There is a lot of buzz lately about hormones. Let’s face it, most don’t know why they feel “off”….they just do. Is it age? The heat? Illness?
Well, let’s begin with exactly what these things are and how they function in your body.
Hormones are like chemical messengers. Produced in the endocrine glands, these powerful chemicals travel around your bloodstream bossing tissues and organs around and telling them what to do. They help control many of your body’s major processes, including metabolism and reproduction.
When you have a hormonal imbalance, you have too much or too little of a certain hormone. Even the smallest changes can have serious effects throughout your whole body.
Think about your hormones like a recipe. Too much or too little of any one ingredient affects the final product. While some hormone levels fluctuate throughout your lifetime and may just be the result of natural aging, other changes occur when your endocrine glands get the recipe wrong.
Your hormones play a huge role in your overall health. Because of that, there’s a broad range of symptoms that could signal a hormonal imbalance. Your symptoms will depend on which hormones or glands aren’t working properly.
Common hormonal conditions affecting both men and women could cause any of the following symptoms:
- weight gain
- increased sensitivity to cold or heat
- constipation or more frequent bowel movements
- dry skin
- puffy face
- unexplained weight loss (sometimes sudden)
- increased or decreased heart rate
- muscle weakness
- frequent urination
Symptoms of a hormonal imbalance specific to women include:
- heavy or irregular periods, including missed periods, stopped period, or frequent period
- hirsutism, or excessive hair on the face, chin, or other parts of the body
- acne on the face, chest, or upper back
- thinning hair or hair loss
- weight gain or trouble losing weight
- darkening of skin, especially along neck creases, in the groin, and underneath breasts
- skin tags
- vaginal dryness
- vaginal atrophy
- pain during sex
- night sweats
So, where can we get these pesky hormones checked? What can we do once we get them checked?
There’s no single test available for doctors to diagnose a hormonal imbalance. Begin by making an appointment with your doctor for a physical exam. Be prepared to describe your symptoms and the timeline along which they’ve occurred. Bring a list of all medications, vitamins, and supplements you’re currently taking. It often helps to have a friend or family member along….you may hear lots of information and two sets of ears is much better than one!
Your doctor may ask you questions such as:
- How often are you experiencing symptoms?
- Does anything help relieve your symptoms?
- Have you lost or gained weight recently?
- Are you more stressed than usual?
- When was your last period?
- Are you planning to get pregnant?
- Do you have trouble getting or maintaining an erection?
- Do you have vaginal dryness or pain during sex?
Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may suggest one or more diagnostic tests. You can also ask your doctor to perform these tests. It is likely you will be referred to an Endocrinologist (these specialists treat people who suffer from hormonal imbalances or issues).
Once you voice your concerns, your physician will most likely send you to a lab for a blood draw. Most hormones can be detected in the blood. A doctor can use a blood test to check your thyroid, estrogen, testosterone, and cortisol levels.
Thyroid issues run in my family. So, I took information about my grandmother and mother’s Thyroid experiences. Be proactive in your health care and be prepared to get FIRM with your health care professional if they balk at having your hormone levels checked. Physicians and medical professionals are amazing! But, they are human and can miss small clues at times.
I hope you find this information helpful! If you suspect you may have a hormonal imbalance, see your healthcare professional NOW and get treated! It can cause serious health issues.