5 Hormone Imbalances to Be Aware Of

Cor­ti­sol, estro­gen, insulin, prog­es­terone and testosterone

The endocrine sys­tem secretes 50 dif­fer­ent hor­mones through­out your body and each plays a vital role in main­tain­ing home­osta­sis, or sta­ble body functions.

Due to the inte­gral role of each hor­mone, it’s no sur­prise that a slight imbal­ance of one hor­mone could be the cat­a­lyst of your nag­ging headache, unpre­dictable mood swings, increased sweat­ing or weight gain.

The fol­low­ing are five hor­mones and the most com­mon imbal­ances in both men and women.

1. Cor­ti­sol

What is cortisol?

Cor­ti­sol is a hor­mone pro­duced in your adren­al gland that helps reg­u­late your blood sug­ar, metab­o­lism, inflam­ma­tion and mem­o­ry for­ma­tion. Most com­mon­ly referred to as the stress hor­mone,’ cor­ti­sol is released dur­ing times of stress or cri­sis and, as a result, tem­porar­i­ly shuts down your diges­tion and repro­duc­tion systems.

What are symp­toms of high cortisol?

If your adren­al gland is pro­duc­ing too much cor­ti­sol, you may expe­ri­ence symp­toms such as a flushed, round face, high blood pres­sure, increased thirst, irreg­u­lar men­stru­a­tion, mood swings, mus­cle weak­ness, reduced sex dri­ve and/​or weight gain. If too much cor­ti­sol is secret­ed over a pro­longed peri­od of time, it may increase your risk of devel­op­ing Cush­ing’s syndrome.

What are symp­toms of low cortisol?

When too lit­tle cor­ti­sol is secret­ed, you may expe­ri­ence symp­toms includ­ing dizzi­ness, fatigue, mood swings, mus­cle weak­ness and/​or weight loss. Too lit­tle cor­ti­sol may be caused by Addis­on’s dis­ease, a con­di­tion where your adren­al gland does­n’t secrete enough hormones.

2. Estro­gen

What is estrogen?

Estro­gen is one of the main sex hor­mones in women. While men have estro­gen too, they secrete small­er amounts and do not expe­ri­ence the same effects from estro­gen that women do. In women, estro­gen is respon­si­ble for the phys­i­cal changes dur­ing puber­ty, reg­u­lat­ing your men­stru­al cycle and sup­port­ing your bones, heart and mood dur­ing preg­nan­cy. In both men and women, estro­gen helps to reg­u­late cho­les­terol and bone health.

What are symp­toms of high estrogen?

Too much estro­gen in women may result in breast lumps, fatigue, feel­ing depressed or anx­ious, reduced sex dri­ve and/​or weight gain. With men, high estro­gen can pro­duce enlarged pec­torals, infer­til­i­ty and/​or a reduced sex dri­ve. High lev­els of estro­gen could be the result of a tem­po­rary, nat­ur­al fluc­tu­a­tion of your hor­mones or a response to med­ica­tion, such as con­tra­cep­tives or cer­tain antibiotics.

What are symp­toms of low estrogen?

Low estro­gen in women is typ­i­cal­ly a result of menopause. Symp­toms may include dry skin, an irreg­u­lar men­stru­al cycle, hot flash­es, mood swings and/​or reduced sex dri­ve. When men secrete too lit­tle estro­gen, they may expe­ri­ence reduced sex dri­ve and weight gain.

3. Insulin

What is insulin?

The hor­mone insulin is pro­duced by the pan­creas and allows your mus­cles, fat and liv­er to absorb glu­cose, also referred to as blood sug­ar, and break­down fat and pro­tein in order to reg­u­late your meta­bol­ic process.

What are symp­toms of high insulin?

If the body secretes too much insulin, or if some­one with dia­betes injects more insulin than need­ed, they may devel­op hypo­glycemia, or abnor­mal­ly low blood sug­ar lev­els. The symp­toms of hypo­glycemia may include anx­i­ety, dizzi­ness, heart pal­pi­ta­tions, hunger, loss of facial col­or, sweat­ing and/​or tremors. To increase blood sug­ar lev­els, you can eat car­bo­hy­drate-rich foods or drink sug­ary beverages.

What are symp­toms of low insulin?

When your pan­creas is not pro­duc­ing enough insulin, it is typ­i­cal­ly a result of type 1 or type 2 dia­betes, which leads to high blood sug­ar. Symp­toms of high blood sug­ar may include dehy­dra­tion, dizzi­ness, fatigue, fre­quent uri­na­tion, hunger and/​or weight loss. Treat­ment for peo­ple with dia­betes can include insulin injec­tions or oth­er med­ica­tions. Your physi­cian will deter­mine the best treat­ment for your condition.

4. Prog­es­terone

What is progesterone?

The prog­es­terone hor­mone is gen­er­al­ly thought to be only present in women, but men have prog­es­terone as well. For women, prog­es­terone is cru­cial in men­stru­a­tion and sup­port­ing the ear­ly stages of preg­nan­cy. For men, prog­es­terone helps sup­port fer­til­i­ty and bal­ances the effects of estro­gen on the body.

What are symp­toms of high progesterone?

In men, high prog­es­terone lev­els will increase estro­gen lev­els, which can result in symp­toms such as depres­sion, fatigue and the devel­op­ment of heart con­di­tions. For women, high prog­es­terone is asso­ci­at­ed with symp­toms includ­ing anx­i­ety, bloat­ing, depres­sion, reduced sex dri­ve and/​or weight fluctuations.

What are symp­toms of low progesterone?

Low prog­es­terone lev­els in men may pro­duce symp­toms includ­ing bone loss, erec­tile dys­func­tion, fatigue, hair loss and/​or weight gain. When women have low lev­els of prog­es­terone, they may expe­ri­ence abnor­mal uter­ine bleed­ing, an irreg­u­lar men­stru­al cycle, fre­quent mis­car­riages, pain dur­ing preg­nan­cy, reduced sex dri­ve and/​or weight gain.

5. Testos­terone

What is testosterone?

Testos­terone is the main sex hor­mone in men. While women also have testos­terone, they have small­er amounts and do not expe­ri­ence the same effects from testos­terone that men do. For men, testos­terone sup­ports the phys­i­cal changes dur­ing puber­ty, such as deep­en­ing of the voice and growth of the gen­i­tals, hair and mus­cles. In women, testos­terone sup­ports bone health and repro­duc­tive tissue.

What are symp­toms of high testosterone?

It is eas­i­er to deter­mine when a child has too much testos­terone because it typ­i­cal­ly results in pre­co­cious puber­ty, or an ear­ly devel­op­ment of sex­u­al char­ac­ter­is­tics. When an adult devel­ops high testos­terone lev­els, it may increase the chance of infer­til­i­ty at a younger age.

What are symp­toms of low testosterone?

Signs of low testos­terone lev­els in men may include enlarged pec­torals, low sperm count, mood swings, poor erec­tions and/​or a reduced sex dri­ve. Women may expe­ri­ence fatigue, mus­cle weak­ness, reduced sex dri­ve and/​or weight gain.

As we age and our bod­ies change, our hor­mones fluc­tu­ate to adjust to these changes. It is nat­ur­al to feel some symp­toms relat­ed to fluc­tu­a­tion in hor­mones; how­ev­er, if your symp­toms per­sist or wors­en, your pri­ma­ry care physi­cian can help you man­age your condition.

Vis­it our Inter­nal Med­i­cine page to learn more about our pri­ma­ry care depart­ment or to sched­ule an appoint­ment with a pri­ma­ry care physician.