By Dr. George Springer
When people think of hormones, they often link them to the female cycle. A popular view is that hormones get switched on in early teenage years, get turned off at menopause and cause all kinds of trouble in-between. Moody, temperamental teenage girls are often described as having “raging hormones”. Young women in the 20s and 30s often complain of crankiness around the time of their periods – “it’s my hormones”, and we all know the story of the 50-something menopausal woman who is doing battle with hot flashes, weight gain and mood swings. Once again, it’s all down to the dreaded hormones – it’s a female thing and it’s linked to the reproductive cycle.
But is it? And why don’t men have issues with hormones? Well they do. Men will, in later years, experience andropause: a less commonly-known phenomena in which men around age 35, like women, experience a slow and steady decrease in their dominant sex hormone (testosterone) which can lead to physical and emotional problems if left un-checked.
Different Types of Hormones
However, what many people do not realize is that not all hormones are linked directly to sex and reproduction. The thyroid gland also produces hormones and so do the adrenal glands. These both have to be in balance with the sex hormones and all three need to be in balance within themselves.
The Sex Hormones
In women, sex hormones naturally fluctuate throughout a lifecycle, starting with puberty and usually ending with menopause. If hormones are out of balance, these transitions can be quite uncomfortable, and may even lead to more serious hormonally related health problems. Common symptoms of hormone imbalance are irritability, weight gain, PMS, mood swings, night sweats and low libido.
The levels of the sex hormone in men – testosterone, decline with advancing age which causes a change in the ratio of estrogen to testosterone in the body. A point is reached when the levels of testosterone become so low that estrogen finally begins to dominate – this phase in a man’s life is often referred to as Andropause or The Male Menopause.
Symptoms of estrogen dominance include: enlarged prostate, urinary problems, low sex drive, impotence, diabetes, allergies, depression, fatigue, foggy thinking, increased risk of stroke, infertility, rapid increase in weight and osteoporosis to name a few.
On a global scale, a staggering 200 million people have problems with their thyroid glands, with over 50 percent remaining undiagnosed. When it functions as it should, the thyroid will produce hormones called T3 and T4 at a 20% – 80% ratio. An under-production of these hormones will slow down the body’s metabolism, causing Hypothyroidism.
When the thyroid produces an excess of T3 and T4 it speeds up the body’s metabolism causing Hyperthyroidism and, if the mild condition is left untreated it can lead to a number of complications.
A lack of proper thyroid hormone levels has been implicated in everything from bad PMS to irregular cycles, low libido, polycystic ovaries, fatigue, weight gain, constipation, fuzzy thinking, low blood pressure, fluid retention, infertility, depression, high heart rate and high blood pressure.
The adrenal glands sit atop the kidneys to monitor our response to stress by releasing adrenaline, which makes us more alert and focused, and cortisol, which converts protein to energy and releases our stored sugar, glycogen, so our bodies have the fuel needed to respond quickly.
In today’s society, people are inundated with stress that doesn’t let up. And when chronic stress forces the adrenal glands to respond continually without any recovery time, two things can happen: either the adrenals start overproducing cortisol, which can lead to insomnia, anxiety, and the “tired and wired” feeling, or they become depleted to the point that cortisol production can’t keep up with demand, which can cause fatigue, depression, fuzzy thinking, weight gain, cravings, and mood swings.
Striking the Right Balance
The interactions between the thyroid hormone, the adrenal hormone and the sex hormone plays a role in virtually every process in our body. For optimal health, proper hormone balance between the three is crucial. When your hormones are in balance, you feel good, look good, and have abundant sustainable energy. When your hormones are out of balance, you may experience a wide range of symptoms that can affect mood and energy, and may also lead to more serious conditions like the development of uterine fibroid tumors, fibrocystic breasts, hormone positive cancers, thyroid dysfunction or Type II diabetes, among others.
How To Treat Hormone Imbalance
If you suspect hormone imbalance may be a contributing factor to a health issue, there are a number of tests which provide you with a full analysis of your sex, thyroid and adrenal hormone levels.
To measure the sex hormones there is a 24-hour saliva test that measures levels of estrogen, progesterone, cortisol and testosterone.
Thyroid hormones are measured by a comprehensive thyroid profile, in the form of a blood test. The test results will give precise measurements of Free T3 and T4 and their ratios to each other, as well as other key factor indicators of thyroid health.
Adrenal hormones are also measured by a saliva test which includes a complete adrenal (cortisol and DHEA) profile with the hormone evaluation.
If the results indicate that a person’s hormones are out of balance then they should be checked for deficiencies in essential nutrients which are required for hormone production. Many times this will correct the problem without the need for prescription hormones. Often, with some other specialized testing it can also be determined that even if the hormone levels are normal a person’s body may not be using the hormones correctly at the cell level. This is essential to restoring optimum function of the hormone system.
Dr. George Springer has practiced alternative medicine, nutrition, acupuncture, and chiropractic manipulation for over 30 years. He treats all forms of chronic disease, provides functional laboratory evaluation for patients with specific individual nutrition recommendations, treats patients with chronic pain, chronic fatigue and neuro-musculoskeletal problems.