Feel balanced, energized and motivated again!
Hormones are important messengers in our bodies that work as regulators, controllers and balancers when they are functioning appropriately. Many hormones are produced in the pituitary gland in the brain. Others are produced in the thyroid, adrenal glands, pancreas and ovaries/testes. Hormone function is negatively affected by inflammation in the body. Inflammation has many causes, with stress, sleep and diet all playing major roles.
Are your hormones out of balance?
Consider hormone imbalances if you:
have trouble falling or staying asleep
have chronic fatigue / low energy
have too much /nervous energy,
have PMS/cyclic menstrual issues, including irregular, painful or heavy periods,
have brain fog or poor memory/concentration,
are experiencing hair loss,
are struggling to lose weight,
can't wind down at night or after stressful events.
What causes these imbalances? That depends! Major hormonal shifts happen for women after giving birth and again starting in their 40s and approaching menopause. Autoimmune conditions can have many triggers at any time in your life, including after an infection! And long term stress, inflammatory dietary habits and poor sleep can be a perfect storm for creating imbalances. Time to investigate!
Tired, cold and dry skin?
Think Thyroid Health
The thyroid gland produces a key regulatory hormone, called thyroid hormone. Imbalances can cause high (hyperthyroid) or low (hypothyroid) thyroid hormone levels. It is common for thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) to be measured first, since this hormone produced by the pituitary will theoretically raise and lower to attempt to regulate the production of thyroid hormone. However, people will typically have symptoms of thyroid dysfunction long before TSH levels are out of range. An assessment of thyroid function incorporates both symptoms and comprehensive lab testing, including autoimmune markers (frequently present in conditions such as Hashimoto's thyroiditis).
Sleep troubles? Stress?
Think Cortisol and the adrenal glands
Cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands which sit on top of your kidneys. Cortisol, along with melatonin, helps to regulate the sleep-wake cycle. A healthy cortisol pattern should have cortisol reaching its peak at 30 minutes after waking, then dropping off gradually during the day, with the lowest point in the evening before bed. Melatonin works opposite to cortisol, being highest at bed time. Any type of stress will raise cortisol - in what is commonly called a "fight or flight" response. Biologically, this stress-response is a protective mechanism. This mechanism becomes dysfunctional when we are under chronic / constant stress, and when we can't calm ourselves back down after a stressful incident. A stress response that is disproportionate to the stressor may be learned - often early in childhood. Constantly triggering cortisol leads to a disruption in the normal rhythms of cortisol production which has significant impact on your body - from poor sleep quality (including waking from 2-4am), an altered microbiome (which affects digestion and hormone function) and increased inflammation. Rebalancing cortisol involves:
investigating your (perceived) stressors
supporting vagus nerve function, the nervous system generally, the gastrointestinal tract and digestion, and
integrating information about genetics, hormones and your life context.
Carb cravings, energy crashes and stress?
Think Insulin, blood sugar and the pancreas
The pancreas produces insulin in response to blood sugar levels, to help balance them. After you eat, your blood sugar rises and insulin works to store excess glucose. Diabetes is a disease of poor insulin regulation. Insulin's effects are far-reaching beyond the digestive system and diabetes. Insulin has a significant impact on the brain too, with conditions such as Alzheimer's and schizophrenia having links to poor insulin regulation. Excess cortisol can also contribute to poor insulin response (and thus elevated insulin levels). Managing stress and diet can both help to improve blood sugar balance for improved energy, mood, memory/brain function and heart health.
PMS, flow issues, irritable?
Think Estrogen & ovarian function (other sex hormones too)
Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are influencing many people's hormones without their knowledge. Do you eat or drink out of plastic containers? What body products do you use? You may be at risk of estrogen dominance as a result of EDCs.
High estrogen: Estrogen dominance is present in conditions such as endometriosis and fibroids.
Low estrogen: is most commonly seen in perimenopause and menopause - here we review estrogen's role in bone loss and increased gut permeability.
High androgens: In PCOS, a relative testosterone excess is responsible for symptoms (estrogen may also be elevated).
Progesterone: is the hormone that must be maintained through a healthy pregnancy. Progesterone deficiency (often due to elevated estrogen, elevated cortisol or both) can be the cause of infertility.
Various hormone testing options are available. Testing, together with clinical assessment and your goals will help determine the best treatment plan for you.