Hormones have powerful effects on the body, so having too much or too little of certain hormones can leave you feeling off. Read on to learn about common types of hormone imbalances, plus some all-natural ways to manage hormone issues.
What Are Hormones?
Hormones are chemicals that act as an internal communication system for the body. They send messages to tissues and organs throughout the body and coordinate many important functions, from metabolism to fertility.
Over 50 different hormones have been identified in humans. Some key hormones to be aware of include:
- Cortisol, the body’s primary stress hormone.
- Ghrelin, a hormone that increases appetite.
- Insulin, which controls blood sugar levels.
- Leptin, a hormone that helps regulate body weight.
- Estrogens, the primary female sex hormones.
- Testosterone, the main male sex hormone
Symptoms of Hormone Imbalance
Each hormone contributes to different bodily functions, so the symptoms of a hormone imbalance can vary depending on which hormone is too low or high. Common imbalances may involve the metabolism and the sex hormones.
When hormones that affect the metabolism are out of balance, unexplained weight loss or weight gain can occur. Other symptoms may include a slow or fast heartbeat or intolerance to cold or warm temperatures.
Sex hormone imbalances can affect men and women differently. For men, these hormone imbalances can cause thinning body hair or loss of muscle mass. For women, symptoms could include acne, excess body hair, or irregular periods.
How Your Hormones Affect Your Immune System
Some key hormones, including cortisol and sex hormones, can have an effect on the immune system. When these hormones become unbalanced, the immune system may not work properly.
Research shows that estrogen generally stimulates the immune response, while progesterone and testosterone have an immunosuppressive effect. Imbalances in these hormones may cause issues. For example, excess levels of estrogen have been suggested as a cause of autoimmune diseases. And in one study, men with elevated testosterone levels mounted a weaker response to the flu shot than men with lower testosterone levels.
The body produces higher levels of cortisol during stressful situations. The temporary cortisol increase from short-term stresses (like taking ice baths) can boost your immune system and lower inflammation. But chronic high cortisol levels from ongoing stress can cause inflammation and stress to the immune system.
How Your Hormones Affect Your Mood
Mood is one of the many bodily functions that’s governed by hormones. Some hormonal changes can cause temporary shifts in mood, while others may trigger mood disorders.
Hormone fluctuations during the menstrual cycle may trigger premenstrual syndrome (PMS). When estrogen and progesterone levels begin falling in the days after ovulation, many women report symptoms like irritability, tension, sadness, and mood swings.
Thyroid hormone imbalances may cause mood disorders. People with hyperthyroidism (too many thyroid hormones) may experience anxiety. And in people with hypothyroidism (not enough thyroid hormones), the condition may cause depression.
How To Get Your Hormone Levels Tested
If you have symptoms of hormone imbalance, ask your doctor about hormone level testing. Blood tests are generally used to investigate hormone imbalances, but for some hormones, a urine or saliva test might be needed.
Some people may consider using at-home hormone tests to check their hormone levels. While this option can be convenient, note that most kits aren’t FDA-approved and might not be as accurate as in-office testing.
What Negatively Impacts Your Hormone Levels?
Some common but unhealthy lifestyle choices can negatively impact hormone balance in both men and women. These habits include not getting enough sleep, not exercising enough, and drinking too much alcohol.
Hormone imbalances can also be a side effect of some medications. For example, prednisone or other corticosteroid medications can lead to elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and opioid pain relievers can lower testosterone levels. Talk to your doctor to learn how your medications might affect your hormones.
How To Improve Common Hormone Issues
Some types of hormone imbalances require medical treatment, but lifestyle changes may also play a role in managing hormone levels. Some natural ways to keep your hormones balanced include:
- Managing stress levels. Stress is one of the most common causes of hormone imbalances. Lower your stress levels with natural relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, or cold water immersion.
- Getting regular exercise. Physical activity can help the body balance certain hormones involved in metabolism, such as insulin, thyroid hormones, and sex hormones.
- Eating a healthy diet. Emphasize nutritious foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy, and proteins in your meal planning. Doctors may recommend adding or limiting specific foods based on your individual hormone issue.
- Getting enough sleep. A lack of sleep has been linked to hormonal imbalances. For example, a study found that sleep-deprived people had a 24% increase in the hunger hormone ghrelin. Cold therapy is an all-natural way to improve sleep.
Keep Your Hormone Levels Balanced
Hormone imbalances can leave you feeling off or unwell. But healthy lifestyle habits, like prioritizing sleep and practicing cold water immersion, can help keep your hormone levels balanced. Ice Barrel makes it easy to reap the benefits of cold water immersion. As a designated cold therapy tool, it allows for comfortable and convenient plunges. When not in use, its simple, minimalistic design looks great in any room. Check out Ice Barrel today!
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