Hormones are chemical messengers charged with sending the right signals throughout your body. Those signals tell your tissues and blood what to do to keep them healthy and when to do it. Because your body produces about 50 different hormones, there’s a lot of activity going on.

Hormonal balance is critical to good health. If there are too many or too few of one hormone, or if it’s delivered at the wrong time, it can wreak havoc.

What’s important is to act quickly if you experience a symptom that could be related to your body chemistry. Here are three signs you may be struggling with a hormone imbalance.

1. Suffering from Chronic UTIs

If you have ever experienced a urinary tract infection, you know how painful it is. The intense burning with urination and pain in your abdomen and low back can be excruciating. Having a UTI once is bad enough. But suffering from chronic UTIs is miserable.

UTIs are caused when bacteria get into the urethra. That one-time UTI might have been caused by moving E. coli from the bowel to the urethra when wiping with toilet paper or during sexual intercourse. Chronic UTIs are more likely the result of genetics or an inability to completely empty the bladder due to muscle, nerve, or blockage problems. Or they might be caused by too little estrogen.

Estrogen levels fall for women during their menstrual cycle and during perimenopause and menopause. Estrogen is what keeps the vagina moistened and healthy, which protects against bacterial infection. Lose estrogen, and you lose your key line of defense.

Diet, exercise, quality sleep, and reducing stress can help keep your estrogen levels balanced throughout your lifetime. Hormone replacement therapies during menopause are controversial, as it can increase the risk of stroke, heart attack, dementia, and some cancers. But you also have the option to attack chronic UTIs without boosting estrogen.

You probably know that cranberry juice fights UTIs. But a UTI supplement derived from a concentrate of cranberries can provide daily defense against harmful bacteria. These work by inhibiting bacteria’s ability to attach to the urinary tract wall so they’re washed away when you urinate.

It’s challenging to correct a loss of estrogen that occurs naturally. This hormonal imbalance may be why you suffer from chronic UTIs. The good news is that you can do something simple to fight the consequences.  

2. Fluctuating Metabolism

Metabolism is the process your body uses to change what you eat into energy. Although that sounds relatively simple, there are multiple hormones and processes that affect how your body metabolizes food. There are also many signs that the hormones related to metabolism are out of whack.

As is often the case with symptoms, many signs of changes in metabolism seem contradictory. For example, constipation is one sign, but so is diarrhea. There is unexplained weight gain as well as unexplained weight loss. And dry and coarse skin and hair is as significant a sign as oily and thin skin and hair.

A slowed heartbeat or a rapid one can indicate metabolic issues as well. That said, they can also be indicative of several other serious health conditions. If you experience either, you should consult your healthcare provider immediately.  

Fatigue, depression, and anxiety are all signs of a hormonal imbalance, and they all typically go hand in hand. Excessive thirst, frequent urination, and darkened skin in the armpits or on the neck can all be signs of diabetes. Diabetes is, of course, a metabolic disease because your body isn’t processing insulin correctly.

If broaching the subject of metabolism makes you think of your thyroid, there’s a good reason for it. The thyroid is a hormone factory crucial to the endocrine system. There are two types of thyroid disease, hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. The first is underactive while the second is overactive. Medications commonly used to treat them are designed to either ramp up production of hormones or slow it down.

Metabolism is driven by hormones. And because it’s so important to maintaining good health, hormonal imbalances that affect it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Watch for these warning signs and act on them.

3. Changing Sex and Gender Traits

Chromosomes determine the gender of a fetus. Eggs carry X chromosomes and sperm carries both X and Y. Two Xs create females and the X-Y combo creates males. But hormones are pivotal in governing gender development.

Although males and females produce both estrogen and testosterone, production of each among genders is different. Females produce more estrogen and males, more testosterone. It’s not surprising, then, that if production of these hormones is out of balance, there will be sex-related implications.

For those assigned female at birth, signs of hormonal imbalance include acne and excessive body hair growth or hair loss. Periods may be heavy or irregular. Women may have infertility issues or lose interest in sex. A lack of estrogen is quite common with menopause. That underproduction causes vaginal dryness and atrophy and hot flashes. 

For those assigned male at birth, a loss of testosterone or overproduction of estrogen comes with some obvious signs. Those include a loss of body hair, enlarged breast tissue, or decreased muscle mass. Males could struggle with infertility, erectile dysfunction, or a loss of interest in sex.

It’s important to note that these symptoms could be caused by conditions other than sex hormone dysfunction. For example, stress, diabetes, steroids, poor dietary habits, and physical disorders can be to blame. But if production of estrogen or testosterone is the culprit, there are treatments designed to correct them. For example, there are testosterone supplements in forms including patches, gels, and injections. For women, estrogen-based contraception or medications that block testosterone production may be prescribed.

Heed the Signs

If you notice any signs of potential hormonal imbalances, visit your doctor. Getting your chemical production back in line might be easier than you think. And if you can, you’ll be getting your life back on track.