HORMONE IMBALANCE: 21ST CENTURY EPIDEMIC
Everywhere you look people are developing diseases associated with hormone imbalance. Premature menopause, hot flashes, mood swings, PMS, menstrual cramping, infertility, headaches, low energy, low libido, anxiety/depression, insomnia, hypothyroidism and weight gain are all associated with hormone imbalance. While other factors like consumption of food allergens, stress, and vitamin/mineral deficiency contribute to these symptoms as well, balancing the hormone system will be essential in overcoming these issues.
BIOLOGY 101: WHAT IS A HORMONE?
A hormone is usually a chain of amino acids or fatty acids linked together in a specific order. A string of amino acids linked together is known as a protein, and usually a string of proteins linked together form a hormone. A hormone acts like a messenger that helps one part of the body (usually the brain) communicate with another part of the body (usually an gland like the adrenal, thyroid, ovary, prostate, or pancreas).
COMMUNICATION 101: HORMONES AS MESSENGERS
The following diagram will illustrate the use of hormones in helping the brain communicate to other parts of the body, namely the thyroid, adrenal, and ovary.
1. Stress is interpreted by the brain (hypothalamus/pituitary)
2. The brain sends hormone messengers to the ovaries, adrenal, or thyroid in response to the stress.
3. The ovaries, adrenal, or thyroid send a signal back to the brain and the cycle continues.
Here’s what it looks like:
STRESS: THE REAL CAUSE OF HORMONE IMBALANCE
As discussed in How to Heal Your Body, there are 3 types of stress: physical, mental, and emotional. Your brain interprets them all the same, and your brain doesn’t really care if it’s a fight with your spouse, the mortgage that has to be paid, lack of sleep, or a tiger trying to chase you down and eat you. To your brain, stress is all the same.
HOW STRESS AFFECTS YOUR HORMONES
When your body is under stress it will produce more stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. These are life-saving hormones that can make you think more clearly, run faster and jump higher. They raise your blood pressure and shut down your digestive system and everything else in the body that is not needed immediately for survival. When you’ve been under chronic stress your brain has spent most of it’s available energy communicating to your adrenal glands ordering them to produce stress hormones. This leaves fewer signals left to communicate to the thyroid and ovaries.
CAUSE & EFFECT: THE SYMPTOM RUNDOWN
Premature Menopause – ovaries shutdown due to stress
Hot Flashes – estrogen withdrawal from the body (see Premature Menopause) or lack of body’s ability to regulate temperature (thyroid shutdown due to stress)
PMS/Mood Swings – imbalance of dopamine/serotonin/blood sugar levels from stress
Menstrual Cramping – ovarian dysregulation due to stress
Infertility – ovarian dysregulation due to stress; imbalance of estrogen to progesterone due to stress
Headaches – usually from overproduction of brain hormones trying to “shout” at ovary/thyroid
Low Energy – there are many potential causes for low energy; lack of energy-producing hormones like epinephrine/norepinephrine is one
Low Libido – your body interprets all stress as a tiger trying to eat you. if a tiger is trying to eat you, reproduction is not a top priority; survival is. production of sex hormones like estrogen/testosterone decrease.
Anxiety – your brain thinks the tiger is right behind you
Depression – your brain thinks you will never get away from the tiger that is right behind you
Insomnia – there’s no time to sleep! there’s a tiger right behind you!!
Hypothyroidism – adrenal glands overactive in stress hormone production, thyroid shutdown ensues. the thyroid and the adrenal are both gas pedals or accelerators for your body. there’s a reason your car doesn’t have two gas pedals. your body doesn’t want both of your gas pedals pressed down at the same time. so as the adrenal glands increase in activity, the thyroid decreases.
Weight Gain – weight gain is complicated and usually related to 4 factors. to learn more read Why You Can’t Lose Weight.
HOW TO BALANCE HORMONES NATURALLY
You might have guessed by now that overcoming stress is crucial to restoring hormone balance. You’re right. Giving your body and mind the tools needed to handle stress more effectively is essential to maintaining a properly balanced hormone system. The tools that are required are usually a combination of vitamins, minerals, coping techniques, the proper diet for you, and adequate sleep and exercise habits. These are all highly unique and the requirements change based on individual needs. To know how to overcome stress, we first have to measure the effect that stress has had on your body.
MEASURING THE EFFECTS OF STRESS USING THE WELLNESS EXAM
Each new patient in our office receives an initial Wellness Exam which assesses vital signs, hydration status, stress levels, vitamin and mineral deficiencies and hormonal imbalance. For complete details about the Wellness Exam click here.