What causes hormonal imbalance in females?

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What causes hormonal imbalance in females?
(Hilde Vanstraelen)

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Basics

Women constantly endure changes in hormonal balance throughout their lifetimes. From early adolescence to late stages of menopause, the fragile balance of oestrogen and progesterone shifts and females experience mild to debilitating side effects. An array of glands releases the hormones according to environmental, life-stage and genetic factors. Treatment of hormonal imbalances in females varies and often carries its own set of side effects ranging from cancer to heart disease and depression. According to doctors at the Mayo Clinic, one of the biggest causes of hormonal imbalance in women of all ages is stress, which can be treated naturally in most cases. While the hormones fluctuate naturally throughout a woman's life, lowered stress levels will help to minimise the effects.

Adolescence

In addition to the beginning of the menstrual cycle, which causes its own set of hormonally induced body changes, nearly 1 per cent of adolescent girls suffer from amenorrhoea, or glandular disorders. Genetics often are the cause of the disease, which can cause eggs to be abnormal. Anorexia and bulimia can cause abnormal hormonal balances. Excessive exercise and extremely low body weight can create an imbalance that stops the menstrual cycle completely. An underactive thyroid, tumours on the pituitary glands and premature menopause also are common causes of hormonal imbalance in younger women.

Middle age

Females in middle age, from 20 to 45, can experience hormonal imbalances from a variety of sources. Eating disorders, hyperthyroidism and stress can affect the delicate balance and are typically treated with diet, exercise and medication. Cervical disorders and diseases such as uterine cancer, abnormal cervical mucus and ovulation disorders play havoc with the hormones. When a physician can ascertain no obvious cause through lifestyle questions, the hormonal imbalance in middle-aged females can be checked through a simple saliva test or by more in-depth blood tests.

Menopause

Most people think of menopause and ageing when discussing the imbalance of hormones and the resulting side effects. Hot flushes, mood swings and night sweats are common conversational topics among older women. The lack of ovulation causes an imbalance that the body eventually adjusts to. Weight control, exercise, alternative herbal therapies, relaxation techniques and prescription hormone replacement therapy (HRT) are common treatments used to minimise the side effects of menopausal hormone imbalance.

Environment

Environmental influences such as air and water pollution can contribute to unnatural hormone imbalances in females. A diet heavy in processed foods, coupled with a change in the life cycle, can contribute to an already delicate balance of oestrogen and progesterone. High stress levels brought on by work, family and personal demands, compound any external factors contributing to hormonal imbalances.

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