In previous articles, we have discussed key players in hormone health, specific hormones and their functions, as well as hormone connections and interactions. In Part 4, we take a closer look at some of the most common hormonal complaints.
ADRENAL FATIGUE: Stress is not meant to be a bad thing as it serves a basic survival function. Hormone fluctuations are part of a natural stress response and are meant to eventually fall back to normal and recover once the stressor is removed in temporary situations and healthy people. However when stressors and/or the inability to manage them overload our bodies, symptoms and disease can occur. Adrenals respond to stress of any kind, whether psychological, physical, chemical, or environmental. Living in a constant state of chronic stress depletes nutrients and as the body continues to release cortisol, sustained elevated levels can lead to taxed adrenal glands and related health problems such as blood sugar concerns, fat accumulation, compromised immunity, infertility, fatigue, bone and muscle loss, poor memory and heart disease. Eventually, the adrenal glands may wear out completely and no longer be able to produce even normal levels of cortisol. This is known as “adrenal exhaustion”. Remember, your ability to adapt to stressors depends on optimal function of the adrenal glands and cortisol regulation!
ESTROGEN DOMINANCE: This condition is characterized by an imbalance of unopposed estrogen to progesterone ratio. This may be due to either excess estrogen, or low progesterone levels in the body. Potential underlying factors include an overloaded liver, excess fat, stress and insomnia, poor gut health, inactivity, underactive thyroid, blood sugar imbalances or overexposure to xenoestrogens (estrogen mimickers) in food, environment and products. Estrogen dominant-linked conditions include polycystic ovary syndrome/PCOS (also associated with excess insulin and male hormones), breast cysts, fibroids, endometriosis, infertility and PMS (tender breasts, bloating, cravings, migraines, mood swings, and terrible periods).
MENOPAUSE: Menopause is defined as one year without menstrual periods when a women stops ovulating and fertility ends. However, not all women experience menopause symptoms! In natural menopause, ovaries gradually slow down production of estrogen & progesterone and adrenal glands (along with uterus & fat cells) begin to take over with minimal symptoms. Once estrogen has dropped to a certain point/baseline level, the menstrual cycle stops and menopause is reached. However, during perimenopause (10-15 years before menopause while the body prepares itself for the transition), hormones may begin to fluctuate unpredictably and surge, becoming imbalanced and leading to multiple symptoms. Factors that complicate this transition include weak adrenal glands, sluggish liver, poor gut health, nutrient deficiencies or underactive thyroid.
ANDROPAUSE: This is also known as “male menopause” and is characterized by a specific set of symptoms that appear in some men as they age. It is said that on average, men experience a 10% decline in testosterone each decade after the age of 30, unless it is acknowledged and properly addressed. As men age, their estrogen levels rise and their testosterone drops as the conversion of testosterone to estrogen increases (due to the aromatase enzyme in fat cells). These hormonal changes can lead to multiple signs and symptoms such as a decline in muscle mass, lower metabolism, body fat accumulation and “man boobs”, moodiness and anxiety, low energy, memory problems, diminished sex drive and dysfunction, hair loss and increased risk of heart complication and diabetes. High estrogen levels are closely linked to excess belly fat, which is linked to higher activity of an enzyme called aromatase. This enzyme breaks down testosterone into estrogen, in turn, leading to a vicious cycle.
ENLARGED PROSTATE (BPH): Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) is gradual prostate enlargement and very common in men over 40. It is caused by an increased conversion of testosterone to estrogen and dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a testosterone by-product (by the enzyme 5-alpha reductase), which stimulates an overproduction of prostate cells leading to enlargement. Due to pressure on the urethra, affected men often have difficulty emptying the bladder, leading to infections. Other symptoms include frequent need to urinate at night and painful urination. Due to the fact that the prostate gland impacts both urinary and sexual function, erectile dysfunction can also be a sign of enlarged prostate. Interestingly, DHT production is also associated with male pattern baldness! Underlying risk factors include hormonal changes due to age, nutritional deficiencies, toxic overload, chronic stress and exposure to xeno estrogen/estrogen mimickers in food, environment and products (i.e. plastics, pesticides).
HYPOTHYROIDISM: Underactive thyroid is due to a decreased production of thyroid hormones or poor conversion of thyroid hormones (T4 to T3). This leads to a slowed metabolism, weak immunity, impaired liver function, constipation, brain fog, etc. Common underlying factors include nutrient deficiencies (especially tyrosine, iodine, selenium), poor gut health, chronic inflammation, candida overgrowth, estrogen dominance, blood sugar imbalances, stress, an overburdened liver or environmental toxicity! According to women’s health expert, Lorna Vanderhaeghe, “mild or sub clinical hypothyroidism may respond to nutritional and herbal support.” She notes that, those with low thyroid symptoms or a TSH number over 2.0 can consider natural thyroid support ingredients that help increase the production or conversion of T4 to T3.
DIABETES: Diabetes is a metabolic disorder in which the body does not produce enough insulin, or does not properly use insulin. In Type II diabetes, there is enough insulin produced, but the body does not allow the insulin to bring glucose into cells. When blood sugar/glucose levels rise and stay high, the pancreas produces excess insulin to move it into cells. When excess insulin is present over a long period, cells start to become accustomed to having so much of it around. Our pancreas must increase production to maintain a normal blood sugar level and eventually enlarges and becomes impaired. This decrease in insulin sensitivity is called “insulin resistance”. Chronically elevated blood sugar levels can cause damage to brain, nerves, eyes, kidneys, gut and blood vessels, among others. Common causes and triggers include obesity, poor diet (high refined foods/sugars and low in fibre), caffeine/alcohol intake, dehydration, physical inactivity, chronic inflammation, poor gut health, stress/insomnia, nutrient deficiencies (i.e. B vitamins/chromium), irregular eating habits, overloaded liver and toxin exposure. Did you know that insulin resistance is the main feature of Alzheimer’s disease? It is known as Type 3 Diabetes!
LEPTIN RESISTANCE: Those with excess fat cells produce a great deal of leptin (appetite suppressant). Unfortunately, in the case of leptin resistance, the brain is not able to understand these signals and may actually think it’s hungry as the leptin “message” is not getting through. People will naturally tend to eat more as a result, gaining more weight and creating a vicious cycle. This is similar to how insulin resistance works and both problems commonly occur in obese individuals.
In Part 5, we will look into natural suggestions to support hormonal balance and optimal health!
- This column is sponsored by Good N Natural in Steinbach –