Is Hormonal Imbalance Making You Crazy, Moody Or Overweight?

Stress can cause hormonal imbalance in women.

Posted Jul 28, 2018

 public common domain
Source: Wikimedia: public common domain

Many women are affected negatively by hormonal imbalance. To begin explaining why that is, let's settle on a location. Which organ is the culprit? You might have guessed, the ovaries. Really good educated guess, but not entirely correct. We start the story of the nasty effects of hormonal imbalance in women in the brain, yes in the head not down there. For the full story, you can listen to the TEDx talk: "The brain and ovarian hormones".

So, a brain structure called the Hypothalamus controls hormonal secretions from the ovaries and all other glands in the body. It does that by intimate connections with the pituitary gland (the master gland), FYI we are still in the brain. Then the pituitary sends chemical messages broadcasted in the bloodstream to the various glands including the ovaries, thyroid and our stress gland-the adrenal.

The focus here will be on the ovarian hormones estrogen and progesterone. Even though they are typically called sex hormones, the brain understand them, and often interprets them in consequential ways that have nothing to do with sexuality. For example, the brain has many receptors that interpret and understand the chemical language of estrogen, that is why there are a lot of cognitive changes (memory) and emotional ones (mood) that occurs at menopause after estrogen plummets.  In fact, the body of a seventy-something man makes more than twice as much estrogen as that of a woman the same age. This is because small amounts of testosterone, which the testes produce throughout life, are converted to estrogen. 

I guess this fact was not known by testosterone scientists who came up with the names estrogen and progesterone. Progesterone means to bear, give birth , the word gestation comes from the same root. estrogen means ‘gadfly’ or ‘frenzy’ , also some trace it to the Greek root (oistros) sexual passion and desire. So, according to these scientists, women are either giving birth or in a state of agitation and hysteria or intense sexual desire. You see this is why we should come up with our own scientific names.  This is also why I prefer to refer to these hormones as Ovarian hormones and not sex hormones, in order to not restrict the vastness of their influences.

It is important to note that all of this happens seamlessly and outside our awareness! The enzymes involved, the multiple steps of synthesis, the metabolism of these hormones and even their secretions and presence in our blood flow, all outside the realm of our awareness.

We have no idea which hormone is being released at this moment. They are invisible and work in silence. Unfortunately, we don’t appreciate their diligence to maintain things in homeostasis, and when hormones feel under-appreciated, they become less silent and demand to be visible, they scream for attention.  Hormones move from the unknown to the known. A diabetic, spends her entire life unaware of what her pancreas is doing, unaware of the hormone Insulin, and then upon diagnosis, she has to make sure that her insulin levels are visible to her at all times, otherwise she might go into a coma and even die. It is a similar story with Ovarian hormones too.

Let's consider a rare practical life example: Stress!!!

Do you ever feel stressed out? For example from too many responsibilities? From trying to be a superwoman? Here is how stress messes with your hormones:

When too stressed out, the adrenal gland borrows raw material to make Cortisol, the notorious stress hormone. It borrows it from Progesterone.  This leads to lower levels of progesterone. This is one way stress interferes with getting pregnant and leads to infertility in women.  Furthermore, lower levels of progesterone are associated with more severe PMS symptoms, and mood instability. Not only that but, it causes estrogen/progesterone imbalance. Which can cause many gynecological problems.  Such factors may lead to long cycles. I know some of you were told that it is ok to have long cycles, but research says it might lead to breast cancer. Progesterone has just revealed its nasty side, because you insulted your adrenal gland.

Typically, when ghosts become visible, it is always scary news. When we become aware of hormonal imbalance, when we finally catch on and feel that something is off, hormones as commanded by the brain have already made us feel vulnerable, weak, anxious, sad, dulled our memories, debilitated our thinking process, truncated our life and dissolved our relationships- sounds familiar?

So, what are the symptoms of hormonal imbalance in women?

If you are one of the many suffering but still told that you are within the normal ranges, then consider the following symptoms as indicative of a potential hormonal war:

Fatigue, mood instability, weight gain, foggy brain/memory loss, adult acne, hair loss/facial hair, lower sex drive, extreme PMS slide. These symptoms do not just reduce quality of life but they also increase chances of stroke, heart disease, cancer and of course gynecological problems (endometriosis, fibroid, tumors and cysts). There are solutions, don't just acquiesce to lower quality of life. And even if you accept such low standards of functionality, this might amount to truncating your life.  

If you suspect that you might suffer from hormonal imbalance, the first step is to consult with a medical doctor. It is possible that your lab results are within the normal range but you still have many of the above symptoms, some of the tests are not sensitive enough to pick up on all indications of imbalance.  This just means that your journey to find alternative treatments will be a long one, but very much worth it.

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