Most women experience pretty drastic physical changes when they hit their 40s and 50s.
But a lot of the time, these bodily shifts aren’t even visible.
The substantial internal changes women go through reflect changes in their hormones.
While some of these symptoms might be caused by changes in diet, lifestyle and environment — like how insomnia can be caused by cigarettes — more often than not, these symptoms reveal a natural hormone imbalance.
In an exclusive guide below, we outline some of the general symptoms you should look out for if you suspect you’re undergoing hormone changes.
These symptoms may very well be a side effect of perimenopause, which is a period when estrogen levels and egg production decline.
1. Headaches And Migraines
Headaches and migraines have long been linked to the female hormone estrogen.
This powerful hormone controls the chemicals in the brain that cause or alleviate the feelings of pain.
As such, a decline in estrogen levels can lead to headaches.
According to WomensHealth.gov, around two-thirds of women who regularly have migraines say their symptoms gradually dissipate when they reach menopause.
But for others, the symptoms worsen.
2. Poor Sleeping Patterns Or Insomnia
During both perimenopause and menopause, a woman’s ovaries stop producing as many progesterone hormones.
This is an issue because these hormones help promote sleep.
This can be highly unsettling, and according to the National Sleep Foundation, the disturbed balance in these specific hormone levels can cause difficulty in both sleeping and the ability to fall asleep.
In addition, lowered estrogen levels can make you more likely to be influenced by environmental factors, which can lead to disruptions in your sleep.
3. High Irritability
During different stages of menopause, fluctuating hormone levels can have a direct, but complicated effect on how the brain arranges moods and emotions.
Thus, high irritability can very likely be one of the side effects of this strange and difficult period.
After all, many perimenopausal women experience what is known as “emotional” symptoms.
These can include any kind of disturbance in mood.
4. Excessive Sweating
Hot flashes are one of the most evident signs of both perimenopause and menopause.
Everyone experiences this particular symptom differently, however.
Some women experience this symptom without sweating at all.
Others sweat constantly and even struggle with it at night.
According to WebMD, up to 75 percent of women experience hot flashes and both day and night sweats when they’re in a perimenopausal stage.
Dr. Valerie Omicioli, a professor of gynecology at the University of Maryland, says,
For 25 to 30 percent of women, this symptom can even be serious enough to affect their quality of life.
5. Constant Fatigue
There are different levels of fatigue.
One level to look out for is crashing fatigue, which causes muscle weakness, exhaustion and clearly reduced energy levels.
This is different from mere drowsiness, which is what you feel when you want to sleep.
If you are experiencing symptoms that are more drastic than usual, make sure to get checked out by a doctor.
You may have confused fatigue with chronic fatigue syndrome, which does not improve with rest.
The illness can negatively impact physical and mental activity.
6. Mood Swings
It’s not entirely clear what causes mood swings, but there is a strong connection between fluctuating hormone levels and changes in emotion.
The hormones that trigger ovulation and menstruation also help release serotonin, a chemical that helps you regulate your moods.
Menopause expert Eileen Durward says,
During menopause, these hormones decline. In turn, so does the level of serotonin.
Unfortunately, the decline in these hormone levels isn’t always smooth.
When serotonin levels are high, you’ll be in a better mood.
However, a decrese in serotonin leads to worse moods.
Problems with indigestion can also arise as a result of hormonal imbalance.
When you go through perimenopause or menopause, the level of estrogen in your body declines.
This means the levels of cortisol are out of balance.
When estrogen levels are high, cortisol is low.
That’s how blood sugar and blood pressure are kept in check.
When estrogen levels are low, adrenaline can be “triggered” more easily.
According to Durward, this greatly affects your body’s digestive abilities.
You may build up more gas, bloat more easily and become constipated.
8. Sudden Cravings
While going through menopausal stages, our bodies’ main hormones — insulin, adrenaline and cortisol — go through a turbulent ride.
While adrenaline and cortisol manage our stress levels, insulin controls our blood sugar levels.
They rise when we consume too much sugar and processed foods.
According to gynecologist Dr. Marcelle Pick, when we experience a hormone imbalance, our bodies usually don’t have enough resources to produce large quantities of secondary hormones like estrogen and progesterone.
These hormones are responsible for a larger network of properties, like metabolism, digestion and, very importantly, appetite.
A disconnect in this network will cause symptoms like weight gain.
9. Sudden Memory Loss
There are so many things that can lead to short-term memory loss and brain fog.
A big reason is thyroid dysfunction, but other causes include adrenal fatigue, stress, sleep deprivation and unbalanced hormones.
According to expert Magnolia Miller, low estrogen levels directly impact our neurotransmitters, which can then affect our mood, stress levels, memory and ability to think.
As a result, short-term memory issues arise.
10. Changes In Your Breasts
The decline in estrogen hormonal levels will affect the skin in pretty sudden ways.
Your skin will become dry and less elastic.
Your breasts will lose firmness and fullness, and, in many cases, you will change cup sizes.
Furthermore, the dip in hormone levels will affect the breasts' connective tissues and muscles.
According to the experts at Healthline, some of the changes include a stretched appearance, nipple displacement and lumpiness.
If you do feel something on your breast that feels too out of the ordinary (like an irregular lump or bump), see the doctor for a checkup.
This article was written by Angel Chang for LittleThings.com.