Signs you may have a hormonal imbalance

Feeling more tired and irritable than usual or gained a little extra weight? Hormones may be to blame – but the good news is there are steps you can take to help.

Hormones can have a huge effect on your mental, physical and emotional health.

Jean Hailes endocrinologist Dr Rosie Worsley says while hormonal health might be complex, it doesn’t mean women need to go through life feeling unwell.

“There are things you can do if your hormones are ‘out of balance’ and often something quite simple can make you feel much, much better,” Dr Worsley says.

What are hormones and what do they do?

Produced in your endocrine glands, hormones are the body’s chemical messengers.

They travel around the bloodstream telling your tissues and organs what to do.

They control a host of bodily functions, including:

  • Heart rate
  • Metabolism
  • Appetite
  • Mood
  • Reproduction
  • Development
  • Sleep cycles

Clinical naturopath Alison Mitchell says hormones typically work together, relying on and playing off each other.

“A little bit of one hormone going up can cause another to go down and so imbalances can have a flow-on effect, which can cause many symptoms,” Alison says.

What are the symptoms of hormonal imbalance

Dr Worsley says there are many different hormones involved in human health, but the term “hormonal imbalance” is usually used when talking about women’s health issues such as PMS (premenstrual syndrome) and menopause.

Hormonal imbalance signs:

  • Unexplained weight gain or loss
  • Excessive sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Hot flashes and night sweats
  • Changes in sensitivity to cold and heat
  • Very dry skin or skin rashes
  • Increased or decreased heart rate
  • Muscle aches, tenderness and stiffness
  • Nervous, anxiety or irritability
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Headaches
  • Puffy or rounded face
  • Increased thirst
  • Thinning hair
  • Bloating, heavy, painful or irregular periods

Steps you can take to support hormone health

Dr Worsley says women who feel like their hormones are “out of balance” should look for a GP who has a special interest or extra training in women’s health.

“If you feel something’s not right — your periods aren’t quite right, or you feel like your hormones are ‘off’ — get some help, there are a lot of GPs with a real interest in this area,” Dr Worsley says.

She recommends searching the Australasian Menopause Society website for a local practitioner, even if you’re not going through menopause.

“Generally, if a doctor has specialist knowledge in menopause, they can apply it to women’s hormonal issues,” Dr Worsley says.

Get tested

You could also ask for a blood test to show the levels of hormones in your blood, though this won’t show the body tissues where the symptoms are actually occurring, for example, your brain for mental and emotional symptoms.

“We can diagnose some hormonal conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome for example, and see if a woman has gone through menopause using blood tests,” Dr Worsley says.

“But, in general, they won’t reflect all of the hormonal-type PMS or menopausal symptoms women might be feeling.”

Other steps you can take

Alison says your general health can have a big impact on hormonal health, so looking after yourself is key.

“Ensure you have plenty of the nutrients needed for healthy hormones and a healthy nervous system, such as magnesium, B vitamins and taurine,” Alison says.

Other recommendations include:

  • Avoid processed foods
  • Get enough sleep
  • Exercise regularly
  • Drink green tea
  • Reduce stress through activities such as yoga or meditation

Written by Liz McGrath.