Experiencing changes that you can’t seem to explain can be off putting and confusing. For many people, the first step is googling reasons why and trying to self-diagnose which can also be quite stressful and misleading. These changes can be the result of many different things, so it’s important to be honest with yourself. Reflecting on internal and external factors can help you pinpoint any lifestyle changes that may be impacting how you feel.
If you are experiencing a true hormonal imbalance, understanding the ymptoms, potential causes, and treatment options is an important first step.
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What causes a hormonal imbalance?
When trying to find the root cause of a hormonal imbalance, one thing to consider is your endocrine system. Your endocrine system is made up of different glands that produce hormones. These hormones send instructions and information to other cells in your body as they are released and travel through your bloodstream. The endocrine system controls and regulates the amount of hormones being released in your body, and can be affected by many different factors. Some of the glands that are in your endocrine system that can affect hormone levels include (but are not limited to) your pituitary gland, thyroid, adrenals, ovaries, and more. Getting bloodwork done to check your hormone levels is a good place to start, especially if you are feeling a little bit off.
The pituitary gland is found at the base of your brain. Although it’s very small in size, it is extremely important as it produces hormones that help to regulate growth, blood pressure, reproduction, and other hormones that stimulate glands in the endocrine system to produce the hormones that they need.
The thyroid is situated in the front part of your neck below your Adam’s apple. The hormones that are produced by your thyroid impact all aspects of your metabolism and affects how efficiently your body burns food for energy. If your thyroid is not producing enough of the hormones that it should be, you might notice weight gain as your metabolism slows down. If your thyroid produces too much of the thyroxine hormone, it can increase your metabolism and cause unintentional weight loss as well. Thyroid imbalances can affect fertility by inhibiting ovulation and hinder your chances of getting pregnant if not treated.
Your adrenal glands can be found on top of your kidneys. They produce hormones that help with blood pressure, stress response, immunity, and metabolism. Some key hormones that your adrenal glands produce include cortisol, aldosterone, DHEA, and epinephrine. If your adrenal glands are not producing enough of these hormones, you can start to experience weight loss, poor appetite, fatigue and more. If your adrenal glands are overactive and over-produce certain hormones, high blood pressure, severe headaches and anxiety symptoms can occur. Stress and anxiety levels are important to keep in check when you are trying to conceive. Too much stress can make the process more difficult, which leads to a vicious cycle of additional stress being added.
What are some symptoms of an imbalance?
There are some symptoms that could indicate an imbalance in more than one gland or different hormone levels, which is why a comprehensive test is so important. An imbalance means either too much or too little of something. Regardless of whether your levels or elevated or supressed, negative symptoms can occur. Symptoms such as fatigue, weight gain or loss, mood swings, high anxiety, high blood pressure, low blood pressure, heavy or painful periods, low sex drive, insomnia, acne, fertility issues, headaches, and vaginal dryness are common when your hormones are imbalanced. Understanding which glands are under or overproducing is important when deciding on a treatment plan.
Keeping a symptom diary is helpful for your doctor to identify symptom triggers, symptom frequency, and symptom onset. Additionally, your daily lifestyle and dietary practices play a large role in symptom management. Exercise, a balanced food diet, and symptom tracking will help you learn what your body needs and help your body restore balance.
What are my treatment options?
Figuring out your treatment options is dependent on your unique symptoms, lifestyle, and preferences. Different imbalances require different treatments and your treatment plan can change over time. For example, people who experience painful or heavy periods might consider birth control as a treatment option. However, if you’re trying to conceive, birth control is not the appropriate treatment option. In this case, you may need to look deeper into what could be causing this pain and heavy bleeding. If it’s something like PCOS or endometriosis, you might have to look to IVF for help conceiving. Changing your diet and physical activity routine is also an option, as well as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that can help mask the pain for the time being.
It is important to reflect and be in tune with what is happening to your body and what you want to change. Recognizing what can be done at home and when you’ll need to seek the expert of your doctor or gynecologist for your imbalance is vital to restoring your overall health.