Hormones are the body’s chemical messengers, orchestrating vital functions like metabolism, reproduction, growth, and mood regulation. When these delicate hormonal systems become disrupted, it can lead to a wide range of health issues and imbalances. Understanding what causes hormonal imbalances and recognising the signs can empower you to seek timely medical attention and regain your well-being. Read on to understand the causes of hormonal imbalances and six common signs that may indicate their presence.

What does it mean to have a hormonal imbalance?

Hormones play a vital role in regulating our growth, emotions, appearance, and overall functioning. Nevertheless, as we age, the levels of hormones in our bodies diminish, often leading to a hormonal imbalance. This imbalance can significantly impact our well-being and accelerate the ageing process. When hormones are imbalanced, it means that certain hormones are either overproduced or underproduced. This disruption in hormonal coordination can result in a range of symptoms, including fluctuations in weight, energy levels, and sleep patterns. In more severe cases, hormonal imbalances can even affect blood pressure and blood sugar levels, potentially leading to serious conditions like diabetes and hypertension.

Outside of ageing, pregnancy and menopause, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a common cause of hormonal imbalances that’s thought to affect one in ten women in the UK. Essentially, PCOS is a syndrome (meaning a collection of symptoms) that affects how a woman’s ovaries work. In adults, PCOS can be diagnosed if you have two out of three of the criteria present. Having polycystic ovaries is only one of these. You don’t have to have cysts in your ovaries to be diagnosed. The three criteria are: irregular periods, symptoms of raised androgen hormones and having multiple cysts on the ovaries.

Other symptoms can include fertility issues, weight gain, thinning hair or hair loss and oily skin or acne. If you do have signs or symptoms of PCOS, these will usually become apparent during your teens or early 20s, and you’ll need at least one medical test to be diagnosed, alongside physical symptoms – usually a blood test showing higher levels of androgen hormones, and/or an ultrasound scan showing the presence of cysts.

What hormones should you focus on? 

The hormones that women should focus their attention include…

  • Oestrogen: As the primary female sex hormone, oestrogen is predominantly synthesised by the ovaries. Beyond its crucial role in regulating the menstrual cycle, it also supports various functions, including maintaining bone density and modulating mood.
  • Progesterone: Another hormone produced by the ovaries, progesterone plays a vital role, particularly during early pregnancy.
  • Testosterone: This essential hormone is responsible for developing lean muscle mass, facilitating fat burning, and enhancing libido. While primarily produced in the testicles for men, the ovaries also release small amounts into the bloodstream.
  • Cortisol: Known as the body’s stress hormone, cortisol is essential in maintaining normal blood sugar levels and supporting the immune system. However, elevated cortisol levels can have detrimental effects, including feelings of fear, panic, and depression, as well as memory impairment and immune suppression.
  • Thyroid Hormone: Produced by the thyroid glands, thyroid hormone is responsible for balancing crucial bodily functions such as breathing, heart rate, metabolism, and body temperature.
  • DHEA: Though lesser-known, DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) holds great importance. As a hormone precursor, it triggers reactions that lead to the production of other hormones like testosterone and oestrogen. It plays a pivotal role during puberty and serves to protect against stress while maintaining the immune system throughout life.

Hormonal imbalance: Signs and symptoms  

  • Unusual fatigue
  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Acne
  • Puffiness of the face
  • Unusual body hair growth
  • Skin pigment changes
  • Frequent urination
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Bloating
  • Low mood, anxiety, and irritability
  • Brain fog or poor memory
  • Night sweats and hot flushes
  • Hair loss, dry hair, and skin
  • Rapid ageing 

Is there a test that can identify hormonal imbalances?

There are many tests that can be performed to check your hormonal and metabolic rate. These include blood and urine tests and more complex analysis such as body composition and indirect calorimetry. Hormone testing will help establish any issues, allowing you to determine whether you’re producing the right hormones at the correct times, as well as highlighting any problems that need to be addressed. In younger women, tracking the balance of your hormones through medical tests can have a great long-term impact on fertility. But, in more mature women who may be approaching or going peri-menopause it can help to optimise wellbeing and healthspan.

How to improve your hormonal health

Manage your stress

Reducing stress is one of the most crucial ways to keep hormones in balance. The stress hormone cortisol has been linked to brain fog and even memory issues. The best ways to lower high cortisol levels are exercising regularly, meditating, or even just going for a walk and spending some time in nature.

Consider Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement Therapy 

This treatment involves taking hormones identical in structure to hormones produced in the human body to replenish levels which have fallen in the body. It is used to correct hormone imbalances and is very effective at enhancing quality of life, slowing ageing, and improving wellbeing.

BHRT is fully customised, meaning it has been compounded especially for you. For example, we can put three hormones in one special tablet rather than you needing to take three separate ones. And if one hormone is only available as a 100mg traditional HRT dose, we can prescribe a different dose which may lead to better symptom relief without excess side effects, if that’s what you need.

Bioidentical hormones, or BHRT, are especially effective because their molecular structure is identical to the hormones created by the body. They fit the body’s hormone receptor sites perfectly, ensuring that messages are correctly translated, and the effects are consistent with the body’s biochemistry.

Avoid excess alcohol

Too much alcohol harms your health and can upset your hormonal balance.

Consume a nutrient-dense diet

Maintaining a well-functioning defence system for your body is essential to safeguarding your glands and achieving hormonal balance. The key lies in prioritising a daily intake of whole plant-based foods and an ample amount of dietary fibre while avoiding overeating.

Embrace fresh, unprocessed foods, and opt for a diet rich in high-quality protein and low in refined carbohydrates. Incorporate beneficial fats like avocados, nuts, seeds, extra virgin olive oil, and oily fish into your meals to support your overall health and hormonal well-being.

Take Calcium D-Glucarate

If you’re hoping to balance your hormones through supplementation, start by speaking to a nutritionist to get some bespoke advice. One supplement that you may find helpful is Calcium D-Glucarate which helps detoxify excess oestrogen or ‘dirty oestrogens’ – the harmful metabolites of oestrogen responsible for conditions such as fibrocystic breasts and thyroid nodules, endometriosis, fibroids, infertility, mood swings, and PMS. Other helpful supplements like Diindolylmethane (DIM) help change the pathway your oestrogen goes down, which can reduce premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and menopause symptoms. It has an independent hormonal activity that can help alleviate hormone imbalance symptoms and restore balance to your system.

Would you like to learn more about how to optimise your hormone health? Click here to enquire or to book a consultation.