Hormones exert powerful effects on the female body and have a significant role to play in the body’s health and wellbeing. Understanding these roles is important if you’re seeking to proactively manage your health.
Identifying a hormone imbalance
The female body produces many different hormones, but certain types have a bigger role to play in the body’s health and well-being. When your hormones are in proper balance they help the body thrive, but small problems with hormones can cause serious and life-altering symptoms. Specifically, imbalances of sex hormones, thyroid hormones and adrenal hormones, as well as insulin resistance are common problems that can contribute to a host of chronic health issues.
What is tested?
Hormone imbalances are often evident with PCOS, and may be associated with irregular menstrual cycles, infertility, lack of ovulation, and hyperandrogenism (resulting from high levels of testosterone).
Insulin resistance is a common feature of women with PCOS. High levels of insulin can lead to increased testosterone production, as well as metabolic issues such as weight gain, increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular risk.
Polycystic ovaries are often a feature of hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid), and similarly thyroid disorders are more common in women with PCOS.
An excess of testosterone produced by the ovaries is typically the main source of elevated androgens seen with PCOS, however 20-30% of women with PCOS have an excess of androgens that originates from the adrenal glands. This adrenal androgen excess can be detected by measuring DHEA-S levels – a mildly elevated DHEA-S level is common in women with PCOS.