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Hormones and Fatigue: Is a Hormonal Imbalance the Cause of Your Fatigue?

Hormones and Fatigue: Is a Hormonal Imbalance the Cause of Your Fatigue?

You can't fully enjoy life if you're always tired. Being in a constant state of exhaustion makes it much harder to do the things you love and it gets in the way of everyday life

Dealing with fatigue means you become less productive at work, spend more time laying down and sleeping in, and your levels of irritability increase. It's a problem you'll mostly notice when falling asleep and waking up but that also follows you throughout the entire day.

The most important thing to know about your fatigue, though, is that a hormonal imbalance may be to blame.  Your body needs about 50 different hormones to maintain homeostasis. When only one of those is being under/over-produced, it can set a lot of things out of whack.

Here's a closer look at the connection between hormones and fatigue.

The Relationship Between Hormones and Fatigue

The hormones in your body have an effect on everything from the way you look (obesity, acne, hair growth) to how you feel. They play a role in memory functions, digestion, and sex drive, too.

But, the relationship between hormones and fatigue is arguably one of the trickier ways that hormones affect the body. This is because there isn't one single hormone that could be creating a lack of energy. Your fatigue is likely the result of multiple hormones being out of balance at a time, with some being too high and others too low.

As such, the first step to fixing your fatigue is to recognize the signals of hormone imbalance.

Some common symptoms of hormone imbalance include:

  • cystic acne

  • headaches

  • hair loss

  • joint pain

  • dry eyes

If you're experiencing any of these things in addition to a high sense of fatigue, you're likely dealing with a hormone issue.

It's best to contact a medical professional right away. They can give you a deeper understanding of what's causing your fatigue and which hormones you need to focus on balancing.

A doctor may even diagnose you with chronic fatigue syndrome.

This condition and hormone imbalance are often linked together, although the treatments for it vary. A diagnosis at least gives you an idea of where your sudden fatigue is coming from, but it's only the first step in figuring out an answer for your energy levels.

Common Hormone Imbalances Linked to Fatigue

The good news about dealing with hormone imbalances and fatigue is that you don't have to learn about all 50+ of your hormones to find an answer. Every hormone in your body has a specific function, so only a handful of them connect to your energy levels.

The most common hormonal problems that may be causing your fatigue are:

1. Thyroid

If your fatigue is also causing brain fog, making you depressed, or increasing how much you sleep every night, you may be dealing with a thyroid problem.

The thing about a thyroid problem is that it's not always a sign your body is producing low amounts of the hormones your thyroid produces. Instead, the issue could be that your cells aren't making the best use of thyroid hormones.

Thyroid hormones are pro-hormones, which means they're inactive until they enter a cell and convert into energy. If the hormones have trouble accessing the cell, or if the cell cannot convert them for whatever reason, fatigue is the result.

As such, there are many underlying issues associated with a thyroid condition. It's not enough to produce more thyroid hormones. These compounds have to be tracked carefully in the body for you to feel like yourself again.

Your age and other hormone levels play into the use of the thyroid hormone. In women, for example, an increase in estrogen as menstrual cycles change can make it harder for the thyroid hormone to be used by the cells.

2. Cortisol

Another hormone linked to fatigue is cortisol. This link is to the adrenal fatigue, a condition which affects the adrenal glands. The best way to think of adrenal glands is as your body's natural clock.

These glands are what regulate your sleep. They produce cortisol and melatonin, in addition to other hormones. Cortisol is what gives you high energy - it plays a role in how you wake up in the morning and maintain energy throughout the day. Melatonin is what helps you fall asleep.

The two hormones have an inverse relationship; when cortisol goes up, melatonin goes down and vice versa. When cortisol production is out of balance, the use of melatonin changes, too. This creates adrenal fatigue, which you may have if you're staying up late at night tossing and turning or having extra trouble getting out of bed in the morning.

Other signs of adrenal fatigue can happen throughout the day if you experience a sudden rise or fall in your energy levels. This means that you need to regulate your cortisol and melatonin to reset your body clock.

3. Insulin

Speaking of shifts in energy that happen throughout the day, it may be worth learning more about insulin if you've been experiencing fatigue lately.

You've probably heard of insulin before if you know someone who has diabetes. This hormone has a close connection to the way we crave sugars and gain or lose weight.

Another effect of insulin is how you feel after eating a meal. A high or low level of insulin is what causes fatigue after eating - like when you need a nap after lunch or feel drained after having dinner.

Insulin also affects your relationship with your morning coffee or afternoon pick-me-up. It plays into the dependency you have with this form of caffeine and other caffeinated drinks to help you get through the day.

4. Estrogen

Up next on the list of hormones commonly tied to energy issues is estrogen.

As mentioned above, a higher level of estrogen in the body than usual can cause issues with the thyroid hormone, which can lead to fatigue. This is especially true in women as they age and their menstrual cycles change, but estrogen causes fatigue in men as well.

Men and women can both experience brain fog if their estrogen levels are too low. They may also have trouble keeping their levels of physical activity up even if their mind feels alert.

Additionally, low estrogen levels can cause depression, which can co-occur with fatigue or be a cause of it. High levels of estrogen can lead to this condition, too.

Other effects of high estrogen in men and women include mood swings, insomnia, brain fog, and anxiety. Some are more tied to fatigue than others, but the relationship as a whole is clear.

Men and women each need different levels of estrogen for their bodies to perform well. For either sex, though, all it takes is a slight estrogen imbalance to cause a serious sense of fatigue.

5. Testosterone

Last but not least, testosterone. This is another hormone that both men and women need but use differently.

Men have higher levels of testosterone.

It's what encourages things like hair growth, sex drive, and physical strength. Conversely, low levels of testosterone in men lead to low sex drive, weight gain, and irritability. There may be a link between fatigue and these things.

For women, the relationship between fatigue and low testosterone is much easier to see. However, there are energy issues that can occur when testosterone is too high in women.

A woman may become irritable or experience menstrual cramps in the middle of her cycle if she has too much testosterone in her body. She may also have unstable levels of blood sugar. All these things can have an effect on how she sleeps and how well-rested she feels.

Without proper treatment, this can cause a cycle of irritability and low energy that creates a permanent sense of fatigue.

How to Solve Your Hormonal Issues and Get Your Energy Back

You can read about hormones and fatigue all you want, but you won't get the answers your body needs until you see a medical professional.

This issue is too delicate to try and fix yourself.

You need to get blood work done and have a doctor educate you about your hormones if you want your sense of fatigue to finally go away. They will guide you through the entire process and help you feel like yourself again as quickly as possible.

What are you waiting for? Click here to discover what our hormone replacement therapy services can do for you!

About the author

Dr. Constance Odom, MD

5 min read