By Staff of Leigh Ann Scott, MD, A Forum Health Provider
Hormone balancing can often help to relieve a host of unwanted symptoms. But it takes some work to achieve this when they are out of balance. So what does hormone balancing consist of?
The endocrine system consists of various glands throughout the body that produce and send hormone through the bloodstream which then affect every process in the body. Hormones affect bodily functions such as metabolism, growth, sexual function, blood sugar, digestion, bone strength, and how you feel, just to name a few.
The endocrine system is made up of the following glands: Pituitary, Thyroid, Pineal, Thymus, Pancreas, Testes (men) and Ovaries (women).
Many things can contribute to the fluctuation of your hormone levels and hormone balancing including sleep, diet, exercise, cardiovascular activity or inactivity (such as leading a sedentary lifestyle), age, pregnancy, illness, stress and trauma (both mental and physical) – just to name a few.
When hormonal levels are out of whack, the body doesn’t function optimally and just we don’t feel right. Depending on what hormones are involved, symptoms and, ultimately, diseases may develop including:
- Weight gain
- Hair loss
- Low libido
- Weight gain or weight loss that is difficult to lose/gain
- Belly bulge
- Sleep problems
- Feeling cold
- Insulin resistance or Metabolic Syndrome
- Loss of muscle tone
- Depression and anxiety
- Brain fog
- Increased stress and inability to cope
- Digestive problems
As women age they enter perimenopause and then menopause. As a result of this, they can start to have hot flashes, develop insomnia, experience unexplained weight gain, have brain fog and memory problems, lose libido and experience mood swings. These symptoms occur mostly due to decreased estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.
Men can also be symptomatic as they enter andropause and need their own hormone balancing. Decreased libido, loss of muscle tone, weight gain, fatigue, foggy thinking and erectile disfunction are some of the things that they might experience due to lower testosterone levels.
The thyroid gland’s main purpose is running the body’s metabolism. If the thyroid hormones become too low (hypothyroidism), symptoms such as fatigue, unexplained weight gain, cold intolerance, weakness, hair loss and skin changes can occur. If the thyroid levels become too high (hyperthyroidism), being unable to relax, experiencing anxiety, having difficulty with concentration, heart palpitations, and thinning hair can happen.
It’s important to remember that while there are many different glands and hormones, they all work together to create overall good health. As an example, insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas. Insulin resistance (and ultimately diabetes) occurs when the body becomes insufficient in using energy from sugar to feed the body’s cells. Physicians may prescribe medication to help insulin do its job. Still, until the diet is changed, the problem will never go away and may lead to more severe complications.
Use of Bioidentical Hormones for Hormone Balancing
Using bioidentical hormones as a means of restoring the body to its natural balance is vital. Most bioidentical hormones, such as estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone are made to be EXACTLY like what is produced in our bodies, and in fact, are not considered “drug” therapy but rather a supplement to what we already have.
Bioidentical hormones versus synthetic hormones are drastically different, and studies have shown that some synthetic hormones can have adverse and potentially dangerous effects on our bodies.
A government study published in 2009 compared the use of progesterone (bioidentical) and progestin (synthetic) in women. The study found that the bioidentical progesterone was associated with decreased risk of breast cancer while the use of progestin (synthetic) actually increased the risk. Progestin was also shown to have negative effects on the cardiovascular system which are completely avoided with the use of progesterone.
It’s important to keep in mind that, while your doctor will help achieve hormone balance, you must do your part too because many lifestyle factors also affect keeping hormones in balance. One of the most important things associated with maintaining hormone balance is getting enough quality sleep each night. It is also crucial to cut out sugars and processed foods as much as possible. These both directly impact both overall gut health and how your hormones interact within your body. Getting enough exercise, including getting the heart rate up, will certainly positively impact a healthy endocrine system. Taking certain supplements recommended by your doctor can help to keep your hormones at the optimum levels. (Your doctor will test some of your key nutrient levels to see precisely where deficiencies might be.)
These things can take some effort, but feeling younger and healthier with restored energy can undoubtedly make it worth the effort.