When an untreated hormone imbalance occurs, serious dangers can occur from small changes in your body. Hormones are chemical messengers that control and regulate the activity of your organs and cells. Imbalances can affect all aspects of your life and can cause difficulty if they are not treated. The most common causes of imbalance are due to life stress, diet, environment, lifestyle, and age.
Both women and men can have hormonal deficiencies that can cause severe health issues. Low insulin levels may result in diabetes (blood sugar imbalance); low DHEA levels can be associated with depression and stress; and cortisol levels may be elevated or depressed from chronic anxiety and stress. Although these are common there are four hormones that have a larger and very direct impact on your mental and brain health.
- Estrogen – Mood modulator
- Progesterone – Nature’s anti-anxiety hormone
- Testosterone – Mood, motivation, sexuality, strength
- Thyroid – The energy regulator
Usually, levels of estradiol (estrogen) and progesterone change in a predictable way throughout the menstrual cycle. When anything goes wrong with this, symptoms can occur. Symptoms can be due to increased estrogen levels (“estrogen dominance”), low estrogen levels, low progesterone levels, or a combination of low estrogen and low progesterone levels. Hormone testing is necessary to determine the cause of symptoms as well as the appropriate treatment. For instance, hot flashes and night sweats in perimenopausal women are usually attributed to low estrogen levels, but very often these same symptoms are due to low progesterone levels instead! Sometimes low testosterone levels can cause decreased libido, but there are many other factors that can also lead to decreased sexual desire.
Dr. Clark uses blood testing to determine the nature of the hormonal imbalance. The timing of lab testing relative to the menstrual cycle is critical for this. Some physicians use saliva testing, but Dr. Clark has found that saliva test results correlate poorly with symptoms and for this reason does not use saliva testing to determine diagnosis or management of hormone imbalances.
Untreated Hormone Imbalance Consequences
Some of the most dangerous aspects of an imbalance is not in fact the symptom but what it might be representing. This can range from diabetes, thyroid problems, or even a benign or malignant tumor. Certain lifestyle habits can affect your hormones but some other serious issues may underly. Some of the following can be a sign of a deep rooted issue, causing you danger if left untreated:
- Adrenal fatigue
- Memory issues
- Mood swings
- Sleep issues
How to Manage
There are many options for managing these symptoms. From medication like antidepressants, nutritional supplements, or hormone replacement therapy (HRT), you may find one or two options that work best for you. The best way to learn to manage your hormone imbalance is to consult your doctor for guidance. We can help you safely explore the options we’re going to outline.
In addition to visiting a doctor, one way to is by practicing basic self-care. While pampering and spa treatments are often what springs to mind when the term “self-care” is thrown around, it’s really much more than that. Self-care is about checking in and caring for yourself as well as you would care for another person. That means prioritizing your physical, mental, and emotional health. It’s about nurturing yourself so you are better equipped to take on the demands of life. For more ways to practice self-care during menopause specifically, click here.
Contact Chapel Hill Gynecology
Dr. Karen Clark of Chapel Hill Gynecology is a board-certified physician who specializes in the management of hormone therapy. For more than 20 years she has helped women find symptom relief and regain their quality of life. And now, after completing additional training, Dr. Clark is able to do the same for men. For more information on the dangers of hormone imbalance and hormone therapy call (919) 960-2720 to schedule an appointment.