Are Your Hormones Out of Whack? Here's What to Do About It
When we think of someone as "being hormonal," we usually apply that term to women more than men. But anyone can suffer from hormonal imbalances, throwing any gender into "being hormonal."
What exactly is going on when we're suffering from hormonal imbalances? How do we know when our hormone levels are off, and what can we do about it?
What Are Hormones?
The body chemicals we call hormones coordinate different functions in our bodies by carrying messages through our bloodstreams to our organs, muscles, skin, and other tissues. These chemical messages tell our body's organs and systems what they're supposed to do and when they should do it.
So far, medical scientists have identified over fifty human hormones. Created and released by your endocrine system, hormones control different bodily processes, such as
- Homeostasis, or your constant internal balance
- Your body's growth and development
- Sexual function
- Sleep-wake cycle
- Your mood
When your hormones are out of balance, your body will let you know through certain symptoms.
Symptoms of Hormone Imbalance
Regardless of gender, there are some common signs or symptoms that may indicate one or more of your hormones are out of balance.
- Weight gain or unexplained and sudden weight loss
- Muscle weakness, tenderness, stiffness, or aches
- Hump of fat between the shoulders
- Stiffness, swelling, and pain in the joints
- Increased or decreased heart rate
- Decreased sex drive
- Constipation or more frequent bowel movements
- Increased sensitivity to heat or cold
- Frequent urination
- Increased thirst or hunger
- Anxiety, depression, nervousness, or irritability
- Dry skin
- Thinning or fine, brittle hair
- Blurred vision
- Puffy or rounded face
- Pink or purple stretch marks
Remember that these are general symptoms that may or may not mean you have a hormonal imbalance. Your healthcare provider can make that determination for you.
How to Get Your Hormone Levels Tested
The type of testing done to determine if your hormones are out of whack depends on what your doctor thinks may be the cause of your imbalance. There is no single test a doctor can order to diagnose a hormonal imbalance. Some of the more common tests a doctor may order include:
- Blood tests for certain hormone levels, such as thyroid hormone, testosterone, or estrogen.
- Imaging studies such as X-ray, ultrasound, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). These types of tests can identify tumors or cysts that may cause your body to produce too much or too little hormones.
- Urine testing can measure hormone levels related to a woman's menstrual cycle, such as follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH.)
There are home testing kits available for a variety of conditions. Home testing kits for menopause, for example, measure FSH levels present in your urine. Other home test kits use blood from a fingertip stick or saliva to measure key thyroid hormones, levels of cortisol, and sex hormones such as testosterone and progesterone. These tests may require you to send the sample off to a lab, with your results available online within 5 to 9 business days, on average.
What Can Have a Negative Impact on Your Hormone Levels?
Hormones play a significant role in our overall health and well-being. We need our hormones in sufficient quantities, but not excessive amounts, to keep our bodies working efficiently.
Our hormone levels can be negatively impacted by a variety of factors, from the foods we eat to the amount of sleep we get at night.
Foods, Drinks, and Hormones
Certain foods can throw our hormones out of balance. Preservatives, for example, are added to products such as bread, cereals, and crackers. These chemicals can interfere with our endocrine systems and interrupt the natural function of the hormone estrogen. Excessive intake of preservatives can result in weight gain, low thyroid function, and a reduction in sperm count. Eating fresh foods instead of packaged ones and concentrates decreases the likelihood of preservative-caused hormone imbalance.
Excessive consumption of alcohol can disrupt our endocrine systems as well as our neurological and immune systems. This can lead to reproductive problems, stress, fluctuations in sex drive, decreased fertility, and can interfere with menstrual cycles.
Too Many or Insufficient Nutrients
Eat a balance of macronutrients (carbs, fats, proteins.) Maintaining a well-balanced, healthy diet ensures adequate intake of the nutrients we need for a stable level of hormones. Meals should include clean protein, healthy fats that help balance hormones, vegetables rich in antioxidants, and fresh herbs to help your body balance your hormone levels.
Some environmental toxins disrupt the function of our endocrine systems. The most damaging are those that mimic estrogen in the body, resulting in an excessive buildup of estrogen. Examples include some tap waters, beauty products, household cleaners, flame retardants used in furniture, and food additives.
Our genetics can impact the balance of hormones in our bodies. Our DNA plays a direct role in the production of hormones, especially estrogen and thyroid hormones. Our response to stress is also directly impacted by our DNA through cortisol production.
While hormonal imbalances can cause some conditions, some of these same diseases and physical conditions can also lead to further hormonal imbalances. Examples include:
- Diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2
- Hypo- or hyperthyroidism (underactive or overactive thyroid)
- Cushing syndrome
- Addison's disease
- Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia
There are methods available to counter most of these causes of hormonal imbalances.
How To Improve Some Common Hormone Issues
Our bodies are designed to produce the precise amount of hormones we need to keep us healthy. Such factors as sedentary lifestyles and Western dietary patterns can throw this balance off.
There are ways to improve your hormonal health, allowing you to feel and perform at your best. Some of the common methods used to regain and maintain hormone balance include:
- Eat adequate amounts of protein
- Engage in regular exercise
- Maintain your weight at a moderate level
- Support low thyroid levels with a prescription from your doctor for synthetic thyroid hormone pills
- Improve low testosterone levels with testosterone supplements
- Support for low estrogen and progesterone levels available through supplements
Be sure to see your healthcare provider before starting any supplements or hormonal support.
Get Your Hormones Back in Whack
Hormonal imbalances don't have to become chronic problems. Discuss your concerns with your healthcare provider then browse Tiger Fitness for the best in supplements and products for your healthy lifestyle.