Hormones have profound effects on women’s health. The female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone are most well-known hormones due to their influence on women’s reproductive health, menstruation, pregnancy, menopause, hair growth, mood, and libido. Helping women address hormonal imbalances can truly have a remarkable impact on women’s lives.
What Is a Hormonal Imbalance?
Hormone imbalances occur when there is too much or not enough of a specific hormone in the bloodstream. Because of the necessary role hormones play in the body, even minor hormonal imbalances can cause side effects throughout the entire body. Hormones are biochemicals that are produced by glands within the endocrine system. Hormones travel through the bloodstream to reach tissues and organs, delivering messages that tell the organs what to do, when to do it, and how to do it.
Our hormones are important for regulating most fundamental bodily processes; therefore, a hormonal imbalance can affect a wide range of a woman’s body functions. Hormones help regulate the following:
- Metabolism and appetite
- Heart rate
- Sleep cycles
- Reproductive cycles and sexual function
- General growth and development
- Mood and stress levels
- Body temperature
Many women experience imbalances in estrogen and progesterone levels, while men are more likely to experience imbalances in the body’s testosterone levels. Both men and women can be affected by imbalances in insulin, growth hormones, steroids, and adrenaline.
Symptoms of a Hormonal Imbalance
Everyone experiences brief periods of hormonal imbalance at certain times of their life, but hormone imbalances can also indicate that the endocrine glands are not functioning as they should. The symptoms of a hormonal imbalance depend on which specific glands and hormones are affected. Symptoms associated with the most common causes of hormonal imbalances include:
- Unexplained weight gain
- Excessive sweating
- Blurred vision
- Breast tenderness
- Deepening of the voice in women
- Changes in sensitivity to cold and heat
- Dry skin or skin rashes
- Changes in blood pressure
- Changes in heart rate
- Brittle or weakened bones
- Changes in blood sugar concentration
- Increased thirst
- Changes in urination
- Appetite changes
- Reduced sex drive
- Irritability and anxiety
- Unexplained long-term fatigue
- Thinning, brittle hair
- Puffy face
Causes of Hormonal Changes in Women
All women experience natural periods of hormone imbalance or fluctuations at certain points in their life. Most hormone changes happen naturally and aren’t noticeable.
However, hormonal imbalances can be the result of endocrine glands that are not functioning properly.
Why Do Women Need Estrogen?
Estrogen is a hormone that prepares the uterus for the possible implantation of a fertilized egg by thickening the lining of the uterus. It also influences how the body uses calcium to build bones. Estrogen also helps maintain healthy levels of cholesterol in the blood. Estrogen also plays a vital role in vaginal health.
As women get closer to menopause, their ovaries lower the production of estrogen. Fluctuating estrogen levels may cause common menopause symptoms like hot flashes along with more serious medical conditions like osteoporosis.
Why Do Women Need Progesterone?
Progesterone is used alongside estrogen for women who still have their uterus. In these women, estrogen—if taken without progesterone—increases a woman’s risk for cancer of the endometrium (lining of the uterus). During a woman’s reproductive years, the cells from the endometrium are shed during menstruation. When the endometrium no longer needs to be shed, estrogen can cause an overgrowth of cells in the uterus that can lead to urinary problems and cancer.
Progesterone reduces the risk of uterine cancer by making the endometrium thinner. Women who take progesterone could experience monthly bleeding or no bleeding at all, depending on how the hormone therapy is administered.