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HOW HORMONES CAN AFFECT YOUR OVERALL HEALTH BY ANNETTE BROOKS

Did you know your body makes more than 50 different hormones? These powerful, complex chemical messengers created by the endocrine system glands, as well as the testes and ovaries, regulate everything from mood, development, and growth to the sleep/wake cycle, reproduction, and metabolism. Even the slightest imbalance or hormone over- or under-production can wreak major havoc on our health and quality of life.


Various things affect hormone production and balance, including prescription medications and diseases like diabetes, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, Cushing’s syndrome — a rare condition, and PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome). And, of course, a major culprit that eventually affects everyone is age, which impacts the sex hormones — estrogens (estradiol, estrone, and estriol), progesterone, and testosterone. You’ll experience different signs and symptoms depending on your hormonal imbalance.


Signs of an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) include:


Nervousness, anxiety, and irritability Mood swings

Sleep disturbances Persistent tiredness, weakness Heat sensitivity Goiter (enlarged thyroid gland) Heart palpitations

Twitching, trembling


An underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) may create these and other symptoms:


Fatigue Weight gain Increased sensitivity to cold Constipation

Dry skin

Puffy face Muscle weakness, aches, tenderness, stiffness Elevated blood cholesterol level Impaired memory

Goiter Thinning hair


Symptoms and signs of hormonal imbalances that affect your metabolism include:


Unexplained weight gain or loss Irregular body fat distribution Fatigue Slow heartbeat or rapid heartbeat Higher-than-normal blood cholesterol levels Depression, anxiety Intolerance to cold or warm temperatures Dry, coarse skin and hair Thin, warm, and moist skin Extreme thirst, frequent urination


Sex hormone imbalance has been linked to:


Weight gain Low libido Hot flashes, night sweats Brain fog, difficulty concentrating, cognitive issues Loss of muscle mass Mood changes, depression Painful intercourse due to a lack of vaginal lubrication Vaginal atrophy

Insomnia


WHEN TO SEE A DOCTOR

Hormone problems cause a wide range of symptoms. See a doctor if you persistently don’t feel right, and especially if you have any symptoms of hormonal issues. Don’t be tempted to self-diagnose or use DIY treatments such as transdermal creams and oral supplements. You can do more harm than good without an accurate diagnosis and customized, measurable treatment plan.

Your primary healthcare provider is a good place to start, but it’s also wise to see an endocrinologist. These medical specialists are uniquely trained in endocrinology, a field of medicine that studies, diagnoses, and treats hormone-related conditions. Tools and tests used to diagnose endocrine problems include urine, blood, genetic, and hormone tests, as well as imaging, such as MRIs.

If you’re diagnosed with age-related sex hormone imbalance, seek a provider experienced in using traditional hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and/or plant-based bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) who will regularly measure your hormone levels and adjust your treatment plan based on these and your reported results.

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