Are you feeling run down all the time? A hormonal imbalance may be the reason you’re low on energy.
Hormones are vital in regulating the body, including our energy levels. When something disrupts our normal hormone balance, the fallout can leave us feeling tired.
Hormonal changes can be expected – for instance, reaching perimenopause and menopause. However, they can also indicate a health issue like thyroid disease or adrenal fatigue. Either way, the symptoms can be a major barrier to feeling energised!
The good news is that there are ways to balance our hormones and increase energy levels naturally. First, we need to understand hormones’ role in energy production and identify the root causes.
In this blog post, I’ll unpack the connection between hormones and energy. I’ll cover six common hormonal issues leading to fatigue and some key markers to look for on your blood tests.
Ready to learn more? Let’s dive right in!
How Do Hormones Impact Our Energy?
Hormones are substances released by the endocrine system, the collection of glands that regulate our bodily processes. Essentially, hormones are the signals the body uses to communicate and coordinate across all the different systems at work.
No part of the body is unaffected by hormones, so when a hormone imbalance occurs, it has wide-ranging consequences. Hormone imbalances can affect our metabolism, mood, growth, and how our organs function, among many other things.
Hormones directly impact our body’s energy production via the metabolic process, and other side effects can also indirectly drain our energy levels. Symptoms include mood swings, irritability, disturbed sleep and insomnia – all of which can contribute to feeling run down.
Conditions such as menopause, thyroid disorders, or fluctuations in oestrogen and progesterone levels can significantly impact our energy levels, mood, and overall well-being.
What Causes Hormone Imbalances?
Hormonal changes can happen at any time in our lives. Some are a natural part of ageing (like puberty, perimenopause or menopause), while others are caused by stress or illness. Hormonal changes can also be caused by environmental factors (such as endocrine disruptors) or dietary causes.
Medications, like going on or off the contraceptive pill, also affect our hormonal balance. On the plus side, this also means medication and dietary changes can help us to regulate our hormones and restore a natural balance.
Below, I’ll cover six hormone issues that can cause fatigue.
6 Hormone Imbalances Linked to Low Energy & Fatigue
Here are some common causes of hormonal fatigue:
1. Perimenopause & Menopause (Oestrogen & Progesterone)
Menopause and perimenopause is a typical time that we see hormonal changes. As women transition into menopause, our oestrogen levels drop significantly, and progesterone levels fluctuate throughout perimenopause as our menstrual cycle becomes irregular.
Oestrogen is the sex hormone connected to fertility and libido for women. Oestrogen deficiency can cause mood swings, weight gain or loss, and sleep disturbances – all symptoms that make you tired.
Progesterone helps regulate the menstrual cycle, among other functions in the body. Low or fluctuating progesterone levels can lead to fatigue, moodiness, and difficulty sleeping.
Menopausal hormonal changes can also impact thyroid function, and this is a common time for women to develop hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid). This condition can also lead to fatigue as the metabolism slows down.
2. Pregnancy & Birth (Oestrogen & Progesterone)
Pregnancy is associated with significant hormone changes, including increased oestrogen and progesterone to support the baby’s growth. Hormone levels drop after giving birth, and this sudden change can cause fatigue and low energy.
Pregnancy and postpartum hormones can also affect thyroid levels, leading to hypothyroidism. Low levels of thyroid hormones lead to slow metabolism and fatigue – also a common symptom of postpartum depression.
3. Chronic Stress (Cortisol, Adrenaline and Norepinephrine)
Stress causes the adrenal glands to release cortisol, the ‘fight or flight’ hormone. High cortisol levels can suppress the immune system, increase blood pressure, decrease libido and contribute to obesity.
Chronic stress causes cortisol levels to remain elevated, impacting our metabolism and leading to fatigue as the body burns through energy too quickly. Over long periods, this can lead to an emerging condition referred to as ‘adrenal fatigue’.
Symptoms include low energy, difficulty sleeping, and a weakened immune system – all of which can contribute to tiredness. There is still debate between experts on whether adrenal fatigue is a distinct diagnosis, but research continues to show that chronic stress takes an undeniable toll on the body.
Other stress hormones include adrenaline and norepinephrine, which increase heart rate. The result is a short-term energy boost, but continued exposure can leave us feeling wired and tired.
Significant life events – like a new baby, a relationship break-up, moving interstate or starting a new job – can also trigger increased stress hormones.
4. Thyroid Disorders (Thyroid Hormones)
The thyroid gland regulates our metabolism, producing two hormones – thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). Thyroid hormones are critical to maintaining our metabolic rate.
Our metabolism is the process by which our bodies convert food into energy, so it’s critical to how energised we feel throughout the day. If your metabolism isn’t running efficiently, it can affect how much physical energy you have to power your bodily functions.
For example, an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) can slow your metabolism and make it more difficult for your body to convert food into energy. On the other hand, an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) means your body produces too much thyroid hormone and can cause palpitations, tremors, and difficulty sleeping – all of which can make you feel exhausted.
Both an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) and an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) can cause fatigue, as well as other symptoms like weight loss or gain, changes in hair and skin, and mood swings.
5. Diabetes & Blood Sugar Imbalances (Insulin)
Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas that helps move glucose (sugar) into cells, where it’s used for energy. Chronically elevated insulin levels can lead to obesity, diabetes and even metabolic syndrome, which are all significant risk factors for disease.
Diabetes is a chronic disease caused by high blood sugar levels resulting from insulin deficiency or resistance. It can cause low energy as our body struggles to regulate blood sugar levels.
When diabetes causes the body to become insulin resistant, it can’t use glucose for energy. This leads to fatigue as our cells can’t get enough fuel from sugar.
In addition, diabetes often comes with additional complications such as nerve damage, bladder and kidney issues, and cardiovascular problems – all of which can cause fatigue.
6. Poor Diet & Nutrition (All Hormones)
Poor diet and nutrition can also affect hormone levels. Not eating enough fresh foods can lead to deficiencies in vitamins and minerals the body needs to produce hormones.
There are many ways in which diet can affect hormones. Inadequate zinc, selenium, B vitamins, Vitamin D, Vitamin C, iron, magnesium and omega 3 fatty acids can all affect hormone production. Some foods, such as soy products, contain natural phytoestrogens, which can affect our natural hormone balance.
Eating too many processed foods, refined sugars, and artificial sweeteners can affect our blood sugar and insulin levels, decreasing our energy levels throughout the day.
Diet is also crucial to a healthy gut microbiome, which helps to regulate our hormones and immune system function.
How Can I Tell If Hormones Are Causing My Fatigue?
The best way to determine if hormones are playing a role in your fatigue is by speaking to your GP. Your doctor can evaluate your symptoms and refer you for diagnostic tests.
If you’re struggling with fatigue and low energy, blood tests can measure biomarker levels to determine if your hormones are out of balance.
Here are some key biomarkers to look for:
- Oestrogen: For oestrogen levels, look for oestradiol (E2) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)
- Progesterone: Tests can measure levels of progesterone and luteinising hormone (LH)
- Thyroid Hormones: Free T3 (triiodothyronine) & T4 (thyroxine) can be tested for, as well as TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone)
- Ferritin: Low ferritin levels indicate iron deficiency anaemia, an alternative cause of fatigue, while high ferritin levels can indicate hyperthyroidism
- Fasting & Regular Insulin: High or fluctuating insulin levels can lead to fatigue
- Cortisol: Cortisol levels are best measured with an adrenal saliva test
It’s also important to note that underlying medical conditions can disrupt our hormones or cause fatigue. If you’re struggling with tiredness or low energy, it’s always best to speak to your GP.
Many different hormones can impact our energy levels, and the number of potential causes is even broader. However, a blood test can identify hormonal imbalances and rule out other common causes of fatigue, like iron deficiency.
Once you have the results from your blood test, your GP and complementary practitioners can help interpret the results and find the best treatment plan for you.
Simple lifestyle changes – like reducing stress levels or adjusting your diet – can help restore hormonal balance. Maintaining a healthy hormone balance helps us stay energised, ready to get the most out of life!
Not sure why you’re low on energy? Start by taking my quiz: Which of the 5 Energy Thieves is Holding You Back?