The 8 Most Common Types Of Hormone Imbalances + How To Heal Naturally

Types Of Hormone Imbalances

When it comes to your health, understanding the profound influence of hormones on our overall well-being is vital for living a thriving life. In my telehealth functional medicine clinic, I see just how much hormone imbalances can interrupt your daily life, so it is my job to shed light on what we can do to restore proper function.

From adrenal dysfunction to thyroid irregularities, these imbalances can manifest as a host of symptoms, affecting our vitality, mood, metabolism, and more. By diving into the root causes and harnessing targeted interventions, we can restore balance and reclaim optimal health. So, without further ado, read on to learn more about the most common types of hormone imbalances and how you can finally reclaim your health.

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What is a hormonal imbalance?

Hormone imbalances happen when there is dysregulation of the normal balance of hormone production and communication in your endocrine system. Your hormones act as messengers, carrying out various physiological processes, from regulating your metabolism and mood to influencing reproductive health and immune function. When these messengers fall out of sync, it can lead to a cascade of symptoms and health issues. 

Hormone imbalances can stem from a variety of factors, including chronic stress, poor diet, and environmental toxins. Understanding what is happening beneath the surface of hormone imbalances - not just treating symptoms - empowers us to implement the right treatments to address these underlying factors for long-term, sustainable healing.

Types of hormone imbalances

Since everyone’s biochemistry is unique, hormone imbalances can manifest in multiple different ways in your body, each with their own set of symptoms. While there are multiple types of hormone imbalances, these are the ones that I see most often in my telehealth functional medicine clinic.

1. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis

Hashimoto's thyroiditis, named after the Japanese physician who first described it, is an autoimmune condition that affects the thyroid gland. In this intricate dance of dysfunction, the immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid tissue, leading to chronic inflammation and gradual destruction of the thyroid gland. When this happens, the thyroid is unable to produce sufficient amounts of thyroid hormones necessary for regulating metabolism, energy levels, mood, and overall well-being. This is the most common type of hypothyroidism - also known as underactive thyroid - although you can have an underactive thyroid without Hashimoto’s being the main cause.

Symptoms of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain / weight loss resistance
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Dry skin
  • Thinning hair and eyebrows
  • Constipation
  • Sensitivity to cold

2. Hyperthyroidism

Unlike hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism happens when your thyroid gland becomes too active, resulting in the production of excessive amounts of thyroid hormones.

Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:

  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Goiter (enlarged thyroid gland)
  • Hair loss
  • Heat sensitivity
  • Racing heart
  • Weight loss
  • Excessive sweating
  • Increased hunger
  • Insomnia

3. Estrogen dominance

Estrogen dominance is a hormonal imbalance that occurs when the levels of estrogen are consistently high within the body. While estrogen is meant to fluctuate throughout a woman's menstrual cycle - low during your period and peaking again before ovulation - estrogen dominance can mess with your cycle and overall reproductive health. Estrogen dominance is usually a result of an imbalance in progesterone levels as progesterone helps balance and neutralize the effects of too much estrogen. This hormone imbalance is most commonly found in women but it can happen in men as well.

Symptoms of estrogen dominance in women include:

  • Bloating
  • Rapid weight gain
  • Breast tenderness
  • Mood swings
  • Heavy menstrual bleeding
  • Irregular periods
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Migraine headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Brain fog
  • Fatigue
  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
  • Hair loss

Symptoms of estrogen dominance in men include:

  • Infertility
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Gynecomastia
  • Low libido
  • Fatigue
  • Hair loss

4. Adrenal fatigue

Adrenal fatigue is ultimately a result of a miscommunication between your brain and adrenals, not a dysfunction within the adrenal glands themselves. In a healthy individual, cortisol is higher in the morning to help with waking, and slowly lowers throughout the day. Melatonin, your “sleepy time” hormone, is inversely proportional to cortisol, so when cortisol is high, melatonin is low and vice versa. 

Adrenal fatigue happens when there is an imbalance in this cortisol rhythm. Cortisol is either low when it should be high, high when it should be low, or always low or always high. This leads many people to have difficulty waking up in the morning but spend hours lying awake at night.

Other symptoms of adrenal fatigue include:

  • Slow to start in the morning
  • Cravings for salty or sugary foods
  • Low libido
  • Fatigue in the afternoon
  • A “second wind” in the evening
  • Inability to stay asleep
  • Dizziness when standing up quickly
  • Afternoon headaches
  • Blood sugar issues
  • Chronic inflammation
  • Weak nails and brittle hair
  • Moodiness
  • Difficulty losing weight

5. Insulin imbalance

Insulin imbalance happens when there is a dysfunction in the production, release, or utilization of insulin in the body. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that plays a vital role in regulating blood sugar levels by facilitating the uptake of glucose from the bloodstream into the cells for energy production and storage. When an insulin imbalance occurs, it can lead to disruptions in glucose metabolism, resulting in high or low blood sugar levels. Insulin imbalance can take various forms, including insulin resistance, where cells become less responsive to insulin, and impaired insulin secretion, where the pancreas fails to produce adequate insulin. Both conditions can contribute to the development of metabolic disorders, such as type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

Symptoms of insulin imbalance include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Insatiable cravings
  • Frequent urination
  • Increased hunger
  • Blurry vision
  • Headaches
  • Weight gain / weight loss resistance

6. Low testosterone

Low testosterone, also known as hypogonadism, is a hormone imbalance characterized by insufficient levels of testosterone in the body. Testosterone plays a vital role in both men and women, influencing various aspects of our physical and mental health. In men, testosterone is crucial for maintaining muscle mass, bone density, libido, and overall vitality. In women, it contributes to sexual function, energy levels, and mood stability. When testosterone levels dip below optimal ranges, it can lead to a range of symptoms for men and women.

Symptoms of low testosterone in men include:

  • Low libido
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Hair loss
  • Infertility
  • Depression
  • Weight gain
  • Brain fog / difficulty concentrating

Symptoms of low testosterone in women include:

  • Low libido
  • Fatigue
  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Thinning hair
  • Dry skin

7. High testosterone

On the other side, High testosterone, also known as hyperandrogenism, is a type of hormonal imbalance characterized by elevated levels of testosterone in the body. Although testosterone is mainly a male sex hormone, females do produce small amounts necessary for overall hormone balance in relationship to other hormones like estrogen and progesterone.

Symptoms of high testosterone in men include:

  • Acne
  • Aggression
  • Headaches
  • High blood pressure
  • Overactive libido
  • Insomnia
  • Mood swings
  • Prostate enlargement

Symptoms of high testosterone in women include:

  • Excessive facial and body hair
  • Irregular menstrual cycle
  • Acne
  • PCOS
  • Infertility
  • Weight gain / weight loss resistance

8. Leptin resistance

Leptin resistance happens when your body becomes less responsive to the hormone leptin. Leptin - produced by fat cells - plays a crucial role in regulating appetite, metabolism, and body weight by sending signals to the brain, informing it about the body's energy stores and regulating food intake accordingly. However, when leptin resistance happens, your brain no longer receives these signals effectively, leading to a disruption in the body's hunger and satiety cues.

Symptoms of leptin resistance include:

  • Increased hunger
  • Lack of satiety after eating
  • Rapid weight gain
  • Weight loss resistance

Risk factors of hormone imbalances

Hormone imbalances can be caused by a variety of factors that have built up over time. Rarely does someone wake up sick one day with a chronic health condition after being perfectly healthy the day before. Health problems happen after years of development, that’s why you are always either trending toward health or disease. Things like chronic stress, poor diet, toxin exposure, inflammation, and other health problems like autoimmune conditions and gut dysfunctions can all play a role in developing hormone imbalances.

And since you’re always fueling health or disease, the longer hormone imbalances are left unaddressed, they can lead to more serious, life-threatening problems. For example, prolonged estrogen dominance may increase your risk for certain cancers and insulin resistance can lead to type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Do you have a hormone imbalance?

Patients often ask me “how do I know what kind of hormonal imbalance I have?” After all, it can be difficult to pinpoint your exact condition as a lot of these imbalances have overlapping symptoms. And because your body is brilliantly interconnected, if you have one hormone problem, you might have other types of hormone imbalances as well. That’s why I always recommend running labs to get the most accurate data on what is happening beneath the surface.

Mainstream medicine typically runs basic labs that look at wider reference ranges from a pool of sick people. Unfortunately, that’s why many people’s labs come back “normal” and you’re sent on your way being told that you’re either depressed, need to lose weight, or are just getting older. At best, you may be sent home with a prescription for a synthetic hormone cream or medication as a bandaid for your symptoms - each with their own set of side effects.

In functional medicine, we run more comprehensive labs and look at a narrower reference range in order to truly understand what is contributing to your symptoms so that we can tackle the problem at its source. When it comes to hormones, I like to run a full thyroid panel that looks at TSH, T4, T3 uptake, total T3, free T4, free T3, reverse T3, and thyroid antibodies, glucose labs, and Urine saliva hormone labs that looks at sex hormones like estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone, and cortisol levels.

Seeking help from a functional medicine doctor

Ultimately, understanding the main types of hormone imbalances is essential for achieving optimal health. From thyroid dysfunction to insulin imbalance, and estrogen dominance to low testosterone, these hormone problems can disrupt your quality of life in many areas. By recognizing the intricate web of factors that contribute to hormonal disruptions we can begin to take proactive steps towards restoration.

In my telehealth functional medicine clinic, we specialize in helping you uncover the root causes of your hormone imbalances to tailor a personalized action plan to find healing. Through a comprehensive approach that addresses lifestyle, nutrition, and stress management, functional medicine can support your body's innate healing capacity and guide you towards vibrant health and wellbeing.

To learn more about how we can help you reclaim your health with functional medicine, schedule a telehealth consultation today.

As one of the first functional medicine telehealth clinics in the world, we provide webcam health consultations for people around the globe. 

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BY DR. WILL COLE

Evidence-based reviewed article

Dr. Will Cole, DNM, IFMCP, DC is a leading functional medicine expert who consults people around the globe, starting one of the first functional medicine telehealth centers in the world. Named one of the top 50 functional and integrative doctors in the nation, Dr. Will Cole provides a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. He is the host of the popular The Art Of Being Well podcast and the New York Times bestselling author of Intuitive Fasting, Ketotarian, The Inflammation Spectrum and the brand new book Gut Feelings: Healing the Shame-Fueled Relationship Between What You Eat and How You Feel.

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Healing The Shame-Fueled Relationship
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