Hormone Imbalance

Learn All About Hormones 


Hormones are chemical messengers that are produced or secreted directly into the blood stream by various endocrine glands and other organs bearing endocrine tissue. They carry with them specific instructions for cells, tissues and organs. These instructions tell the target tissues and organs what task/s to do in order for many bodily functions to commence and to maintain such functions for as long as necessary.

Hormones are very powerful chemicals. Small variations in hormone levels can have a major impact on essential bodily functions. Some of the functions that hormones play a major part in include food metabolism, cell or tissue growth and development, control of thirst, mood and cognitive functions, maintaining body temperature and sexual development and reproduction. 1

Below is a list of human hormones, where they are produced and what they do to which part of the body:2



Produced in/by


TRH (Thyrotropin-releasing hormone)


Stimulates the anterior pituitary to release TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone)

GnRH (Gonadotrophin releasing hormone)


Stimulates the anterior pituitary to release FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) and LH (luteinizing hormone)

Corticotrophin releasing hormone (CRH)


Stimulates the anterior pituitary to release ACTH (adrenocorticotrophic hormone)



Prevents the anterior pituitary from releasing GH (growth hormones)

Growth Hormone Releasing Hormone (GHRH)


Stimulates the anterior pituitary to release GH (growth hormones)





Pineal Gland

Modulates sleep patterns






Stimulates the development of antibodies

LH (luteinizing hormone)

Anterior Pituitary

In females: It promotes ovulation and stimulates the ovaries to produce estrogen and progesterone.

In Men: It stimulates the testis to release testosterone

ACTH (Adrenocortico-trophic hormone)

Anterior Pituitary

Stimulates the adrenal glands mainly to produce cortisol.

TSH (Thyroid stimulating hormone)

Anterior Pituitary

Stimulates the thyroid gland to release thyroxine and tri-iodothyronine

FSH (Follicle stimulating hormone)

Anterior Pituitary

In females: It promotes the development of eggs and follicles in the ovaries before ovulation

In males: It promotes the production of testosterone in the testis

Prolactin (PRL)

Anterior Pituitary

Stimulates sexual behavior as well as milk production in the breasts.

Growth Hormone (GH)

Anterior Pituitary

Acts on bones, muscle, cartilage, fat, heart, liver to promote growth




ADH (anti-diuretic hormone) Vasopressin

Posterior Pituitary

Acts to promote the retention of water by the kidneys and increase blood pressure


Posterior Pituitary

Causes the uterus to contract during labor and the milk ducts of a nursing woman to express milk 




T4 (Thyroxine)


Thyroid Gland

Regulates metabolism

T3 (Tri-iodothyronine

Thyroid Gland

Regulates metabolism






Parathyroid glands

Acts on the kidneys and bone cells to decrease blood calcium levels when they are high

Parathyroid hormone (PTH)

Parathyroid glands

Acts on the kidneys and bone cells to increase the blood calcium levels when they are low





Adrenal cortex

These steroid hormones act on pertinent tissues to promote the development of male characteristics. Their physiological function is unclear.


Adrenal cortex

Acts on the kidneys to retain salt and water to such levels as to maintain blood pressure.


Adrenal cortex

Also known as the stress hormone. It acts on pertinent tissues to regulate blood pressure and blood sugar as well as keeping the immune system functioning.




Adrenaline &Noradrenaline

Adrenal medulla

Regulates blood pressure, gastrointestinal movement and keeping the airways open or unobstructed.






Acts on muscles and fat tissues to keep blood sugar low



Acts on the pancreas itself to inhibit the release of insulin and glucagon



Acts on the liver to raise blood sugar levels






Acts on the breasts, uterus and internal/external genitalia to promote the development and maintenance of sexual characteristics in females, including preparation of the uterus for embryo implantation.



Acts on the breasts and uterus to maintain female sexual characteristics including pregnancy






Promotes the development of sperm and other male sexual characteristics




5-HT (Serotonin)


Causes the stomach muscles to constrict



Stimulates acid secretions in the stomach




CCK (Cholecystokenin)

Duodenum &Jejunum

Stimulates the release of bile from the gallbladder and digestive enzymes from the pancreas


Duodenum &Jejunum

Inhibits stomach secretions and increases bile production in the liver






Stimulates the development of red blood cells in the bone marrow




ANF (atrial natriuretic factor


Promotes salt and water loss to lower blood pressure




Vitamin D


Stimulates the absorption of calcium in the small intestines and the retention/release of calcium from bone stores





Adipose Tissue

Also called the “satiety hormone”, it acts on the hypothalamus to inhibit hunger





Gastrointestinal Tract

Also called the “hunger hormone”, it regulates appetite, the distribution of energy and the rate by which such energy is used by the body


Hormone Imbalance

At any time when one or more of our endocrine glands and organs fail to produce the appropriate hormone levels, an imbalance can occur. Producing either too much or too little of a particular hormone can have a significant impact on the proper functioning of our body. In most cases the effects may be slow and subtle, but over time if it remains unchecked we begin to suffer from symptoms of such imbalance. 

Causes of Hormone Imbalance

Hormone imbalance can be caused by many reasons other than the usual culprits like PMS, puberty, pregnancy, menopause or andropause. These other causes include:7

•              Poor dietary habits
•              Genetics
•              Lack of exercise
•              Obesity
•              Sedentary lifestyle
•              Endocrine disorders
•              Thyroid problems like hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism
•              Menstrual abnormalities like PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome)and POF                        (primary ovarian failure)
•              Pituitary adenomas or tumors
•              Adernal Gland Disorder like Addison’s Disease and Cushing’s Syndrome
•              Diabetes
•              Inconsistent sleeping habits
•              Taking certain medication

Major Signs and Symptoms of Hormone Imbalance

There are general signs indicating that a person may be suffering from some form of hormonal imbalance, regardless of gender. While the image that often comes to mind is that of a hormonal woman given to emotional episodes of crying or rage, there are many other “common” conditions that can be traced down to hormones. These include:

•     Fatigue - Feeling sluggish so early in the day or even after a “power nap” at work, poor concentration or mental fogginess and a general feeling of being tired or unwell all the time for no apparent reason is an indication that something may be wrong with your hormones.

•      Persistent weight gain – If you have been diligently watching your food intake and engaging in some form of physical activity but still notice a persistent weight gain, an underlying hormone problem may be the cause.
•      Insomnia/poor sleep patterns – chronic sleeplessness and the resulting fatigue from lack of sleep results to a vicious cycle of physical stress and increased production of cortisol, which then causes many other hormone imbalances, like a domino-effect.
•      Low sex drive – Coupled with poor sleeping patterns, low production of the sex hormone can significantly reduce libido.
•      Anxiety, irritability and depression – If these feelings last for much longer than usual in response to daily stresses, they may already be due to an actual chemical imbalance in our body.
•      Thick belly and loss of muscle mass – Over-production of cortisolmay cause our body to store fat, resulting to belly fat. A thick belly may be a sign of adrenal fatigue.
•      Bloating, gas and slow digestion – These conditions are often blamed on poor eating habits or simply eating too much too fast but can actually be traced to underlying hormone problems. These episodes may stop if you and your physician would only look more closely instead of dismissing them right off.
•      Night sweats – many other people experience these “hot flashes-like” episodes and if they happen to other than menopausal women, they may be a sure sign of a hormone problem.
•      Food cravings – if you are not pregnant or otherwise without a plausible excuse for certain food cravings, you may want to be tested for insulin resistance, adrenal fatigue and other hormonal imbalances.

Hormone Imbalance in Women

Hormone imbalance in women is not confined to the most talked about conditions like menstrual disorders, infertility and menopause. For example, certain thyroid problems as well as estrogen dominance can be blamed for unexplained hair loss. The most common hormones problems experienced by women are explained below.

•      Progesterone Deficiency

Affecting many women regardless of age, progesterone deficiency is the most common of all hormonal imbalances. The usual causes include the use of birth control pills or generally poor dietary habits. Symptoms include the following:

•      Anxiety
•      Early miscarriage
•      Infertility
•      Insomnia
•      Excessive menstrual bleeding
•      Menstrual Cycle-related headaches
•      Pain/Tenderness or lumps in breasts
•      PMS
•      Unexplained weight gain 

•     High Progesterone

If women can suffer from the effects of too little progesterone, they can also suffer from too much of it. This hormone helps control the thickness of the uterine lining and affects a woman’s menstruation on general. High levels can lead to the following symptoms:

•      Depression
•      Low libido
•      Multiple births
•      Ovarian cysts
•      Ovulation problems
•      Tender breasts
•      Tiredness/Lethargy
•      Vaginal dryness 

•      Estrogen Deficiency

 Menopausal women usually suffer from this hormone imbalance. If the woman is also of a slim build, she is particularly susceptible. Common symptoms of estrogen deficiency include:

•      Bladder infections
•      Hot flashes
•      Lethargy/depression
•      Memory problems
•      Night sweats
•      Painful intercourse
•      Vaginal dryness

•      Excess Estrogen Production

Using synthetic hormones, usually to combat the discomforts of menopause, often result to a surplus of estrogen in the body. Key symptoms of estrogen surplus include:

•      Anxiety and/or Depression
•      Tender breasts
•      Cervical dysplasia
•      Foggy thinking
•      Heavy bleeding
•      Insomnia
•      Migraine headaches
•      Mood swings
•      Water retention (puffiness and bloating)
•      Rapid weight gain
•      Weepiness 

•      Estrogen Dominance

Progesterone deficiency sometimes results to estrogen dominance because there isn’t enough progesterone to keep the proper hormone balance. Estrogen dominance is often manifested in the following symptoms:

•      Anxiety and/or depression
•      Cycle-related headaches
•      Early miscarriage
•      Foggy thinking
•      Infertility
•      Insomnia
•      Migraine headaches
•      Painful/lumpy breasts
•      PMS
•      Unexplained weight gain
•      Water retention (puffiness and bloating)
•      Weepiness

•      Excess Androgen

Women do have the male hormone androgen. By consuming too much sugars or simple carbohydrates, women may tip the delicate hormone balance by developing an excess in androgen. Women who have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) are also more prone to androgen imbalances. Symptoms include:

•      Acne
•      Excessive facial hair
•      Hairy arms and legs
•      Hypoglycemia
•      Infertility
•      Ovarian cysts
•      Thinning hair

•         Low Androgen

Androgen may be known as a male hormone but it plays an important role in a woman’s body. Apart from testosterone and androstenedione, the other androgens include dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), DHEA-sulfate (DHEA-S) and dihydrotestosterone (DHT). The main purpose of androgen in a woman’s body is to be converted into the female hormone estrogen. Low androgen levels are more significantly felt by women during the transition to menopause and may lead to certain conditions with the following symptoms:

•      Low libido
•      Fatigue
•      Osteoporosis
•      Poor sense of well-being
•      Accelerated bone loss
•      Hot flashes  

•       Cortisol Deficiency (Addison’s Disease)

Adrenal fatigue typically results to cortisol deficiency.  Stress is the primary cause of having overworked adrenal glands. Key symptoms include:

•      Brown spots on the face
•      Chronic fatigue
•      Foggy thinking
•      Intolerance to exercise
•      Low and unstable blood sugar
•      Thin or dry skin 

•         Hypercortisolism

Also known as Cushing’s syndrome, an excess in cortisol for extended periods of time affects the way the body stores and uses energy. Symptoms include:

•      Acne
•      Chronic backache
•      Depression, irritability, anxiety
•      Facial hair and body hair
•      Skin problems (thin/bruise easily, lesions on breasts, abdomen and thighs)
•      Hypertension
•      Menstrual disorders
•      Painful bones (may become brittle)
•      Weak muscles
•      Weight gain in upper body (moon face and buffalo hump)

•         Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin (SHBG)

In a woman’s body, SHBG is vital in maintaining the delicate balance between estrogen and testosterone. SHBG levels go down when a woman takes certain hormones like anabolic steroids, androgens and synthetic progesterone. Other hormone imbalances like hypothyroidism and Cushing’s syndrome also decrease SHBG levels.

Low SHBG levels can result to:

•      Decreased breast tissue
•      Excessive hair growth or hair loss
•      Higher testosterone levels, making a woman seem more masculine
•      Menstrual irregularities
•      Metabolic Syndrome
•      PCOS
•      Skin problems
•      Type II diabetes 

The continuous, prolonged use of oral contraceptives can increase SHBG levels. Certain conditions like pregnancy also contribute to higher levels, as well as thyroid hormone treatment, undernourishment (like in anorexia nervosa) and estrogen supplementation. Signs that a woman may have a high SHBG level include:

•      Cardiovascular disease
•      Fatigue
•      Higher risk for osteoporosis
•      Low levels of free testosterone
•      Low sense of well-being
•      Low sex drive
•      Tendency for blood clot formation

•         T3, T4, TSH, free-T3, free-T4, TPO

We are more familiar with the terms hypothyroidism (or slow metabolism) and hyperthyroidism (fast metabolism). When the hypothalamus senses the level of thyroid hormones circulating around, it releases TRH (thyrotropin releasing hormone). TRH then stimulates the pituitary gland to produce TSH(thyroid stimulating hormone), which then stimulates the thyroid gland to produce T4 (thyroxine) and T3 (triodothyronine). There are more T4s than T3s. Other organs and tissues then convert T4s into T3s. A “free” T3 simply means that which is not bound by proteins like globulins which carry the hormones to tissues where they will be used. When there isn’t enough “free T3” available to be used by the body, the person will feel the effects of hypothyroidism. Conversely, if there is too much free-T3, the result is hyperthyroidism.

Hypothyroidism makes a person feel the following symptoms:

•      Depression and/or anxiety
•      Dry skin
•      Dry, brittle hair
•      Fatigue
•      Feeling cold
•      High cholesterol
•      Mood swings
•      Unable to lose weight

The opposite is true for hyperthyroidism:

•      Anxiety
•      Heart palpitations
•      Insomnia
•      Muscle weakness
•      Unable to gain weight

Hormone Imbalance in Men

Men suffer from hormone imbalances as much as women do, and are affected in many similar ways. While some imbalances are particularly prevalent in men over the age of 50, men of any age may be experiencing symptoms without even realizing it.

•      Testosterone Deficiency

Testosterone production declines as a man advances in age. As a result of the natural ageing process, changes in the body begin to manifest themselves.

•      Enlarged breasts
•      Fatigue
•      Loss of muscle mass and definition
•      Lower sex drive
•      Poor stamina
•      Softer erections
•      Weight Loss

•      Excess Estrogen

The symptoms of excess estrogen may be mistaken for low testosterone because they are somewhat similar with very subtle differences. A man with excess estrogen however does not necessarily suffer from low-T as well, even if some cases prove to be so.

•      Enlarged breasts
•      Hair Loss
•      Headaches
•      Irritability
•      Prostate enlargement
•      Puffiness or bloating
•      Weight gain 

•         High Cortisol in Men

 Elevated levels of cortisol in men are considered by many to be devastating to society’s stereotype of masculinity.

•      Arterial plaque
•      Belly fat
•      Brain shrinkage
•      Decreased fertility
•      Diabetes
•      Erectile dysfunction
•      High blood sugar levels
•      Hypertension
•      Impotence
•      Insulin resistance
•      Lower libido
•      Lower testosterone
•      Memory loss
•      Metabolic syndrome 

•      Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA)

PSA is produced in the prostate gland. An elevated PSA level was believed to be an indication of prostate cancer, but it is in no way the only reason why PSA levels go up. Infections, prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate) and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) or prostate enlargement can cause PSA levels to go up. Low PSA levels8 on the other hand may indicate that you also have low testosterone level.

•         Sex Hormone Binding Globulin(SHBG)

Testosterone is the male sex hormone. The amount of active or bio-available testosterone depends on the SHBG level. The lower the SHBG, the more testosterones are bio-available or active. It would appear that men should want low SHBG levels, but not necessarily. Low SHBG has been associated with the conditions listed below. High SHBG is not ideal either, as illustrated by the table below.9







Diabetes mellitus

HIV disease

Moderate obesity


Nephrotic syndrome

Hepatic cirrhosis and hepatitis

 •      Dehydroepiandrosterone-Sulfate (DHEA-S)

DHEA-S is a very weak male hormone (androgen) that is produced in the adrenal glands and is converted by the body into testosterone. High DHEA-S in children can result to early puberty for boys, while low levels can result to the following conditions:

•      AIDS
•      Chronic fatigue Syndrome
•      Dementia
•      Diabetes
•      Erectile dysfunction
•      Lupus
•      Osteoporosis
•      Reduced libido, or sex drive

•      TSH, T3/T4, Free-T3/T4, TPO

Men are 8 times LESS likely to develop thyroid problems than women, but men do suffer from thyroid disorders. The symptoms of hypothyroidism in men look very much like those in women. These are:

•      Constipation
•      Decreased sex drive
•      Depression
•      Fatigue/exhaustion
•      Frequent infections
•      Loss of muscle mass & strength
•      Muscle aches and pains
•      Premature balding (including body hair and eyebrows)
•      Sensitivity to cold
•      Weight gain

Just like hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism affects more women than men, but they do suffer from it as well. The symptoms include:

•      Appearance of goiter
•      Appetite changes
•      Cannot tolerate heat
•      Fatigue
•      Increased sweating
•      Loss of concentration
•      Rapid weight loss
•      Restlessness

Hormone Testing

Looking at all the symptoms listed above, we hopefully had a few “aha moments” connecting the dots to the many “mysterious” complaints we’ve had in the past or those we may be suffering from at present. These realizations should at the very least help us make better informed decisions about what types of hormone tests to ask for, instead of blindly going in and asking for just any hormone test off the shelf.

We should also realize the importance of testing early in order to avoid any complications that prolonged and uncorrected hormone imbalances can inflict on our health.

Hormone testing these days is available for blood, saliva  and urine samples. You may opt to see your doctor and request the appropriate hormone teststhru their clinic. If they don’t do the actual tests in their premises, they will send you to a nearby lab or hospital to have them done. You also have the most convenient choice of completing an online hormone assessmentchecklist prior to doing an at-home-hormone-test.

Hormone Imbalance Treatments

Your doctor would be the best person to advise you of the best course of treatment for whichever hormone imbalance may be ailing you. Possible treatments for hormone imbalance include:

•      Over the Counter Supplements – These are more common for women, with many supplements available at most pharmacies. This kind of hormone treatment simply raises levels of certain hormones that were found to be deficient. OTC supplements for men are harder to come by since they fall under the dietary supplement industry which is largely unregulated. For example, finding the right testosterone pill is a challenge.
•      Dietary changes – Ensure that you get your recommended daily amount of vitamins and minerals to help your body along in its production of the necessary hormones.
•      Zinc from beef, lamb, veal, crab, oysters, peanuts and chocolates has been linked to higher testosterone.
•      Fiber from raw fruits and vegetables, whole grains binds itself to old estrogen hormones, facilitating their removal from the body to restore balance.
•      Omega-3 fatty acids from fish, eggs, salmon, sardines, trout, oysters and walnuts help produce healthy cell membranes. Hormones need strong cell membranes as they travel around the body without breaking down.
•      Drink moderately of alcohol and caffeine as they cause hormonal imbalances.
•      Exercise – we cannot emphasize enough the importance of proper exercise as it boosts cardiovascular health. Exercise releases powerful hormones that boost one’s mood and neutralize the bad effects of reproductive hormone imbalance in women.
•      Stress Less – don’t sweat the small stuff to avoid overworking your adrenal glands. Stress causes excessive production of cortisol which in turn blocks estrogen. Low estrogen leads to lower serotonin  and low serotonin increases one stress level. It becomes a vicious cycle.
•      Sleep More – nothing quite helps the body recover than getting enough quality sleep. Men particularly benefit from enough sleep because they produce testosterone during REM.
•      Avoid tight-fitting clothes – wearing tight clothing restricts hormone production. They create excess heat in the crotch area, destroying sperm. Reduced sperm count can result to hormone imbalance in men.
•      Prescription Medications – there are various pharmaceutical options designed to balance hormones. These include birth control pills that not only prevent pregnancy, they also regulate menstruation. Others include menopausal hormones.
•      Hormone Replacement Therapy – given the many health risks (stroke, blood clots, high risk of heart attack, breast cancer) that have given rise to controversies against this form of treatment, today there are 2 main types of hormone therapy available to you:
•      Systematic Hormone Therapy – synthetic estrogen in pill, spray, cream or skin-patch form to relieve symptoms of estrogen deficiency
•      Low-dose vaginal products – creams, rings or tablets that do not cause hormone imbalances elsewhere in the body. For example, vaginal dryness without other symptoms of estrogen deficiency may qualify for localized hormone treatment

Keep in mind that chronic symptoms of hormone imbalance need to be addressed promptly and properly if you want to avoid serious medical complications later on in life. Take the time to learn about your body, take the appropriate hormone tests and seek treatment.



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