September 2019 - Diagnost

Why Hormonal Imbalance is Affecting Your Body More Than You Know (+How to Get Back on Track)

What are hormones?

So, what are they and where do they come from?  Hormones are chemicals that are produced by glands in the endocrine system. They travel through the bloodstream and to the tissues and organs, delivering messages that tell the organs what to do and when to do it. Each hormone is produced in a different gland. These glands, collectively, make up the endocrine system. Key glands in this system include the pineal gland which produces Melatonin to make us sleep; the thyroid gland which regulates metabolism; the ovaries which produce progesterone and oestrogen; the testes which produce testosterone; the adrenal gland which produces — you guessed it — adrenaline; and the pituitary gland which acts as a “master gland”, controlling the other glands in the system! 

Hormones are powerful. They relay important signals to your body, taking care of both daily functions and exceptional circumstances. When things are running smoothly, they regulate metabolism and appetite, sleep cycles, reproductive cycles and sexual function, general growth and development, mood and body temperature. When something big is about to happen, a hormone called adrenaline lets the body know that it is time to raise our heart rate and bring our A-game. Hormones regulate heart rate again too after this moment has passed.

Our bodies rely on signals from hormones to do ordinary and extraordinary things. You can picture hormones like the team of people who work together to keep the corporation (in other words, your body) operating at an optimal level. When things are good, they keep everything running smoothly, but when some departments are overstaffed and other departments are understaffed, things can start going wrong…

What is hormonal imbalance?

Hormonal imbalance happens when you have too much of one hormone or not enough of another, and can cause severe health conditions. As each hormone plays a vital function in the overall health and proper functioning of your body, a disruption of the hormonal balance can throw everything out of order, meaning your body can no longer perform basic functions such as temperature regulation and weight control. 

The endocrine system is a delicate and sensitive thing – it doesn’t take much to derail it. Often it can respond to stressors that you didn’t even realise were present. Things like lack of sleep, stress, or excess hormones like oestrogen that have contaminated our water supplies and food can affect hormone balance. This is why it is important to check your hormone levels using a home testing kit. Seeing what shows up in your hormones is like a window into your hormonal landscape. And the sooner you know, the better.

Prevention is the best cure. Knowing where your body is at and preventing the onset of something before it becomes too dangerous is the name of the game.

Symptoms of hormonal imbalance

Symptoms are your body’s way of signaling to you that there is something wrong, that it is time to take a break and focus on your health. 

Below are some symptoms of some of the most common hormone imbalances:

symptoms of hormonal imbalance infograhic - diagnost

While there are many symptoms of hormonal imbalance, each symptom is the result of a deficiency in a specific hormone or combination of hormones. This is why it is so important to get your hormone levels checked before embarking on any treatment.

You may notice that there are some gender-specific symptoms. This is because the hormonal makeup of men and women is different. For example, women have testosterone, but if their testosterone levels are low they may still feel healthy, whereas a man with low testosterone may not. If you are transgender or undergoing transgender hormone therapy, it is important to talk to your doctor about specific symptoms that may apply to you.

Causes of hormonal imbalance

causes of hormonal imbalance infographic - diagnost

Understanding some of the reasons why hormones can be out of balance is an important step along the road of trying to restore hormonal balance. Causes are a very individual matter. They vary from person to person. While for the majority of people, they are lifestyle based, for some there can be more severe causes. 

Causes of hormonal imbalances include:

  • High levels of stress
  • The consumption of phytoestrogens, naturally-occurring plant estrogens found in soy products
  • Exposure to toxins, pollutants, and endocrine-disrupting chemicals, including pesticides and herbicides
  • Type 1 and Yype 2 diabetes
  • Hyperglycemia (overproduction of glucagon)
  • Hypoglycemia (more insulin produced than there is glucose in the blood)
  • An underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)
  • Overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism)
  • Over- or underproduction of the parathyroid hormone
  • Poor diet and nutrition
  • Being overweight
  • Hormonal replacement or birth control medications
  • Abuse of anabolic steroid medications
  • Cushing’s syndrome (high levels of the hormone cortisol)
  • Addison’s disease (low levels of cortisol and aldosterone)
  • Cancers that involve the endocrine glands
  • Pituitary tumors
  • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy
  • Iodine deficiency (goiters)

How to test hormonal imbalance

If you think you might be suffering from a hormonal imbalance, make sure to speak to your doctor and take a test before worrying or taking any drastic measures. This is important since you could risk doing more harm than good.

There are several types of tests available. For example: 

  • Blood, saliva and urine tests
  • MRI scan
  • Biopsy
  • Ultrasound
  • Pelvic exam
  • Sperm count 
  • X-ray
  • Thyroid scan

Of course, going to the doctor can be time-consuming. So if you lead a busy, stressful lifestyle and want results fast, your best bet is trying one of Diagnost’s home testing kits to better understand your health and hormone levels.

Seeking Medical Help

Once you have taken a hormone test you can see what hormones are out of balance, and begin to resolve the issue. What type of medicine you will need will depend on what hormones you are lacking in. Key examples of exogenous hormones you can take include:

Oral contraceptives

While these are primarily used as a form of birth control, they can also be used to rebalance high levels of estrogen and low levels of progesterone. Talk to your doctor about which form of oral contraceptive could you best.

Menopausal hormone replacement therapy or ‘HRT’

HRT has been shown to help many women cope with the menopause. The changes that occur in the body during this time can cause acute imbalances and difficult symptoms, such as hot flashes, depression and mood swings, and insomnia.

With HRT, women are treated with doses of estrogen, progesterone, or a progestin-estrogen combination that can be taken in many forms including pills, skin patches, creams, or intra-uterine devices. HRT remains a controversial issue, with many reports suggesting it has huge benefits for menopausal women and others pointing to its possible negative side effects, including increased risk of breast cancer. If you are considering this treatment, make sure you speak to your doctor first.

Testosterone replacement therapy (TRT)

Men who suffer from low testosterone may look to testosterone replacement therapy. Low testosterone in men can contribute to sleep problems, weight gain, depression, and reduced libido. TRT can also be taken in a variety of forms including pills, patches, and creams. It is important to discuss TRT with a  doctor as there are many risks associated with it. Unlike HRT, it is not available on the NHS.

Diet changes

Focusing on getting some of these key vitamins and minerals into your diet could help you rebalance your hormones. 


Omega-3 fatty acids create healthy cell membranes, which improves the flow of hormones. Some Omega-3 rich foods include: Walnuts

  • Walnuts
  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Eggs
  • Sardines
  • Oysters


Fiber binds itself to excess oestrogen, helping your clear the excess oestrogen out of your system. High-fiber foods include:[3]

  • Whole grains
  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Beans
  • Nuts
  • Seeds

Thyroid hormone boosting foods

These include:

  • Brazil nuts, tuna, crab, and lobster to get enough selenium.
  • Milk, eggs, salmon, and mushrooms to get enough vitamin D.
  • Meat, dairy, and fortified cereals to meet your daily vitamin B12 requirement.
  • Iodine (this is hard to get without supplements)

Lifestyle changes

man running in the nature

Lifestyle changes can feel small but they can have a huge impact on all areas of health, including hormone balance:


Hormones and sleep interact in complicated ways. Hormonal imbalance or changes can hugely impact human sleep patterns. In turn, sleep deprivation can also have an impact on hormone levels and balance. Women, whose hormonal cycles generally involve more spiking and dropping of certain hormone levels than men, are particularly affected by the link between sleep and hormones. Many women, for instance, report insomnia as one of the common symptoms of menopause. Menstruation, pregnancy and the menopause may have a big impact on women’s sleep patterns, therefore, in turn exacerbating any possible hormonal imbalances. Thus, it can be hard to determine the causal link between sleep and hormones.

What is clear is that good sleep and rest allow your body to restore itself, in turn enabling your endocrine system to set itself back to “neutral”. Don’t underestimate how much your body is doing while you sleep, especially if you’re in a period of hormonal imbalance. Consuming a small amount of protein just before you go to bed can support your body’s recovery overnight. If you are having sleep problems, this could well be caused by the hormonal imbalance itself and be exacerbating it, as you get less and less sleep over time. This may mean that just trying to make lifestyle changes and sleep more (or sometimes less) is not enough; in this case, you should seek clinical help. 


So much of hormonal balance is about healthy blood flow. Making sure you exercise 3 times a week and get your heart rate going can accelerate the rate at which your body rebalances its bloodstream.


In the modern world, having an adrenal system that is out of balance due to stress is one of the most common causes of hormonal imbalance. Relaxation and meditation can make a huge difference. 


Hormonal imbalance is no small thing: it can affect your life in myriad ways and, as such, should be investigated and resolved as soon as possible. The most important thing to take away from this article is that if you have any concerns about your hormonal balance, the first step is always to get a test in order to figure which hormones, if any, are out of balance. Many people around the world currently live with hormonal imbalance but do not know it or know what to do about it – for instance, in the US, it was reported in February 2019 that almost half of all women had suffered the consequences of hormonal imbalance at some point in their lives but many had not sought medical help for it. 

Luckily, there are more and more ways these days to get your hormones tested quickly and easily, without having to rely on public health services, which often involve long waiting times. Diagnost offer a wide range of home tests, for example, that make hormone testing quick and easy, allowing you to then take the results to a qualified clinician. Once you and your clinician know what is really going on in your body, you will be able to find solutions to any imbalances. If you have significant imbalances, exogenous artificial hormones may help you; if you have only slight imbalances, you may wish to focus on diet and lifestyle changes. Ultimately, hormonal imbalances are curable as long as you get to the bottom of them. Good luck!

How to Stop Early Waking to Be More Rested

Sleep is important. ‘Every function within the brain and body requires sleep’ according to Neurologist Dr. Kirstie Anderson. Not getting enough sleep makes you feel groggy and unable to focus the next day. In the long term, mental health problems, heart problems, diabetes and cancer are all more likely if you do not sleep enough.

Despite the overwhelming evidence for the importance of sleep, almost one third of people in the UK aren’t getting enough sleep. 

While there are many reasons for this, many of us do not help ourselves by setting early alarms and aiming to wake up early.

We’ve been told that waking up super early is the key to getting a head start in a productivity-driven culture. We have all heard the story of that CEO that wakes up at 3.30am, meditates, goes to the gym, answers all their emails, prays, and arrives in the office before 7 am. Maybe we’ve even tried to be that person, attempting a bleary-eyed workout and asking ourselves whether 5 am is an appropriate time for breakfast. 

However, having more time in the day has no value if you’re too tired to use it. Productivity is about efficient use of the limited time you have. Skipping sleep might feel like buying time, but it bites you back eventually. 

Fact: you need your sleep!

sleep duration facts - how to stop early waking to be more rested - diagnost

The simple fact is that you need sleep. Try as we might, to defy our bodies – we can’t. 

Reduced sleep has been shown to link to all kinds of health conditions. Research by Harvard University shows that lack of sleep affects your ability to focus and mood. 

It has also been linked to early death. The NHS reported on a series of studies that suggested that sleeping less than six hours a night makes you 12% more likely to die prematurely than someone who sleeps up to eight hours. 

Studies have also shown that lack of sleep affects immunity.  Researchers found that people on little sleep are more likely to catch a cold.

The connection between lack of sleep and weight gain has also been extensively researched. In 2008, professors at the University of Chicago, found a link between sleep loss and an increased risk for obesity and diabetes. One reason for this is because you need more energy from food when you haven’t got it from sleep. It’s also because the chemical that makes you feel full, leptin, is reduced, while ghrelin, the hunger hormone, increases when you are operating on less than 7 hours sleep.

Furthermore, not sleeping enough can negatively affect your mental health, lifespan, immunity, and weight.

How much sleep do you need exactly?

So how much sleep do we need? According to the NHS, most grown-ups need between six and nine hours of sleep per day. The National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours of daily sleep for adults and points out that the exact number depends on when your body reaches optimal functionality. This means that on average, we should ensure we get at least seven hours of sleep regularly, while not going to the other extreme either. 

So, what causes early rising?



Insomnia is a medical condition that you can discuss with your doctor. There are varying degrees of insomnia, from minor to severe. There are many causes of insomnia, some can be lifestyle-based and some can be genetic or hereditary. If you are suffering from severe insomnia, your doctor may well suggest medical solutions, while there are natural supplements you can take too, insomnia can be serious and may need more drastic measures in order to start getting you on track.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)

Sleep apnea or snoring has been linked to early rising. In the REM phase of sleep that your body goes into the second part of the night, the sound from snoring as well as the physical sensations, can wake you up early (this goes for if your partner snores too!) Interestingly, snoring has been shown to worsen due to colds (because of congestion), but also lack of sleep itself. Look at this NHS article to find a wide range of treatment solutions from mouth guards to sprays.

Circadian rhythm disorder and aging

Your circadian system looks after the health, regularity and depth of your sleep cycles. While stress and lifestyle factors can cause circadian rhythm disorders, a key cause is aging. Many people find sleeping harder as they age, the reason being that the ‘machinery’ of sleep if you will, stops working as well. If you are experiencing early waking as a symptom of aging, make sure that your home environment is as supportive to sleep as possible. 

Anxiety and depression

Unfortunately, when it comes to anxiety and depression, it is very easy for sleeplessness to be bound up in a vicious cycle. Anxiety and depression are both symptoms and causes of sleep loss. This destructive cycle compounds the causes and effects of sleep and mood. If you find yourself in a loop where your mental health is affecting your sleep which in turn in negatively affecting your mental health,  it is important to try to simply break it. Book a holiday where you can just rest and get away! In the modern world, it can be hard to justify a holiday but the fact that you’re not sleeping well is reason enough. Take yourself on a retreat where your only intention is to sleep as much as possible. Your body will thank you for it.

There are so many causes for waking up too early. This sleep balance check could help you identify the main reasons you are rising early, and help you figure out what to do to stop it!

How to stop early waking

3 tips to stop early waking - diagnost

Sleep routine

Our circadian rhythm responds incredibly well to routine. This is because our body’s release of melatonin (the sleep hormone) is synced to the time of day. A key reason why early rising can leave you so bleary-eyed, even if you have had 8 hours of sleep, is that it involves rising while your body is producing melatonin. This confuses the entire system – and doesn’t set you up for a productive start at all!

Waking up slowly

Waking up slowly is a key way to soak in the benefits of sleep. Many of us make the mistake of having our alarms on your phones, meaning we wake up to a barrage of unanswered emails and messages. This shock to the system gives us a spike of adrenaline first thing in the morning that we pay for throughout the day.

Invest in an old-school battery alarm, and put your phone in another room while you sleep. Doing this will help you on three accounts: 1. It will help you fall asleep in a relaxed healthy way, without scrolling through your phone. 2. It will reduce the levels of radiation that you are exposed to through the night. 3. It will give you a relaxed gentle start which will set your up for seizing the day when it really counts.

Think ahead

Knowing what time you need to wake up and making sure you are in bed in time to get 8 hours sleep is probably the most effective way to get the right amount of sleep. If you suffer from waking up too early, or from struggling to fall asleep, making sure you have 9 hours of actually lying in bed will work wonders, even if you’re not actually asleep the entire time. Additionally, deciding to spend that final hour until your alarm lying in bed and doing breathing exercises, rather than following the impulse to rise too early, is an important decision you can make to start taking care of your circadian rhythm today!


We shouldn’t see sleep as an obstacle to productivity – quite the opposite, investing in a good night’s restful sleep might be the best way to make sure you get a good day’s work. Most adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep to work at optimal functionality and early waking can be a major obstacle to reaching our highest energy and productivity levels. If you’re struggling to sleep through the night, follow our tips in this article. Of course, if you really want to dig deeper, our sleep balance check can help you to understand your sleep problems better and find the best solution for your health.

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