Hormonal imbalance in women: causes, symptoms and solutions
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What is hormonal imbalance in women?
Hormones, hormone peak, hormone variation, hormonal imbalance... these terms cover very distinct notions! What definitions are hidden behind these concepts? Let's talk about it together!
Before we start: the role of hormones
A hormone is a molecule in the human body that has the role of transmitting chemical messages in the body. It is secreted by a gland of the endocrine system following stimulation and evolves in the body, mainly through the bloodstream.
Each hormone has a well-defined role, although they always interact with each other. Some have a punctual action, while others are secreted continuously. Hormones are essential for growth, development, metabolism, sexual function, reproduction, mood or energy.
For example, hormones are responsible for the development of sexual function. Testosterone in men thus plays a key role in the development of secondary sexual characteristics (hair growth, muscle mass, tone of voice, etc.) and in sexual functioning (libido, erection, etc.) . In women and people with a vulva, estrogen and progesterone play a role in the development of the sexual organs at puberty (development of the uterus, breasts and thickening of the wall of the vagina) and in sexual and reproductive functioning (libido, course of pregnancy).
Hormones specific to women and people with vulva
We therefore share several types of hormones, but some are specific to our sexual character. The so-called feminine hormones that come into play when of the cycle are as follows:
- Folliculostimulin (FSH) sends a message to the ovaries.
- Luteinizing (LH), for its part, communicates with the eggs.
These two hormones, once their message has been transmitted to their sensors, will lead to the secretion of two new hormones:
- Estrogens: They are responsible for the development of female organs during puberty: uterus, breasts and thickening of the lining of the vagina. They also have a role in the brain, bone consolidation, tone of voice and the quality of skin and hair. And it is also to them that we owe the distribution of our fat more on the hips and thighs, and that women are generally more sensitive to venous problems.
- Progesterone, on the other hand, is produced by the ovaries following ovulation. It complements and controls the effects of estrogen. Its action is the implantation of the egg in the uterus and plays a role in the smooth running of pregnancy. It tends to increase body temperature.
The particularity of these hormones is to have a particularly variable concentration in the body of women. It is indeed their variation in our body that generates the menstrual cycle.
Definition of hormonal imbalance in women
In women as in men, hormonal imbalance is a disorder that implies that the hormones are present in an abnormal quantity and interfere with the body in its functioning: they are in too great quantity or, conversely, in too small amount. This may relate to one type of hormone or several types of hormones depending on the reasons for the dysfunction.
The special case of female hormones
When we talk about female hormonal imbalance or hormonal imbalance in women, we are often interested in changes related to female hormones, in other words estrogen and to progesterone.
Rather than female hormonal imbalance, we should rather speak of hormonal imbalances and this, in the plural. Indeed, it is not so much a malfunction of our hormones that occurs when we speak of “hormonal imbalance” as a problem of imbalance between our different female sex hormones. There are two types of hormonal imbalances:
- Hyperestrogenism is when estrogen is too high in relation to progesterone. Quite common, this disorder acts like an accelerator pedal: abundant and painful periods, hormonal migraines, irritability, swollen and painful breasts, sleep disturbances... the whole body is upset;
- Hyperprogesteronemia: this is what happens when progesterone is too high compared to estrogen. Hyperprogesteronemia slows down the body: temporary depression, fatigue, loss of motivation... the body slows down.
Competent health professionals
It will seem obvious to you, but we prefer to write it down: if you have any doubts about your health (new symptoms, discomfort, etc.), you should not hesitate to consult a health professional. . Regarding the (dys)function of your hormones, we recommend that you contact:
- Your general practitioner: your doctor knows you best and can prescribe a blood test to perform a hormonal assessment if he/she considers it necessary once your symptoms have presented;
- Your gynecologist: specialized in the sexual and reproductive organs, this specialized doctor can assist you with your questions related to the proper hormonal functioning linked to estrogen and progesterone;
- Your endocrinologist: doctor specializing in hormones who will have a more global view of your hormones and can answer your concerns on these subjects. In general, your endocrinologist will be more appropriate to start your care journey by consulting a general practitioner who will refer you, if necessary, to an endocrinologist.
What causes hormone imbalance?
The hormonal dysfunction that results in a hormonal disorder is often multifactorial. It is linked to genetics, diseases, your lifestyle but also to (bad) luck.
#1 A disease
A primary cause of hormonal imbalance are diseases.
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): this is a disease that affects 1 in 10 women. It is a hormonal imbalance of ovarian and/or central origin (at the level of the brain) which leads to an excessive production of androgen hormones (in particular testosterone), even though the female organism does not 'product usually produced very little. It can be characterized by irregular cycles, excess hair growth, acne, weight gain but also infertility.
- Eating Disorders: anorexia and bulimia can impact hormone production. Some anorexic women thus suffer from amenorrhea (loss of their periods) due to changes in their natural hormone production.
Thyroid imbalances: thyroid imbalances are more common in women than in men. They are of different natures and cause different symptoms:
- Hyperthyroidism: excessive production of thyroid hormones;
- Hypothyroidism: conversely, a lack of thyroid hormones;
- Goiter: This is the enlargement of the thyroid. It can happen as a result of hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism.
- Diabetes / hypoglycaemia: diabetes is a hormonal imbalance of the hypothalamus. It acts on insulin hormones and can cause chronic yeast infections by raising blood sugar levels in the blood. Hypoglycemia is a low blood glucose level. Most of the time, hypoglycemia occurs in people with diabetes, but not only.
#2 Hormonal contraception
A second cause of hormonal imbalance may be, in women, the use of hormonal contraception. We inevitably think of the pill, but the hormonal ring, implant or IUD are also hormonal contraceptives. The latter, as their name suggests, release hormones and can have an impact on their hormonal balance.
In the context of certain hormonal problems, the use of hormonal contraception can on the contrary counteract a hormonal imbalance. Thus, the pill may be indicated to calm the symptoms of PCOS.
#3 A change of life
Stress and anxiety are both a symptom of hormonal imbalances and a cause of hormonal imbalances. The dilemma of the egg or the chicken, you know? Still, if you have just experienced a major life change (moving, separation, birth, change of job and so on!) it is not impossible that your hormones are going into overdrive!
Find in passing our solutions against stress and mental health to see if they can help you.
#4 Endocrine disruptors
We talk about it more and more: endocrine disruptors are, as their name suggests, elements that are brought to… disrupt the glands that produce hormones and hormones. The latter are present everywhere around us – in cosmetics, food, water, textiles, household products… The effects are not yet known in their entirety but it would seem that the cocktail effect of adding of these disruptors on our body is not good (1).
#5 What about food?
We talked about it a little earlier: eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, have an impact on hormones to the point of stopping, in some women, their periods. However, can we deduce that food has a role in the regulation / dysregulation of hormones? This has not been demonstrated (2). The links between food and hormone regulation are complex and cannot be reduced to adding or removing certain foods to control them. A varied diet, however, will have a positive impact on health, especially since it will contain as few pesticides and other endocrine disruptors as possible.
What are the symptoms of a hormonal disorder?
Just as there are many causes of hormonal imbalance, there are many symptoms of it. If a symptom can be associated with many pathologies,
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS for intimates and PMS for English speakers) is the set of symptoms that women feel when their period approaches. It is a fairly often relevant indicator of an imbalance of female sex hormones in women (3). There are two types of SPM:
- A PMS in explosive mode: do you have painful periods, the sensation of swelling (water retention, swollen and painful breasts, excessive sweating, bloating and intestinal), you have migraines and acne, you feel irritated… it is very likely that you suffer from hyperestrogenism (estrogen in too large quantities compared to progesterone);
- A PMS in down mode: in the days preceding your period, do you feel tired, lacking in energy, motivation and libido, sometimes down with even depressive episodes? It is possible that you suffer from hyperprogesteronemia (too much progesterone compared to estrogen).
#2 Difficulty getting pregnant
Hormones play a role in the menstrual cycle and also, as you can imagine, in fecundity and fertility. If you want to conceive and are having difficulty getting pregnant, this may be due–among other hypotheses that should be considered–to a hormonal imbalance. Talk to your GP and/or the person following your pregnancy plan to assess this lead.
#3 Other symptoms
Apart from these symptoms related to your cycle and your fertility, other elements may raise questions about a potential hormonal imbalance in your body.
- Excessive sweating;
- An unexplained weight gain or loss;
- Sleep, appetite, libido or transit disorders;
- Persistent fatigue;
- Depressive states, depression, depression.
If these signs are not necessarily linked to a hormonal imbalance, they may lead you to consult a health professional if they settle in the long term and start to poison your life. Do not hesitate to consult.
What are the consequences of hormonal imbalance in women?
We mentioned it through the previous list of symptoms: the consequences of hormonal imbalance, whatever it may be, are numerous and can be particularly disabling on a daily basis.
The consequences of a hormonal imbalance can thus be:
- A more or less strong PMS. Note here, menstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), a particularly complicated version of PMS, is not linked to hormonal imbalance (4);
- Fertility disorders: people who are victims of certain hormonal disorders may have difficulty getting pregnant or even staying pregnant (some miscarriages can be linked to hormonal imbalance) . This is also true for men: hormonal imbalances in men can also lead to infertility;
- All the disorders mentioned above: sleep, appetite, mood, libido, anxiety and stress disorders…
- Depressive states or even depression can be induced by hormonal imbalances.
4 solutions to restore hormonal imbalance
The signs mentioned above are similar to those you have been experiencing on a daily basis for some time?
First of all: Consult
The symptoms mentioned above may be linked to health problems other than a hormonal imbalance. Before considering acting on your hormones, start by consulting your doctor to tell him about your symptoms. You can discuss with him or her the possibility that it is a hormonal imbalance and ask for a blood test in this sense, but listen to his conclusions. Your doctor will be able to guide you and can help you look for and find the cause of this hormonal disorder, if you suffer from it.
#1 Treatment with drugs
If it is established that you suffer from a hormonal imbalance and that the main cause is an illness, a first way to restore your hormones can be the use of drug treatment. Your healthcare professional will prescribe them for you and they will help you regain balance.
#2 Taking hormonal contraception
We talked about this a little earlier: in some cases, it's the variation in female hormone levels in the body linked to the menstrual cycle that can be tricky to manage. In this case, taking hormonal contraception (pill, implant, hormonal IUD…) may be a solution to consider if you do not take one. By artificially regulating your hormones, it could ease your symptoms and allow you to live better. Talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of this solution.
#3 Changing habits
Lifestyle –sleep, diet, stress– also has an impact on hormones.
If you have just gone through a period of intense stress (moving house, separation, birth, etc.) and your life has changed, it is possible that the best strategy is to procrastinate: life will regain its rights and your body will gradually readjust.
You can potentially help you by:
- taking CBD to regulate your stress and anxiety
- taking specific plants to calm the symptoms you are feeling (with anti-stress herbal teas for example)
- adopting a sports practice to let off steam
- doing journaling (daily writing ritual) and/or meditation to clear your thoughts
- meeting a psychologist to accompany you
If there hasn't been a huge upheaval in your life but you are aware that you could improve your lifestyle a little and move towards a rhythm more suited to you, you certainly know what that you can consider… Adopting a more varied diet, finding your sleep rhythm or even incorporating a sports practice into your life are necessarily interesting solutions for your health: see how you can best incorporate them into your life without putting pressure on yourself. .
We hope this article on hormonal imbalances has helped you better understand the symptoms you observe in your body. 🧡 You can find in our Rules section< /a> many articles to support you on this theme.