Hormones lie at the very heart of our mental, physical and emotional wellbeing.
Our body’s chemical messengers, hormones travel through the bloodstream to organs and tissues. They have a profound, fundamental role in coordinating many complex bodily functions.
As such, when your levels of these molecules are out of sync — even by a small amount — a wide range of signs and symptoms may present themselves.
Many women begin to pay more attention to their hormonal health as they enter the menopause. And whilst menopause-induced hormonal imbalance is the most commonly discussed and the type we’re probably most familiar with since it affects all women at some point in their lives, hormonal disorders can be relevant to women of any age.
So, how can I tell if I’m struggling with a hormonal imbalance, and why might this be the case? What steps can I take?
What is hormone imbalance?
Hormones are chemical messengers. When there is too much or too little of one of these crucial signaling molecules in the bloodstream, we can experience symptoms of a hormonal imbalance: this may include weight gain, acne, low mood, period problems, excessive hair growth, fatigue and more.
Hormonal imbalance is most commonly associated with the menopause, thyroid problems and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
What are hormones?
Secreted by our endocrine glands, hormones are chemicals that travel through our circulatory system, helping our tissues and organs to communicate. There are around 50 different types. Hormones work progressively over time to facilitate and impact wide-ranging, important bodily processes.
Hormones play a role in:
- Sexual function
- Tissue function
- Growth and development
- Sensory perception
The endocrine system is responsible for creating, monitoring and feeding back on the hormones in our body.
This system is made up of a number of major endocrine glands:
- Pituitary gland
- Pineal gland
- Thymus gland
- Thyroid gland
- Adrenal glands
- Ovary (in women)
- Testis (in men)
Given the fundamental role that hormones play in many bodily functions, an imbalance can understandably produce noticeable, sometimes troublesome signs and symptoms.
What are the signs and symptoms of hormone imbalance in women?
With many types of hormones in our body, there are a number of different ways that an imbalance can occur. A hormone imbalance can cause a huge range of different signs and symptoms, including adult acne, fatigue, low mood, period problems, headaches and more.
Many of the most commonly-reported symptoms of hormonal imbalance are related to oestrogen and progesterone. Other hormones of significance include those of the thyroid, androgen hormones as well as the follicle-stimulating hormones and luteinising hormone.
These symptoms are nonspecific and having any of them does not necessarily mean you have a hormone imbalance. Make sure to consult your doctor if you suspect you may need help with your hormonal health.
Adult acne, dry skin & other skin problems
Our skin’s health is inextricably linked to our hormones — women struggling with adult acne may wonder whether their hormones are playing a role.
One very common hormonal condition that can lead to skin problems is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). It is characterised by a higher-than-normal presence of ‘male’ hormones, like testosterone, that can increase sebum and skin cell production, leading to acne.
PCOS affects around 1 in 10 women in the UK, with most discovering they have it in their 20s and 30s. Remarkably, around