Hormones are the chemical messengers of your body and major players in your health. They essentially tell your body what to do and when, and have a lot of say in how everything from your fertility, sleep, sex drive, metabolism, mental health, energy, and more play out.
It’s safe to say that if your hormones are out of whack — and for those assigned female at birth (AFAB), it’s a delicate balance — you’ll feel it in places that may not seem related at all.
The body is a complex network where everything is connected. So how do you know if an imbalance is causing your symptoms?
What is a hormone imbalance?
Let’s start with the basics.
A hormone imbalance has a simple meaning: that you are either producing too much or not enough of certain hormones. It’s the Goldilocks principle — you don’t want too much or too little, but just the right amount, because even a small shift in one direction can be felt in a big way.
This doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with your body. Everything happens for a reason.
Hormone imbalance actually serves an evolutionary purpose. Your body prioritizes these three things for survival: safety, sustenance, and sex — in that order. I’ll explain as we go further.
The longer you’ve been out of balance, the more time it may take to recalibrate, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. It’s key to get to the root of the problem as soon as you can. You’ve already taken the first step by getting curious and reading this post. Congrats!
How do you know if you have a hormone imbalance?
This is a big question. Since there are many hormones in the body and even more ways that things can go awry, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what’s going on for you without an evaluation from your health practitioner.
Unfortunately, this is not something your doctor typically checks up on in your annual physical, so you’ll have to get vocal. It will take some time to get in tune with your body to understand when something feels off and how to articulate it to your doctor (having a patient advocate on your side helps!).
Because there are so many possible symptoms of different hormone imbalances, I’ll address the most common issues that I see and what can impact them.
We are all super stressed, aren’t we? Cortisol is one of the adrenal hormones that help you deal with physical or perceived stress, but if you’re constantly finding yourself in heart-palpitating situations, that chronic stress (and thus chronically high cortisol) can create even more problems.
This is our fight-or-flight mode, which we only want to use when we *really* need it, otherwise it can get burnt out. Problem is, we have a lot of stressors these days!
Common symptoms of stress hormone imbalance:
- High blood pressure
- Suppressed immune system
- Memory loss
- Increased blood sugar (like you have a sugar high)
- Water retention
- Changes in body composition around the waist
- Reduced ability to tolerate stress
- Low sleep quality
What are you doing to relieve your stress? Now’s a good time to check in on your self-care activities and see what you can start incorporating more into your daily life.
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the neck that regulates metabolism, as well as our menstrual cycle, fertility, mental wellness, digestion, sleep, and more. Adrenal hormones are critical for balancing the thyroid.
Remember what I said about evolution? When you’re stressed, staying alive is your main priority, so all those other processes that thyroid hormones regulate? On the back burner while you try to outrun a tiger (aka all the stresses of modern day). It’s all connected!
Common symptoms of thyroid hormone imbalance:
- Hair loss
- Dry hair or skin
- Brittle nails
- Low energy
- Unexplained weight changes
- Increased sensitivity to cold or heat
- Digestive issues
Ask your doctor for a full thyroid panel: TSH, Free T4, Free T3, Reverse T3, TPO Antibodies, and TG Antibodies. Most doctors only do TSH, which doesn’t give you the whole picture even when it’s within the standard reference range — be very clear and firm about what you want.
Estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone are critical for menstrual and reproductive health, along with follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). These are all part of a healthy menstrual cycle and carrying a pregnancy to term. For more about how these hormones function in the body, read this post.
- Irregular or missed periods
- Heavy or painful periods
- PMS symptoms
- Low libido
- Mood swings
- Water retention
- Unexplained changes in weight
- Insomnia or poor-quality sleep
Surprise! Another connection for you. Thyroid hormones are critical for the proper functioning of the AFAB reproductive system.
In evolutionary terms, when you’re stressed, your body recognizes it’s not a safe time to bring a baby into the world, so your sex hormones are put on the back burner with the thyroid hormones to instead divert your energy towards the important stuff, like staying alive.
And yes, you read that right in the list above. PMS symptoms are indicative of hormonal imbalance. They might be common, but they’re not part of a balanced menstrual cycle.
Every single one of my menstruating clients has complained of these issues, and they all thought it was just a part of life they had to deal with.
You can have your period without the pain, emotional upheaval, insomnia, and other issues that can take you out of commission every month.
Understanding how your menstrual cycle works, getting in tune with how your body feels, and learning to spot the symptoms of imbalance can get you on the right track to getting back in flow.
For more guidance in this area, download my free mini-guide to syncing with the moon for a better flow. It will allow you to follow the natural cycles of life and give you a closer connection to your body.