Most Important Causes of Hormonal Imbalance
Biological systems are regulated in a time and context dependent manner by various homeostatic processes which actively maintain metabolic equilibrium at various levels. These chemical processes are mediated by a diverse array of chemical mediators, for instance, neurotransmitters, local regulators, hormones etc. Hormones are chemical signals secreted into the body fluids, most often into the blood, by ductless endocrine glands or neuro-secretory cells i.e. the neurons that receive signals from other nerve cells and respond by releasing hormones into body fluids or into a storage organ from which hormones are released later.
There are more than 50 known hormones in the human body which can be categorized into either lipid derived steroidal hormones or amino acids based peptide hormones. Hormones are very potent regulators and often elicit only specific responses in their target cells. The effects of a hormone are often countered by an antagonistic signal, which is often another hormone. So, an intricate balance between various agonistic and antagonistic hormones derives the normal cellular physiology and an imbalance may lead to an interruption in homeostatic processes by causing physiological and behavioral alterations for instance, mood fluctuations, changes in dietary patterns, healing and repair abilities, sexual performance problems etc. In a nutshell, hormonal imbalance can create subtle dysfunctions in our physiological and psychological states and it is really important to understand various reasons that may cause such imbalance.
Three factors – sedentary life style, stress and improper diet have been implicated to be responsible for a significant proportion of most common diseases nowadays. However a lot of factors other than these may stir up the vital potions in your cauldron having you end up visiting Madam Pomfrey! There are various reasons that may result in abnormal hormonal levels, including but not limited to:
• Birth Control Pills:
The most common birth control pills are a combination of synthetic estrogens and synthetic progestins (progesterone like hormones). These pills have been the centre of much debate particularly because o the long term harmful effects of these pills. These pills have been implicated in abnormal blood clotting, atherosclerosis and heart attacks while an association with various forms of cancers has also been suggested.
• Hormone Replacement Therapy:
As a part of normal aging process, the levels of female sex hormones can fluctuate before, during and after menopause and this may result in certain level of discomfort in the form of hot flashes or vaginal dryness etc. To prevent this discomfort some people go for Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) which involves administration of a combination of synthetic female sex hormones like estrogens, progesterone or progestrins. However, according to the National Library of Medicine, HRT may put you at an increased risk of breast cancer, heart disease and stroke depending upon your health history and lifestyle.
• Environmental toxins:
We encounter environmental toxins in various forms in our food, water and air, for instance, a lot of pesticides are now known to mimic the estrogen activity along with some petrochemicals that contain high levels of xeno-estrogens i.e. the chemicals which resemble estrogen and may bind to estrogen receptor sites within the body thus affecting normal estrogen-mediated physiological signaling. Chemicals like Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) and dioxins used in lubricants, plastics, paints, clingwraps etc. have been associated with certain forms of cancers, liver damage, lowered immune response and some cases of reproductive abnormalities too.
We all have to deal with different day-to-day problems and stressful situations at work or at home. Chronic stress has been strongly associated with a diverse array of medical conditions and hormonal imbalance symptoms that may affect marriage, sex life, well-being, family life and career.
So, it is important to stay stress free and use hormonal therapies and pills judiciously amongst other things.