrogen, which not only lowers sex drive but can also cause problems such as vaginal dryness and even atrophy of vaginal muscles.
Both Women and Men
While hormonal problems are more frequently and usually more forcefully felt by women, men are just as susceptible to imbalances. Both genders produce hormones of course, and for men, a lowered level of the hormone testosterone can have similar marked effects on sex drive, emotional mood, and physical wellness. Both women and men are equally susceptible to hormonal changes that can affect our blood sugar (insulin) and our stress control (cortisol and DHEA).
Hormonal issues are not infrequent as we grow older. While many of the symptoms described above can be caused by aging or external factors, it’s important to remember that our hormones are frequent intermediaries for healthy bodily performance.
In other words, fatigue, low libido, mood swings, and more can often be traced to simple imbalances in hormone production that can be easily remedied through treatment. Left untreated, these symptoms can cause havoc on both individual and family lives.
Children may be even more susceptible to hormonal imbalances than adults. After all, their bodies are in a state of deep hormonal change that can fluctuate suddenly and wildly, such as during puberty. Even before puberty, parents should be on the lookout for signs that hormonal balance is keeping up with healthy childhood development. Signs that children’s hormones may be out of alignment are different for girls and boys. Some symptoms to watch out for include:
Puberty and the physical changes that come with it start at different ages for different girls, of course. But by the time puberty is well underway, parents should be aware of the following anomalies:
- Non-development of additional breast tissue
- Absence of an initial menstrual period
- Lack of physical growth when compared to other girls their age
Boys are also undergoing extreme hormonal changes as they enter puberty. What is more subtle and troubling, is the absence of symptoms from these changes, which can be caused by hormonal imbalances. They include:
- A voice that doesn’t change
- Development of excessive breast tissue
- Lack of body hair, especially around the genitalia
Why Do They Happen?
Hormonal swings of a temporary nature are actually expected behavior for the body. Puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, and aging, in general, are all major contributors, of course. More troubling are hormonal imbalances that occur because of extrinsic – outside – factors. As brilliant as the body can be in regulating and repairing itself, it can only do so with proper care and feeding, so to speak.
Hormonal imbalance is often linked to living patterns that we’re not maintaining well. Improper diet, inadequate vitamin intake, and poor hydration are known to disrupt hormonal balance. Stress and anxiety are also major contributors. Stress releases hormonal agents that trigger our innate human response of “fight or flight” even when there’s no apparent need to do so. With this much adrenaline (a hormone) coursing through your body, it’s no wonder that sleep, energy, and mood are negatively altered.
What Can I Do?
Imbalances in hormones can be dealt with in a variety of ways. Moving toward a healthier lifestyle with better stress management is a good backdrop, but genuinely re-balancing hormones that are seriously skewed is a task for an experienced clinician. One of the most effective treatments available is called hormone replacement therapy.
In this method, the patient is given hormones that serve the same function as the natural ones in the body that are depleted. The new hormones are applied in one of two ways: locally, by use of a topical cream, or “systemically,” where the hormones are brought into the bloodstream through an injection or a skin patch. The results of these simple therapies can literally flip the switch on many of the physical and mental health problems described above.
How Do I Get Started?
There are two typical paths toward hormone replacement therapy. In cases where a hormonal imbalance is an obvious possibility, such as during menopause, many patients simply say that they’ve had enough. It’s one thing to have hot flashes, quite another when they happen all through the day, every day. Women no longer have to live this way. Hormone replacement can bring back your real self, in literal and figurative terms.
The second path is one where unexplained symptoms show up and stick around without an obvious cause. In many such cases, hormonal imbalance is the reason and should be the first investigation. Visit us at Your Family Medical, in Lewiston, TX, where we offer expert diagnostics and treatment for hormone imbalances. Call us today to schedule an appointment.