Overview: This article outlines how hormones impact how you feel, and identifies some key physical and mental symptoms that indicate an imbalance.
What are hormones, anyway?
Hormones act like a key that fits into a lock. They are natural chemical “messengers” that are made naturally in our bodies. They travel through our blood streams to communicate to our bodies what they should do (1).
There are three important reproductive hormones:
Signs of Hormone Imbalance
Menopausal hormone imbalance symptoms are often related to changing levels of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. Each woman’s body responds to the process of hormone deficiency and imbalance in its own unique way.
Estrogen fluctuates frequently throughout most women’s lives. Common complaints of unbalanced or low estrogen are:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Memory loss
- Dry skin
- Loss of sensuality
- Vaginal dryness
- Painful sex
- Not feeling “like yourself”
Estrogen may also help protect against heart disease (2) and osteoporosis (3).
Progesterone is often called the “happy hormone” or the “hormonal harmonizer,” helping to balance estrogen, and stabilize moods. Common symptoms of unbalanced or low progesterone are:
- Irregular periods
- Light or heavy flow
- Sleep disturbances
- Water retention
- Weight gain
- Overwhelming sadness
- Feelings of nervousness
- Heart palpitations
Natural progesterone also helps raise good cholesterol (4), helps protect the brain (5), and helps protect the breast tissue against breast cancer (6).
Testosterone is present in smaller amounts in women’s bodies compared to men’s. It plays an important role in our overall wellness. Common complaints of unbalanced or low testosterone are:
- Weight issues
- Muscle loss
- Low sex drive
- Short-term memory loss
- Problems with focus and concentration
- Low self-confidence
- General loss of zest and vitality
Low testosterone has also been linked to migraine headaches (7), fibrocystic disease (8), and bladder incontinence (9). It plays a role in preventing osteoporosis (10), cardiovascular disease (11), atherosclerosis (12), and diabetes (13).
Many women may not even notice that they have begun to experience a natural decline or hormone imbalance. Signs begin gradually over time, and include:
- Varying cycle lengths
- Changes in heaviness of periods
- Intensified PMS symptoms
- Mood changes
- Loss of sex drive
- Trouble sleeping
Women often write off these hormone imbalance symptoms as the result of stress, grief, or illness. However, as hormone imbalance or decline worsens, the symptoms often grow worse as well.
While you may feel like you’re alone or “going crazy,” your feelings are more common than you realize!
Right now, women all over the world are experiencing the same thoughts, feelings, and sensations that you are.
National Institutes of Health – Medline Plus. “Hormones.” http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/hormones.html.
American Heart Association. “Menopause and Heart Disease.” http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/MyHeartandStrokeNews/Men opause-and-Heart-Disease_UCM_448432_Article.jsp.
Mayo Clinic. “Osteoporosis Risk Factors.” http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/osteoporosis/basics/risk-factors/CON-20019924.
Clinica Chimica Acta. Volume 115, Issue 1, p63-71. “Reduction of plasma high-density lipoprotein2 cholesterol and increase of postheparin plasma hepatic lipase activity during progestin treatment.” http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0009898181901078.
Experimental Neurology. Volume 178, Issue 1, p59-67. “Progesterone Protects against Necrotic Damage and Behavioral Abnormalities Caused by Traumatic Brain Injury.” http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0014488602980209.
Breast Cancer Research and Treatment. Volume 8, Issue 3, p179-188. “Antiestrogen action of progesterone in breast tissue.” http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF01807330.
Headache. Volume 46, Issue 6, p925-933. “Testosterone replacement therapy for treatment refractory cluster headache.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16732838.
Gynecological Endocrinology. Volume 28, Issue 6, p468-471. “Is hyperandrogenemia protective for fibrocystic breast disease in PCOS?” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22103710.
Maturitas. Volume 68, Issue 4, p355-361. “Beneficial effects of testosterone therapy in women measured by the validated Menopause Rating Scale (MRS.)” http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378512210004482.
Hormone Research in Pediatrics. Volume 19, Number 1, p18-22. “Osteoporosis and Decline of Gonadal Function in the Elderly Male.” http://www.karger.com/Article/Abstract/179855.
American Journal of Epidemiology. Volume 146, Issue 8, p 609-617. “Longitudinal Relation between Endogenous Testosterone and Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors in Middle-aged Men.” http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/146/8/609.short.
Journal of Internal Medicine. Volume 259, Issue 6, p576-582. “Low testosterone levels are associated with carotid atherosclerosis in men.” http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2796.2006.01637.x/full.
European Journal of Endocrinology. Issue 154, p899-906. “Testosterone replacement therapy improves insulin resistance, glycaemic control, visceral adiposity and hypercholesterolaemia in hypogonadal men with type 2 diabetes.” http://www.eje-online.org/content/154/6/899.short.