4 Potential Causes of a Hormone Imbalance

 4 Potential Causes of a Hormone Imbalance

Hormones are the tiny chemical messengers that regulate all your major bodily processes. Released into your bloodstream by various endocrine glands, they play a critical role in everything from growth, development, and metabolism to mood, circadian rhythms, sexual function, and reproduction.   

As an integrative care expert who specializes in bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (HRT), Dr. Lerner and our team of board-certified providers at Stuart Lerner, MD, know that when something’s off with your hormones, your health and vitality can really suffer.

Fortunately, our comprehensive approach can get to the bottom of any hormone-related symptoms you may be experiencing. Here, we explore four common causes of imbalanced hormones that you should know about.

Understanding hormonal imbalances

A range of factors, including normal aging, excessive stress, obesity, and chronic illness, can lead to a hormonal imbalance. Even a mild imbalance can trigger significant “non-specific” physical or emotional symptoms — like fatigue, weight gain, hair loss, irritability, or anxiety — that could be erroneously attributed to other causes or dismissed altogether.

Most hormonal imbalances occur when your body: 

Some hormonal imbalances are temporary (acute) and resolve without intervention, while others are long-term (chronic). What’s more, some hormonal imbalances require treatment to restore your physical health, while others undermine your quality of life without affecting your health.

Common causes of imbalanced hormones

Hormonal imbalances have a strong, bi-directional relationship with dozens of medical conditions and health concerns: Just as hormonal changes can set the stage for these problems, the existence of these conditions can intensify hormonal imbalances.  

Some of the most common causes of imbalanced hormones are: 

1. Hypogonadism 

Hypogonadism occurs when your sex glands (gonads) produce little or no sex hormones. In women, these glands are the ovaries; in men, they are the testes. While hypogonadism can be triggered by many things, normal, age-related changes are the most common cause.       


The most common cause of female hypogonadism is menopause, which causes ever-diminishing estrogen and progesterone levels starting in middle age. This natural and expected hormonal decline can trigger many bothersome symptoms, ranging from weight gain and fatigue to hot flashes and vaginal dryness.  

Low testosterone 

Declining reproductive hormone levels in middle age is the most common cause of male hypogonadism, also known as low testosterone, or “Low T.” As testosterone diminishes with age, men may experience diminished muscle and bone mass, a slowed metabolism, weight gain, low libido, and erectile dysfunction (ED). 

2. Thyroid disease

Your thyroid gland makes and secretes hormones that regulate your metabolism, or the complex process of how your body produces, uses, and stores energy. Thyroid disease is any condition that causes the gland to make too much or too little thyroid hormone. 

The most common thyroid disorder — an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) — occurs when your thyroid gland produces too little thyroid hormone, causing your metabolism to slow down. Easy weight gain, fatigue, muscle weakness, constipation, thinning hair, depression, and brain fog are common symptoms. 

3. Diabetes

Diabetes is the most common hormone-related disease in the United States. It occurs when the pancreas doesn’t make the hormone insulin (type 1 diabetes), or when the body no longer responds to insulin normally (type 2 diabetes).  

While many lifestyle factors and hormone-related interactions (i.e., obesity, stress) can lead to the hormonal issues that drive diabetes, another hormonal imbalance — excess cortisol levels — often plays a role in type 2 diabetes.    

Released by your adrenal glands, cortisol is the body’s main “stress hormone.” Chronic stress can prompt the adrenal glands to secrete excess cortisol for as long as the stress remains, leading to fatigue, weight gain, sugar cravings, high blood sugar levels, insulin resistance, and eventually, type 2 diabetes. 

4. Polycystic ovary syndrome

Women’s ovaries naturally produce a small amount of testosterone. But with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), the ovaries produce high levels of testosterone, along with other “male” androgen hormones like DHT, DHEA, and androstenedione. 

 In addition to causing symptoms like facial hair, oily skin, acne, and hair loss, women with a PCOS-driven androgen imbalance are prone to infertility, insulin resistance, diabetes, and heart disease. 

Getting to the bottom of your symptoms

If unexplained symptoms are undermining your health or interfering with your life, we can conduct a comprehensive medical assessment — including hormone level testing — to get to the bottom of the issue.

Luckily, many hormonal imbalances can be successfully addressed with medication and/or healthy lifestyle changes, and some can be completely offset with hormone therapy. 

If you’re worried about fatigue, weight gain, low mood, and other “non-specific” symptoms, we can help. Call or click online to schedule a visit at Stuart Lerner, MD, in Kailua, Hawaii, today.

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