Understanding our hormones is just about as complicated as trying to learn a new language. We know they exist, and that they are important, but we don’t fully understand what our bodies are trying to communicate to us. Hormones play an instrumental role in how our bodies function. They are the chemical messengers that travel through our bodies to drive function in our metabolism and reproduction. When our hormones are imbalanced, they can have some major side effects that should not be glossed over.
There are various physical signs that our body sends to us when our hormones are imbalanced. The first and most noticeable sign is our skin, which includes dry skin, rounded face, darkening skin, especially along the neck, and groin, and acne on the face, chest, or upper back. A shift in hormones can leave our skin dehydrated, which causes dry patches. Commonly seen during and after menopause, the drop in oestrogen and progesterone, the reproductive hormones, can lead to collagen depletion in our skin and results in a loss of skin elasticity and firmness, which then women feel drier and appear more wrinkled.
Out of all the skin issues, acne could be the most bothering. There are hormone receptors on our skin, and abnormal levels of those can overstimulate the glands and secrete something called sebum, which then leads to the formation of acne.
The next sign is excessive hair growth or hair loss. Most women have some hair throughout their body, but if it starts becoming excessive in abnormal areas, like the face, then it can be hormone-related. When hormones like testosterone drop in the body, they have a bigger impact on the physical symptoms, like hair growth.
On the other hand, when the levels of oestrogen and progesterone drop after giving birth or during menopause, hair grows more slowly and therefore becomes much thinner. A decrease in these hormones also triggers an increase in the production of androgens that can shrink hair follicles, resulting in hair loss on the head.
Severe PMS and irregular periods are very common signs. Normal cycles are supposed to occur within 21-35 days, so if it is consistently absent or occurs outside these days, it’s likely that our progesterone and oestrogen are too high or too low. Vaginal dryness does happen from time to time to every female, but if it happens too often, then quite possibly, our oestrogen level is dropping, which reduces vaginal fluids.
Sudden weight changes can also signal hormonal issues. There are hormone receptors in fat cells and oestrogen affects the metabolism. When we’re feeling a little more down than normal, irritable, or overly sensitive, this may be due to fluctuating oestrogen which can then impact the levels of leptin, the hunger-driving hormone. This, in turn, can affect our eating habits and lead to an increase or decrease in weight.
Our thyroid is largely connected to hormone levels. Our thyroid impacts how our body metabolizes food. This can cause weight loss if there are too many hormones in our bodies. On contrary, in hypothyroidism, which stands for inactive thyroid or low levels of thyroid hormones, our body’s natural functions slow down. This could make it more difficult to lose extra pounds and maintain a healthy body weight.
Although oestrogen levels can be low in women for various reasons, the most common reason for that is menopause. When oestrogen level drops during menopause, estradiol, the major oestrogen hormone that regulates metabolism and body weight also drops, and what is next? Many women would experience weight gain around their mid-section and abdomen during this time in their life. Those are fat built up in the belly and around the organs that can cause many potential health issues such as type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
Hot flashes are sensations of heat, sweating, flushing, anxiety, and chills that last from one to five minutes. This is a known menopause symptom due to declining oestrogen levels. Then we have headaches, which come with the drop in oestrogen and strike right before or during our period. If they surface each month, then that is a sign it was due to shifting hormones.
Everything within our body is connected. Each and every part that resides within us plays a pivotal role in how we function. Hormonal imbalances are like a weak link in a chain. If one link is off, the strength dissipates. Blood and saliva tests can be done to measure hormone levels. If any of the above symptoms are something you are experiencing on a regular basis, we recommend getting them tested to have peace of mind, and you and your doctor can work together to get your body back on track. Hormonal balance isn’t something to overlook, as down the line it can become greater health issues.
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Dr Wenus Ho is a family physician and a designated workplace doctor with more than a decade of clinical experience. She is also currently a postgraduate tutor for the Graduate Diploma of Family Medicine (GDFM) Training Program in the Yong Yoo Lin School of Medicine, Singapore....
After graduating from Guys’, King’s and St Thomas’ School of Medicine in the United Kingdom, Dr Juliana went on to complete her Graduate Diploma in Family medicine at the National University of Singapore. She also has completed her diploma in Occupational Medicine. Dr Juliana applies her...
Dr Yong graduated from University College London, United Kingdom, with a Bachelor of Medicine & Bachelor of Surgery with distinction in medical sciences. She has more than 10 years of experience as a general practitioner, and was accredited as family physician by the Family Physician Accreditation...
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