Have you ever stopped to consider how much of your daily life is determined by hormones?? Did you know that all of your hormones are produced from cholesterol and that they can therefore be influenced by diet, lifestyle, stress, nutrients, drugs and your metabolism?
Up until now, you’ve probably only thought of them as the pesky little things that drive women crazy? That time of the month?! Pregnancy brain? The seven dwarves of menopause – itchy, bitchy, sweaty, sleepy, forgetful, psycho and teary?
Now, that may well be true, but they do so much more than that. And we don’t only have sex hormones like oestrogen, progesterone, testosterone and DHEA to contend with, but how much of each we have and what balance they are in, are equally important.
Not enough, bad news. Too much, bad news. Out of balance, also bad news. And it’s not only how much you have, but also how you metabolise these hormones, which can make a dramatic impact on your quality of life.
Hormones don’t only affect women going through menopause. It affects us all on a daily basis, from our young teenage years when we start developing secondary sexual characteristics right up to the age of menopause or the “change of life”, where women fall prey to osteoporosis, hot flushes, loss of libido, urogenital complaints. Men too, start going through andropause, or the so-called male menopause. And yes, it does exist. As we grow older, sadly, our own hormone production naturally declines. Whilst some people seem to breeze through this, without much effect at all, for some it can be an extremely challenging time which greatly affects their quality of life.
Hormones regulate our periods, allow us to ovulate, fall pregnant, maintain a pregnancy, have a libido and a healthy sex life, gives us good clear skin, maintain bone density and protect us from heart disease. When it is out of balance, though, we struggle – PMS, acne, inability to fall pregnant, PCOS, endometriosis, recurrent pregnancy losses, breast and uterine cancer. Are you starting to get the picture?
Of course, it not only affects women. In men, it can affect their libido, virility, quality of erections, ability to build muscle when exercising, sperm count and quality, hair loss and also their risk for prostate cancer. Don’t forget that men too, can develop breast cancer.
Hormones also have the ability to affect our mood and should never be forgotten about when we treat conditions such as depression or anxiety.
Now, as they say on TV: “But wait, there’s more!” Let’s not allow the sex hormones to steal the show.
Ever heard of your thyroid – this little gland regulates our entire metabolism, and when it’s not doing so well, neither are you. Conventional GPs usually only test for TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) and leave it at that. But what about all the other things that can affect your thyroid? What are your actual levels of free hormones, do you have an elevated reverse T3? Do you have any antibodies that are causing you trouble and why? Does your thyroid have all the building blocks it needs to do its job?
Did you know that most Australians are Iodine deficient due to the lack of Iodine in our soil and that Iodine is one of the key factors needed for your thyroid to function optimally? Have your levels ever been checked? Have you ever heard of auto-immune thyroid conditions like Hashimoto’s or Graves disease? Or have you just been told that “your thyroid is underactive” and then had Thyroxine prescribed to you, without any explanation as to why.
Now, on to the adrenals. These little glands work constantly to keep you safe from harm. They were meant to kick in during a fight or flight response by producing a hormone known as cortisol, which mobilises your blood sugar via various mechanisms to get you ready for action. After the threat has passed, your cortisol levels are meant to return to normal and reset.
Due to the constant and varied stressors in our life today, whether it be work, family and daily life, diet and environmental factors, your body is constantly under attack. When you have a maladaptation to stress and your cortisol curve or natural cortisol rhythm is disturbed, it can cause you a great amount of distress and disease.
Cortisol curves that are out of sync with your circadian rhythm and what they are supposed to be doing at certain times during the day, can disrupt your sleep, which causes further stress. It can affect your appetite, break down muscle tissue and cause a great amount of damage to your brain, your gut and your immune system respectively. This can lead to issues such as depression and/or anxiety, brain fog, gut dysfunction and also auto-immune conditions or allergies to substances which you may not have had issues with in the past.
Whilst the term “adrenal fatigue” is known to many, it is not quite as simple as that. Often your adrenals are still able to mount a stress response, and are not really “fatigued” at all, however the brain has turned this response down in an effort to protect itself from the constant onslaughts of excess cortisol levels. Understanding and addressing this in a sensitive and sensible manner, is of cardinal importance in managing HPA dysfunction.
Melatonin, our sleep hormone, is also known as the great repairer and amongst other things, turns on the signals for DNA repair. We all know the wonders a good night’s sleep can do for you, and conversely, how awful we feel when sleep is in short supply. When you have HPA (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal) dysfunction, you may not produce enough Melatonin to give you a good night’s sleep, which further stresses an already stressed body. Sadly, our Melatonin normally deteriorates with age as well and this is another factor to consider in treatment.
Last, but not least, let’s not forget insulin, our blood sugar regulator and fat storing hormone when excess sugars are floating around. Whilst insulin is essential for survival, blood sugar levels that are not well controlled, will eventually result in an inflammatory condition known as insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance is the forerunner for metabolic syndrome, or “Syndrome X”, which consists of a combination of diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and also the subsequent issues of gout, arthritis, and atherosclerosis. Contrary to popular belief, these are not just a result of ageing and the proof lies therein that these diseases are becoming more and more prevalent in younger people. Diet and lifestyle play an absolute key role in the management of this delicate balance and we can help you tackle this beast.
As you can see, there’s far more to hormones than meet the eye. If you are having any issues whatsoever, please come and see us for help. We specialise in hormone balancing and restoration, as well as bio-identical hormone replacement that is custom made for you, based on your symptoms and the results of your DUTCH and other pathology tests. We also use other functional tests from reputable private laboratories to look into gut and other health concerns that you may have.
We look forward to helping you make sense of what your body can do for you and what you are doing to, or rather, can do for your body. Let us personalise your medicine and work together for optimal health.