Hormone imbalance: the great equalizer

Jan 01, 2021
Hormone imbalance

Oh hormones. So much more than just raging PMS, although PMS is likely what many people associate with “hormones.” But more widespread and systemic hormonal imbalances are more common than we think. In fact, 80 million U.S. women have some type of hormonal imbalance. Most don’t even realize it.

WTF are hormones, even?

Hormones are chemicals produced by the endocrine system — the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, thymus, pineal gland, adrenals, pancreas, thyroid, and ovaries or testes.

First, can we acknowledge what a wonder the endocrine system is? All of those small and often under-appreciated elements working together to maintain balance in the body… it’s kind of amazing.

The hormones produced by the endocrine system act as messengers to regulate processes and bodily functions — everything from basic needs like hunger or temperature, to more complex systems like reproduction or mood.

Hormone imbalances occur when there is too much or too little of any specific hormone in the bloodstream. Why might there be too much or too little of a hormone? Many internal and external factors contribute to this: insulin resistance, diabetes or high cholesterol are examples of internal drivers; stress, environmental toxins and poor diet are some external factors.

And because all of the endocrine system components are “linked” by hormone messengers traveling back and forth between them, one tiny hormone getting out of whack creates a domino effect, causing your bodily functions to become interrupted or abnormal. If these imbalances persist over time, they can lead to a number of health problems, like obesity, joint pain, infertility and heart disease, to spotlight a few.

Speaking of infertility, hormone imbalances like PCOS are among the leading causes of infertility. In women with PCOS, the hormonal imbalance interferes with ovulation. You can't get pregnant if you're not ovulating.

When I began up-skilling myself and trying to self-diagnose around my infertility journey, my mind was blown by the sheer number of hormones in play when it comes to regulating reproductive function:




Follicle-stimulating hormone


Growth hormone

Luteinizing Hormone




Thyroid hormones


It’s like a little orchestra, with each hormone playing a different instrument. If one is out of tune, the whole concert sounds like shit. And pinpointing which “instrument” is off is a maddening exercise.

The good news is that there are some core symptoms to watch for — these may indicate a potential imbalance. As always, you should discuss any symptoms with your doctor.

Symptoms of hormone imbalances

  • Bloating

  • Fatigue

  • Irritability (like you’re in a shitty, combative mood every day for weeks on end)

  • Hair loss or abnormal hair growth

  • Cystic acne

  • Heart palpitations

  • Sleep disturbances

  • Lowered sex drive

  • Problems with blood sugar

  • Weight gain (specifically in the hips, thighs and lower abdominal area)

  • Inability to lose weight despite exercise and clean diet

  • Long cycles, debilitating cramping, abnormal blood color

If you experience any symptoms that become chronic, go see your doctor (even if it’s the second or third or fourth visit). Don’t be shy about being your own advocate and demanding a plan to uncover answers. Don’t settle for dismissal (like I did) because “you’re letting Google make you paranoid” or “you don’t fit the profile of that condition.”

A final word

It is my (non-doctor) opinion that long-term medication could potentially further exacerbate any imbalances, because you’re not retraining your body to produce normal amounts of hormones on its own. I personally believe in treating the underlying causes of imbalance using food, exercise and spiritual self-care. But, each of you needs to decide what the right “treatment plan” is for your challenges and goals.

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