When hormones are referred to in popular culture it’s usually in reference to estrogen and testosterone, two of our sex hormones. In addition to sex hormones, there are many different hormones in the body with wide ranging effects on our health.
Hormones are messenger cells. They are in charge of stimulating and triggering another cell, tissue, or organ to take a specific action. The proper function of hormones is essential for health in both men and women.
Health Tips For Reducing Stress & Balancing Hormones
- Avoid the Dirty Dozen Endocrine (Hormone) Disruptors.
- Go to bed between 9:30-10:30pm.
- Go to bed and wake at the same time every day.
- Eat meals at a consistent time each day whenever possible.
- Eat protein with each meal to balance blood sugar.
- Meditate for 2 minutes or more every day.
- Consider using Calm or Headspace to learn how to meditate in a fun and easy way.
Read on for an in depth discussion of the most common hormone imbalances that contribute to health problems.
The adrenal glands (located directly above the kidneys) are in charge of reacting to and regulating stress. They secrete a hormone called cortisol which is responsible for creating our fight-or-flight response to stress (lions, tigers, bears, and… that deadline your boss is really riding you about).
Low energy, waking up tired after a full night’s sleep, and experiencing a decreased ability to cope with stress may be signs of adrenal dysfunction commonly referred to as “adrenal fatigue.”
Our modern lifestyles are extremely taxing on our adrenals and as a result many people suffer from adrenal fatigue without realizing that their condition is completely treatable and they can get their energy (and their life) back.
Re-establishing an appropriate stress response is a critical part of successful treatment.
The thyroid gland is located below your Adam’s apple. It is often referred to as the “thermostat” of our body, because the thyroid hormones it produces regulate our temperature and metabolism.
Symptoms of low thyroid function (hypothyroidism) are fatigue, depression, weight gain, constipation, brain fog, cold hands and feet, dry skin, hair loss, and joint pain.
Symptoms of high thyroid function (hyperthyroidism) are fatigue, anxiety, weight loss, diarrhea, frequent bowel movements, sweating, heat intolerance, hair loss, muscle cramps, and tremors.
Screening for thyroid conditions and optimizing thyroid function is essential for identifying the root cause of many common symptoms and optimizing health.
Sex Hormones: Estrogen, Progesterone, & Testosterone
Estrogen is produced in the ovaries, adrenal glands, and fat tissue and is most active in the first 14 days of a woman’s menstrual cycle.
Progesterone is produced in the ovaries and adrenal glands and is most active in days 15-28 of the menstrual cycle.
Estrogen and progesterone can cause health problems when out of balance.
High estrogen can be caused by exposure to chemicals that mimic estrogen, weight gain, poor liver function, and constipation or not having a daily bowel movement. High estrogen symptoms include heavy or irregular menses, mood swings, irritability, headaches, weight gain, breast swelling, and fibrocystic breasts.
Low estrogen can be caused by stress, nutritional deficiencies such as zinc and vitamin D, chemicals or pesticides that inhibit estrogen production, and menopause. Low estrogen symptoms include irregular menses, amenorrhea (absence of menstruation), low libido, vaginal dryness, hair loss, depression, insomnia, night sweats, and migraine headaches.
Low progesterone can be caused by poor estrogen detoxification, stress, excessive weight loss or exercise, and nutrient deficiencies including vitamins A, B6, C, and zinc. It can also be low when estrogen is high in relation to progesterone. Symptoms of low progesterone include breast tenderness or fibrocystic breasts, menstrual cramps, heavy or irregular menses, clots in menstrual blood, mid-cycle spotting, short menses, irritability, anxiety, depression, insomnia, neck pain, and inability to maintain pregnancy.
Testosterone is important for both men and women and is produced in the ovaries and adrenal glands as well as the skin, brain, and liver.
Women normally produce lower amounts of testosterone than men. Abnormally low testosterone symptoms in women and men are fatigue, decreased motivation, poor memory, depression, low libido, difficulty achieving orgasm, decreased sexual sensation, elevated blood pressure, weight gain, and loss of muscle mass.
High testosterone symptoms in women include acne, hair loss, and increased facial hair (hirsutism).
Diagnosing sex hormone imbalances can be done by a thorough medical history and specialty hormone
testing when appropriate. In our clinic we emphasize a nutritional and root cause approach and use bio-identical hormone replacement therapy when necessary.
Insulin is the hormone released by the pancreas that is in charge of gathering sugar (glucose) from the bloodstream and transporting it to the cells for use or fat tissue for storage.
An inflammatory diet high in sugar can result in inflammation and weight gain as well as contribute to PMS and other hormonal imbalances such as high estrogen and cortisol.
Symptoms of insulin and blood sugar problems are irritability and confusion when skipping meals, weight gain around the belly, hair loss, increased facial hair in women (hirsutism), and PCOS.
Chronically high insulin can result in diabetes (when insulin is no longer able to remove sugar from the blood efficiently) and damage to the cardiovascular vessels of the body and brain. Symptoms of diabetes are excessive hunger, increased thirst, fatigue, frequent urination, blurred vision, and poor wound healing.
In our clinic we use therapeutic nutrition and natural medicines that optimize insulin to address blood sugar problems, insulin resistance, and diabetes.
Dr. DeFrancesco partners with patients seeking a smarter & sustainable approach to health by doing the detective work to uncover root cause(s) and design a personalized and comprehensive plan that includes nutrition, lifestyle, functional medicine, and root cause therapies.
This approach benefits people who are seeking help with chronic inflammatory conditions, autoimmunity, thyroid conditions, digestive problems, brain health, and health optimization.