Hormones are responsible for all communication between glands and cells—hormone receptors are actually found on every cell membrane. Think of them as messengers, controlling and coordinating activities throughout the body. For instance, hormones control the function of entire organs, determine the way the body uses and stores energy, and control the volume of fluid and the levels of salts and glucose (sugar) in the blood.
It makes sense then that when hormones are out of balance, all sorts of uncomfortable symptoms can occur. That’s why when you’re noticing unexplained symptoms, it’s a good idea to get your hormone levels checked. That will give you a bigger picture of what’s going on with your body!
The glands of the endocrine system are the pituitary gland, the hypothalamus, adrenals, thyroid, ovaries, and testes. These glands are responsible for regulating hormone levels in the bloodstream.
The hormones that these glands produce do everything from helping to control blood pressure, to controlling your appetite, to regulating your sleep-wake cycle. (Source)
The glands, in turn, are controlled by stimulation from the nervous system, as well as by chemical receptors in the blood and hormones produced by other glands. By regulating the organs in the body, they help to maintain your body’s homeostasis or balance. Homeostasis is defined as a stable equilibrium between interdependent elements, especially when referring to physiological processes.
In addition to the glands of the endocrine system, many other non-glandular organs and tissues in the body produce hormones as well.
Unfortunately, since hormones are used for so many different functions in your body, the symptoms are also widely varied when they’re out of balance. There are some common symptoms associated with specific hormones though.
My friend, Dr. Josh Axe, sums up some of the imbalances and their associated symptoms well:
Estrogen dominance simply means that there is too much estrogen that is not balanced out by enough progesterone. Many times, toxic estrogens from plastics and environmental toxins can create this type of imbalance.
Symptoms: changes in sleep patterns, changes in weight and appetite, higher perceived stress, slowed metabolism
With PCOS, the egg may not develop as it should or it may not be released during ovulation as it should be. Many experts have associated high insulin and high androgens with PCOS. I have also noticed the correlation between PCOS and iodine deficiency.(Source)
Symptoms: infertility, weight gain, higher risk for diabetes, acne, abnormal hair growth
Any condition that affects or damages the ovaries can cause a decrease in estrogen levels in the body. As women age and approach menopause, it is normal for estrogen levels to drop.
Symptoms: low sex drive, reproductive problems, menstrual irregularity, changes in mood
Hypothyroidism is a condition where the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough hormones. Women, especially those older than age 60, are more likely to have hypothyroidism.
Symptoms: slowed metabolism, weight gain, fatigue, anxiety, irritability, digestive issues, irregular periods
Low testosterone, or low T, is diagnosed when levels fall below 300 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL). A normal range is typically 300–1000 ng/dL, according to the U.S. FDA. A traditional doctor will use a blood test, called a serum testosterone test, to determine your level of circulating testosterone. I like to use the DUTCH test, which is a dried urine test to get an idea of how your hormones are doing.
Symptoms: erectile dysfunction, muscle loss, weight gain, fatigue, mood-related problems
Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) is a condition in which your thyroid gland produces too much of the hormone thyroxine. Hyperthyroidism can accelerate your body’s metabolism significantly.
Symptoms: anxiety, thinning hair, weight loss, IBS, trouble sleeping, irregular heartbeats
Diabetes is a disease in which your blood glucose levels are too high. Insulin is a hormone that helps the glucose get into your cells to give them energy. With type 1 diabetes, your body does not make insulin. With type 2 diabetes, the more common type, your body does not make or use insulin well. Did you know that being 25 pounds overweight will increase your chances of developing diabetes by 2,660%?
Symptoms: weight gain, nerve damage (neuropathy), higher risk for vision loss, fatigue, trouble breathing, dry mouth, skin problems
The adrenals are two small glands that sit on top of the kidneys and produce stress hormones. Prolonged exposure to stress could drain the adrenals leading to a low cortisol state.
Symptoms: fatigue, muscle aches and pains, anxiety and depression, trouble sleeping, brain fog, reproductive problems
Take a look at the common symptoms for each of these hormone imbalances and see if they sound like you. If you have unexplained symptoms, it may do you well to have your hormone levels checked. I use the company Direct Labs to do testing from home. I would love to help you determine which tests are right for you, then decipher your results afterwards. Contact me here if you are interested in setting up a consultation.
We’ll continue diving into hormonal imbalances in the next blog!