Hormones: Common Symptoms

picture of glands that produce hormones

Are your Hormones the Cause of your Health Issues?

Have you been experiencing nagging symptoms, affecting your daily life that you just can’t shake? It may be that the balance (or imbalance) of your hormones is the culprit.

Often we think of hormones as only being related to sexual function, but the truth is that a variety of hormones govern all of our body’s functions in some way or another because of the interplay of messages they relay to the body through the glands that produce them.

If you thought that the only hormones we have are estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, well, you’d be in a majority. In actuality, a number of other chemicals that we talk about all the time at Forces of Nature are also hormones and have a lot to say in helping our bodies to experience optimal health.

There are several hormones that, depending on their current balance, most readily affect your overall health.

Some common symptoms and their hormones:

Our hormones are like an orchestra.  They play together to synchronize and harmonize our beings to create optimal health patterns throughout the day and night. Their job is to keep us healthy and balanced, physically and emotionally. Sometimes, our modern lifestyle creates habits and workloads that can disrupt our body’s natural ability to control and balance our hormones.

So, when we start to exhibit symptoms that just won’t go away, such as long-term anxiety or stress, brain fog, sleep or weight management issues, mood swings, and long-term shifts in libido, investigating and caring for the glands that produce our hormones could address and solve the root of the problem.

Symptom Glands Associated Hormones
Adult Acne/Cystic Acne Ovaries

Testes

Estrogen and Androgens (Testosterone, DHT, DHEAs, Androstenedione)
Anxiety/Stress Adrenals Epinephrine/Adrenaline, Norepinephrine, Glucocorticoids, Mineralocorticoids,  Cortisol, Cortisone
Concentration Issues/Brain Fog Pineal, Enterochromaffin Cells in the Gastrointestinal Tract, Hypothalamus, Pituitary, Thyroid, Ovaries, Testes Melatonin, Serotonin, Dopamine, Epinephrine, Norepinephrine, Estrogen, Testosterone, T4/T3
Digestive Issues Thyroid, Pancreas  

Thyroxine (T4), T3, Insulin

 

Libido Adrenals, Testes, Ovaries Estrogen, Progesterone, Testosterone, DHEAs, DHT
Mood Swings Pituitary, Enterochromaffin Cells in Gastrointestinal Tract, Ovaries, Testes Endorphins, Serotonin, Dopamine, Estrogen, Testosterone, DHEAs, DHT
Sleep Issues/Insomnia Pineal, Adrenals Melatonin, Epinephrine, Norepinephrine, Aldosterone, Cortisol, Cortisone
Weight Maintenance  

Adrenals, Adipose tissue, Pancreas

 

Cortisol, DHEA/DHEAs (as a precursor to Estrogen and Testosterone), Leptin, Insulin

How you can help your hormones

Your General Practitioner will have many suggestions to help treat the symptoms you’re experiencing.  But working with your whole health team including our integrative medicine practitioners (naturopathic doctors, chiropractor, acupuncturist, massage therapists & psychotherapist) will yield the greatest benefits because the therapies can complement each other.

For example, your GP might prescribe antidepressants or sleep aids to help manage your symptoms and ‘get you over the hump’ and on your way to recovery. Our Naturopathic and Integrative Health Practitioners will work on utilizing nutrition, supplements, stress reduction, exercise, lifestyle changes, acupuncture, massage and herbs to get at the root cause of the problems you’re experiencing and get your hormones back into balance.

Naturopathic medicine looks extensively at the whole body to determine what is causing your problem.  We often uncover a myriad of issues that all work together to create the person’s current health condition. Hormones often play a role but we also must uncover why they are imbalanced.

What Causes Hormones to Become Imbalanced?

There are a number of factors that may cause or contribute to hormone imbalance:

  • Chronic stress
  • Nutrient deficiencies – particularly vitamins B5 & B6, magnesium, zinc, L-5MHF (active folic acid) and vitamin B12
  • Poor diet – diets high in carbs and sugar provoke the need for plenty of insulin that then creates hormone imbalance
  • Lifestyle – lack of exercise, lack of sleep, working long hours, lack of exposure to sunlight, exposure to artificial light in the evening
  • Environmental pollutants – BPA from plastic, dioxin, PCB’s etc are all endocrine disruptors

How can we help your hormonal imbalance?

Once you’ve had a chance to share with your naturopathic doctor or integrative health practitioner the series of symptoms, situations, and concerns you’ve been experiencing, we can then start putting the pieces together to outline the best options for treatment just for you.

The first set of treatment and care options that your healthcare team will look at are nutrient deficiencies and habit patterns. It’s amazing how many maladies can be remedied when we have greater focus and dedication to providing our bodies with the right nutrition, nutrients, hydration, stress management, exercise, and adequate sleep.

The next set of options could be supplements and herbs. When you’ve begun to line up a more healthy routine of nutrition, exercise, and sleep, supplementation of key nutrients, minerals and herbs could yield even greater results. We have many tools in our toolbox to help get you on the right path to a balanced system, which in turn means a balanced life!

We’re here to help you. If you’re experiencing symptoms that you just can’t beat, it’s a good time to call us to investigate your hormones and provide you with a pathway to health. Our door is always open and your road to optimal health is just a phone call (416-481-0222) or email away.

Hormones Research

Schwartz DH, Romans SE, Meiyappan S, De Souza MJ, Einstein G. The role of ovarian steroid hormones in mood. Horm Behav. 2012 Sep;62(4):448-54. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2012.08.001. Epub 2012 Aug 8.

 

Lose Weight at Menopause

woman who wants to lose weight

Struggling to Lose Weight at Menopause?  Here’s Why.

What happens at menopause?

Aside from periods stopping, estrogen levels drop, ovulation stops and progesterone levels drop.

How do the hormone changes at menopause impact your weight?

There are a few ways that these hormonal changes can make it tougher to lose weight:

Lower estrogen levels mean that your body doesn’t respond to insulin as well as it used to before menopause. That means that if you eat carbs or sugar, your insulin levels will be higher post menopause than they were pre-menopause. Higher insulin means more fat production and also more inflammation. More inflammation means even more insulin resistance.

Progesterone helps to counter the effects of cortisol (your stress hormone). If you have less progesterone, and in menopause there is very little, then cortisol has a greater effect than it had pre-menopause. We know that higher cortisol increases belly fat.

So, how can we fix this?

I am not an advocate for hormone replacement therapy, bioidentical or otherwise. Menopause is a natural transition away from childbearing years and into golden years. The best approach in my opinion is to:

Adjust your carbohydrate intake accordingly. If you no longer tolerate the same level of carbs due to lower estrogen, it’s best to decrease your carb intake. Plug your daily food intake into an app like MyFitnessPal to get a sense of your total carb intake and where those carbs are coming from and adjust your diet to reduce your carb intake. What is the recommended carb intake? That’s somewhat individual, but you could go as low as 40-60 grams per day if you find that weight isn’t budging. Protein and fat will better serve your new post-menopause metabolism.

Reduce stress and stress inducing exercise. Anything that raises your cortisol level, will have a worse impact than it did prior to menopause.

Cortisol lowering tips:

Exercise: Exercise improves heart function, reduces the fight or flight response to stress, improves ability of tissues to use oxygen and other nutrients, improves self-esteem, and increases endurance and energy levels. The type of exercise is important though. Endurance exercise can become an additional stressor and requires more cortisol production. Short bursts of very high intensity exercise (HIIT training), with alternating days of low level relaxation type exercise like restorative yoga or tai chi is a great combination to maintain muscle mass for calorie burning, but also keep cortisol low.
Relaxation techniques: Gentle stretching, breathing exercises, yoga and visualization induce the relaxation response.
Humour: Laughter helps lower cortisol, even cracking a smile can help.
Social support: spend time with friends and family
Pets: one study showed that cortisol levels are lowest when you are with your pet and highest when you are with your spouse (I suppose it depends on the spouse)
Alone/quiet/down time: The hectic pace and never ending electronic stimulation is an additional stress to your body. Take time to be alone, out in nature, relax by 8 p.m..
Sleep: Don’t forgo sleep. Ensure that you get at least 7-7.5 hours of good quality sleep per night.
Support your Adrenal Glands: They need adequate intake of vitamins C, B5, B6, zinc and magnesium to help you deal with stress as easily as possible. Use of antidepressants, estrogen replacement therapy and birth control pills can all increase the need for vitamin B6 in the body.

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND

For help to lose weight at menopause, book a consultation with one of our naturopathic doctors.