How to Tell If Your Hormones Are Off: A Comprehensive Guide

As a nutritionist, I often see women struggling with hormonal imbalances and not understanding why. Hormonal imbalances are becoming increasingly common due to our hectic, modern lifestyles and poor dietary habits, so it can be hard to figure out what’s going on.

However, it’s important to understand that hormones play an essential role in the health and wellbeing of men and women. Being aware of the signs and symptoms of hormonal imbalance can help you identify if something is off so you can take action.

In this article, we’ll look at how to tell if your hormones are off, what could be confused as a hormonal imbalance, and, of course, what you can do about it to start feeling better ASAP.

What are hormones and what do they do in the body?

Hormones are chemical messengers secreted by endocrine glands such as the pituitary, thyroid, and adrenal glands that regulate many functions in the body including metabolism, growth and development, reproductive processes, mood, and even stress levels. 

They help maintain balance in our bodies, so when hormones are out of whack, it can cause a variety of issues.

There are many types of hormones, but some of the more well-known ones include:

  • Estrogen
  • Progesterone
  • Testosterone
  • DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone)
  • Cortisol
  • Insulin.

Hormones also play a role in regulating our body temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate as well as keeping our immune system healthy by stimulating the production of antibodies. Additionally, hormones influence our appetite, libido, mental clarity, energy levels and even our skin condition.

What can cause hormonal imbalances?

Hormonal imbalances can be caused by a variety of factors.  This can include phytoestrogens found in everyday items like cosmetics and household products, stress, poor diet (especially one missing healthy fats which is the building block of hormones), lack of exercise, and deficiencies in vitamins or minerals.

Additionally, hormonal imbalances can be caused by over-taxing the body through excessive exercise or fasting for long periods of time, as well as by an over- or under-active thyroid or adrenal glands.

How can you tell if your hormones are off?

Testing your hormone levels to find imbalances

As a female, testing your hormones can be a great way to discover how to tell if your hormones are off and start to uncover any imbalances. It’s also a really great idea to test your hormone levels before trying to get pregnant as hormonal imbalances before and during pregnancy can cause health risks for both mother and child.

Even if you don’t plan on having children anytime soon, it’s still important to stay on top of your hormones by looking for signs and symptoms of imbalance. 

Hormones are insightful in many ways and act as monthly signals telling us whether or not we’re healthy.

If you suspect that your hormones may be out of balance, there are a few different tests you can do to determine if this is truly the case.

Serum, saliva, and dry urine tests can all be used to measure hormone levels in the body. If you decide testing your hormones is the best route for you, I recommend finding a qualified functional medicine practitioner near home or online and work together on acquiring and reading these labs.

If taking these tests are a bit out of budget right now or you don’t currently have insurance, there are a number of signs that you can watch out for and use as a tool to see if your hormones are in balance.

Note that these signs and symptoms will vary from person to person and it’s important to note that there are also conditions that can mimic the symptoms of a hormone imbalance. 

However, there are some common clues that indicate something may be off with your hormones.

Woman lying in bed trying to sleep on top of white sheets and blanket with a pink hot pad on her belly.

Signs and symptoms of hormonal imbalances

  • Mood swings or depression around your period
  • PMS symptoms that disrupt your everyday life
  • Low libido
  • Insomnia and poor quality sleep, especially leading up to your period
  • Unexplained weight gain or stubborn weight, especially around the belly
  • Skin problems – acne or dry skin, particularly systemic acne around the chin and jawline
  • Hair problems – excess facial hair, hair loss, or constant shedding
  • Fertility problems
  • Headaches
  • Weak bones
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Period is too long or too short – 3-7 days is normal
  • Period is extra heavy (possibly with clotting) or extra light (spotting)
  • Menstruation cycles are too long or too short – the average length of a healthy cycle is 28 days, but anywhere from around 21-35 days can be healthy
  • Irregular or missed periods
  • Brain fog and poor focus
  • Fatigued that you need caffeine to get by
  • Night sweats
  • Hot flashes, especially leading up to your period
  • Poor digestion – constipation and/or diarrhea
  • Poor muscle strength and recovery
  • Intense low back pain before and during your period and/or low back pain during ovulation
  • Spotting for more than a couple of days before or after your period
  • Excessive breast tenderness around your period to the point where it hurts to walk or run

The role of birth control in hormonal imbalance

If you’re on birth control right now, your symptoms may be mitigated, but that does not mean you don’t have an imbalance.  Think about it as if you went off your birth control — would any of these symptoms exist then?

Many women get on birth control because of some of these symptoms, but unfortunately, birth control only covers up the symptoms and does not address the reason for those symptoms which in many cases is a hormonal imbalance.

What can be confused as hormonal imbalance?

It’s important to note that there are conditions and lifestyle factors that can mimic the symptoms of a hormone imbalance.  

While many of these things can cause symptoms similar to a hormone imbalance, they are not the same and treating them differently can make all the difference in getting your hormones back on track.

Be sure to look into the conditions below or get tested before putting all your eggs in one basket and assuming you have a hormonal issue.

These can show similar symptoms of hormonal imbalance in the body and should be considered:

  • Excess stress
  • Too much caffeine or caffeine consumed too late in the day (before 2pm is best)
  • Food sensitivities
  • Autoimmune conditions – Hashimoto’s, Celiac disease, etc.
  • Thyroid issues – hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism
  • Nutrient deficiencies – vitamin D, iron, magnesium, etc.
  • Liver congestion
  • Gut imbalance and bacterial or fungal overgrowth
  • Blood sugar imbalance and the spike and dips that come with that

Other possible clues of hormonal imbalance

Of course there are other possible signs and symptoms of a hormonal imbalance.  If one has adrenal or thyroid issues, they’re likely to have a hormonal imbalance since the adrenals and thyroid are part of the endocrine system and are partially in charge of producing hormones for the body. 

Also, if you are going through a bad menopause, this too is a sign that your hormones are off.  Neither your periods nor menopause should be super painful!  

Some pain is okay and completely normal, but it should never be so bad that it prevents you from going about your daily life.

Women wearing a flowered sundress walking through a field of tulips

Common hormonal imbalance diagnoses

If you’ve thought about how to tell if your hormones are off and you’re considering getting tested and are curious what some of the more common diagnosis are, here are a few of the most common ones seen in practice:

  • Outside of having a general hormonal imbalance, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common hormonal imbalances among women. It occurs when a woman’s hormones become unbalanced, leading to a variety of complications and symptoms. Generally, PCOS is characterized by an excess of androgens, irregular or absent menstrual cycles, and an increase in ovarian cysts.
  • Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid gland does not make enough hormones. On the other hand, hyperthyroidism is when the thyroid gland makes too many hormones.
  • Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS) or adrenal insufficiency is a condition in which your adrenal glands produce insufficient amounts of cortisol and other hormones after having produced too many hormones for a prolonged period of time, typically due to stress.
  • Estrogen dominance is a condition in which there is an abundance of estrogen and not enough progesterone or a ratio between the two hormones that can be problematic.
  • Testosterone imbalance is when the levels of testosterone in the body are either too high or too low which can lead to a variety of symptoms.
  • Hormone receptor resistance is when the body’s cells do not properly respond to the hormones that are being produced. This often leads to an imbalance in other hormones as well.

What can you do about it?

If you suspect that your hormones are off balance, some lifestyle, nutritional, and dietary support and modifications is a great place to start.

Try some of these natural options to balance your hormones:

  • Practice mindfulness such as meditation, deep breathing, body scanning, gentle yoga, or Tai Chi.
  • Reduce stress with self-care practices such as baths and massage.
  • Make sure you get good sleep. Remove blue light before bed, drink some sleepy time tea, stretch, create a ritual, and get a minimum of 7 hours of quality sleep each night.
  • Exercise regularly, but be sure not to over-exercise (too much intense cardio is a common issue).
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Lower caffeine intake.
  • Lower sugar and processed foods intake.
  • Eat healthy, nutrient-dense food.  Add an organ meat complex and omega-3s to round out your diet and get more easily absorbable nutrients.
  • Eat healthy fats like olive oil, avocado, and coconut oil.
  • Eat healthy meals that include protein to help balance your blood sugar throughout the day.
  • Remove common foods people are sensitive to such as gluten, vegetable oils, and dairy.
  • If you’re currently dieting, slowly increase calories.
  • Get your gut on track as healing your gut will naturally bring your hormones back to balance.
  • Take digestive enzymes and/or a probiotic to improve gut health.
  • Include some liver-loving detoxification herbs like dandelion and milk thistle teas or supplements.
  • Include hormone-balancing adaptogenic herbs such as Vitex (also known as chasteberry), maca root, rhodiola, or ashwagandha.
  • Get rid of phytoestrogens around the home.  Switch out your beauty care and household cleaning products for natural versions such as Primally Pure, Annemarie Skin Care, Thrive Market’s Rosey or Puracy cleaning products, etc.
  • Remove toxins from the home to remove burden from the liver.

Note that it can take a minimum of 3 months for your body and hormones to balance.

If after spending a few months on lifestyle and dietary changes you still aren’t seeing the relief you’re looking for in your symptoms, the next step would be to get tested by an endocrinologist or integrative doctor who specializes in treating hormonal imbalances.

Finally, hormone replacement therapy may be also prescribed if the symptoms are severe enough. If this is the case, be sure to find a healthcare provider who specializes in bio-identical hormones so that your body can best process them.

Hormones and travel

When trying to keep your hormones in check while traveling, stick to your normal routines as much as possible. Get enough sleep and eat nutrient-dense foods when you’re able to do so.

Also, be sure to stay well-hydrated and consider taking probiotics, digestive enzymes, and magnesium throughout your travels in order to help support digestion and stay regular as well as avoid dehydration and added stress on the body.

Joanna posing from a pier with mountains in the background when she traveled to Caesars Head in SC.

Additional Resources

If you’re curious to learn more about how to know if your hormones are off and want additional resources to explore as well as how to get them rebalanced naturally, check out a few of my favorite resources from three amazing women.

All four of these books are wonderful resources for anyone who wants to understand more about their hormones and how to take control of them.

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Key takeaway: how to know if your hormones are off

When it comes to how to tell if your hormones are off, you must pay attention to the signs and signals your body is sharing with you. 

These can include anything from severe menstrual pain or irregular periods, to difficulty sleeping, weight gain, and mood swings.  Additionally, look out for other possible imbalances like nutrient deficiencies, food sensitivities, autoimmune conditions, and/or stress as they can portray similar symptoms.

When our bodies are working as they should, our hormones will work as they should.  There should be an easy, non-painful transition to our periods as well as to menopause.

If you suspect a hormonal imbalance, try some natural support, get tested by an endocrinologist or integrative doctor, and create a treatment plan that works for you. 

With the right care and support, you can help restore balance to your hormones and feel better in no time!

FAQs

How can you tell if your hormones are off balance?

You can tell if your hormones are off balance by listening to the signs your body provides you and symptoms that arise.  These can include fatigue, changes to your mood or appetite, weight gain or weight loss, headaches, digestive issues, sleep disturbances and irregular menstrual cycles.

How to check if your hormones are off?

If you suspect your hormones are off balance, it’s best to consult with an integrative or functional medicine professional and get checked for any underlying medical conditions. Your doctor can order blood tests that measure the levels of certain hormones in your blood to determine if they are off. Additionally, keeping track of changes in symptoms over time can help identify if an imbalance is present.

How to tell if your estrogen levels are off?

If you suspect that your estrogen levels are off, look out for signs and symptoms such as irregular periods and changes in mood, appetite, weight gain or weight loss, fatigue, headaches and digestive issues. Additionally, tracking changes in symptoms over time can help determine if an imbalance may be present. Consulting with a functional medicine doctor is the best way to get an accurate assessment of your hormone levels and understand what might be causing the imbalance.

How to tell if a woman’s hormones are off?

Women can tell if their hormones are off by looking for signs such as irregular menstrual cycles, hot flashes or sweats, difficulty sleeping, weight gain, fatigue, low libido dry skin and hair loss. Other possible clues of hormonal imbalance include sudden changes in moods like increased irritability or anxiety. If any of these symptoms present themselves it’s important to consider lifestyle and dietary changes and speak with an integrative doctor.

How do you know if your hormones are off after hysterectomy?

After a hysterectomy, signs of a hormone imbalance may include hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness and mood swings. Other more subtle signs might be fatigue, irritability and changes in libido or sleep patterns. If these symptoms occur frequently and last for an extended period of time, it could be an indication that your hormones are out of balance.

How do you feel when hormone levels are off?

When your hormone levels are off, you may experience fatigue, mood swings, difficulty focusing, weight gain or loss, changes in sleep patterns or libido, and other potential symptoms. Hormonal imbalances can also be linked to dietary and lifestyle factors. Keep in mind that symptoms vary per individual and may not be the same as those around you.

When should you check hormone levels?

You should consider checking your hormone levels if you have any symptoms or signs of hormonal imbalance such as changes in mood, appetite, fatigue, weight gain/loss, headaches and digestive issues.  If you’re not seeing the relief you want by making changes to your diet and lifestyle, consulting with an integrative practitioner or endocrinologist may be a good option.

What to do if your hormones are off?

If you believe your hormones are off, one of the first steps you can take is to make some simple dietary and lifestyle changes. Eating a balanced, healthy diet, practicing mindfulness and self care,  and getting enough quality sleep can help balance hormones naturally. Additionally, exercising regularly has been found to be beneficial for hormone balance.

What to take if your hormones are off?

If your hormones are off, there are a few things you could take to help get them back into balance.  Natural remedies are often the best place to start. Herbal supplements such as vitex and maca root can be beneficial in restoring hormone balance while supplementing with vitamins B6 and B12 can help with adrenal fatigue. Other dietary options are reducing sugar and dairy intake and increasing healthy fats and proteins.

What happens if your hormones are off?

When your hormones are off, it can cause a range of physical and emotional symptoms. These may include acne, weight gain, fatigue, depression, anxiety, irritability, mood swings, insomnia and more. Depending on the specific hormone imbalance that you’re experiencing, the severity of these symptoms will vary. Without treatment or lifestyle changes to address the underlying hormonal imbalance, these issues could become worse over time.

Read More on All-Things Wellness Anywhere Tips:

My Wellness Anywhere Toolkit

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