The human body contains more than 50 hormones. These chemical messengers coordinate the fundamental processes of life, from regulating your metabolism to coordinating your sleep-wake cycles. But even a minor hormone imbalance can dramatically impact your body, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Here is what you need to know about the effects of hormonal imbalance and how to keep your hormones in balance.

Common conditions caused or worsened by hormonal imbalances

  • Infertility
  • Diabetes
  • Thyroid disease
  • Obesity
  • Acne
  • Irregular periods, including those caused by polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
  • Anxiety and depression

Even if you don’t develop a diagnosable medical condition, hormonal imbalances can throw your body out of whack. Signs of a hormonal imbalance may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Feeling constantly stressed out
  • Hypersensitivity to ambient temperatures
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Dry hair and skin
  • Skin tags
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands
  • Heavy periods
  • Significant increase or decrease in body hair

Of course, these nonspecific symptoms could also indicate various other health conditions. Always talk to your doctor about any new or worsening symptoms you develop.

Preventing hormonal imbalances

Hormonal imbalances are especially likely to occur during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause, due to the body’s normal hormone fluctuations at these times. They can also be caused by autoimmune disorders, tumors or other growths, or a damaged endocrine gland. Those who are naturally underweight or overweight may also be more likely to experience them. Some medications can also increase your risk for a hormonal imbalance.

But many hormonal imbalances come down to just a few simple and controllable factors: stress, overall nutrition and fitness, and underlying medical conditions. To minimize your risk of an imbalance:

  • Manage stress. Focus on self-care. Learn to set healthy boundaries, including saying no. Practice mindfulness and start a practice such as yoga or meditation.
  • Improve your diet. Your hormones run on the complex interplay between various micronutrients. If you are deficient in any of these, you are more likely to experience a hormonal imbalance. And strive to keep your weight in a healthy range.
  • Get moving. You need just 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week to get physically fit. With your body performing more optimally, you have a lower risk of hormonal imbalance.
  • Control underlying health conditions. Your hormones are much more likely to become unbalanced if you have a chronic illness. Work with your doctor to develop a plan to keep your underlying conditions under tight control.

Hormonal imbalances can cause a range of symptoms and even contribute to the development of chronic illnesses. They are more likely to occur during certain phases of your life, such as puberty and menopause, or if you have another medical condition. But they can also appear anytime, especially when you are stressed out, not exercising, or eating poorly. Control the factors you can control, and always talk to your doctor about any unusual symptoms you develop. In most cases, hormonal imbalances are treatable, allowing you to get back to living your best life.