Although you may think of hormones mainly in the context of puberty and sexual activity, there are many different kinds and they affect your entire body.
Because of their importance in bodily functions, when hormones are unbalanced they can have some pretty sticky effects.
If you have any of the following symptoms, your hormones may just be the culprit.
1. Excessive Weight Gain
If you’re gaining weight inexplicably or just can’t seem to lose it, consider that a hormone imbalance might be the root of the problem (1). Weight gain on account of low thyroid hormone tends to be mild and causes symptoms like fatigue and dry skin.
As men and women age, declining levels of sex hormones can make it hard to keep off the extra pounds. The third major cause of hormone imbalance, cortisol (stress hormone), can trigger excessive hunger pangs and lead to an increased appetite (2).
2. Sweaty Skin
An excess in thyroid hormone, or hyperthyroidism (3), can cause excessive sweating. Those with this condition may also experience rapid weight loss, anxiety, and heat intolerance.
On the other hand, the condition can also lead to an increase in appetite, so if you notice an inconsistency in your food intake and how much weight you’ve been gaining, speak to your doctor about getting a thyroid hormone check done.
3. Digestive Problems
For menopausal women in particular, digestive issues are often the result of a hormonal imbalance. As a woman gets older, her body produces less estrogen and progesterone (4).
Other hormones, such as cortisol, can also impede the digestive process through raised stress levels (5).
4. Sugar cravings
A classic symptom of adrenal fatigue, the most common hormonal imbalance in women, is a sharpened sweet tooth. This may accompany intense hunger and craving for salty foods (6).
If adrenal fatigue is in fact the culprit, you will likely experience other symptoms too, such as irritability, anxiety, and inflamed skin. When the adrenal glands aren’t up to speed, hormones start stressing out the body and mind.
5. Poor Libido
After childbirth and menopause, a woman is likely to experience low libido. This is because her estrogen levels are depleted (7). This may result in not only a reduced sex drive; a woman’s tissues may experience a decrease in elasticity and cause her discomfort or pain.
6. Hair Loss
Yet another bodily blip caused by wonky estrogen levels, hair loss (8) can be an unwelcome surprise when women approach menopause or give birth.
However, excess estrogen is only one hormonal imbalance that can cause hair to start thinning. Testosterone in women can lead to hair growth on the body and hair loss on the head.
In addition, one study found that women with certain markers of insulin resistance sustained a greater risk of female pattern baldness (9).
7. Mood Swings
Known as pre-menstrual syndrome, or PMS, the anxiety or depression that many women experience before their period, is yet another symptom of an estrogen imbalance.
Estrogen levels influence the production of serotonin (10) , a hormone with a large part in controlling your emotional state. When estrogen levels fluctuate, your serotonin levels also fluctuate, which can lead to bouts of unanticipated emotional sensitivity.
Two hormonal causes of insomnia exist: adrenal fatigue and estrogen imbalance. The tricky thing about hormone-related sleeplessness is that it’s likely to become a vicious cycle.
Sleeplessness itself can worsen a hormone imbalance, which in turn can prevent you from getting the sleep you need. If you notice that your sleeping patterns have become irregular, consider asking your doctor about a possible hormone balance.
Feeling worn out, drained, or just apathetic in general? Don’t blame yourself—look to your body for the answers. In women, the hormonal changes associated with perimenopause and menopause are classically associated with feelings of fatigue (11).
More specifically, decreases in estrogen and progesterone can sap your energy and drain you. So if you’re going through menopause and feeling down more than normal, remember that it might be your hormones talking.
Hormones are great, essential even—and it’s also essential that you keep your levels in check. If you’re female, pay particular attention to any possible symptoms of an imbalance during menopause or after pregnancy.