Introduction to Hormone Imbalance
When our hormones are out of balance, it can lead to a myriad of physical, emotional, and mental issues. Hormone imbalance can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetics, age, stress, medications, and lifestyle choices. Common symptoms of hormone imbalance include fatigue, weight gain, mood swings, depression, insomnia, and more.
Though several factors can lead to an imbalance in our hormones, we may be able to rectify them without medication. It is not chance, but rather the result of bad practices that many of us fall into in our rushed days. We understand that our timetables don’t leave much time for self-care. However, unless we make a conscious effort to adjust our diet and intake, how much physical activity we get daily, and make sure we have sufficient rest and sleep, we will remain disappointed in our lack of energy and mounting difficulty to keep up with the speed of our lives, while still staying optimistic and productive.
We need to ask the question “Why?” What are the reasons for your physical or mental discomfort? What is causing the indications?
By determining what triggers the imbalances and addressing the root of the problem, a real answer can be found. Functional Medicine helps in recognizing and treating the fundamental causes in order to bring back equilibrium and alleviate the symptoms and not just being content to have symptoms because we are at a certain age or it’s in our genes.
The Role of Hormones
The presence of hormones allow for communication between different parts of the body, allowing for a suitable reaction to the different stressors in our lives and maintaining homeostasis. An example of this would be when a hormone in the brain (ACTH) triggers the release of cortisol by the adrenal gland when under stress. Although it may appear straightforward when looking at one hormone, the reality is that our bodies produce many hormones and each one interacts with the others, causing alterations that can sometimes be difficult to balance.
It’s like a symphony when discussing hormones, with multiple instruments all combined to create a harmonious sound. When everything is in harmony, the music is beautiful. However, if one element is out of tune, the result is discordant and chaotic
Different types of hormones
Sex Hormones: Imbalances in progesterone, estrogen and testosterone are common around menopause, “perimenopause” and andropause, and can cause a range of symptoms. These imbalances also increase the risk of autoimmune disease heart disease, osteoporosis, immune dysfunction, and hormone-dependent cancers
Thyroid Hormones: The hypothalamus produces TSH which then stimulates the production of T4 which needs to be converted into the active T3 hormone. This conversion is dependent on several key nutrients such as zinc and selenium and a deficiency of these can cause low thyroid symptoms. The immune system can also interfere with normal thyroid production by making autoantibodies, which is the most common cause of hypothyroidism, known as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.
Adrenal Hormones: They lay the groundwork for maintaining a person’s overall health and well-being and they are required for the proper functioning for normal production of both thyroid and sex hormones. If cortisol levels remain high due to chronic stress, it can lead to issues such as insulin resistance, central obesity, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, memory loss, altered thyroid function, and changes in sex hormones. Adrenals are the foundation for health and not to be kept in check for maintaining optimal health.
The Functional Medicine Approach in Diagnosing Hormone Imbalance
Functional medicine is a holistic approach to health and wellness that focuses on finding the underlying cause of disease and treating it accordingly. This approach encourages a collaborative relationship between the patient and practitioner, and looks at the body as a whole rather than focusing on individual symptoms. Functional medicine practitioners take a patient’s full medical history, lifestyle, and environment into account when diagnosing hormone imbalance.
When it comes to uncovering the root cause of hormone imbalance, a functional medicine approach is the most effective time and time again and it’s the future of healthcare. By taking a comprehensive approach to testing and diagnosing, functional medicine practitioners can get to the root of the problem and create a treatment plan that will help you balance your hormones. This approach also allows practitioners to identify any underlying health issues that may be contributing to your symptoms.
Symptoms of hormone imbalance
The reality is that hormone imbalance can have multiple symptoms and it really depends on what is driving it. We look at some of the main symptoms below.
- Slow heartbeat or rapid heartbeat (tachycardia).
- Unexplained weight gain or weight loss.
- Brain Fog
- Night sweats
- Vaginal Dryness
- Gut Issues
- Diarrhea or more frequent bowel movements.
- Numbness and tingling in your hands.
- Higher-than-normal blood cholesterol levels.
- Depression or anxiety
Hormone Testing with a Functional Medicine Approach
Once you have identified the symptoms of hormone imbalance, the next step is to get tested. A functional medicine practitioner will use a variety of tests to get an accurate picture of your hormone levels. These tests may include blood tests, saliva tests, and urine tests. Once your hormone levels have been tested, your practitioner will be able to identify any hormone imbalances and create a treatment plan that is tailored to your individual needs.
- Dutch Urine tests – Dutch urine tests can provide a complete evaluation of stress hormones, sex hormones, and mineralocorticoids. Dutch Test UK costs can be £250 upwards however its one of the best tests globally to get a detailed overview of your hormone levels.
- Blood tests – can include thyroid, autoantibodies, insulin, lipids, inflammatory markers, oxidative stress markers and various vitamin levels.
- Genetic testing – can help assess individual tendencies which affect hormone production and breakdown, and guide the approach.
- Nutrient assays – can evaluate nutritional needs for hormone production
- Gut health testing – We can conduct microbiome testing to assess for gut-related issues and potential sources of inflammation
- Dietary history – can reveal foods that may be causing inflammation and hormone imbalances
The Role of Diet, Exercise, and Lifestyle Choices in Hormone Balance
The initial step involves getting rid of the bad stuff. It is well known that the major offenders – sugar, caffeine, alcohol, stress, and physical inactivity all add to a range of underlying issues that can contribute to imbalanced hormones. Your hormones become unbalanced when your diet is full of processed food. That should be your starting point and getting the basics right. Eating sugar leads to more insulin which affects excess estrogen, and testosterone. Dairy and gluten usually cause for inflammation and hormonal imbalances. Xenobiotics or environmental compounds such as pesticides/herbicides in our food can behave like powerful hormone disrupters and cause our own hormones to be thrown out of balance.
By taking out the unhealthy components, they should be replaced with beneficial elements. Consuming a diet that is unrefined, organic, principally composed of plants and organic or sustainably farmed animal-based products. When you concentrate on this approach you reduce consumption of xenoestrogens, hormones, and residues of antibiotics in your food supply. Changing habits such as shopping for organic food and drinking filtered water can have a considerable positive effect on hormone regulation.
Supplements to Support Hormonal Balance
Once you have identified the root cause of your hormone imbalance, there are several steps you can take to support your hormones from a supplement perspective. Fish oil, vitamin D, and B vitamins may help restore hormone balance. Make sure to include a comprehensive multivitamin, mineral supplement with appropriate amounts of calcium and magnesium. Probiotics, antioxidants, and polyphenols such as vitamin E, resveratrol, curcumin, glutathione, green tea, and selenium, plus anti-inflammatory omega-3 and Omega 6 in rights ratio (1:4) can be very beneficial. With the functional medicine approach, everybody is different so for one person they may need to focus on omega 3 and gut health restoration and with another person, they may need to focus on liver detoxification and vitamin D status. This is where a good practitioner can help navigate through the different requirements.
We all have some stress in our life and this is to be expected given the current always on lifestyle we lead. However, the issues happens when stress becomes chronic, as it can lead to various hormone disruptions. To combat this, it’s essential to find a way to reduce stress that works for you. Consider trying out meditation, weights, HIT training, spending time in nature, or low level cardio that gets your heart rate up.
To combat various symptoms related to hormone imbalance and other issues, try to discover a type of physical activity that you relish and dedicate yourself to bettering your well-being. Whether it be running, walks in nature, weight lifting, tennis dancing, or any other form of movement that brings you joy, it can offer many advantages to your hormones, in addition to your energy and strength.
Cutting down or abstaining from alcohol is recommended as it has an influence on hormonal levels. Moderation is key
Hormone imbalance can be caused by a variety of factors, and it is important to identify the root cause of the imbalance in order to get the most effective treatment. Taking a functional medicine approach to testing and diagnosing hormone imbalance can help you get an accurate picture of what is going on in your body. Additionally, making healthy lifestyle choices, such as a balanced diet and regular exercise, can help to support a healthy hormonal balance. If you are experiencing any symptoms of hormone imbalance, it is important to speak to your functional medicine doctor or practiontioner practitioner right away.
Are you looking for a functional medicine approach to hormone testing and uncovering the root cause of hormone imbalance? Schedule an appointment with one of our functional medicine practitioners today to get started on your journey to hormonal balance!