Have you ever wondered how your body functioning gets regulated and controlled? Don't think too far; chemicals in the body known as hormones are responsible for it. Your mood, appetite, growth, sleep, and even sexual functions are all regulated by hormones. The indispensability of the hormones makes their presence in the right quantity in the body important. When the quantity is not in the right proportion, then we say there is a hormonal imbalance. This article focuses on the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of hormonal imbalance.
What are hormones?
The term “hormone” can be described as body chemicals that are transported in the bloodstream to targeted organs or tissues in the human body, where they can influence the function of the organ. Body activities such as sleep, appetite, mood, body development and growth, sexual function and many other activities are all controlled and regulated by hormones in the human body. Hormones are generally naturally produced in the body; although we have them also in the form of medications that can be administered to humans when necessary.1,2
There are several hormones in the body, and they perform various functions in the body. Hormone secretion sites called glands in the body form the endocrine system. Based on various secretion glands; we have the following types of hormones:
hormones produced from the pituitary gland. This gland serves as a master control of hormone production from other glands (thyroid, pancreatic, etc) in the body. The pituitary hormones include:
- Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) activates the adrenal gland to produce hormones.
- Growth hormone helps in the growth and development of children. It influences the bone, muscle, and fat development in the body.
- Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) stimulates the thyroid glands to produce thyroid hormone.
- Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and Luteinizing hormone influence the functioning of the testis and ovaries.
- Anti-diuretic hormone (ADH) controls and regulates water retention in the body.
- Oxytocin hormone function during childbirth and lactation.
- Prolactin hormone stimulates milk production in women: Prolactin stimulates breast milk production.
Include Triiodothyronine and Thyroxine; they are produced in the thyroid gland from the iodine present in food eaten. The thyroid hormones regulate the cell metabolism in the body.
Include insulin and glucagon. They are stimulated by the pancreas to regulate blood glucose.
Adrenaline & cortisol hormones
Produced by the adrenal gland - hormones that regulate your body’s response to stress; aldosterone regulates blood pressure.
Produced in the parathyroid gland which regulates the absorption of calcium from food eaten; it also enhances the formation of vitamin D in the body.
Oestrogen and progesterone
These are produced in the ovaries: These two hormones help in female reproduction. Oestrogen is responsible for breast development in females, while the progesterone helps in maintaining pregnancy.
Testosterone and androgen
Produced by testes in males: These hormone is responsible for physical development in males , sperm production, muscle strength and sexual urge/libido in males.
The Pineal gland produces melatonin, the hormone responsible for sleep.
The thymus gland secretes thymosin hormone, it initiates the development of diseases fighting T-cells.
This refers to the failure of hormone function in the body. Hormonal imbalance also occurs when hormones exceed or are lower than the normal level range needed in the body. Function of various hormones in the body are most of the time interconnected so, the deficiency or excessiveness of one will affect the efficiency of the other.3,4 This imbalance mostly leads to severe or mild health problems.
Role of oestrogen and progesterone
Oestrogen and progesterone are female sex hormones that influence reproduction in women. Women undergo different reproduction-related stages in their lifetime; this includes puberty, Ovulation, menstruation, pregnancy, lactation(breastfeeding), and menopause. Progesterone and oestrogen influence these stages one way or the other. Puberty in females is majorly regulated by oestrogen. Oestrogen also helps to regulate the production of Luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH); these two hormones (LH & FSH) play a major role in ovulation and menstrual cycle in females. Uterus development and growth are regulated by oestrogen and progesterone. Milk production for breastfeeding is activated by prolactin. Progesterone also acts in preparing the mammary gland for breastfeeding.5,6
Causes of hormone imbalance
There are many factors that can predispose or increase the occurrence of hormonal imbalance in humans. These include but are not limited to the following causes: poor diet, stress, pregnancy, menopause, diabetes, cancer treatments, hormone replacement therapy[HRT], hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) , and pollution. 7,8,9,10,11 In a study, it was observed that obesity worsens hormonal imbalance in women experiencing infertility that is caused by PCOS.8
Symptoms of hormone imbalance
Hormonal imbalance can be characterized by the following signs & symptoms observed by you or diagnosed by your doctor: excessive hair growth, low sexual urge, anxiety, dizziness, changes in the menstrual cycle, sudden weight gain/loss, headache, urinary tract infection, water retention, hot flashes, sleep disorder, acne, depression, premenstrual syndrome, and frequent hunger.4,7
Hormonal imbalance is mostly associated with some specific health problems like:
- High oestrogen level (Oestrogen dominance): this will cause changes in weight, appetite, sleep pattern, stress perception level, and rate of metabolism in the body. Low oestrogen levels will also lead to low sex drive and irregular menstrual cycle.
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS): this condition causes infertility in women, increased body weight, excessive hair growth and increases one’s risk of having diabetes.
- Low testosterone in males could lead to muscle loss, increase weight, fatigue, weakness, and erectile dysfunction (Impotence).
It is important to note that hormonal imbalance is not caused by one single factor, but it is mostly caused by a combination of factors which can include genetics, pollution (poisonous substances in the environment), diet, past medical conditions, and stress.4,7
Checking for hormone imbalance
Diagnosis of hormone imbalance can be carried out in the hospital, but this can only be done based on the symptoms a person is having. There is no single test for hormonal imbalance, but your doctor can suggest any of the following procedures evaluate the hormones in your body and it includes:2
- Blood test: levels of hormones like oestrogen, testosterone, thyroxine, cortisol, insulin, and progesterone can be seen in the blood.
- Pelvic examination can be done to detect any lumps or cysts that may be present.
- An ultrasound can be done to reveal the state of your pituitary gland, thyroid, ovaries, and uterus.
- Biopsy and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) are also another way of checking for hormonal imbalance
For women who have unexplained symptoms
There is no singular test for hormone imbalance. It is recommended to perform blood tests for oestrogen, testosterone, cortisol and thyroid function to evaluate any hormonal imbalance. In women who are suspecting menopause, managing symptoms is prioritised over testing.
Managing hormone imbalance
Hormonal imbalance [HI] can be managed with a healthy diet, body exercise and a healthy lifestyle. The management helps in relieving the symptoms of hormonal imbalance. Regular exercise helps to increase the metabolic rate in the body and this can help in lowering the excessive production of hormones required for metabolic activities in the body.
Avoid or reduce being stressed as this will help maintain the antidiuretic hormones at the normal level. Reducing weight will also go a long way to balance hormones in the body as this is because obesity and high Body mass index [BMI] has been an associated risk factor in females suffering from HI and infertility.4,7
Treatment options for hormonal imbalance
Hormonal imbalance can be treated with the administering of various medications. Hormone replacement therapy is the most commonly used treatment for low hormone levels.
Hormone Replacement therapy [HRT] is mostly used for women who experience menopause symptoms and it focuses on relieving symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats etc. The downside to HRT is that it increases the patient’s risk for breast cancer1. HRT cannot be carried out on people having the following health conditions: cancer history (ovarian/womb/breast cancer); high blood pressure and liver disease. Progesterone and oestrogen make up the HRT hormone; and they are administered either orally as tablets,or on the skin as skin patches, gels and pessaries used via the vagina.12
In males with hormonal imbalance, testosterone can be administered in the form of injections.
Thyroid hormone therapy is another example of treatment used for HI. It helps to balance thyroid hormone consequently agreeing symptoms associated with hypothyroidism.
Tips on maintaining balanced hormones in the body
In the absence of any other medical issue; as a healthy person, there are things to do to help maintain your hormone balance. These can include:
- Maintaining good and adequate sleep: this involves having a consistent sleep schedule and avoiding blue light that could drive away the urge to sleep.
- Maintain a healthy diet by avoiding junk food and food that contains high sugar levels. It is advised to eat foods that have high protein content.
- Exercising regularly to help improve the body’s metabolism rate. etc.
The best time to get checked for hormonal imbalance is as soon as you start experiencing the symptoms mentioned earlier under the symptoms of hormonal imbalance. Considering the health problems hormonal imbalance can result into; it is very important to get medication attention as soon as you can. It is necessary to note that your risk of having hormonal imbalance is increased by more than one factor, which includes poor diet, pollution, unhealthy lifestyles, and medications.
- Could hormone imbalance be the root of your acid reflux? [Internet]. Klarity Health Library. [cited 2022 Oct 19].
- About the endocrine system [Internet]. [cited 2022 Oct 19].
- Hormonal imbalance in women: 9 signs to look for [Internet]. Flo.health - #1 mobile product for women’s health. [cited 2022 Oct 19].
- Ekong V. Soft computing system for the diagnosis of hormonal imbalance. Transactions on Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence [Internet]. 2019 [cited 2022 Oct 19];7(6):30–42.
- Taraborrelli S. Physiology, production and action of progesterone. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand [Internet]. 2015 Nov [cited 2022 Oct 19];94:8–16.
- Zhou H, Wang Y, Gatcombe M, Farris J, Botelho JC, Caudill SP, et al. Simultaneous measurement of total estradiol and testosterone in human serum by isotope dilution liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry. Anal Bioanal Chem [Internet]. 2017 Oct [cited 2022 Oct 19];409(25):5943–54.
- Hameed A. Hormonal imbalance and its causes in young females. [cited 2022 Oct 19];
- Hormone imbalance in women with infertility caused by polycystic ovary syndrome: is there a connection with body mass index? | open access macedonian journal of medical sciences. 2020 Nov 9 [cited 2022 Oct 19];
- Diabetes and night sweats: what you need to know [Internet]. Klarity Health Library. [cited 2022 Oct 19].
- Overactive thyroid (Hyperthyroidism) [Internet]. nhs.uk. 2017 [cited 2022 Oct 19].
- Polycystic ovary syndrome [Internet]. nhs.uk. 2017 [cited 2022 Oct 19].
- DeMAYO FJ, Zhao B, Takamoto N, Tsai SY. Mechanisms of action of estrogen and progesterone. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences [Internet]. 2002 Mar [cited 2022 Oct 19];955(1):48–59.
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