Anyone who’s ever had a period will know that we can be a slave to our hormones. From mood dips and thinning manes, to hair in all the places we don’t actually want it – life ain’t always pretty for us. But often we’re too ashamed to talk about it.
At the end of the last year, with typical candour, Loose Women’s Coleen Nolan left co-hosts speechless after admitting that she has a beard – and that it once got so bad that her daughter Ciara Fensome, refused to go out with her unless she shaved it off.
Whilst some people were shocked at Coleen’s honest and frank revelation, Cosmetic doctor and hormone expert, Dr Martin Kinsella explains that this is just one of the many symptoms of a hormone imbalance that so many women experience which can have a huge impact on them physically and mentally, affecting everything from their work, to their confidence and even their sex lives.
"Hormones are essential chemicals in the body that regulate a whole host of different processes," explains Dr Kinsella, a hormone expert who is passionate about the ability of bio-identical hormones to improve the quality of lives for men and women.
"They’re well known for affecting our fertility, menstrual cycle and moods. Hormone fluctuations take place during menopause and can affect women dramatically and in many ways."
But what many people don’t realise is the huge impact that they have on our whole body, from our skin to our hair and even our gums. Here, Dr Kinsella reveals the ten surprising symptoms that could mean you have a hormone imbalance…
10 SURPRISING SYMPTOMS THAT SIGNAL A HORMONE IMBALANCE
1. Itchy skin that feels like something is crawling on it
"Hormones help to regulate the moisture levels of your tissue and stimulate collagen production," explains Dr Martin Kinsella. "If your hormone levels are imbalanced the amount of collagen and oils that moisten the skin drop and skin becomes dry and irritated."
2. Bleeding gums/gum problems
The hormones oestrogen and progesterone can affect the health of your gums.
"These are produced during particular stages of the menstrual cycle and as a result can make gums more susceptible to infection and bleeding at certain times of the month," explains Dr Kinsella.
"You may notice that your gums are more likely to bleed during your period or the week after, this is because high levels of progesterone are released during your period, as well as a few days before and after," Says Dr Kinsella.
"So the bleeding gums, gum swelling, soreness etc are signs of your body fighting inflammation and they are most obvious when your immune system is being strengthened by progesterone. Oestrogen does the opposite to the immune system and suppresses it, which is why symptoms such as bleeding gums will reduce during the middle of your menstrual cycle."
3. Thinning hair on the head
"Levels of the female hormones oestrogen and progesterone fall during the menopause and testosterone increases," explains Dr Martin Kinsella. "This affects hair follicles and causes the hair to thin as well as to become finer in texture."
The good news is, it's probably not as noticeable to others as you feel it is. But this is why many women feel they won't grow their hair longer as they approach perimenopause. Eating well and combating stress will make a difference.
4. Increased facial hair
As women age they often notice increased facial hair.
"During the menopause estrogen levels decline while testosterone levels and other androgens rise," explains Dr Kinsella. "This can lead to more hair growing on the face and body. Fortunately there are now lots of effective treatments that can permanently remove unwanted hair such as laser treatments."
5. Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
"In the last decade there has been more research about how hormones can affect the central and peripheral nerves," explains Dr Martin Kinsella. "Low estradiol for example is thought to be responsible for confusion in transmitting sound signals from the ear to the brain. For this reason a hormone imbalance could be the cause of ringing in the ears, also known as Tinnitus."
6. Brittle fingernails
If you think your fingernails are the last thing that can be affected by hormones, then you’re wrong! "The fluctuation of hormones such as oestrogen can result in a range of unexpected symptoms," explains Dr Martin Kinsella. "Oestrogen is one of the hormones that contribute to regulating water levels in your body.
"As you go through the menopause the levels of oestrogen in your body will continually drop, affecting your fluid balance. Dehydration can result in brittle nails. In addition to menopause this can happen at various times of your life such as during pregnancy or if there is a problem with your hormone levels for another reason."
"As women get older their oestrogen levels drop," explains Dr Martin Kinsella.
"Oestrogen is the hormone that keeps your bladder and urethra healthy and as a as a result of this drop, the pelvic floor muscles can become weak. This is particularly common for women who are approaching or experiencing the menopause but fortunately there are now a range of non-surgical treatments available to help with these symptoms." And always do your pelvic floor exercises – get into the habit of doing them when you brush your teeth!
8. Changes in body odour
"Women who are experiencing hormonal fluctuations can often experience changes in the severity and smell of their body odour," explains Kinsella. "When oestrogen levels drop the body often mistakenly thinks it’s overheating and this can result in excess sweating, which can contribute to the odour."
"When you experience stress your cortisol level (a steroid hormone) increases," explains Dr Kinsella. "This slows down the body's ability to make testosterone. The increased cortisol combined with the lowered testosterone makes many people feel more anxious."
"Oestrogen causes your body to retain water, which can lead to bloating," explains Dr Martin Kinsella. "Bloating is different to weight gain and not to be mistaken. The difference is that bloating often causes sudden changes, for example at different times of the day such as after meals. Weight gain doesn’t usually cause such quick changes."
"The symptoms that can come about as a result of hormone changes can be frightening and isolating for many women," explains Dr Kinsella. "So the key to breaking these taboos is raising awareness so that women know that treatment and help is available."
"Mood swings can occur when serotonin levels change rapidly, either rising or falling. Oestrogen and progesterone control the levels of serotonin production. High levels of oestrogen can impact our mood. This can result in what is known as the roller coaster of emotions that women can experience during both their menstruation cycle and when they reach menopause.
"However, our hormone levels can also change seasonally and studies suggest that thyroid function changes seasonally. This could be the body’s way of trying to compensate for the cold by increasing hormone levels to generate more heat."
"At this time of year I see a surge in people who are suffering from a hormone imbalance and so I would advise anyone suffering from a January mood slump to get their hormone levels tested in order to rule out a hormone imbalance as this can play a huge impact on mood. If a hormone imbalance is discovered then there are a number of treatments available that can re-balance hormones and improve mood and energy levels as a result."
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