Total Hormone Balance
Many people have symptoms that ultimately reflect hormonal imbalance. Our modern fast paced lifestyle means we have less time and reserves to recuperate, whilst simultaneously being exposed to an unprecedented array of endocrine disrupting chemicals. Many people spend years struggling with symptoms such as fatigue, weight gain, low energy, concentration problems, low libido, low mood, insulin resistance, breast tenderness, painful or heavy or irregular periods and many others related to hormonal imbalance. Treating the symptoms won’t fix the core issue, but looking at your hormones can.
During your appointment at Evergreen Doctors we delve deeply into your history and lifestyle to find the root cause. We usually use thorough pathology testing as well to help clarify your unique situation, then together we create a plan to restore wellness and optimise your hormones and your vitality.
The Delicate Balance in the Body
Medical research is advancing rapidly and we now know that most of our body produces hormones and they control what we do. For example, Leptin is produced by fat and it travels to the brain and controls our appetite. It wasn’t long ago we used to think hormones were only produced in a small number of special glands. (Read more about the gut brain link here)
There are many hormones acting all over the body, controlling everything and making us who we are. Such a vast system of hormones needs to be regulated to ensure harmony and balance. The complex mechanisms that keep hormones in balance are impacted by sleep, emotions, sensory cues, diet, thoughts, chemicals, nutrients (or lack of), breathing and a range of feedback loops. Such a dynamic system can be easily thrown out of equilibrium!
Lifestyle and Diet
Studies have shown clearly that lifestyle and diet are extremely important. Nowhere is this more clear than with insulin resistance. Insulin is the hormone that tells your body to burn the food we eat for energy or to store it as fat. Once your cells become “Insulin Resistant” it’s a small step to diabetes, heart disease, cancer and even Alzheimer’s.
Obesity is often thought of as the cause of Insulin Resistance but really that’s not correct. Insulin resistance is the inability of cells to respond to insulin as they should, so in many ways that is what then leads to weight gain. Many obese people do not have insulin resistance, and some diabetics are quite skinny. The cells are not trying to protect themselves from too much food, rather too much glucose. (You can read more about how we reverse diabetes here)
Weight is also heavily influenced by the stress hormone cortisol, thyroid and sex hormones (Estrogen, Testosterone and so on). We look at each area, and seek to restore balance. For example, men with excess fat tend to have abnormal levels of SHBG (Sex Hormone Binding Globulin) that then means they have less free Testosterone available in their blood, which makes their body have a relatively higher level of Estrogen, so they store more fat. Fat itself is an endocrine gland, that makes numerous chemicals and is where the male hormones can get “Aromatised” into the female hormones. This again can be a problem in men who have excess fat because then their Testosterone is being automatically converted into estrogen, and can lead to problems like “man boobs”. Women with PCOS also have a hormonal imbalance that can be reversed. (Read more about PCOS here)
Fat to lean ratio has big impact on SHBG levels. Thyroid hormones, liver disease, steroids, oral estrogen, low protein, high coffee intake, and fasting increase it. This results in more of those hormones but they are bound and inactive with less free hormones able to react as they should.
Fatty liver, obesity, androgen replacement, high insulin, high prolactin, high IGF-1 all decreases SHBG. Low SHBG is an independent marker of pro inflammatory states, and can result in symptoms of androgen excess like acne.
Some chemicals like BPA act as powerful estrogen like compounds that wreak havoc with your hormones. For this reason, we sometimes use comprehensive detox plans with our patients. Simply giving one hormone like Testosterone is usually not the answer, you need a comprehensive solution. Different Estrogens activate different receptors and have different impacts on breast cancer risk. Different forms of progesterone can also have different impacts. Breast cancer risk also increases with low thyroid activity and with insulin resistance.
Your hormones change over the course of your life, and this is particularly obvious in females. They start having a menstrual cycle at puberty, then they may have prolonged, painful or very irregular periods – which are all symptoms of hormone imbalance. (Usually insufficient Progesterone). Later there may be issues around fertility and pregnancy and breastfeeding. And of course, at around age 50, there’s menopause which may cause numerous symptoms varying from skin sensations to hot flushes, insomnia, foggy brain, emotional turmoil and many others. These all reflect a hormone imbalance and the solution is often multifactorial.
Men also tend to lose hormone balance at around age 50 when their production of testosterone noticeably decreases – especially if they are overweight. Many men at this age then feel their energy drop, libido fall away, their confidence falter, weight start to be put on, and their hair thins.
We also look at what is preventing hormones from working as they should. Hormones are made in the body and use particular nutrients and co factors. Without them, your body will struggle to make enough of the key hormones. Medications and some natural substances can block some of the key production and conversion steps, and this too can lead to an imbalance. Conventional testing does not necessarily show all these subtleties, which is why we use a broader range of testing to assess your hormonal status now, and to monitor your treatment program over time, so we can adjust it and optimise it to you. Once your hormones are balanced, you’ll naturally lose weight and keep it off, feel more energised (so you’ll enjoy exercise more), have a sharper mind and look and feel your best. Have you ever wondered why pregnant women “glow”? That’s hormones at work.
Thyroid and Adrenal Stress
Thyroid abnormalities are increasingly common and the thyroid hormones are vitally important as they affect every system in the body. These hormones control metabolism, impact heart rate, body temperature and even clarity of thought. There are many causes of thyroid problems, including epigenetic (much more common in women) inflammation, autoimmune, and nutrient imbalances. Untreated thyroid disorders can lead to other problems like heart disease, high cholesterol, high BP, and osteoporosis.
The Adrenal glands produce many hormones that are essential to life. If the adrenals are not functioning well, many varied symptoms can occur like dizziness, weight loss, fatigue, body aches and skin discolouration. Cortisol is a steroid hormone made by the adrenals and one of our main “stress hormones” and helps give us the “fight or flight” response to a stressful situation. This is our emergency reaction to help keep us safe. It’s the same response, no matter what the stress, so the heart begins to pound, muscles tense, breathing quickens and we begin to sweat.
Unfortunately, repeated activation of our Flight or Fight response from seemingly small everyday things like traffic jams or work pressures can take its toll in the long-term.
It’s no wonder today so many people have high blood pressure, weight gain, insomnia and mood disorders. The issue is not that you are stressed, the question is how do we address it, because unfortunately these days we are all stressed even if we don’t realise it. Part of your treatment plan therefore is the introduction of appropriate stress reduction techniques. These can be quick, only a few minutes a day, but profoundly powerful in fixing your hormones.
High cortisol impairs the conversion of thyroid hormones T4 to T3 so you end up with relatively higher T4 and lower T3. This can make you feel the symptoms of low thyroid (hypothyroidism) even though the basic blood test the TSH, maybe normal. Excess adrenalin can desensitise T3 receptors causing relative T3 resistance, and a higher T3 despite symptoms of hypothyroidism because the body compensates against the excess adrenalin by lowering T4).
If your stress hormone cortisol is high you may also have less of the precursor materials with which to make the various Estrogens and Androgens in the first place. Often when we support the adrenals and thyroid, and re-balance them, the sex hormones naturally get back into the normal range. Without fixing the upstream issue such as this “Cortisol Steal” we just mentioned, giving hormones like DHEA or Testosterone or Estrogen can make symptoms worse.
Hormones have a profound effect on our mental, physical and emotional health.
In good health, these chemical responses are produced in precise amounts to control the processes in our bodies. Optimising your hormones involves mental, physical and emotional health. Nourishing your body with high quality food, sleep, good stress management, avoiding exposures to toxins, meditating or doing exercise will make a major difference to your wellbeing.
However often you need a helping hand and the insight provided by cutting edge tests, to really know which “lever” to pull, to make the biggest difference. Likewise, with dietary advice, with so much conflicting information these days it can help to get back to basics. Switching from processed foods and eating a diet rich in whole organic protein, olive oil, nuts, avocado, eggs, fish and dark green vegetables is usually a good start.
Optimisation however requires specific advice based on your unique situation. Excess of one hormone or neuro transmitter can impact others. If melatonin levels are too high for example, serotonin levels may go down, impacting your mood.
Book in today for a comprehensive hormone balancing consultation.