Hormone imbalance is the root of many chronic health problems. This is just a small list but if you suffer from any of the following, consider investigating and testing your hormones:
- Fertility issues
- Foggy brain
- Hot flashes
- Insomnia and/or interrupted sleep
- Irregular periods
- Low sex drive
- Decreased muscle mass or difficulty building muscle
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
- Weight Gain
Hormone imbalance can be derived from the lack of balance we have in our modern day lives. Work & life stress alone puts physical, mental and emotional demands on our bodies. Add to this any number of stressors such as pregnancy, shift work, poor nutrition, lack of exercise, occupational exposures & environmental toxicity - all impact the delicate balance of hormones in the body.
Common hormones that are affected include cortisol, insulin, thyroid hormone, DHEA, progesterone, estrogen and testosterone. If any of these hormones are out of balance, your body will not respond optimally to good nutrition and exercise.
Cortisol is our primary stress hormone. It is responsible for regulating many other functions in the body including, but not limited to:
- Blood sugar levels
- Fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism to maintain blood glucose
- Immune responses
- Anti-inflammatory actions
- Sex hormone production
- Blood pressure
- Heart and blood vessel tone and contraction
- Central nervous system activation
Cortisol is secreted in high amounts by the adrenal glands during times of stress. After a short period of time cortisol levels should return to normal following a stressful event. Unfortunately, in our current high-stress culture, the stress response is activated so often that the body does not always have a chance to return to normal. This can lead to “Adrenal Fatigue.” Adrenal fatigue can cause anxiety, depression, insomnia, weight gain and infertility. It is important to note that adrenal fatigue often precedes thyroid conditions as well. Treating your stress, and restoring your adrenal health is possible and often necessary to feeling better and improving your overall health.
Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas to move glucose from your blood stream (after a meal) into your cells. If your life is stressful, especially with a diet high in refined carbohydrates and without regular vigorous exercise, high blood sugar and insulin elevation can create problems over time. The cells in the body become more resistant to insulin to avoid the toxicity of excess glucose. This can leave too much glucose in your blood and too little in your cells. To maintain balance, your body converts and stores the excess blood sugar as fat – usually around your abdomen. Paradoxically, less glucose into your cells means increased hunger and carbohydrate cravings. Adrenal dysfunction is often implicated here too.
The thyroid gland controls the metabolic rate of every single cell in the body and maintains body temperature. Without enough thyroid hormone, our body slows down; we feel tired and lethargic, gain weight, experience constipation, feel cold and are prone to depression. The four main thyroid markers we screen for in our office include: TSH, free T4, free T3, and Anti-TPO. Sometimes we can include a reverse T3 if necessary.
Ensuring that one has optimal thyroid hormone levels is critical to feeling well. There are many natural treatments from desiccated thyroid, to Wilsons Temperature Syndrome & Protocol, to herbal-based treatments and lifestyle practices.
Estrogen & Progesterone
Estrogen and progesterone are the two dominant female sex hormones produced by the ovaries, as well as the adrenal glands. In a healthy woman, these two hormones are in balance. Estrogen helps the uterine lining develop and is important for ovulation. Estrogen levels normally peak just before ovulation, and then slowly drop off in the second half of a woman’s cycle.
Progesterone is know as the relaxing hormone in the body. It maintains the uterine lining and is necessary for embryo development. Normally, progesterone levels start to rise just before ovulation, and peak around day 21. If a woman does not become pregnant, progesterone levels fall, the uterine lining is then shed and a period begins.
Common conditions occur under the umbrella of “estrogen dominance”, when there is significantly more estrogen than progesterone creating dis-ease such as PMS, migraines or headaches, anxiety or low mood, food cravings, and weight gain.
DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone) is primarily produced in your adrenal glands alongside cortisol, but it’s also produced in the brain and the gonads (Ovaries, testes). DHEA is the precursor to testosterone and even estrogen. Stress and aging are the two main reasons DHEA declines. Low DHEA can lead to low sex drive, muscle and joint pain, reduced bone density, depression and weight gain.
Sometimes, women can suffer from high DHEA called masculinization such as deep voice, facial hair or male-patterned baldness. In men, it can also lead to feminine traits, such as increased breast tissue and testicular wasting. Other possible symptoms include fatigue, sweating, and acne.
Testosterone is the main male sex hormone, but it’s important for women as well, in smaller amounts. Testosterone helps maintain muscle mass and bone strength, enhances sex drive and helps with overall sense of well-being and zest for life. Overall, lower testosterone levels are being found among men in the general population. In men, testosterone levels decline about 10% every decade, but sometimes the levels drop sooner or more severe than they should. Environmental factors play a large role and low testosterone in men is commonly overlooked. Some of the warning signs of low testosterone levels include infertility, decreased muscle mass, depression, weight gain, decreased sex drive, and fatigue. There are many natural approaches to balancing hormone levels and supporting men and women in being healthy.
Balancing Your Hormones Naturally
The majority of hormones are synthesized in the liver from cholesterol. So ensuring balanced levels of good fats and healthy cholesterol in your diet provide the foundation to maintaining healthy hormones. There are vast number of nutrients, plant therapies, lifestyle and exercise approaches to help improve your hormone status. Some patients may choose to do bio-identical hormone replacement therapy. Testing your hormones can be beneficial, and can help to direct treatment. Testing can range from blood work to saliva samples or a 24-hour urine collection. Whatever approach you choose, we are here to advise you on your best options to feel stronger, better and more energized.