Hormonal Imbalance: What You Can Do About It

The hormones in your body are basically chemical messengers that provide very precise instructions to all your organs. So hormones are responsible for pretty much everything that happens in and to your body. From how it feels to how it functions; hormones can determine a significant part of your overall health.

Hormonal Imbalance: What You Can Do About It

The hormones in your body are basically chemical messengers that provide very precise instructions to all your organs. So hormones are responsible for pretty much everything that happens in and to your body. From how it feels to how it functions; hormones can determine a significant part of your overall health.

Countless studies show strong correlations between hormones and mood, weight, energy levels, body temperature and digestion. Interestingly, we never really notice the effect of hormones on us. It’s only when something goes wrongand our hormones are flipped out of their delicate balance is when we notice PCOS.

However, when it comes to diagnosing and treating hormonal imbalance issues, traditional medicine has limited tools in the box. Diet is often overlooked, and most hormone problems are addressed by simply prescribing “The Pill”or prescribing Estrogen, Testosterone or progesterone.

This fails to address the root cause. While this may raise low levels of a particular hormone, it fails to identify why the hormone is low in the first place. As a certified functional medicine practitioner, I believe there is a solution to almost every hormone imbalance, no matter how complicated it may seem. My approach focuses on digging into “why” the hormone is high or low rather than just attempting to replace hormones.

So, as you have probably already imagined, today we’re going to be discussing hormonal imbalance in detail. I’ll cover the main kinds of hormones in the body, how you can tell when there’s an imbalance issue and what I can do to help you overcome your condition.

Make sure you read till the very end!

What are hormones?

Hormones are regulatory chemical substances that are released by the endocrine gland to perform a variety of specialized functions in the body. They travel through the bloodstream to targeted cells, signaling them their function. There are two main distinctions within hormones: water-soluble and fat-soluble hormones. Water-soluble hormones bind to cell receptors on the surface while fat-soluble hormones enter the cell to bind to receptors inside.

There are near 50 different hormones in the human body, each designed to perform a particular duty. Let’s cover some common types and how they affect our system.

 

1. Cortisol

The adrenal glands are a hormone production powerhouse and one of the key hormones they produce is called cortisol. We commonly refer to this hormoneas the body’s “stress hormone” because it’s involved in the fight or flight response.

When we experience stress(physical, chemical, emotional), our brain becomes less capable of effectively communicating with our adrenal glands. This results in a phenomenon known as adrenal fatigue where an imbalance in the body’s cortisol rhythm emanates. So when your cortisol levels should ideally be on the lower end of the spectrum, the induction of stress will lead adrenal glands to overproduce cortisol hormones.

Possible symptoms of cortisol imbalance

  • Feeling lethargic in the morning
  • Unruly craving for sugary or salty foods
  • Low libido
  • Feeling tired and fatigued in the day time
  • Trouble staying or falling asleep at night
  • Feeling dizzy after standing up too abruptly
  • Dull headaches
  • Problems with blood sugar levels
  • Chronic inflammation and acne
  • Brittle hair and weak nails
  • Frequent mood swings
  • Difficulty losing weight

Cortisol imbalance like mentioned earlier can stem from any kind of stress. Physical, chemical and emotional stress are all perceived by the body the same way. Therefore, I believe it’s important to identify where thechronic stressors originate from. Diet, infections, fluctuating blood sugar, poor sleep patterns, Night shift work, inflammation, stressed family situations are all common culprits for adrenal and cortisol problems.

 

2. Thyroid

The thyroid is a small gland shaped like a butterfly and is situated in the center of the neck. This gland is responsible for producing thyroid hormones that regulate your body’s metabolism. In other words, it’s how you convert food into energy. An overactive thyroid gland results in developing a disorder called hyperthyroidism (excess thyroid hormones), while an underactive thyroid results in hypothyroidism (lowthyroid hormones).

In a standard lab test for thyroid hormones, a doctor will typically order a TSH test or Thyroid stimulating hormone. Unfortunately, this test misses over 90% of people who suffer from Thyroid problems. In the United States alone, the number one cause of low Thyroid is an undiagnosed autoimmune disease known as Hashimoto’s disease. This testis notrun on a standard routine Thyroid panel. If you want to know more about the different types of thyroid patterns that are not immediately discerned by lab tests, you can take a look at my previous article here. Or download my free e-book, “6 Patterns of Thyroid Disease, That Don’t Show Up on Routine ThyroidTesting”

Possible symptoms of thyroid dysfunction

  • Feeling fatigued and tired
  • Hands and feet feel cold or entire body temperature is lower than average
  • Sleeping for longer hours to feel rested
  • Fast weight gain
  • Constipation
  • Lack of motivation or depression
  • Headaches first thing in the morning (they subside as the day progresses)
  • The outer third of eyebrows begin to thin out
  • Severe hair loss or hair thinning from the scalp
  • Dry, itchy skin
  • Brain fog

The first step to addressing thyroid dysfunction is to start with a full Thyroid panel. This will help us rule out the possibility of the presence of an autoimmune disease as well as what kind of pattern of thyroid disease you might have. I have covered thyroid problems including Hashimoto’s Disease in my previous blogs as well. I would also like to take the opportunity to urge women to get themselves checked immediately if they can relate to more than half of the symptoms indicated above. Research indicates that 3 out of 4 women with hypothyroidism are also at risk forpolycystic ovarian syndrome. And, if we’ve learnedanything about PCOS in the past, it is that you should always consult a functional medicine expertas soon as possible.

3. Estrogen

Estrogen is a female sex hormone and thus is responsible for giving women their female characteristics. There’s a delicate balance in the ratio of three different types of estrogen: E1 (estrone), E2(estradiol) E3, (estriol). An imbalance in your estrogen levels can lead to heightened risks of mortality rates, cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancers.

Possible symptoms of low estrogen:

  • Cold sweating at night sweats
  • Brain fog
  • Dryness in vagina
  • Recurring bladder infections
  • Feeling tired and lethargic
  • Depression
  • Hot flashes

Possible symptoms of high estrogen:

  • Bloating, especially around the midsection and hips
  • Gaining weight too quickly
  • Tenderness in breasts
  • Moodiness
  • Heavy flow during menstrual bleeding
  • Poor mental health (depression and anxiety)
  • Migraine headaches
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Cervical dysplasia
  • Brain fog
  • Problems in the gallbladder

The good news is that I already have a diagnostic test I use for cycling women who struggle with PMS and other hormone-basedproblems. The Female Hormonal Testing Panel is a non-invasive test that only requires a few saliva samples across different points during your menstrual cycle. This will help identify where in your cycle a hormone imbalance may exist and how it could be potentially causing problems such as infertility, cystic ovaries, painful periods, breast tenderness, depression,and acne. Because this is a saliva test, this test can easily be done from the comfort of your home. Once tests results have been received, I will review the test results with you and outline a customized treatment plan that helps balance your hormones.

If you’re interested in learning more about the cycling female hormone panel for menstruating women, you can find it here.

4. Progesterone

Progesterone is a naturally occurring steroid hormone that’s produced in the corpus luteum of the ovary. This hormone is crucial for maintaining a healthy menstrual cycle and regulating the early stages of pregnancy.

However, another important function carried out by progesterone is the neutralizing effect it has on excess estrogen hormones. So if any time your body’s estrogen levels go haywire, adequate progesterone levels can induce a calming effect. And just like the case of estrogen, both, male and female bodies require a healthy balance of progesterone hormones.

Possible symptoms of progesterone imbalance:

  • Bouts of premenstrual syndrome
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Dull complexion
  • Tenderness and pain in breasts
  • Rapidly putting on weight and trouble losing it
  • Recurrent headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Inability to conceive

Progesterone levels are crucial in menstrual cycle regulation and since they work in unison with estrogen levels, we can use the FHP test to address this imbalance too. All we need is a sample of your saliva and sometimesa blood test.

test result

5. Testosterone

Testosterone is an anabolic steroid hormone that is responsible for the body’s muscle mass, fat distribution, production of red blood cells and fertility levels.

In my 20 years of practice, I’ve come across many women with low testosterone levels, who, in most cases, are not aware of their condition. According to studies, women with low levels of testosterone are prone to developing heart disease, breast cancer and have low libido. But keep in mind, that you can also face serious health problems with too much testosterone. If you look at my previous articles on PCOS, you’ll be able to find more detail on how functional medicine approaches the problem of excess testosterone in women.

Possible symptoms of excess testosterone:

  • Acne
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Hirsutism i.e. abnormal hair growth on the face and arms
  • Unstable blood sugar i.e. hypoglycemia
  • Thinning of scalp hair
  • Infertility
  • Cystic ovaries
  • Pain and cramping during periods
  • Moodiness

Possible symptoms of low testosterone:

  • Weight gain
  • Feeling tired and fatigued
  • Low libido

6. Leptin

Leptin is a hormone produced by your body’s fat cells that regulate your appetite. The primary function of leptin hormones is to utilize the excess energy stored in the fat cells. Low levels of leptin can make it harder for your body to regulate your energy expenditures and hunger. So you can expect to feel hungryfrequently and as a result put on unhealthy amounts of weight.

Possible symptoms of low leptin in the body

  • Swift weight gain
  • Resistance to losing weight (despite your best efforts)
  • Frequent bounds of strong food cravings
  • High levels of stress

7. Insulin

Insulin is an anabolic hormone produced by the pancreas that allows your body to break up carbohydrate molecules for glucose production. Glucose provides us with much-needed energy for all our bodily functions.

With insulin, the hormone itself is never deficient, rather it’s resistant to absorption. So basically, insulin resistance happens when the cells in your body don’t respond to the release of insulin hormones.

Insulin resistance is one of the primary causes of Type-2 diabetes and wreaks havoc on your blood sugar levels.

Possible symptoms of insulin resistance:

  • Intense cravings for sugary foods
  • Feeling lightheaded or irritable if you don’t get to eat/skipping a meal
  • Feeling like you cannot function without caffeine
  • Tremors, shakiness, jitteriness
  • Feeling upset, nervous or agitated more than usual
  • Poor memory
  • Blurred vision
  • Waist ratio equal to or bigger than the hip ratio
  • Feeling the need to urinate frequently
  • Increased appetite or thirst
  • Unable to lose weight

Final Word

Now that you have a betterunderstanding of the most common types of hormonal imbalances, you need to know that these conditions rarely manifest in isolation. Our body is massively interconnected and one hormonal imbalancewill often disrupt many other key hormone players. Like dominos, when one domino goes down, it takes down several.

Whenever dealing with hormone imbalances, keep in mind that your doctor needs to be a good investigator. Correcting hormone imbalances requires more than just replacing the low hormones, but determining why they are low in the first place.

If you’re interested in working with my office to help with any potential hormonal problems such as PCOS, feel free to get in touch! The first step is to complete this health survey.

Tell me a bit about your health, your goals and the kind of help you are looking for.

Your answers to this questionnaire will help me understand your needs and how to best help you.

Once you’ve submitted the questionnaire, be sure to check your email! My office will be sending you a recommendation on how to get started with your journey to better health!

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