9 Signs You Might Have a Hormone Imbalance

Hormones aren't just about sexual health—they can also make you hungry, sleepy, and cranky.

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You can’t stay out of the fridge

iStock/Valentin Casarsa

If you’re way more ravenous than you used to be, out-of-whack hormones might be to blame. Thyroid hormones, for instance, help regulate your metabolism, so if your levels are up, you’ll burn through calories faster and be left craving more. On the other hand, too much of the stress hormone cortisol could signal you to eat up so you’ll have fuel to get through a stressful event. “The body is perceiving that it’s under stress and needs to build a reserve,” says Pauline Camacho, MD, FACE, professor of medicine in the division of endocrinology and metabolism at Loyola University Medical Center. Here are more reasons you can't stop eating.

You’re losing hair where you want it


Polycystic ovary syndrome often causes women’s bodies to pump too much testosterone. That’s why their hair will start resembling a more male pattern: baldness on the head, and extra growth on the body. PCOS often first appears in adolescence, so your symptoms might have started after you first got your period. “You would know even in early teen years that they have manifestations,” says Dr. Camacho. “They have irregular periods, heavier than usual compared to other peers.” Don't miss these other silent signs of PCOS.

Your weight is changing


Whether you’ve lost or gained pounds, weight change could signal a hormone imbalance if your diet has stayed the same. “The weight changes beyond what people perceive would be expected for their activity or eating,” says Dr. Camacho. “They’re eating the same, but weight goes up over weeks or years.” For instance, extra cortisol or testosterone—for instance from PCOS—could lead you to pack on pounds, while excessive thyroid hormones could trigger sudden weight loss. (Related: These metabolism myths could ruin your weight loss efforts.)

You’re just not feeling like yourself


It probably comes as no surprise that hormonal changes during PMS or menopause can cause mood swings. (Here are period problems you shouldn't ignore.) But others, like thyroid hormones, can control your emotional state too. “People who have hyperthyroidism can be kind of short-tempered and anxious,” says Dr. Camacho. “On the reverse side, those with hypothyroidism would be more depressive and passive.” (Related: These are health problems you can blame on your thyroid.)

You’re never in the mood


A system called the gonadal axis connects the reproductive gonad organ to the pituitary gland and hypothalamus, the parts of your brain responsible for hormones. When one of those gets out of whack, your libido could change. “Those three affect each other so that when you have a pituitary problem or a hypothalamus problem, there’s a problem in the gonadal hormones: testosterone and estrogen,” says Dr. Camacho. Too little estrogen or testosterone, or a fluctuation in thyroid hormones, are all connected, which could whack out your sex drive. Here are more medical reasons your sex drive is low.

You feel fatigued


When any of your systems aren’t running properly—including hormones—your body’s energy is going to suffer. For example, low thyroid hormones slow your body down while high levels are kicking things into high gear, but either way you’re going to feel worn out. “Either there’s not enough energy or fuel, or your muscles are over-stimulated, and it uses up too much energy and you feel tired,” says Dr. Camacho. Check out these other medical reasons you're tired all the time.

You’re tossing and turning

iStock/Robert Kneschke

Without enough sleep for your body to restore itself, your hormone levels could get out of whack. On the other hand, imbalanced thyroid hormones could be the cause, rather than effect. An overactive thyroid is the most common hormonal cause of sleeplessness, says Dr. Camacho. “Every part of the body is moving at twice or however many times normal speed, and that includes the brain too. They can’t fall asleep and keep waking up, and sleep is lighter,” she says. “If it’s hypothyroidism, the patients are kind of lethargic and sleep a lot.” Check out these sleeping mistakes that cause insomnia.

You’ve got brain fog


Growth hormones boost your brain, so if you’re low, you could find yourself with memory loss and decreased mental function. Low thyroid hormones could leave you with a hard time remembering information too. “Because patients are lethargic, they might be slow in terms of mental function,” says Dr. Camacho. Don't miss these fixable reasons you're suddenly forgetting things.

Your bones are weak


Your body turns vitamin D into a hormone called calcitriol, which you need for strong bones. “With fractures or broken bone, you would think about alterations in vitamin D,” says Dr. Camacho. The parathyroid hormone, which helps control the amount of calcium in the blood, could also affect bone health, which could explain why your bones are so brittle. Avoid on these "harmless" habits that could give you osteoporosis.

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