10 Ways Your Hormones Affect your Health
Hormone health is vital for all areas of your wellbeing, but did you know how many areas can be affected?
Hormone imbalance can affect your general health in many ways, and we tend to think just of the more obvious ones when symptoms overwhelm us.
Hormones are chemical ‘messengers’ that impact the way your cells and organs function. It’s normal for your levels to shift at different times of your life, such as before and during your period or a pregnancy, or during menopause.
But some medications such as the Pill/Coil/HRT and the synthetic hormones they contain will have an effect and some other health issues can cause them to go up or down, too.
1. Irregular Periods/Heavy Bleeding
Women’s cycles are individual to the, and usually around every 21 to 35 days. If yours doesn’t arrive around the same time every month, or you skip some months, it might mean that you have too much or too little of either oestrogen or progesterone.
This isn’t, as many women believe, a problem confined to younger women. If you’re in your 40s or early 50s then the reason can be perimenopause. Irregular and particularly heavy periods can be a symptom of health problems like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or fibroids and need to be investigated by your doctor.
2. Sleep Problems
Hormones definitely affect your sleep, and it is progesterone that helps you relax and aids sleep. When levels are low that can make it hard to fall and stay asleep to say anything of the impact of oestrogen dominance whose symptoms can also keep you awake at night.
3. Brain Fog
Experts aren’t sure exactly how hormones impact your brain, but do know it is changes in oestrogen and progesterone that can make your head feel “foggy” and make it harder for you to remember things. Attention and memory problems are especially common during perimenopause and menopause, but they can also be a symptom of other hormone-related conditions, like thyroid disease, so again check with your doctor.
4. Stomach Problems
Your gut is lined with tiny cells called receptors that respond to both oestrogen and progesterone. When these hormones are higher or lower than usual, you might notice changes in how you’re digesting food. That’s why diarrhoea, stomach pain, bloating, and nausea can crop up or get worse before and during your period and at menopause.
5. Ongoing Fatigue
Are you tired all the time? Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of a hormone imbalance and if you are making too little thyroid hormone, it can sap your energy. A simple blood test can tell you, and as progesterone supports thyroid function it can help there too.
6. Mood Swings and Depression
Researchers think drops in hormones or fast changes in their levels can cause moodiness and even depression. Oestrogen affects key brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine so a combination cream with both these hormones can help.
Lots of things can trigger these, such as certain foods or allergies but hormones again play a part here. For some women, drops in oestrogen bring them on, but for others high levels also do the same so if you are getting regular headaches or migraines they need to be investigated.
8. Vaginal Dryness
It’s normal to have this occasionally, but at menopause it is increasingly common due to lowered oestrogen levels. It helps vaginal tissue stay moist and comfortable so using a combination cream, or oestrogen from your doctor if it is more than dryness – such as vaginal atrophy – may be the answer.
9. Loss of Libido
Progesterone is the level responsible for sex drive in women and is also precursor for testosterone which can be prescribed if needed. Levels of testosterone in women usually rise at menopause so supplementing with it is not usually necessary, but because of its potential for side effects it should only be taken under medical supervision.
10. Breast Changes
A drop in oestrogen can make your breast tissue less dense but an increase in the hormone can thicken this tissue, even causing new lumps or cysts. Too high oestrogen levels are linked to increased breast cancer risk so do talk to your doctor if you notice breast changes, even if you don’t have any other symptoms that concern you.