Your hormones are out of sync.
This is something you may hear time and time again. The statement is usually a quick way to cover a range of problems you may be suffering from. When your hormones are out of sync or out of balance, you can have a range of health problems. Oily skin, irritable moods, weakened immune systems, and inflammation is common.
If only things were as simple as getting your hormones back in balance. A hormonal imbalance is often a symptom of a hormone disorder. Your glands and brain chemicals that affect the hormones in the body are not working properly. The disorders affect the endocrine system, which covers the pituitary, adrenal, thyroid, hypothalamus, and many other glands within the body. The disorders each have their side effects and symptoms.
Treatments are not one size fits all. There are multiple hormone disorders, some minor and some permanent. Here is a look at the most common ones that are likely to affect you.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) Affects More Than You Think
You may have heard of PCOS but never really understood what it means. PCOS stands for the polycystic ovarian syndrome and knowingly affects around 7% of women. However, there are much more who will go undiagnosed with the condition, and doctors fear that 10% of women may be affected by this hormone disorder.
A major issue is the lack of symptoms. It is only when women consider children that they realize something may be wrong. The condition can disrupt the menstrual cycle and make it harder for eggs to implant healthily. Doctors find the problem when testing for the reason for failed pregnancy attempts. Pregnancy is not impossible but very hard.
It is important to note the term “syndrome” in the name of it. This means it is a collection of features, which makes it much harder to diagnose fully, treat, and understand.
The reason for PCOS is unknown, but genetics are believed to be part of the problem. There are some positive results in reversing PCOS through healthy eating, exercising, and losing weight. There are times that medications are given to help control the symptoms, including fertility drugs and contraception pills. The fertility drugs may also be suggested to help improve the chances of pregnancy.
Some of the most common symptoms include rapid weight gain, irregular or skipped periods, unusual and severe acne, dark patches of skin, and unusual hair growth around the body. The changes are because of estrogen in the body. The ovaries control the amount of estrogen that pumps around the system. A drop can lead to more testosterone, which causes the darker skin patches, hair growth, and irregular menstrual cycles.
If you do suspect that you may have PCOS, it is important to get tested for it. Because the ovaries are affected, it can lead to some serious complications in the future. It is not just about bearing children, but you may also be at a higher risk of developing female cancers.
You are also at a higher risk of blood disorders, such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Your body is not able to metabolize food properly, and you can see an increase in your blood sugar levels. The insulin cannot be released as well as it needs to be, or you may create resistance against it. It is possible to avoid the other health conditions if you can get your PCOS under control.
While it is initially upsetting to learn you will struggle to get pregnant, it is better to learn that you have PCOS before you do have a child. Pregnancy, when you suffer from PCOS, is much riskier than without it. You are at high risk of developing pre-eclampsia, which is life-threatening to both you and your baby. You are also more likely to develop gestational diabetes and high blood pressure, putting your health and the health of your baby at risk.
When doctors know that you have PCOS, you can be monitored from the start. You will go through more tests in pregnancy, but they are all designed to make sure your baby is safe. Women with PCOS during pregnancy are more likely to go into preterm labor and lose their child.
Adrenal Fatigue Can Mimic Menopause
If you think you are going through menopause, consider a less permanent alternative. This is especially the case if you are under 40! Your doctor will consider adrenal fatigue if there are signs of early menopause.
The adrenal glands above your kidneys control the hormones in the body, especially the stress hormones. They help to create that “flight or fight” response when you are in a troublesome situation to help you stay alive. Your body will see an increase in adrenaline, cortisol, and other stress hormones. This is a good thing when you are in a situation that warrants it, but not on a regular basis.
Increasing the adrenaline and cortisol too often will lead to some health problems. Your heart rate and blood pressure will both increase, and the digestion slows down. It is harder to sleep, as your adrenaline keeps you going until your body senses that you are out of danger.
In the end, your body does not get the energy it needs from food or sleep because of the stress hormones. Your whole body is put under extra pressure, causing fatigue and weakness. The cortisol also leads to a disruption in the inflammatory response, so your immune system cannot work properly. Your digestive system does not absorb all the nutrients, leading to muscle and bone loss, among other health issues.
The more the fatigue continues, the more you become irritable. Depression and autoimmune disorders are more common in people with adrenal fatigue.
Some of the symptoms can mimic those you experience during menopause. Your sex drive dips, your menstrual cycle is affected, and you can experience some vaginal dryness. All these often point to signs that you’re coming up to menopause, but that is not always the case.
It is not clear why women suffer from adrenal fatigue, but stress is considered a factor. Those who are in high-stress jobs or constantly feel overwhelmed by things happening around them are more likely to suffer from it. However, that does not mean it has to be permanent. Doctors have found that lifestyle changes can help.
The biggest thing to do is reduce your stress levels. Yoga and meditation are highly recommended, as well as improving the way you care for yourself. Your diet will also affect the hormonal balance. Add more nutrients to your meals to improve your digestion and minimize the side effects.
An Overactive or Underactive Thyroid Are Extremely Common
Thyroid problems are among the most common complaints in women, especially after menopause. The thyroid is a gland in the neck that controls some hormones and the metabolism. This gland can put out too many hormones or not put out enough, causing an overactive or underactive condition. The latter is the most common, but you can suffer from either.
Around 20% of menopausal women will develop thyroid problems. However, there are millions more affected throughout their lives. Many women will go undiagnosed, as many of the symptoms can mimic other conditions.
Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms in women with an underactive thyroid, also known as hypothyroidism. The metabolism slows down to the point that it cannot burn all the calories for energy. Your body does not get enough to help get you through the day. Of course, because you will not change your diet, you will start to collect and store the calories. Weight gain is extremely common, along with high cholesterol.
The fatigue can also lead to depression and “brain fog.” Your cognitive functions are impaired, and you just do not feel like you can do as much through the day.
However, despite all this, you will likely struggle to sleep. Cortisol levels are high as you try to run on minimal energy.
Why is this condition often overlooked? Well, the earlier symptoms tend to link to iron or selenium deficiencies. Many women will initially attempt to rectify the problem holistically, but the thyroid needs support to release the right number of hormones.
When it comes to overactive thyroids or hyperthyroidism, the gland does the opposite. As the name suggests, the gland produces too many hormones, so you end up burning more calories than your body should do daily. You may experience an increased appetite to get more calories, but continually lose weight without even trying.
Because you start burning too many calories, your mental state is negatively affected. You are more likely to be irritable and anxious. You may also struggle to sleep, as your body cannot shut down enough and is in a constant state of rush.
Like many other hormonal disorders, doctors do not completely understand why thyroid diseases happen. Underactive thyroids can be linked to menopause due to a natural change in the hormones, and pregnancy can also cause a problem. However, the disease could be a side effect of another health condition, or it may be genetic.
Hypopituitarism Can Stop the Periods
Your pituitary gland releases some hormones throughout the body and can affect your menstrual cycle. When the gland does not work properly, it is often known as hypopituitarism. This is when the gland does not release enough hormones into the body.
Most women with the condition will find they have a sluggish menstrual cycle. In some cases, you may not get any periods at all, leading many to believe that menopause has started.
The great news is that this is the rarest of all endocrine disorders, but it is certainly something to be aware of. The downside is that if you have an ill-working pituitary gland, you are more likely to develop other hormonal disorders. Your pituitary gland passes on the hormones to your adrenal and thyroid glands, so you could end up suffering from other hormonal disorders at the same time!
Your pituitary gland controls the number of stress hormones released into the body. When you do not get enough, you can suffer from low blood pressure and more adrenaline production. Your body does not go into that normal “fight or flight” response, which can make stressful situations worse.
The digestive system will also be affected. You won’t feel like eating as much, but you can suffer from regular stomach cramps and constipation. When you do not get enough nutrients, you are more likely to suffer from anemia and dizziness. Your sensitivity to cold will increase, and your immune system will be weakened.
At the same time, you are more likely to drink and urinate more. It is easy for doctors to overlook hypopituitarism at this point, as the symptoms are common signs of diabetes.
Unexplained weight loss can be common, but you may see weight gain instead. Remember the thyroid gland may be affected, so you end up suffering from hypothyroidism. Of course, the change in hormones will also affect your energy levels, and your menstrual cycle can be halted.
Most pituitary gland problems are linked to illness. Your doctor will run tests for tumors when you are diagnosed. If you have suffered a traumatic brain injury, you may eventually develop hypopituitarism.
Protect Yourself from Hormonal Disorders
You cannot control everything that happens to your body, but you can affect the outcome afterward. By knowing the signs of the most common hormonal disorders, you can make sure you do not suffer from the symptoms for too long. It is also much easier to avoid the dangerous risks to the conditions.
PCOS is by far the most common, especially when you consider the number of women not diagnosed yet. Most women will not find out they have PCOS until their late 20s or early 30s, and by then you can just minimize the symptoms and progression. If you believe you may have it earlier, ask your doctor to run tests to find out.
Looking out for hormonal disorders will help to protect your health in the future. It will also help to protect your baby’s health if you are pregnant.