If you are noticing sudden changes in your weight, energy levels, skin, mood, or irregular menstrual cycles, your body is signaling to you that there is an imbalance. Your body communicates internally through the use of hormones which are chemical messengers that impact how our cells and organs function. They control a number of bodily functions, including our appetite, sleep, libido, and stress response.
Imbalances occur when there is too much or too little of a hormone in the bloodstream - essentially cutting communication with the organs they deliver messages to, or sending far too many messages and mixing up signals. In some cases, even slight imbalances can cause significant changes in the body. So if you feel something is “off” with your health, know that this is not just a normal symptom you need to live with - it may be a hormone imbalance!
The good news is, we have come a long way in integrative healthcare, and once pinpointed hormone imbalances can be brought back to normal, healthy levels so that you can get back to living your healthiest and best life.
Symptoms of Hormone Imbalances
It can be difficult to tell whether symptoms are caused by hormonal imbalance, or another underlying issue. For instance, fatigue could be caused by lifestyle factors, or it could be due to an excess of the hormone progesterone. That's why hormone testing is crucial when determining the root cause of your symptoms.
Here are some symptoms of hormonal imbalance to watch out for:
- Changes in appetite
- Weight gain despite exercise and healthy diet
- Sudden weight loss despite eating the same diet and maintaining the same level of exercise
- Sleep problems such as trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
- Chronic acne, dry and brittle hair and other skin conditions
- Brain fog and difficulty concentrating
- Digestive issues
- Persistent fatigue, headaches and migraines
- In women, irregular menstrual cycles and PMS
- In men, erectile dysfunction
It’s important to discuss your symptoms in depth with a practitioner - we can help! We may recommend hormone testing to discern whether or not you have an imbalance.
Common Hormone Tests
A variety of methods can be used to test hormone levels to get to the root cause of your symptoms. The test you receive will be based on your diagnostic needs.
Common hormone tests integrative practitioners perform include:
This simple test shows which hormones are freely available to the body, rather than the total amount of hormones in the bloodstream. It is particularly useful in detecting the hormone cortisol, which is linked to stress. This is because just thinking about blood tests and needles can raise people’s cortisol levels, providing an inaccurate picture of the hormones’ typical role in the body.
Blood serum test
This test allows your practitioner to look at the concentration of hormones in the bloodstream. Blood serum tests can measure important hormones such as insulin, testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, and hormones connected to the thyroid.
Testing hormones through the urine requires multiple samples, because it will capture any fluctuations that occur. Your practitioner may ask you to take samples at different times of the day while you are at home, or to save all of your urine within 24 hours. Urine testing is useful in that it reveals how the body is metabolizing hormones.
Strands of hair can be used to measure the presence of the hormone cortisol. The first 1 cm of hair closest to the scalp indicates around one month of cortisol production. If you feel chronically stressed, your naturopathic doctor may suggest this test.
Hormone testing may be worth looking into if you feel concerned about imbalances. Some hormonal imbalances can be temporary while others are chronic (long-term). They may require treatment so that you can maintain good health and feel your best.
Conditions That May Be Diagnosed by Hormone Testing
Hormone testing can address dozens of conditions caused by hormonal imbalance.
Some of the most common include:
Hormonal imbalance is the number one reason women have difficulty conceiving. The most common hormonal disorder in women is polycystic ovarian system (PCOS), which can lead to infertility, irregular periods, ovarian cysts, and weight gain.
There are two types of thyroid diseases: hypothyroidism (low thyroid levels) and hyperthyroidism (high thyroid levels). Hypothyroidism (or underactive thyroid) occurs when the thyroid gland doesn't make enough thyroid hormone. Over time, hypothyroidism that isn't treated can lead to other health problems, such as high cholesterol and heart problems. Hyperthyroidism causes excess levels of thyroid hormones that can then speed up the body's metabolism, trigger anxiety and unexplained or unplanned weight loss.
Irregular menstrual cycles
Many hormones play a role in the menstrual cycle, so an imbalance in any can lead to problematic periods. Most women's periods arrive every 21-35 days. But if your periods are arriving late or not at all some months, it may be a sign of an imbalance of the hormones estrogen or progesterone. Painful and heavy periods can also be a sign of hormonal imbalance.
Hormones are involved in the amount of oil that your skin produces. Androgens or “male” hormones are responsible for this, and in excess they can cause your glands to produce too much oil, thus clogging the pores.
Should You Get Your Hormones Tested?
Since your hormones control so much, including sleep, hunger, and reproduction, it’s crucial to your health to keep them balanced. Your hormone production will naturally decrease as you age, however, an imbalance in hormones can amplify symptoms of brain fog, fatigue, and joint pain. Taking the initiative to get hormone testing, you can ensure your control center is in balance!
If you feel you may be suffering from a hormonal imbalance, dealing with a condition such as PCOS, or are approaching the age of menopause, getting your hormone level tested can be an important first step in developing a holistic treatment plan.
From there, you can work with your naturopathic doctor to create a treatment plan to restore your body’s balance and get your health back on track. Call our clinic to learn more!
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