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What does hormonal imbalance mean?

Social media is full of people who attribute women’s bad feelings to their hormone levels and say that they must be in balance.

Some influencers promise that eating a salad with raw carrots balances excess estrogen hormones in the body; Others claim that waiting to drink coffee until after a meal can cure everything from painful periods to hair loss; But according to National Geographic Unfortunately, none of these solutions have a scientific basis and do not bring the desired result.

The advantage of these supposed home remedies is that they don’t require a doctor’s visit, which is likely to appeal to women who think their doctors aren’t listening. What social media enthusiasts seem to be missing, experts say, is that hormones are part of a system designed for balance, and serious hormonal disorders require medical intervention.

The role of hormones in the body

“Hormones are a whole class of proteins that send signals throughout the body,” says Marilyn Tan, an endocrinologist and professor at Stanford University School of Medicine. More than 50 different hormones have been identified in the human body, which enter the bloodstream mainly through glands such as thyroid, pancreas, ovaries, testicles, adrenal glands, and pituitary gland.

Hormones have different functions, including growth, metabolism, reproduction, and mood; But Ann Coppola, a professor of endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, says their main role is to coordinate metabolism in organ systems. Hormones send messages to different organs and tissues through the blood stream and tell them how to function. This complex system of glands and organs is known as “endocrine system”.

Sometimes changes in the concentration of hormones lead to physical symptoms. Sex hormones fluctuate in different stages of women’s life cycle (from puberty to menopause). During hormonal changes, women experience symptoms such as mood swings, weight fluctuations, changes in libido and hot flashes.

Some endocrine disorders are very serious and occur as a result of imbalances such as diabetes, thyroid disease (hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism), and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Endocrine disorders may occur due to the presence of excessive androgens in the body, and their diagnosis must be done by a doctor. According to Coppola, subtle endocrine abnormalities that can be treated with small dietary changes aren’t as common as social media would have you believe.

Hormones are designed to be balanced

Acne, fatigue, and weight gain are the most common symptoms Tik Tok users and influencers attribute to hormonal imbalances. Digestive problems, body aches, anxiety and sleep problems are also a combination of symptoms known as “adrenal fatigue” in the Internet world. Adrenal fatigue should not be confused with adrenal insufficiency. Adrenal insufficiency is a medical condition in which the adrenal glands are unable to produce cortisol.

Despite the efforts of social networks to link problems such as fatigue and acne with hormonal imbalances in the body, experts doubt that hormonal imbalances lead to the appearance of these symptoms. “It takes a lot of damage to disable the adrenal glands, and they have a lot of internal redundancy,” says Coppola. You have two adrenal glands; But even less than one gland is enough for your body to function.”

The same is true for the thyroid gland. According to Coppola, the human body only needs about 20% of the normal thyroid gland to function fully; For this reason, the idea of ‚Äč‚Äčadrenal fatigue does not exist according to Coppola and is completely wrong.

Although hormones may play a role in symptoms such as fatigue, weight gain, or acne; But these symptoms may appear due to other factors such as sleep disorders, anxiety, improper diet or activity level. You may also mistakenly think that there is something wrong with your perfectly normal energy level; Just because you compare yourself to the boundless energy of others.

Coppola has seen no evidence for the effects of dietary changes in helping to balance hormones, and says she can’t even imagine the mechanism for such an effect. According to Coppola, the beauty of hormones is that they exist to create balance and only in the event of a deficiency or problem, they try to help the normalization of the body’s conditions by creating the necessary adjustment and adaptation; For example, if the pituitary gland feels that the level of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) in the blood is low, it releases more of this hormone, and if the level of TSH in the blood increases, it reduces its secretion.

Another example in this field is insulin; A hormone that is secreted by the pancreas to process sugar in the body, so that our body can use it to provide the energy it needs. When there is a high amount of glucose in your blood as a result of eating, insulin tells the body to store the excess glucose in the liver until the body’s glucose levels decrease.

In fact, it can be said that your hormones adapt to what is happening around them; Not the other way around.

If you do not feel well, be sure to see a doctor

Without going online, Coppola suggests making a list of your symptoms and thinking about what’s going on in your life that might have led to these symptoms. It’s possible that your brain fog is caused by stress or that changes in your diet and level of physical activity are contributing to your skin problems. After making this list, give it to your doctor.

According to Coppola, it is worth it for a doctor to perform the necessary examination and tests after taking your history and symptoms; For example, thyroid disorders are the most common problems that are easily diagnosed by blood tests. Sometimes the results of examinations and tests performed may all be normal. In such a situation, it may be better to accept that there is probably no specific medical reason.

“Of course, I never want to ignore an endocrine disease,” Coppola says. But at the same time, I don’t want to misdiagnose a patient with an endocrine disease. Besides this, I don’t like people to be forced to change their lives; Because they think that drinking coffee can help regulate their body’s hormones.”

You should note that not all advice from social media users and influencers about sleep hygiene and a balanced diet are bad. These tips are just for your overall health and will not be a magic cure for hormonal problems. According to you, using the suggested recommendations along with the treatment methods recommended by the doctor is a great solution; But don’t forget that if you need medicine, changing your lifestyle can never be a sufficient substitute for drug therapy.


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