Hormones are one of the body’s primary messaging systems — they control a wide range of body processes, from growth to moods to sleep. And when your hormones get out of balance, it can cause a wide range of symptoms.
Learn about some common types of hormone imbalances and the treatments that can get your hormones back in balance.
What Are the Common Types of Hormone Imbalances?
Some people are born with hormone imbalances, and some hormones decline naturally with age. Other hormone problems are caused by medicines or autoimmune diseases. And sometimes, experts aren’t sure what causes a hormone imbalance. Learn about some common types of hormone problems.
Thyroid disorders are some of the most common hormone imbalances. The thyroid is a gland at the front of the neck. It makes hormones that regulate key bodily functions such as heart rate, body temperature and metabolism.
Hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid, is the most common thyroid disorder. It happens when your body doesn’t make enough thyroid hormone, and it’s often caused by an autoimmune condition called Hashimoto’s disease. Hyperthyroidism, or an overactive thyroid, is the opposite — it means your body is making too much thyroid hormone. The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is Grave’s disease, another autoimmune disorder.
If you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t produce enough insulin (the hormone that regulates blood sugar) or doesn’t respond to insulin correctly. In type 1 diabetes, your body doesn’t make enough insulin. In type 2 diabetes, either your body doesn’t make enough insulin or it doesn’t respond to insulin correctly. Diabetes causes high blood sugar and can lead to complications like heart disease.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is a condition where a woman’s ovary overproduces male hormones, including testosterone. It leads to symptoms like irregular periods, excessive hair growth, acne and weight gain.
Menopause is caused by the natural decline in the female hormone estrogen. It usually happens around ages 50 to 52, but it can happen earlier or later. When estrogen levels drop, you stop getting your period and may have symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, mood changes and vaginal dryness.
Hypogonadism is a condition where the gonads (sex organs) don’t produce enough hormones. In men, this means low testosterone. In women, it means low estrogen. Hypogonadism is commonly diagnosed in adolescents around the time of puberty, since hormones control changes like pubic hair growth, periods in women, and voice changes in men.
What Are the Treatments for Hormone Imbalances?
Hormone imbalance treatments depend on the specific hormone imbalance. If you have low levels of a particular hormone, your doctor may prescribe medicine to replace the missing hormone. For example:
- People with hypothyroidism need pills to increase their levels of thyroid hormone.
- People with type I diabetes need insulin injections to regulate their blood sugar.
- People going through menopause can take hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to replace estrogen.
For conditions where you have too much of a hormone, treatment options can be a bit more tricky. For example, treatments for hyperthyroidism include a range of options from pills to radiation therapy to surgery to remove the overactive thyroid gland. Polycystic ovary syndrome treatments vary based on the woman’s symptoms and whether or not she wants to have children — they may include birth control pills and lifestyle changes.
How Does Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) for Menopause Work?
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is one of the most effective treatments for menopause symptoms. It works by replacing the estrogen that your body is no longer producing. HRT comes in several forms, including tablets, patches and gels. You may need to try different forms and doses (amounts) to find the HRT method that works for you.
The most common side effects of HRT include breast tenderness, bloating, nausea, headache and changes in vaginal bleeding. Some forms of HRT are linked to an increased risk of blood clots and some cancers, so they may not be a good choice for everyone. If you’re considering HRT, talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits.
Can You Balance Your Hormones Through Diet Changes?
Many people with hormone imbalances need medicines and other medical treatments. But depending on which type of hormone imbalance you have, you may be able to manage some symptoms with diet changes. For example:
- Healthy eating can help manage type 2 diabetes.
- Maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise can help manage symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome and menopause.
- Avoiding certain foods and drinks — like caffeine, alcohol and spicy foods — may help avoid triggering menopause symptoms.
Hormone imbalances are very common, and there are many effective treatments available. If you think you may have a hormone imbalance, see your doctor. Together, you can find out what’s causing your symptoms and make a plan to balance your hormones.
- “Endocrine System” via Cleveland Clinic
- “Thyroid Diseases” via MedlinePlus
- “Hypothyroidism” via National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
- “Hyperthyroidism” via National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
- “Thyroid Hormone Treatment” via American Thyroid Association
- “Diabetes Overview” via National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
- “Polycystic Ovary Syndrome” via MedlinePlus
- “Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)” via Mayo Clinic
- “Menopause” via MedlinePlus
- “Menopause” via Office on Women’s Health
- “Hormone Replacement Therapy” via MedlinePlus
- “Hormone Replacement Therapy” via National Health Service