Whenever we think hormones, a lot of us think about the teenage years. And then we probably think about menopause. However, hormones affect our bodies starting from when we are in the womb all throughout our lives. So, our systems can get off balance at any point. Age isn’t as big a factor as most people think when it comes to hormone imbalances.
It’s all about balance. When your hormones are balanced, the aging process slows, you’re able to combat chronic disease and improve your quality of life, and you feel like your best self. When there is a hormone imbalance, you may suffer from fatigue, weight gain, insomnia, hair loss, irregular menstrual cycles, dry skin, anxiety, depression, mood changes, low libido, hot flashes, and night sweats.
The one common denominator between feeling like you’re living your best life and when you’re not is hormone imbalance. Everything in your body is connected and when one thing gets off balance, it can throw the other things off balance as well.
This blog focuses on the thyroid, the adrenals, and the sex hormones. These three are really the foundation of how our bodies work and I see them as kind of a three-legged stool; if any one of these is off, it’s going to throw the other ones off. So if your thyroid is out of whack, your adrenals may have to work harder. You may have even gone to a doctor and had your hormones tested in the past, but have you had all of them tested? Has your doctor looked at all of the relevant areas? Because they’re all really important for you to get the full picture of what’s going on and to be able to reach all of your health goals and feel your very best.
We’ve had some patients tell us that their doctors said it’s normal to experience all the symptoms listed. They’ve been told they’re in perimenopause and that their hormones were changing, so this was to be expected. And some were told they can take an antidepressant or be put on the birth control pill again.
But we here at Desert Wellness know there are other solutions than just having to settle for feeling bad.
When we think adrenals, a lot of us think stress: lack of sleep, irritating foods, work or home life stress, financial stuff, too much exercise, too little exercise. You name it, it’s a stress on our body. And some of these stressors are in our control, but some of them are not. So we need to look at how we can support your stress response.
Adrenal glands are basically little walnut size glands that sit on top of your kidneys, and they are truly a powerhouse for your endocrine or your hormonal system. They affect our stress response, like adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenals also regulate our sleep patterns. So, cortisol is supposed to rise in the morning and fall in the evening. It can get completely out of whack, though, which happens all the time. Cortisol often gets a bad rap, but really it just needs to be in balance.
It’s also vitally important for the immune system, which could not be more important than right now. We all want to try to stay healthy during cold and flu season, but also because of COVID. We want to make sure that we’re functioning at optimal levels. Adrenals are also going to affect our mood. So sometimes when we’ve been experiencing these changes and feeling a little more anxious, we have to look at the adrenal glands, especially because these are so often overlooked.
When we think adrenals, we think fight or flight. However, fight or flight works well if we experience danger, which should only last a short amount of time, like when we used to have to run from a tiger. You either ran and you got away or you didn’t make it. We now live in a world where we have constant stress and our bodies don’t necessarily know, for example, that this financial stress is going to last for only a few days. It’s thinking, okay, we’re stressed out; we need to survive all of this. And it’s going to put all of its effort into keeping that stress going, which means it’s not going to put its effort into some of the other hormones the way it should, which leads to adrenal burnout and a suppressed immune system. Are you getting every single little thing that your kids bring home from school? Getting sick frequently? This tells us your adrenals need some TLC.
We offer nutrients to support adrenal function and cortisol levels. We can also use some herbs, including creating an herbal mix tailored to your unique symptoms. This has been shown to work with some of our patients where, within a week, they report that they no longer feel the need to have that afternoon crash, where they get home from work and need to take a nap.
The thyroid influences every single cell in the body. With hypothyroidism, or low thyroid, some symptoms could be weight gain, being puffy all over, hair loss, constipation, and dry skin. It can change menstrual cycles and it’s really big for mood swings, too. Some people come to us having been prescribed antidepressants to combat some of these symptoms, but when we are able to balance their thyroid levels, they no longer need those medications. We do not recommend patients stopping doctor prescribed medications without oversight from a physician, though.
Most blood tests that a naturopathic doctor will look at are never even ordered by other physicians. And if they are, they’re often interpreted differently. For instance, TSH, which is usually what people are testing for with the thyroid, is absolutely not the whole picture. The thyroid actually produces T3 and T4 hormones, so when we also measure these, we get a much clearer picture of how well your thyroid is truly functioning. Another key thing that I almost always test, at least with my new patients, is autoimmune antibodies. Hashimoto’s, or autoimmune thyroid, is the number one reason for low thyroid in women.
As I’ve already mentioned, it’s all about balance. It doesn’t matter if you are still cycling, or if you’re in perimenopause or menopausal. The good news is that we are living a lot longer. The bad news is that our hormones are not always joining us. They start to get depleted, negatively affecting us, and there is no point in your life where it’s just normal or acceptable that you should have to feel bad. This is where it’s vital that balancing hormones and sometimes hormone replacement comes into play.
For those women who are still cycling, I would say the most common things that I see as far as hormone imbalances would be too much estrogen, which looks like experiencing really heavy menses, joint pain, lumpy breasts, cyclical migraines, low libido, and PMS symptoms. A lot of these women can also have other conditions like endometriosis and fibroids that are directly related to the level of their hormones.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCO) is also common. A lot of women are not diagnosed for PCO in a timely manner, so this is a really important thing for us to look deeper into. Oftentimes, symptoms of PCO include irregular or no cycles at all, or super heavy cycles, where patients are bleeding for three weeks. There can also be extra facial hair growth, acne, and weight gain.
Peri- and Post-Menopausal
This is when our hormones start to decline or just go a little up or down. Low estrogen symptoms include hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, insomnia, hair loss, depression, anxiety, and irritability.
Additionally, low progesterone, which is the calming hormone, can also cause problems. Low progesterone symptoms also include anxiety, insomnia, and hair loss. Progesterone usually improves these symptoms and is a natural antidepressant and anti-inflammatory.
It’s key to have a balance of both estrogen and progesterone. And when balanced properly, the risk of breast and uterine cancer actually decreases.
Testosterone is important for libido, which directly affects decreased sexual desire and overall sexual satisfaction. It’s also really important for mood and energy levels, as well as clear thinking, and energy levels, muscle mass, and even sagging skin. And remember, testosterone is not just for men, so we look at testosterone levels in our male and female patients.
Some people ask why we are changing a normal life occurrence since, if we’re entering menopausal years, our hormones are supposed to be decreasing. Well, hormones are actually really important for more things than just your symptoms, as we’ve just discussed.
The benefits of treating with estrogen include increased brain function and also bone strength. I have a lot of female patients coming into the office who have had a bone scan and they either had osteopenia or just some decrease in their bone density. Those same patients actually increased their bone density once we got them on the right nutrients and balanced their hormones. Estrogen is also important for our cardiovascular health, it’s really good for our joints, and it prevents wrinkles through collagen production, which is in our skin and throughout our bodies.
For estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone, we often offer troches, which are little lozenges that dissolve under the tongue. These are treatments with daily applications; whether you’re dissolving something under your tongue or you’re taking a pill, it’s going to be something you do each day. We also have creams that are applied topically. They’re effective for all hormones. You should be aware that these creams can transfer to family members or pets.
Injections are really only for testosterone. Usually, we treat for this every week, but you’re getting a spike and then it will slowly go down until the next injection. We also have pellets and I would say these are one of my favorites for the estrogen and testosterone. They’re basically little rice sized pellets that are placed in the buttock just below the skin. They last for about three to four months. And that means it’s something you don’t have to think about doing every day; you get a constant flow of hormones.
We likely won’t use hormones for you if you had an estrogen or progesterone positive cancer. But we have herbs and nutrients; we have so many different pieces that we can assemble to get you feeling better so you’re not stuck with feeling bad just because you can’t do certain treatments. We have a solution for everybody and use a very individualized treatment for each patient.
We also discuss diet and lifestyle during your appointment. Sometimes patients aren’t necessarily eating enough protein every day or getting enough exercise.
Keep in mind that there is no right or wrong or one size-fits-all treatment. The wonderful thing about naturopathy is that it’s all about the individual: what is going to work best for you. We work together to get you feeling your best and look at what’s going to fit your schedule and lifestyle.
Is hormone replacement safe?
Anything that I’m going to be giving you in this regard will be bio identical hormones. This means that they have the exact same molecular structure as what your own body would be producing. These bioidentical hormones are made basically in soy or a yam, and it’s going to look exactly the same, so your body’s not going to really know the difference.
It should be noted that we do not use progestin (which is what you find in oral birth control pills and which is associated with an increase in cancer risk) or conjugated equine estrogens.
What are some things that you can do now?
First and foremost, have your hormones evaluated – not just the TSH. Taking care of your liver is also important because that’s the organ that detoxes stuff. Stay hydrated! Don’t just drink when you’re thirsty and remember that water is better than soda, coffee, or tea. Include some stress relief to take care of your adrenals and your thyroid – schedule some you time. Exercising is really important, so get that movement in every day. Eat lots of veggies and clean protein, and cut out the sugar. Sleep is often undervalued, so make sure you get enough. And then lastly, have fun!
We’re often asked if someone can overcome Hashimoto’s or is it something you have to live with for the rest of your life. Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune thyroid disorder where your body is kind of attacking your own thyroid. But we have so many great treatments to get those antibodies down. I have seen and have had patients whose antibodies were very elevated and wreaking havoc on their thyroid. We implemented diet and lifestyle changes, brought in nutrients and the proper thyroid hormone and medications as needed, and witnessed the antibodies go back down to normal. So, technically, if the levels stayed down, then the thyroid should be functioning well, which means we absolutely can overcome Hashimoto’s.
Live Your Optimal Life
I don’t want you just normal, I want you optimal. Why do we have to wait until your hormone levels are out of range to start treating you? Let’s address it now and get you feeling good. You don’t have to settle for feeling bad.
Make this the year that you get your health on track. Contact Desert Wellness Center today.