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There are two ways to find out if your symptoms are being caused by an imbalance in your sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone).
If you’re menstruating, you’ll realize there’s a cyclic component to your symptoms. For many women, symptoms get worse during the week or two before their period and then improve (though often just marginally) after their period.
The list of symptoms that can occur with premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is vast. If men were experiencing this stuff, we’d be setting up appointments at Mayo Clinic or filing for disability.
Possible imbalance symptoms while you’re menstruating can include: breast tenderness, mood swings, depression, irregular periods, food cravings, skin changes, monthly weight fluctuation, bloating, headaches (including migraines), fluid retention, backaches, frequent colds, low stress tolerance, fatigue, low sex drive, yeast infections, infertility, breast cysts, uterine fibroids.
In fact, virtually any symptom with a cyclic component is likely hormonal. One young patient of mine would erupt in hives during her PMS days. Another would develop such severe palpitations that her cardiologist considered heart surgery before one simple herb managed to get her hormones under control.
If you’re in your pre-menopausal years or beyond, you’ll realize your symptoms began when your periods started changing–becoming irregular, lighter, or heavier. (“I never had this when I having my periods regularly. Is this hormones?” Answer: You bet.)
Possible imbalance symptoms during your pre-menopause years and beyond: brain fog (poor memory and low concentration), fatigue, weight gain (especially around the tummy), vaginal dryness, low sex drive, depression, anxiety, hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, joint pain, dry skin and hair, facial hair, and palpitations.
For all women, there’s also testosterone You might think of testosterone as more of a male hormone, but it’s vital for women as well. Low testosterone generally occurs during the pre-menopause years and is responsible for low energy and low sex drive. High testosterone appears as part of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and can cause menstrual irregularities, weight gain, facial hair, abnormal sugar metabolism, and susceptibility to acne.
Thrown into the mix are two additional hormones:
• Thyroid (usually underactive), with symptoms including fatigue, weight gain, dry skin and hair, brain fog, intolerance to cold, and cold hands and feet.
• Adrenal (usually fatigued, as a consequence of unchecked stress), causing fatigue, “crashing” in the afternoon, weight changes, brain fog, salt craving, low blood pressure, lightheadedness, palpitations.
You might wonder: How can women have all these symptoms and endlessly hear “There’s nothing wrong with you?” from their doctors.
Answer: Doctors are taught to look for evidence of disease. There’s no disease when your hormones are out of whack. So, when your tests come back normal, your doctor feels she’s done her job. You’re supposed to be satisfied knowing you don’t have anything serious wrong with you.
If you still feel crummy, well, you’ll have to manage on your own. But you can do it. You actually can feel a whole lot better. And it’s easier than you think.
Next time: measuring hormone levels.