Hormones aren't something we necessarily think about regularly, but they're an important part of our health. Keeping them balanced is essential for our physical and mental wellbeing, and when they're out of whack, it can affect many different parts of your body. There are a number of hormonal imbalance symptoms you might not expect, that go beyond just mood swings or changed eating habits. Becoming aware of the changes that can happen in your body when your hormones are off can help you better understand your health.
"Whether that imbalance manifests as PMS, uncontrollable acne, [...] or a full-blown endocrine disorder like polycystic ovary syndrome [PCOS] or endometriosis depends on a host of factors," hormone and functional nutrition expert, Alisa Vitti, HHC, AADP, tells Bustle. "But the basic root of all these conditions is the same: hormones gone haywire."
Hormones play a role in nearly every function of the body, so it should come as no surprise that when your hormones are off, anything could potentially be affected. It can be hard to tell on your own what hormones are off balance, so if you have some of these symptoms, check with a doctor, who can help run the proper tests.
Here are seven things that can happen when you have a hormonal imbalance, according to experts.
1. Hair Loss
Hormones influence your hair's growth and shedding phases, so several different types of hormonal imbalances can lead to thinning hair, including testosterone troubles, insulin imbalances, excess estrogen, post-pregnancy, and thyroid hormone imbalances, Vitti says. "Understanding them is the first step in knowing how to treat them with lifestyle, nutrition and supplements," she says.
2. Vaginal Dryness
Hormonal imbalances can cause everything from low libido to vaginal dryness. "Synthetic hormones such as birth control can cause changes in sex-hormone-binding hemoglobin —even after you’ve ceased taking the pill — which can also decrease moisture," Vitti says. "If you’re dry during the ovulatory phase, for example, you may not have actually ovulated, even though you may still menstruate." If this becomes a problem, speak with your doctor about methods that can help.
You may notice more breakouts happening if you are experiencing a hormonal imbalance. "If you’re like most women who get hormonal acne, then you probably notice pimples crop up around ovulation (mid-cycle) and/or right before your period," Vitti says. "This isn’t a coincidence. These are the two points in your hormonal cycle when estrogen and testosterone are peaking, and if your body isn’t processing these hormones correctly, eliminating the excess, and detoxifying your system, that extra estrogen and testosterone accumulates and results in acne."
4. IBS Symptoms
"Irritable Bowel Syndrome [IBS] symptoms [such as gas and bloating] can be connected to any hormone because of the impact of the microbiome on the production of hormones," holistic fertility specialist Dr. Aumatma Shah, tells Bustle. "So, when someone has gas and bloating, it may be a signal that their microbiome is out of balance and that will impact the hormones (and neurotransmitters) negatively."
5. Breast Milk Secretion
With that certain hormonal imbalances, you may experience breast leakage. "Women can spontaneously secrete breast milk (without being pregnant or breastfeeding)," Dr. Daniel Kort, an OB/GYN with Neway Fertility, tells Bustle. "This is usually caused by a benign growth in the pituitary gland in the brain called a Prolactinoma." And if this is the case, let your doctor know.
6. Excessive Hair Growth
Certain hormonal imbalances cause hair to grow in large amounts, in places were there wasn't much hair before. "Women can suddenly develop hair growth in places they [hadn't before]," Dr. Kort says. "This is usually caused by excess male hormones, or androgens, such as testosterone or dihydrotestosterone (DHT)."
7. Irregular Bone Growth
Imbalanced hormones can also even go as far as affecting your bones. "Bones are constantly growing and being resorbed, and such dynamic changes are regulated by hormones," Dr. Kort says. "Irregularities in certain hormones, such as Growth Hormone or Parathyroid hormone, may cause abnormal bone growth or abnormal resorption."
Hormonal imbalances can affect many aspects of your health, so see a doctor if you believe something is off in your body.