When it comes to hormones and the body, there’s a lot to learn. In this article I’ll be discussing how to cure hormonal imbalance by balancing different hormones.
Hormonal imbalance is a term often used in reference to patients with serious hormonal imbalance. It is extremely common and affects half of pregnant women and 70% of women who have just had a baby. This article will help you with the common symptoms, causes, and solutions to get rid of hormonal imbalance safely, naturally, and effectively.
A hormonal imbalance happens when you have too much or too little of one or more hormones — your body’s chemical messengers. It’s a broad term that can represent many different hormone-related conditions.
What are hormones?
Hormones are chemicals that coordinate different functions in your body by carrying messages through your blood to your organs, skin, muscles and other tissues. These signals tell your body what to do and when to do it. Hormones are essential for life and your health.
Scientists have identified over 50 hormones in the human body so far.
Hormones and most of the tissues (mainly glands) that create and release them make up your endocrine system. Hormones control many different bodily processes, including:
- Homeostasis (constant internal balance).
- Growth and development.
- Sexual function.
- Sleep-wake cycle.
What is a hormonal imbalance?
A hormonal imbalance happens when you have too much or too little of one or more hormones. It’s a broad term that can represent many different hormone-related conditions.
Hormones are powerful signals. For many hormones, having even slightly too much or too little of them can cause major changes to your body and lead to certain conditions that require treatment.
Some hormonal imbalances can be temporary while others are chronic (long-term). In addition, some hormonal imbalances require treatment so you can stay physically healthy, while others may not impact your health but can negatively affect your quality of life.
What conditions are caused by hormonal imbalances?
Dozens of medical conditions are caused by hormone issues. For most hormones, having too much or too little of them causes symptoms and issues with your health. While many of these imbalances require treatment, some can be temporary and may go away on their own. Some of the most common hormone-related conditions include:
- Irregular menstruation (periods): Several hormones are involved in the menstrual cycle. Because of this, an imbalance in any one or several of those hormones can cause irregular periods. Specific hormone-related conditions that cause irregular periods include polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and amenorrhea.
- Infertility: Hormonal imbalances are the leading cause of infertility in people assigned female at birth. Hormone-related conditions such as PCOS and anovulation can cause infertility. People assigned male at birth can also experience hormonal imbalances that affect fertility, such as low testosterone levels (hypogonadism).
- Acne: Acne is primarily caused by clogged pores. While many factors contribute to the development of acne, hormone fluctuations, especially during puberty, are a significant factor. Oil glands, including those in the skin on your face, get stimulated when hormones become active during puberty.
- Hormonal acne (adult acne): Hormonal acne (adult acne) develops when hormonal changes increase the amount of oil your skin produces. This is especially common during pregnancy, menopause and for people who are taking testosterone therapy.
- Diabetes: In the United States, the most common endocrine (hormone-related) condition is diabetes. In diabetes, your pancreas doesn’t make any or enough of the hormone insulin or your body doesn’t use it properly. There are several different kinds of diabetes. The most common are Type 2 diabetes, Type 1 diabetes and gestational diabetes. Diabetes requires treatment.
- Thyroid disease: The two main types of thyroid disease are hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone levels) and hyperthyroidism (high thyroid hormone levels). Each condition has multiple possible causes. Thyroid disease requires treatment.
- Obesity: Many hormones can affect how your body signals that you need food and how your body uses energy, so an imbalance of certain hormones can result in weight gain in the form of fat storage. For example, excess cortisol (a hormone) and low thyroid hormones (hypothyroidism) can contribute to obesity.
SYMPTOMS AND CAUSES
What are the signs and symptoms of hormonal imbalance?
Because your body makes over 50 different hormones — all of which contribute to important bodily functions — you could experience several different symptoms depending on which hormonal imbalance you have.
It’s important to know that many of the following symptoms could be caused by other conditions, not just from a hormonal imbalance. If you ever notice a change in your day-to-day health and are experiencing new, persistent symptoms, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider — no matter what you think the cause might be.
Hormone imbalance symptoms that affect your metabolism
Common hormonal imbalances include those that affect your metabolism. Your metabolism consists of the chemical reactions in your body’s cells that change the food you eat into energy. Many different hormones and processes are involved in metabolism.
Symptoms of hormonal imbalances that affect your metabolism include:
- Slow heartbeat or rapid heartbeat (tachycardia).
- Unexplained weight gain or weight loss.
- Diarrhea or more frequent bowel movements.
- Numbness and tingling in your hands.
- Higher-than-normal blood cholesterol levels.
- Depression or anxiety.
- Being unable to tolerate cold temperatures or warm temperatures.
- Dry, coarse skin and hair.
- Thin, warm and moist skin.
- Irregular body fat distribution.
- Darkened skin in your armpit or the back and sides of your neck (acanthosis nigricans).
- Skin tags (small skin growths).
- Extreme thirst and frequent urination.
Sex hormone imbalance symptoms for people assigned female at birth
People assigned female at birth (AFAB) can have imbalances of the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone, which the ovaries produce. They can also have excess testosterone and androgens. An imbalance in sex hormones can cause the following symptoms in people AFAB:
- Acne on your face, chest and/or upper back.
- Hair loss.
- Heavy periods.
- Hirsutism (excess body hair).
- Hot flashes.
- Irregular periods.
- Loss of interest in sex.
- Vaginal atrophy.
- Vaginal dryness.
Sex hormone imbalance symptoms for people assigned male at birth
People assigned male at birth (AMAB) can have an imbalance of testosterone, which the testes produce, and other sex hormones, which can cause the following symptoms:
- Decrease or loss of body hair.
- Erectile dysfunction (ED).
- Gynecomastia (enlarged breast tissue).
- Loss of interest in sex.
- Loss of muscle mass.
Can hormone imbalance cause weight gain?
Yes, certain hormone imbalances can cause weight gain, including:
- Hypothyroidism: This condition happens when you have low levels of thyroid hormone, which causes your metabolism to slow down. This can cause weight gain.
- Cushing’s syndrome: This is a rare condition that happens when your body has too much of a hormone called cortisol. It results in rapid weight gain in your face (sometimes called “moon face”), belly, back of your neck (sometimes called “buffalo hump”) and chest.
- Menopause: During menopause, many people assigned female at birth gain weight due to hormonal changes that cause their metabolism to slow down. It’s important to remember that this type of “hormonal imbalance” is natural and an expected part of life.
Several other factors contribute to weight gain. If you’re experiencing unexpected weight gain or are concerned about your weight, talk to your healthcare provider.
Can hormone imbalance cause anxiety?
Yes, certain hormonal imbalances can cause anxiety, including:
- Hyperthyroidism: If you have hyperthyroidism, it means your body has too much thyroid hormone. Excess thyroid hormone speeds up your metabolism. This can cause anxiety, in addition to unusual nervousness, restlessness and irritability.
- Cushing’s syndrome: While it’s not as common of a symptom, Cushing’s syndrome (excess cortisol) can cause anxiety, as well as depression and irritability.
- Adult-onset growth hormone deficiency: Adults with growth hormone deficiency often report having anxiety and/or depression.
Several other conditions and factors can cause anxiety. It’s important to talk to your healthcare provider if you’re experiencing anxiety.
What causes hormonal imbalances?
Throughout your life — and even throughout the day — your hormone levels naturally rise and fall.
Certain periods of life cause more dramatic changes and fluctuations in hormones, including:
However, there are several other reasons why your hormone levels may be irregular at unexpected times. Some of the most common causes of fluctuating or imbalanced hormone levels include:
- Certain medications.
- Steroid use.
These hormonal imbalances are more likely to be temporary or fixable with a change in medication or properly managing stress.
How can I balance my hormones?
A hormonal imbalance can significantly impact overall health. Some factors are beyond a person’s control. However, there are manageable elements that can also influence hormone levels.
The endocrine system circulates hormones, which perform various functions throughout the day.
Even small changes in hormone levels can result in adverse effects, including extra stress on the body. Symptoms can grow worse over time, and a hormonal imbalance can lead to chronic issues.
For some people, making simple lifestyle changes can help restore proper levels of hormones.
The following strategies may help:
1. Getting enough sleep
Sleep may be among the most important factors for hormonal balance. Levels of some hormones may rise and fall throughout the day in response to issues such as the quality of sleep.
According to a 2015 studyTrusted Source, the adverse effects of sleep disturbance on hormones may contribute to:
- problems with appetite
Regularly getting a full, undisturbed night’s rest may help the body regulate hormone levels.
2. Avoiding too much light at night
Exposure to blue light, such as from cell phones or computer screens, can disrupt the sleep cycle. The body responds to this light as if it were daylight and adjusts hormones in response.
A 2015 studyTrusted Source notes that exposure to any bright artificial lighting at night may confuse the body, causing it to suppress the hormone melatonin, which can negatively affect many functions.
Avoiding artificial lights may help regulate hormones and restore a natural circadian rhythm.
3. Managing stress
A 2017 studyTrusted Source points to a link between stress, the endocrine system, and hormone levels. The researchers argue that the link is strong, with even a low level of stress causing an endocrine response.
Stress leads to an increase in adrenaline and cortisol. If levels of these hormones are too high, it can disrupt the overall balance and contribute to factors such as obesity, changes in mood, and even cardiovascular issues.
For this reason, it is important to find ways to reduce stress. A 2015 studyTrusted Source suggests that the simple act of listening to music reduces stress, especially if the person intends to relax.
The hormonal effects of regular exercise may prevent overeating. A 2014 studyTrusted Source notes that even short exercise sessions help regulate hormones that control appetite.
A 2017 articleTrusted Source points out that regular physical activity reduces the risk of insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes.
5. Avoiding sugars
Findings of a 2015 reviewTrusted Source support the idea that sugar plays a role in issues such as metabolic disease and insulin resistance.
This suggests that eliminating sugar from the diet may help keep levels of hormones, including insulin, in check.
Some people avoid specific sugars. However, 2015 researchTrusted Source found that table sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and honey caused similar responses. A person may, therefore, benefit from avoiding all added sugars rather than specific types.
6. Eating healthy fats
Healthy fats may help maintain a balance of hormones involved in appetite, metabolism, and feeling full.
A 2018 studyTrusted Source suggests that medium-chain fatty acids, such as those found in coconut or red palm oils, may work to regulate the cells responsible for the body’s response to insulin.
Meanwhile, a 2015 studyTrusted Source found that olive oil may balance levels of a hormone that regulates the appetite and stimulates the digestion of fat and protein.
Separate research from 2015Trusted Source showed similar results.
Treatment options for a hormonal imbalance
Treatment for a hormonal imbalance will depend on what’s causing it. Some common treatment options are described below.
If you’re experiencing hot flashes or other uncomfortable symptoms of menopause, your doctor may recommend a low dose of estrogen.
Be sure to discuss the risks and benefits of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) with your doctor. If you don’t already have one, you can browse doctors in your area through the Healthline FindCare tool.
If you’re experiencing vaginal dryness or pain during sex, you may want to try applying an estrogen cream, tablet, or ring.
This local therapy helps eliminate many of the risks associated with systemic estrogen, or estrogen that travels throughout the bloodstream to the appropriate organ.
Hormonal birth control
Hormonal birth control can help regulate your menstrual cycles. Types of hormonal birth control include the:
- birth control pill
- birth control patch
- birth control shot
- vaginal ring
- intrauterine device (IUD)
Some types of hormonal birth control may also help improve acne and reduce extra hair on the face and body.
Androgens are male sex hormones that are present in people of all genders. High androgen levels can be treated with medication that blocks the effects of androgens.
These effects include:
- hair loss
- facial hair growth
One androgen closely tied to hair growth and loss is testosterone. A 2020 studyTrusted Source found that when there is not enough testosterone produced, hair loss and lack of growth are common.
Testosterone supplements can reduce the symptoms of low testosterone. In adolescents with delayed puberty, it stimulates the start of puberty. It’s available in many forms, including injections, a patch, and gel.
Thyroid hormone therapy
If you have hypothyroidism, the synthetic thyroid hormone levothyroxine (Levoxyl, Synthroid, Unithroid) can bring hormone levels back into balance.
Metformin is a type 2 diabetes medication that may help some individuals with PCOS symptoms. The FDA has not approved it to treat PCOS, but it might help lower androgen levels and encourage ovulation.
Flibanserin (Addyi) and bremelanotide (Vyleesi)
Addyi and Vyleesi are the only medications that are FDA-approved for the treatment of low sexual desire in premenopausal people. Addyi is a pill, and Vyleesi is a self-administered injectable medication.
These drugs may come with some serious side effects, such as severe nausea and changes in blood pressure. Talk with your doctor to see if either one could be right for you.
This prescription cream is designed specifically for excessive facial hair. Applied topically to the skin, it helps slow new hair growth, but it does not get rid of existing hair.
Natural remedies and supplements
Many nutritional supplements on the market claim to treat menopause and hormonal imbalance. However, few of them are backed up by scientific evidence.
Many of these supplements contain plant-derived hormones. These are sometimes called “bioidentical” hormones, because they chemically resemble the body’s natural hormones. There’s no evidence to suggest that they work better than regular hormone therapy, however.
Some people find that yoga helps ease symptoms of hormonal imbalance. Yoga is excellent for your strength, flexibility, and balance. It may also aid in weight loss, which can help regulate your hormones.
You can also make the following lifestyle changes:
- Lose weight. If your doctor has recommended it, a reduction in body weight may help regulate menstrual cycles and increase the chances of getting pregnant. Weight loss may also help improve erectile function.
- Eat well. A balanced diet is an important part of overall health.
- Decrease vaginal discomfort. Use lubes or moisturizers free of parabens, glycerin, and petroleum.
- Avoid hot flash triggers when possible. Try to identify things that commonly trigger your hot flashes, such as warm temperatures, spicy foods, or hot beverages.
- Remove unwanted hair. If you have excess facial or body hair, you can use hair removal cream, laser hair removal, or electrolysis.
Hormonal imbalance and acne
The primary cause of acne is excess oil production, which leads to clogged pores. Acne is most common in areas with many oil glands, including the:
- upper back
Acne is often associated with the hormonal changes of puberty. But there’s actually a lifelong relationship between acne and hormones.
Acne and menstruation
The menstrual cycle is one of the most common acne triggers. For many individuals, acne develops the week before they get their period and then clears up.
Dermatologists recommend hormonal testing for people who have acne in combination with other symptoms, such as irregular periods and excess facial or body hair.
Acne and androgens
Androgens contribute to acne by overstimulating the oil glands.
Children of all genders have high levels of androgens during puberty, which is why acne is so common at that time. Androgen levels typically settle down in a person’s early 20s.
Hormonal imbalance and weight gain
Hormones play an integral role in metabolism and your body’s ability to use energy. Hormone conditions, such as Cushing syndrome, can cause you to become overweight or develop obesity.
People with Cushing syndrome have high levels of cortisol in their blood. This leads to an increase in appetite and fat storage.
Hypothyroidism, if the condition is severe, can also lead to weight gain.
Slight hormone imbalances can happen during menopause. During this transition, many people gain weight because their metabolisms slow down. You may find that even though you’re eating and exercising like you usually do, you still gain weight.
The only way to treat weight gain from a hormone disorder is to treat the underlying condition.
Hormonal imbalance and pregnancy
During a typical pregnancy, your body goes through major hormonal changes. This is different from a hormonal imbalance.
Pregnancy and PCOS
Hormonal imbalances such as PCOS are among the leading causes of infertility. With PCOS, the hormonal imbalance interferes with ovulation. You can’t get pregnant if you’re not ovulating.
Pregnancy is still possible if you have PCOS. If your doctor recommends it, losing weight can make a big difference in your fertility. Prescription medications are also available that can stimulate ovulation and increase your chances of becoming pregnant.
In vitro fertilization (IVF) is also an option if medication doesn’t work. As a last resort, surgery can temporarily restore ovulation.
PCOS can cause problems during pregnancy for both you and your baby. There are higher rates of:
- gestational diabetes
- cesarean delivery
- high birth weight
- admission to and time spent in the neonatal intensive care unit
Becoming pregnant while living with PCOS does not mean an individual will definitely deal with any of the above problems. Talking with your doctor and following their advice is the best way to have a safe pregnancy and delivery.
Pregnancy and hypothyroidism
According to 2018 research, babies born to parents with untreated hypothyroidism are more likely to have development issues. This includes serious intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Managing your hypothyroidism along with your doctor’s advice can help lessen these risks.
Hormonal imbalance and hair loss
Most hair loss, such as male pattern baldness, is hereditary and unrelated to hormonal changes. However, hormonal changes and imbalances can sometimes cause temporary hair loss.
In AFAB folks, this is often related to:
- the onset of menopause
An overproduction or underproduction of thyroid hormones can also cause hair loss.
Hormones are responsible for many of your body’s major processes. When hormones become unbalanced, the symptoms can be extremely varied.
Hormonal imbalance can cause a variety of complications, so it’s important to seek treatment as soon as possible. Talking with your doctor as soon as you notice any changes in your body or energy levels is a key step in treating a hormonal imbalance early.