Hormones are chemicals released from specialized glands in the body (called endocrine glands) and reach the target organ or tissues through the blood stream. They are integral part of body’s homeostasis machinery to maintain harmony and healthy life. Hormones are released in small quantities, and their small quantity is significantly sufficient to cause changes throughout the body. With these changes many times even small amounts of insufficient production of a certain hormone, i.e. estrogen can manifest as a hormonal imbalance.
There are numerous endocrine glands in the body. The pituitary is called the master gland as it controls the function of many other endocrine glands of the body. Male and females produce all the hormones from same regions, except for the testes (in males) and ovaries (in females). Problems in these organs can bring about hormone imbalances.
Like any body organ, endocrine glands, if they are damaged or diseased can release more or less of the hormone they're producing which will in turn result in significant hormone imbalances. These hormone imbalances if left untreated can lead to health issues and various conditions such as diabetes, failure to get pregnant, chronic fatigue, etc. Unfortunately, individuals can experience the hormonal imbalances at various stages of their life, and hormonal imbalances are not just a condition of the elderly or someone going through menopause.
Causes of Hormone Imbalances
Causes of hormonal imbalances can be many. In some people, the cause is genetic. However, in the vast majority of people the cause for hormonal imbalances is lifestyle related such as poor diet, sedentary habits, stress, medication use, etc.
Signs and Symptoms of Hormonal Imbalances
The signs and symptoms of hormonal imbalances vary a lot depending upon the endocrine gland involved. Most of the symptoms are common for both males and females, as most of the glands are similar in both the genders.
Most common symptoms include lethargy and fatigue, acne, weight issues (weight gain or weight loss), mood swings, loss of libido (decreased sex drive), and loss of memory. However, if the imbalances are severe, than significant issues can occur such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, anxiety, cardiac problems, osteoporosis, etc.
Alopecia (hair loss) is mostly related to the hormonal imbalances. It’s important to note that hair loss is not just related to the hormones released from the reproductive organs, testosterone, estrogen and progesterone it can also be related to hormones from other endocrine glands of the body too such as pituitary, thyroid, parathyroid, pineal, adrenals, etc.
Investigations for Hormone Imbalances
Commonly saliva, blood or urine related tests are done to diagnose various hormone imbalances. The test advised depends on the history and examination of the individual. For example, thyroid can be assessed with blood testing for TSH, free T3 and free T4 levels, while blood sugar imbalances via blood glucose and insulin levels. Hormone testing can be done via blood sampling as well, but often times obtaining salivary samples is preferred because of their ease of collection, accuracy, and ability to evaluate hormone production throughout the day.
Hormone Imbalances Treatment
Treatment depends upon the hormone itself which is deficient and the underlying reason for its deficiency. Hormonal imbalances need to be dealt with on an individual basis, but through hormone replacement therapy, and nutritional supplementation many times hormonal imbalances are effectively resolved.