Causes of hormonal imbalance

Hormonal imbalances occur when there is too much or too little of a hormone in the bloodstream. Because of their essential role in the body, even small hormonal imbalances can cause side effects throughout the body.

Hormones are chemicals that are produced by glands in the endocrine system. Hormones travel through the bloodstream to the tissues and organs, delivering messages that tell the organs what to do and when to do it.

Hormones are important for regulating most major bodily processes, so a hormonal imbalance can affect a wide range of bodily functions. Hormones help to regulate:

• metabolism and appetite

• heart rate

• sleep cycles

• reproductive cycles and sexual function

• general growth and development

• mood and stress levels

• body temperature

Men and women alike can be affected by imbalances in insulin, steroids, growth hormones, and adrenaline.

Women may also experience imbalances in estrogen and progesterone levels, while men are more likely to experience imbalances in testosterone levels.


The symptoms of a hormonal imbalance depend on which glands and hormones are affected.

Symptoms associated with the more common causes of hormonal imbalances include:

• unexplained weight gain or weight loss

• unexplained or excessive sweating

• difficulty sleeping

• changes in sensitivity to cold and heat

• very dry skin or skin rashes

• changes in blood pressure

• changes in heart rate

• brittle or weak bones

• changes in blood sugar concentration

• irritability and anxiety

• unexplained and long-term fatigue

• increased thirst

• depression

• headaches

• needing to go to the bathroom more or less than usual

• bloating

• changes in appetite

• reduced sex drive

• thinning, brittle hair

• infertility

• puffy face

• blurred vision

• a bulge in the neck

• breast tenderness

• deepening of the voice in females


Everyone will experience natural periods of hormonal imbalance or fluctuations at particular points in their life.

But hormonal imbalances can also occur when the endocrine glands are not functioning properly.

Endocrine glands are specialized cells that produce, store, and release hormones into the blood. There are several endocrine glands located throughout the body that control different organs, including the:

• adrenal glands

• gonads (testis and ovaries)

• pineal gland

• pituitary gland

• hypothalamus gland

• thyroid and parathyroid glands

• pancreatic islets

Several medical conditions are known to impact some, or several, of the endocrine glands. Certain lifestyle habits and environmental factors may also play a role in hormonal imbalances.

Causes of hormonal imbalances include:

• chronic or extreme stress

• type 1 and type 2 diabetes

• hyperglycemia (overproduction of glucagon)

• hypoglycemia (more insulin produced than there is glucose in the blood)

• underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)

•over- or underproduction of the parathyroid hormone

• poor diet and nutrition

• being overweight

• abuse of anabolic steroid medications

• hormonal replacement or birth control medications

• solitary thyroid nodules

• pituitary tumors

• Cushing’s syndrome (high levels of the hormone cortisol)

• Addison’s disease (low levels of cortisol and aldosterone)

• benign tumors and cysts (fluid-filled sacks) that affect the endocrine glands

• chemotherapy and radiation therapy

• iodine deficiency (goiters)

• hereditary pancreatitis

• Turner syndrome (females with only one functioning X chromosome)

• Prader-Willi syndrome

• anorexia

• phytoestrogens, naturally-occurring plant estrogens found in soy products

• exposure to toxins, pollutants, and endocrine disrupting chemicals, including pesticides and herbicides

Hormonal imbalances in women

Women naturally experience several periods of hormonal imbalance throughout their lifetime, including during:

• puberty

• menstruation

• pregnancy, childbirth, and breast-feeding

• perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause

Women are also at risk of developing different types of hormonal imbalance disorders than men because they have different endocrine organs and cycles.

Medical conditions causing irregular hormonal imbalances in women include:

• polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

• hormone replacement or birth control medications

• early menopause

• primary ovarian insufficiency (POI)

• ovarian cancer

Symptoms of hormonal imbalances in women include:

• heavy, irregular, or painful periods

• osteoporosis (weak, brittle bones)

• hot flashes and night sweats

• vaginal dryness

• breast tenderness

• constipation and diarrhea

• acne during or just before menstruation

• increased hair growth on the face, neck, chest, or back

• infertility

• weight gain

• thinning hair or hair loss

• skin tags or abnormal growths

• deepening of the voice

• clitoral enlargement

Hormonal imbalances in men

Men also experience natural periods of hormonal imbalance during their lifetime.

Natural causes of hormonal imbalances in men include:

• puberty

• aging

Men are also at risk of developing different hormonal imbalances than women because they have different endocrine organs and cycles.

Medical conditions causing hormonal imbalances in men include:

• prostate cancer

• hypogonadism (low testosterone)

Nearly everyone experiences at least one or two periods of hormonal imbalance during their lifetime.

Hormonal imbalances are more common during puberty, menstruation, and pregnancy. But some people experience continual, irregular hormonal imbalances.

Many hormonal imbalances are caused by external factors, such as stress or hormone medications. However, hormonal imbalances can also be caused by any medical condition that impacts or involves the endocrine system or glands.

A person should speak to a doctor about long-term unexplained symptoms, especially those that cause pain, discomfort, or interfere with everyday activities.

References … ( What to know about hormonal imbalances) Written by Jennifer Huizen — Updated on June 17, 2020

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