Hormones have been a popular topic for years, but very few people really understand the critical role hormones play in one’s health.Especially for women, hormones can be your best friend, or your worst nightmare. We will look at what hormones do, the five hormones that significantly impact your health, ways to test hormones, and how to address the root cause of hormone imbalances.
Call our office if you are experiencing any of the above issues. Understanding your hormones and how to restore balance is critical to your health. To set up a personal health consultation call our office and mention this article.
What are hormones?
Hormones are chemical messengers that travel from a gland (such as the pituitary gland) to a receptor site on a cell elsewhere in the body (such as the ovaries). This delicate communication system is how the body maintains blood sugars, sex hormones, mood, sleep and wake cycle, metabolism and hundreds of other functions. When this system is not working properly, no amount of exercise or diet is going to fix how you feel or look. Fortunately, there is something that you can do about it.
Why are my hormone levels so low or so imbalanced?
In order for your glands to make hormones, it requires the proper macro and micro nutrients in a non-toxic environment. Nutrients are the building blocks of all tissues in the body and are essential to all processes. Glands, like the ovaries, receive messages from the pituitary gland (located in the brain). The signal determines the precise type and amount of hormone the body produces and releases into the blood stream. When working in harmony, your body is the perfect pharmacy; it makes the right hormones, at the right time, every time!
When your hormones are out of balance, it is critical to understand WHY! Simply prescribing synthetic or bio-identical hormones will only mask the real problem. It is extremely critical to find out where the actual breakdown is taking place in the hormone system, and correct the imbalance. Typically, a threat to your health that causes a hormone disruption is also affecting the function of other areas such as the skeletal or cardiovascular system. Although taking prescription hormones may seem to be helpful in the short term, ignoring the root cause of the problem can have long-term negative consequences. Make sure you find a doctor that helps you uncover WHY you have hormone issues in the first place. You will be much happier in the long run.
How do I test my hormones?
Hormones can be analyzed several ways with some being better tested at specific times of the day (such as morning only), while others require 24 hours of collection. Hormones can be checked using saliva, blood, or urine. It is very important that your doctor does the right type of testing for your specific needs. It is also critical for practitioners to test hormone levels frequently to monitor your response to therapy. Unfortunately, many patients on hormone therapy have been tested only once or have never been tested at all.
There are literally hundreds of hormones in the body, but we will concentrate on the five that are the most important to women.
Estrogen (tested in blood, urine or saliva) comes in three forms: estrone (E1), estradiol (E2), and estriol (E3). Each type of estrogen provides different functions throughout the body. Estrone (E1) is the main estrogen made post-menopause. Higher levels of estrone can increase the risk of certain cancers.
Estrogens are responsible for stimulating the development of female characteristics during puberty, and are the dominant hormones during the first part of a woman’s menstrual cycle. Estrogens are primarily made in the ovaries before menopause, but are also produced in our fat cells and adrenal glands. As a person gains more weight, their fat cells produce more estrogen, which can start a vicious cycle of predictable symptoms.
Progesterone (tested in blood, urine or saliva) is a key hormone during the second half of a woman’s menstrual cycle and is critical during pregnancy (pro-gestation). Progesterone is converted to cortisol when a person is under stress, resulting in a natural form of birth control. High stress and low progesterone can often lead to fertility issues. Common causes of low progesterone include high sugar intake, anti-depressants, nutrient deficiencies, contraceptives, and low thyroid function.
Yes, women do produce testosterone (tested in blood, urine or saliva), but require smaller amounts than men, and are much more sensitive to its effects. Stress, aging and low nutrients are common causes of low testosterone in women. Symptoms of testosterone imbalance in women include; growth of facial hair, loss of libido, weight gain, low mood and increased risk of illness. Testosterone can be converted into estrogen as a result of poor lifestyle choices, such as a diet high in carbohydrates.
Cortisol (best tested using saliva at 4 different times) is often called the “stress hormone”, but its main function in physiology is to regulate blood sugar. Cortisol levels fluctuate throughout the day (highest in the morning and lowest at night), so it is critical to measure it at specific times throughout the day.
Elevated cortisol is critical in stress response to ensure your survival and get you to a safer environment. However, the issue with chronic stress is that a safer environment may not exist, so the stress becomes constant. Chronic stress eventually depletes the adrenal glands and can lead to adrenal fatigue or burnout. Women with poor adrenal function are more likely to have difficulty during menopause since the adrenals are meant to take over as the ovaries wind down.
DHEA (tested in blood, urine or saliva) is often referred to as the “hormone of youth” and is critical to the downstream production of growth hormones like testosterone and estrogen. DHEA declines naturally as we age, but its decline can be accelerated by chronic stress. The benefits of DHEA include increased lean-muscle mass, improved sleep, better thyroid hormone conversion, a healthier immune function, and enhancement of the growth and repair processes. DHEA levels are easy to measure and supplementation is very inexpensive. It is important to have your levels tested regularly, since high DHEA levels can lead to certain forms of cancer.
From the moment you were born, your hormones have served as a critical part of your body’s communication system and play a significant role in the quality of your life. Hormone issues can be a result of many factors such as chronic stress, poor diet, bad digestion, deficient detoxification, toxic environment, lack of sleep and many more.
If you are having hormone issues, it is very important that you work with a doctor that helps you uncover the root cause of your health concerns. A long-term solution should include a testing schedule, diet, supplementation, and a lifestyle strategy customized to meet your specific needs. Call our office today to find out how to restore balance back to your hormones.