11 Surprising Things Your Body May Do If Your Hormones Are Imbalanced
The body is a mysterious thing, and not every odd feeling needs to be explained, or worried about. But if you've noticed new, weird, and ongoing symptoms, or feel as if something isn't quite right, there's a chance you've got a hormonal imbalance going on.
"Think of your hormones like chemical messengers of your body," Dr. Will Cole, IFMCP, DC tells Bustle. "Each hormone sends specific instructions to every organ, making hormones responsible for just about everything your body does — how it works, how it feels, and how healthy it is."
There are quite a few factors that can throw your hormones out of whack. But whatever the cause may be, symptoms can include unexplained anxiety, depression, fatigue, and changes in appetite. But there are "weirder" symptoms that can occur, too, that you might not first associate with your hormones.
"Hormones influence your mood, energy level [...] temperature, digestion, and many other aspects of your health," Dr. Cole says. "And yet, we don’t often think about, let alone appreciate, our hormones until they stop working the way we want them to. And when that happens, because of their wide influence, we definitely notice." The best thing to do, if you experience any of the symptoms below, is to let your doctor know.
If you struggle to crawl out of bed in the morning — even after getting a full night's sleep — your cortisol levels may be to blame. "Our adrenal glands secrete several hormones, and one of them is cortisol, your body’s primary stress hormone," Dr. Cole says.
A condition known as adrenal fatigue can occur if your cortisol rhythm is disrupted, sometimes by enduring massive amounts of stress. "Cortisol is high when it should be low, low when it should be high, or always high or always low," Dr. Cole says.
Other symptoms include feeling tired in the afternoon, trouble staying asleep at night, and feeling dizzy after standing too quickly. And, as Dr. Cole says, "the functional medicine solution focuses on minimizing chronic stressors."
2. Cystic Acne
While everyday pimples can be annoying enough, cystic acne is in a league of its own in terms of painful side effects. And it can even be a sign of hormonal imbalance.
"Acne is a common manifestation of hormone imbalance in young women," Susan Bard, MD, tells Bustle. "It is important to rebalance the hormones to control the acne to prevent any scarring, which may be permanent."
Cystic acne occurs deep under the skin, and is therefore difficult to treat on your own. If your hormones are imbalanced, treating that as an underlying cause can help clear things up.
3. Hot Flashes
If you don't have regulated estrogen levels, you may experience a wide variety of annoying and uncomfortable symptoms. As Dr. Cole says, low estrogen levels can bring on vaginal dryness, lethargy, depression, and hot flashes.
High estrogen levels aren't fun either, sometimes causing breast tenderness, migraine headaches, insomnia, and brain fog. If you notice any of these symptoms, Dr. Cole suggests you ask for a full blood and salivary female hormone panel, including all estrogen isomers, to help shed light on the specific problem.
4. Breast Tenderness
"Without proper progesterone levels, estrogen becomes out of control, also known as estrogen dominance," Dr. Cole says. And when that happens, you might experience a whole slue of symptoms, including worsening PMS, insomnia, acne, painful breasts, and headaches.
5. Thinning Hair
If your hair is falling out, or just seems thinner overall, you may want to let a doctor know. "Early onset female pattern balding may be a sign of hormone imbalance," Dr. Bard says. "When treated early, hair thinning can be reversed but if allowed to progress may become permanent."
6. Unpredictable Periods
If your period isn't predictable, or seems to be changing — maybe it's much heavier, or a lot lighter than usual — your hormones are most likely to blame. As Dr. Cole says, heavy menstrual bleeding can be a sign of high estrogen, especially if you have other symptoms, such as bloating, breast tenderness, and mood swings.
7. Period Diarrhea
While it's normal to have bowel movements during your period, if you poop a lot it may be a sign of of elevated prostaglandins, "which are hormone-like chemicals that cause muscle contraction," Dr. Jolene Brighten, author of Beyond The Pill, tells Bustle. "They aid in childbirth, menstruation, and when there are too many or the wrong kind, you'll find yourself with period diarrhea."
While constipation can be related to your diet and water intake, it can also be a sign of a hormonal imbalance, including a problem with your thyroid. "Every cell of your body needs thyroid hormones to function optimally," Dr. Cole says. If yours is out of whack, you may experience constipation, as well as dry skin, cold hands and feet, thinning hair, and brain fog, among other things.
9. Salt Cravings
While it may sound strange, a craving for salt can actually point to a hormonal imbalance. "The adrenal glands secrete a hormone called aldosterone," Charles S. Masarsky, DC, tells Bustle. "This hormone prevents you from losing too much sodium in your urine. If your aldosterone levels drop below normal levels, you may develop a craving for salt. This is your body's attempt to compensate for your adrenal insufficiency."
Another symptom of low aldosterone levels is dizziness, since it can cause your blood pressure to drop. "Low blood pressure can cause episodes of dizziness, especially when you stand from a sitting position," Charles S. Masarsky, DC, doctor of chiropractic, with Vienna Chiropractic Associates, tells Bustle. If this happens to you regularly, definitely let a doctor know.
11. Ovarian Cysts
If you have too much testosterone, it could potentially cause ovarian cysts, Dr. Cole says, as well as a multitude of other annoying symptoms.
Aside from cysts, you might also feel irritable, have unstable blood sugar, or thinning hair. Low testosterone, on the other hand, can lead to fatigue and a low sex drive.
Since so many issues can stem from imbalanced hormones, it can be tricky, at first, to figure out exactly what's going on. But if you feel bad, or notice any of the weird side effects above, let a doctor know. The sooner they can sort out the issue, the sooner you'll be back to feeling better.