Hormonal Imbalances

Dr. Maria Zweig MD

 

Hormonal disorders are common, actually they are more common in women than they are in men. Among my patients I have seen many cases of thyroid problems, many thyroid nodule as well as many cases of thyroid cancer.

Sex hormones exert their function from puberty to menopause and beyond. As I often say to my patients, menopause is not an opening and closing of a door, but rather a gradual change in dominance between the three sex hormones present during the reproductive life of women.

In some of the hormonal problems we suffer the obvious main risk factor for hormonal problems is being a woman, then the passing of years, most patients who suffer from hormonal problems, do so later in life. Like most diseases or problems hormonal problems are usually caused by many different factors. There is also a hereditary or genetic factor as well as the lifestyles we live that may be attributed to your hormonal misbalance. There may also be secondary effects due to surgery, where part or the entire gland is surgically removed or destroyed via some form of chemotherapy or radiation therapy for various medical problems.

Many of the hormonal problems we have, give common symptoms such as menstrual changes, weight gain, mood, infertility, and skin and hair. Changes may be slow and gradual or sudden with dramatic symptoms that require us to seek medical help fast. Symptoms are either specific to a hormonal disorder or easy to identify, others may be present in several of the possible hormonal disorders.

 

Symptoms of changes in sex hormone levels

      • Estrogen
      • Progesterone
      • Testosterone

Women are known for being cyclical in the levels of the different sex hormones lasts, unlike men who usually have a stable level of hormones without ups and downs for the majority of their life span. Estrogen is the hormone that usually prevails during the reproductive life of women. Progesterone deficiency characterizes the menstrual irregularity during puberty and pre-menopause. During menopause the three sex hormones lower but estrogen and progesterone levels decrease more when compared to testosterone. This results in relatively more male hormones be present than at other times in the lives of women. This is part of the reason women can see more facial hair and hair loss during menopause.

Estrogen deficiency symptoms:

      • Hot Flashes
      • sleep disorders
      • Dry Skin
      • Pain during sexual intercourse
      • Lowering of the libido
      • Headaches
      • Loss of focus and concentration
      • Depression or anxiety
      • Loss of bone mass

Symptoms of excess estrogen:

      • Fluid retention
      • Pain and inflammation of the breast
      • Nervousness, irritability, anxiety
      • Periods abundant and heavy
      • Fatigue
      • Weight gain
      • Mood swings
      • Break outs

Progesterone deficiency symptoms:

      • Headaches
      • Anxiety
      • Irregular Periods
      • Infertility
      • Acne
      • Weight gain
      • Mood swings
      • Severe PMS
      • Articulation pain
      • Confusion

Symptoms of excess progesterone:

      • Sleepiness
      • Water retention
      • Candidiasis
      • Inflammation of the breast
      • Abdominal swelling

Testosterone deficiency symptoms in women:

      • Fatigue
      • Diminishing sexual desire
      • Diminishing muscle mass
      • Weight gain
      • Loss of bone mass
      • Depression
      • Loss of concentration
      • Memory loss

Excess testosterone level symptoms in women:

      • Acne
      • Irritability
      • Hair loss
      • Insomnia
      • Greasy Skin

 

Prolactin hormone lactation

This is the hormone of lactation. It is the hormone that rises during pregnancy and allows women to breastfeed their baby.

The pituitary is the gland that produces this hormone. Through glandular overproduction, abnormal production can cause estrogen deficiency, loss of bone mass, decreased regulation and fertility problems.

 

The adrenal hormones Cortisol

Cortisol is the hormone that controls the body’s response flight-or-fight. It is the hormone that helps us cope during times of emergencies and stress. It increases levels of blood sugar, to provide the fuel to fight bad times, increases blood pressure and heartbeat. These effects occur at the expense of other functions in the body, that at the time of a real emergency or stressful situation are not vital to overcome the immediate problem. Cortisol takes attention away from other bodily functions that are not a priority during times of stress like:

  • Reproductive Function
  • Digestion
  • Energy storage
  • Sleep

Persons with fast-paced, full life of high demand and stress cause cortisol levels stay high all the time. To give an example of why out bodies do this, think about our ancestors in Africa running away from a Lion, her body would have released cortisol to focus all of the body’s energy to escaping that situation. This mechanism was very useful for our ancestors and one of the reasons humans we’re able to adapt so well but our bodies are not used to a life without life threatening predators, and can’t tell the difference between an upcoming deadline and lion chasing you. This can cause two negative effect in our lives.

First, high levels of cortisol can cause:

      • Diabetes
      • Hormone resistance insulin
      • Weight gain specifically around the belly region
      • High cholesterol, high triglyceride levels  
      • Loss of muscle mass
      • Loss of bone mass
      • Hair loss
      • Infertility
      • High blood pressure
      • CVD
      • Sleep disorders
      • Depression
      • Lowering of sexual desire

 

Second, the body can’t maintain these high levels indefinitely. Sooner or later levels will start to decrease, by glandular exhaustion, and the body will reflect symptoms of cortisol deficiency

      • Tiredness, weakness
      • Muscle pain
      • Joint pain
      • Loss of appetite
      • Salt cravings
      • low blood pressure
      • Low blood sugar
      • Depression
      • Difficulty in overcoming a minor illness
      • Irritability
      • sleep disorders
      • Dizziness
      • Confusion
      • diarrhea
      • Dark Circles under your eyes
      • Frequent urination

Thyroid Hormones

  • Thyroxine (T4)
  • Triodothyronine (T3)

 

The role of the thyroid is to control metabolism. It converts food into energy and controls body temperature.

When this gland is lazy, hypothyroidism, there will be a deficiency of these hormones and the following symptoms may be present:

      • Intolerance to cold, cold extremities
      • Slow metabolism, more easily fatigued
      • Weight gain
      • low blood pressure, low pulse rate
      • Difficulty in concentration or memory loss
      • Dry skin and hair
      • Hair loss
      • Finger nails are brittle
      • constipation
      • Headaches
      • Lowering of sexual desire
      • Depression
      • Anxiety
      • Puffy eyes
      • Infertility

When the gland is overexerting itself and producing too much, hyperthyroidism, symptoms may include:

      • Heart Palpitations
      • Nervousness
      • Irritability
      • Difficulty sleeping
      • Fine, brittle hair
      • Muscle weakness
      • Losing weight, even when there is good appetite
      • Increased sweating
      • Tremor of the hands
      • Milder and less frequent periods
      • Eyes may appear to be larger or slightly protrude

Laboratory tests exists to measure glandular function and to be able to see if a hormonal misbalance is present. There are hormonal replacement therapies for hormone deficiency and suppressive therapies for hormone excess. There are conditions of hormonal dysfunction that once present could last for the rest of your life and others that can be solved or fluctuate over the life of the person. Not all hormonal disorder requires drug treatment alternative therapy and lifestyle changes can also be used as treatment depending on the individual physician and patient.

As you may have noticed many of these different symptoms associated with varying levels of hormones in the body are very similar. This is why it’s very important that you are diagnosed by a doctor and don’t try to self-diagnose and definitely don’t try to self-medicate. This was intended as a summary of different symptoms associated with hormonal problems and to let you know that if you have some of these symptoms, you don’t have to live with them for the rest of your life, there are many therapies available to treat the symptoms or cure you completely. Reach out to your doctor and discuss possible treatment plans today!