Medically reviewed by Kelly Wood, MD
Hormones are chemical messengers that affect many body processes, such as sexual function, reproduction, metabolism, and mood. You can develop an imbalance due to natural hormonal transitions or certain medical conditions. This can lead to a variety of symptoms such as menstrual irregularities, skin changes, and weight fluctuations.
This article addresses hormonal imbalance symptoms, what causes them, and how to get them back in balance.
1. Hormonal Imbalance Menstrual Symptoms
Hormonal imbalance can lead to menstrual symptoms such as:
In addition to breastfeeding, pregnancy, and menopause, other conditions that can disrupt hormones related to menstruation include:
Terms for Sex or Gender
In this article, "female/women" and "male/men" refer to people with the typical reproductive organs of cisgender females and males. Verywell Health recognizes that some people who identify as women or men do not have the same anatomy as described in this article. When research or a health authority is cited, the terms for sex or gender from the source are used.
2. Hormonal Imbalance Skin Symptoms
Skin symptoms caused by hormonal imbalance include:
Dryer, thinner skin
Rashes and easily irritated skin
Slow wound healing
What Is a Hormonal Imbalance?
Glands throughout your body make over 50 different hormones. Many of these hormones respond to fluctuations in other hormones to maintain stability. A hormonal imbalance is when you have too little or too much of one or more hormones. Even a small imbalance can lead to big changes.
3. Hormonal Imbalance Digestive Symptoms
Hormonal imbalance digestive symptoms may include:
Sex hormones help regulate the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Estrogen and progesterone in particular may influence irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). GI symptom changes related to the menstrual cycle are common.
4. Hormonal Imbalance Mood Symptoms
When estrogen levels drop during perimenopause, so do serotonin levels. Serotonin is a chemical messenger (neurotransmitter) that helps brain and nervous system cells communicate. A drop in estrogen can also happen postpartum. These changes can result in symptoms such as:
Other hormonal conditions, such as overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism), can also cause mood symptoms.
5. Hormonal Imbalance Weight Symptoms
Weight changes are sometimes the result of a hormonal imbalance. For example, hormone changes due to menopause or having too much cortisol, as in Cushing's syndrome, can result in weight gain. Conditions such as hyperthyroidism can lead to weight loss.
6. Hormonal Imbalance Hair Symptoms
Hormones have a big impact on the hair growth cycle and hair follicle structure. Anything that affects your hormone levels can affect your hair, causing:
7. Hormonal Imbalance Sleep Symptoms
Hormonal imbalance sleep symptoms can include:
Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
Poor sleep due to night sweats and hot flashes
Poor sleep can make it 10 times more likely that you'll develop depression. While hormonal imbalances can cause sleep problems, it's also true that sleep problems can upset hormonal rhythms.
8. Hormonal Imbalance Sex Symptoms
Low sexual desire can be a symptom of a hormonal imbalance.
Endocrine (hormonal) abnormalities are common in people with sexual dysfunction. Several hormones, primarily testosterone, can affect the male sex drive. Estradiol, testosterone, and progesterone all help modulate sexual desire in females.
Other sex symptoms include:
Vaginal dryness and uncomfortable or painful intercourse in people with a vagina
Erectile dysfunction (ED) in people with a penis
9. Hormonal Imbalance Fertility Symptoms
Infertility is defined as not being able to conceive after 12 months of regular sex without birth control.
Conception depends on ovulation (release of an egg from an ovary). Ovulation depends on the timing of certain hormones, such as gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), luteinizing hormone (LH), and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). Infrequent or irregular periods could mean that you're not ovulating.
It's rare, but hormonal imbalance due to low LH and FSH levels can cause fertility symptoms in males.
Medications That Cause Hormonal Imbalance Symptoms
Certain medications can also cause changes to hormone levels. Some of these are:
Hormonal treatments for menopause or breast cancer
Long-term use of cortisol-like drugs to treat conditions such as inflammatory diseases, asthma, chronic obstructive lung disease, and cancer
Too much hypothyroidism medicine
Tests to Diagnose the Cause of Hormonal Imbalance Symptoms
Hormones can get out of balance due to natural transitions in life, such as puberty, pregnancy, and menopause. Many medical conditions also affect hormones. That's why it's important to see a healthcare provider and find the cause. Your specific symptoms and clinical examination will determine the next steps.
Hormone blood tests may include:
Estrogen test: To help diagnose infertility, menstrual problems, and ED
Progesterone test: To help diagnose infertility, abnormal bleeding, and adrenal gland disorders
FSH test: To help diagnose infertility, problems with the ovaries or testicles, and low sperm count
TSH test: To see how well your thyroid is working
Testosterone test: For symptoms of ED or low sex drive in men
DHEA sulfate test: To check adrenal gland function, disorders of the testicles or ovaries, and excess body hair in women.
How to Treat Hormonal Imbalance Symptoms
Treatment depends on the specific diagnosis.
For example, low estrogen and low progesterone in females can be treated with hormone replacement therapy (HRT). HRT is typically used to treat menopausal symptoms. There are many ways to take it, including tablets, patches, and gels. It's not for everyone, though. It may not be safe if you've had certain conditions, such as:
Breast, ovarian, or uterine cancer
Blood clots or high blood pressure
Hypothyroidism treatment usually involves taking synthetic hormones to substitute for those your thyroid can no longer make. Any underlying conditions, such as diabetes, must be treated as well.
Treatment for PCOS and some other conditions may require more than one type of therapy. In addition to balancing hormones, there are therapies to address particular symptoms.
Natural Ways to Balance Hormonal Imbalance Symptoms
You might be able to affect hormone levels through diet. Certain plants contain compounds that mimic estrogen. Foods that may help boost estrogen include:
Apples, berries, grapes, peaches, pears, and plums
Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, onions, spinach, and sprouts
Barley, oats, and wheat germ
Almonds, flaxseeds, peanuts, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds
Soybeans, tofu, and miso
Beer, coffee, red wine, tea
Vitamins B and D can help boost estrogen, and a mineral called boron can help the body absorb estrogen and testosterone. If you're considering taking dietary supplements, it's a good idea to speak with a healthcare provider first.
Other natural ways to keep hormones in balance include:
Maintain a healthy, balanced diet
Get adequate sleep
Symptoms such as unexplained weight changes, menstrual irregularities, and skin problems may be related to hormonal imbalance. Natural changes, such as puberty, pregnancy, and menopause can cause dramatic hormonal changes, as can medical conditions, such as thyroid problems and PCOS.
Hormonal imbalance is treatable, so it's important to see a healthcare provider for diagnosis. Blood tests can usually determine if your levels are within the normal range.