Written by: Dr. Amy Beckley, PhD, Founder and Inventor of the Proov test — the first and only FDA-cleared test to confirm successful ovulation at home.
Written on 2/8/21
It’s no secret that here at Proov we love talking all things hormones. These little molecules are produced by your endocrine system and send messages throughout your body to regulate your body’s processes. From regulating hunger, mood, body temperature, sexual desire and sleep to producing stress hormones and insulin, hormones are essential to all the systems in your body.
Since hormones are so vital to our everyday lives, an imbalance can make us feel off. Keep reading to learn more about hormone imbalances and common symptoms.
What is a hormone imbalance?
Hormones are in a very delicate balance and they constantly shift throughout the day. For women, the two main reproductive hormones — estrogen and progesterone — shift throughout the month, regulating the phases of our cycles. Hormone imbalances occur when there is too much or too little of either estrogen or progesterone.
For women, the two main reproductive hormones — estrogen and progesterone — shift throughout the month, regulating the phases of our cycles.
What causes a hormone imbalance?
Hormonal imbalances may be caused by a medical condition, exposure to toxins, medication, birth control, aging, and even bad lifestyle habits.
The most common causes are:
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
- Thyroid disorders (Hypothyroidism or Hyperthyroidism)
- Hormone therapy
- Eating disorders
- Cushing syndrome
- Addison’s disease
- Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia
- Sleep disorders
On the other hand, hormonal imbalances may have a domino effect and lead to other health issues. One of the best examples of this is how low progesterone can lead to estrogen dominance. If the corpus luteum fails to produce enough progesterone post ovulation during the luteal phase, the estrogen-progesterone balance can be disrupted.
Estrogen dominance is a very common hormonal imbalance which, left untreated, may increase your risk of endometrial cancer, blood clots, or stroke. Estrogen dominance may also be the result of certain diet and lifestyle factors so there are actions you can take to promote balance.
What are the signs and symptoms of a hormone imbalance?
Hormonal imbalances may be to blame for a lot of unwanted symptoms. Many symptoms of hormone imbalance are common and non-specific, meaning they can often easily be mistaken for something else.
One of the dangers of hormonal imbalances is that we sometimes tend to overlook their symptoms and dismiss them for not being serious. Some of the most common symptoms that might signal a hormonal imbalance are:
- Weight gain
- Weight loss
- Hair loss
- Irregular periods
- Bleeding between periods
- Increased thirst and/or hunger
- Dry skin
- Painful, stiff joints
- Difficulty concentrating
- Excess facial and body hair in women
The list is not exhaustive and a hormonal imbalance may have many symptoms that usually depends on which glands aren’t working properly. If you have questions or concerns about any symptoms you’re experiencing, we recommend consulting your doctor.
One of the dangers of hormonal imbalances is that we sometimes tend to overlook their symptoms and dismiss them for not being serious.
How can I test my hormones?
Since hormone imbalance symptoms can be misleading, they may not always be the best indicator that something is off. This is why we recommend consulting your doctor and getting hormone tests prior to attempting treatment on your own, as you could risk throwing your hormones even more out of whack.
Blood tests are the most common way to test hormones. For women, reproductive hormone tests are usually performed around cycle day 3. These tests will likely measure serum levels of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), estrogen, luteinizing hormone (LH), prolactin and anti-mullerian hormone (AMH). You may also need to have your testosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA-S) levels tested, especially if your doctor suspects PCOS.
Thyroid tests, on the other hand, may be performed throughout the month and they usually measure thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) and the thyroid hormones (T4 and T3). Cortisol (the stress hormone) may be tested in blood, urine, or saliva.
How do I treat a hormone imbalance?
Just like with any medical condition, the treatment of a hormonal imbalance depends on the underlying cause. Sometimes starting with at-home lifestyle changes can help balance hormone levels naturally. Some of the most common strategies are:
- Eating a healthier diet with less sugar and processed foods, and more healthy fats and fibers.
- Sleeping better
- Exercising lightly
- Meditating in order to alleviate stress
- Herbal remedies under the supervision of a certified herbalist
- Seed cycling in order to balance estrogen and progesterone
- Quit smoking
- Consider dietary supplements
In certain situations though, natural remedies may not be enough to help balance your hormones. For some, Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) may be an option, if appropriate for you and considered safe by your doctor.
Just like with any medical condition, the treatment of a hormonal imbalance depends on the underlying cause.
If your hormonal imbalance is caused by an underlying condition, you will have to work with your doctor to address that condition in order to get your hormone levels on the right track.
Being in tune with yourself, paying attention to any unusual changes and charting the minor signals your body sends are amazing ways to catch a hormone imbalance before it harms your overall health.