Are your hormones making you sick?

Hormone imbalances may be the cause behind health issues in men and women in their twenties and thirties, and in some cases, even as young as their teens.

Lack of exercise, toxin exposure, chronic stress, prolonged use of birth control and poor diet all have an effect on hormone production. While these factors may cause a larger hormonal imbalance over time, they are not unique to middle age.

Hormonal imbalances in men and women can cause more havoc than mood swings and being overly emotional.

Five major hormones include testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, thyroid and cortisol -- a slight imbalance in any one of them can cause a number of health concerns.

“Hormonal imbalance can be manifested in several ways including depression, difficulty losing weight, low energy, low libido, insomnia, joint pain and poor memory and concentration,” said Vanessa Bennington, a family nurse practitioner and co-owner of Complete Health and Wellness Sarasota and The Perfect Couplet Online Training and Nutrition Center.

An imbalance in any of the sex hormones (testosterone, estrogen, progesterone) can cause weight gain and increased fat storage.

Low testosterone is fairly common in men and women beginning in their twenties and can make it difficult to build or maintain muscle mass while simultaneously creating low libido.

Bennington has found high estrogen levels are common with her clients in their twenties and thirties, and noted that this can lead to extreme PMS and possibly reproductive disorders and difficulty conceiving.

“A lack of estrogen and testosterone can cause bone loss which can eventually lead to osteopenia or osteoporosis, an increased risk for heart disease, and an increased risk for Alzheimers and dementia,” said Bennington.

Thyroid hormones act as the body’s internal thermostat and help regulate body temperature, metabolism and energy levels. Diet, inflammation and stress play a role in maintaining the thyroid hormones, and an imbalance can result in too much or too little energy, constipation, hot flashes, dry and brittle hair, or skin or being constantly cold. Trouble gaining or keeping on weight and increased nervousness or anxiety can signify an overactive thyroid.

Cortisol is responsible for our flight-or-fight response to danger. When the body puts out the wrong level of stress hormone in relation to the amount that’s needed, the adrenal glands become taxed and can leave you with adrenal fatigue. This can slow down healing and cell regeneration; impair digestion, metabolism and mental function; leave you feeling hyper, yet drained at the same time; and cause unexplained weight gain, intense cravings and insomnia.

Symptoms are your body’s way of letting you know something may be wrong, but the most accurate way to check for hormonal imbalance is with a blood or saliva test.