Have you ever just not felt right but couldn’t quite pinpoint the problem or experienced seemingly unrelated symptoms? From mood swings to abnormal weight gain, a hormonal imbalance can trigger a range of issues that alone may not be troubling, but when combined can truly hinder everyday life.
People often view hormonal imbalance as only impacting women, and while some signs may only be applicable to women, it is a condition that affects both sexes.
The following are five ways a hormonal imbalance may present itself:
1. Inability to sleep well
Various stages of a woman’s life, such as her monthly cycle, pregnancy, or menopause, can cause drastic fluctuations in hormone levels. It goes both ways, however, as “sleep deprivation can also affect hormone levels in a sleepless vicious cycle,” according to WebMD.
In men, low levels of testosterone can cause fatigue during the day and disrupt his ability to sleep soundly at night. In another vicious cycle, inadequate sleep can also lower testosterone. This is partially because the majority of testosterone used during daily activities is restored during sleep.
2. Irregular menstrual cycle in women
Since what is considered an “irregular” menstrual cycle can differ widely from person to person, it is difficult for the medical community to define what it means; this must be determined by each individual and discussed with her doctor.
However, the hormonal changes, especially an imbalance of progesterone, experienced during menopause and perimenopause (the stage leading up to menopause) could the be the culprit, since progesterone is the primary hormone responsible for regulating the level and length of menstrual bleeding.
The absence of an expected period during reproductive years, otherwise known as amenorrhea, can be caused by an under-active thyroid leading to a hormonal imbalance, though there are also other reasons for this. Always consult a doctor if you think experience amenorrhea.
3. Chronic acne
In both men and women, acne that persists beyond puberty and well into adulthood could be a sign of a hormonal imbalance. These imbalances “trigger an excessive amount of sebum, or skin oil, to be produced by the sebaceous glands, acne symptoms appear on the surface.”
Specifically, the timing of breakouts, acne’s location on your body, its texture and appearance, and past treatments’ affects can all help you to understand whether or not chronic acne is the result of fluctuating hormones. For women, if breakouts seem to flare up characteristically at a certain point in their monthly cycle, this usually signals a hormonal component.
4. Mood swings
Short-term, cyclical hormonal fluctuations are thought to cause variations in moods and emotions in women, namely in the reproductive years during premenstrual syndrome (PMS). However, Nanette Santoro, MD. at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City cites evidence from studies of women experiencing PMS who show no hormonal imbalances.
Santoro asserts that “Some researchers believe that certain hormone metabolites in the brain cause the mood changes – or that some women just metabolize hormones differently.” Other stages characterized by hormonal changes, such as perimenopause, can also cause mood swings.
In men, “Irritability as a result of a hormonal imbalance is a reality, especially between the ages of 40 and 60,” during what’s been coined Irritable Male Syndrome (IMS). High cortisol levels, the hormone closely related to stress and sleep regulation, may be mostly to blame, but low testosterone can also cause IMS.
5. Abnormal weight gain
For women entering menopause, weight gain is a common occurrence. Menopause causes estrogen levels to drop to a level no longer able to trigger menstruation, and “a decrease in estrogen can cause women in menopause to experience weight gain around the abdominal region and the hips.”
Conversely, high estrogen levels in men can lead to weight gain. Obesity in turn can raise estrogen levels, creating another feedback loop that can severely inhibit a man’s ability to lose weight.