Posted on: December 23, 2019
A Quick Hormones Primer
Understanding these tiny chemical messengers is key to your health.
Hormones affect your health on every level. They affect every function of your body and mind, including your energy and emotions.
You may think there’s nothing you can do about your hormones. You may think that you inherited what you got, and your hormones just float around in your body, doing what they do for better or worse.
But nothing could be farther from the truth. You have a lot of control over how your body’s hormones act (and react). You can assist your hormones so they become friends, not foes.
This primer will help you, step-by-step, understand how you can help balance your hormones and your health.
What are Hormones?
Hormones are exciting! The very word “hormone” comes from the Greek word hormon, which means “to stimulate” or “to excite.” Their job is to affect changes in the body.
Hormones are chemicals secreted by the endocrine glands, which are located throughout the body. These glands are the pineal, hypothalamus, pituitary, parathyroids, thyroid, thymus, adrenals, pancreas, and reproductive glands (ovaries and testes).
Twenty-four hours a day, hormones flood your bloodstream. They are picked up by specific receptor cells throughout your body to control your: homeostasis; growth and development; reproduction; energy production, storage, and use; and behavior.
Pretty much everything, right?
As we age, our hormone levels decrease. Symptoms may include what we commonly attribute to aging: thinning hair, decreased libido, dry skin, depression, memory decline, weight gain, and more.
Have you noticed such symptoms? If so, read on to see how you can: Balance your Hormones, Recharge your Life
Tuning in to Your Thyroid
Have you heard people (maybe even yourself) say: “I really don’t eat much … I gain weight by just looking at food! I must have a sluggish thyroid.”
As I mentioned, aging causes all hormone levels to decline, including thyroid hormones. Women seem to suffer from hypothyroidism (low thyroid function) more often than men do.
The thyroid gland, located in the neck, secretes hormones that regulate metabolism, increase body heat, and affect how your body responds to stress.
Imbalances in thyroid hormones cause many symptoms, such as intolerance to cold, morning grogginess, exhaustion, anxiety, weight gain, brain fog, depression, and more.
If you can relate, read on to learn how to change that for the better…
All about your Thyroid Biology – 101.
Symptoms That Signal Hormone Imbalance
Have you heard the modern philosophical chicken-and-egg question: Do we stop playing because we age … or do we age because we stop playing?
I would revise that to: “Do we stop playing and age because our hormones decline?”
Many symptoms we commonly attribute to aging are the exact same symptoms caused by lower hormone levels. For example, many people in their 30s and 40s complain of insomnia.
That is a prime indicator to check the hormones. It’s not a prime reason to run to the drug store or doctor for sleeping pills. (Have you read that long list of their scary negative side effects?)
Pop Quiz: Insomnia is one symptom of hormone imbalance. Can you name six more?
Stress Is Not a Status Symbol
How often have you asked someone how they’re doing, only to hear how “crazy-busy” they are? It seems to be the standard answer these days. Our country’s cultural philosophy, founded on the idea that you must “work hard to get ahead,” has been carried to the extreme in recent decades. Some people equate working harder (that is, longer hours) with being a better person. Maybe. Or maybe they are out of balance.
There’s nothing wrong with work, especially fulfilling work. A certain amount of “good stress” fills us with vitality.
The problem comes when stress is ongoing. Cortisol, a stress response hormone, can flood the body, leading to disrupted sleep, weight gain, anxiety, depression, and more.
We may lose the ability to relax. And our digital devices can make “unplugged” time off nonexistent. We can literally always be “at work.”
Your body has a limit to how much stress you can carry (and for how long). We need balance. Let’s not make crazy-busy such a status symbol that we actually just become crazy!
Is your stress level imbalanced?
Tons of Energy? Or … Not So Much?
Have you noticed children at a playground, how they run around, skip for joy, and jump and hop, just for the fun of it?
By contrast, have you seen adults, even young adults, plodding slowly across a parking lot, as if they aren’t sure they’ll make it into the store or restaurant?
Perhaps you work with people who always seem to be tired. They may do their jobs, but they never seem to have any extra energy. They walk slowly, as if it’s just not that easy to get through the day.
Many people are fatigued. They can function, they know they’re not sick enough to stay in bed, but they sure aren’t living life to the fullest. But they may not realize it doesn’t have to be that way.
If you or someone you know struggles with fatigue, read on…
How Hormones Go Haywire
So, now you’ve learned that hormones decline as we age, leading to many symptoms we usually dismiss as “just” normal aging.
You’ve also learned that many symptoms can be caused by imbalanced hormones. But what, besides aging, causes hormones to go out of balance?
Many things can, including stress and a diet full of processed food. Another thing most people don’t think about is the 80,000 manmade chemicals in our environment.
You can look around, almost at any given moment, and see many things that are manufactured with chemicals, often plastic. Perhaps your water bottles or containers for your food are plastic. Plastic causes problems, not only in our oceans and environment, but also in our bodies. Chemicals from plastic disrupt your hormones, especially your sex hormones and thyroid.
What else disrupts hormone balance?
Birth control pills.
They are prescribed so often that few people, even doctors, think about it, but birth control pills are serious hormone disruptors. And they can cause some serious health issues.
Libido: How to “Bring Back … That Lovin’ Feelin’”
As we’ve covered, hormones decline with age. That includes the “sexy” hormones.
Losing libido as you age isn’t inevitable. And aside from feeling the warmth of loving and being loved, there’s another good reason to preserve your sex drive.
Research shows health benefits to having a healthy libido and sex life.
Sex and Your Health
The Old-Fashioned Macho Man
Men get lots of messages from our culture on what it means to “be a man.”
The stereotypical macho man is seen as someone who is always in command. He’s strong and tough. He would also be the type to never admit that he has pain, or doesn’t feel well, because that would be seen as weakness. He would just “tough it out,” no matter what.
And an old-fashioned macho man might not want to admit to having any trouble in the (ahem) lower region. He might not want to be seen as a failure at anything, especially that!
Thankfully, times are changing, and more men are admitting to erectile dysfunction, realizing that it happens due to physiological reasons, such as hormone decline. Even though most people don’t know this, men go through their own kind of “menopause.”
Hormone replacement therapy has been around for about 60 years. In the 1980s and ’90s, a particular brand of synthetic, conjugated estrogen from horse (pregnant mare) urine was the most prescribed medication of all. Nearly all women going through peri- and post-menopause took it.
The sales pitch was that the synthetic hormone replacement therapy was very safe and that it eliminated all symptoms of menopause, while keeping women looking and feeling younger longer. It was also believed that taking it would reduce the risk of heart disease.
Trust, however, was shattered in 2002, when a long-term study (WHI) revealed that synthetic hormone replacement therapy did not decrease a woman’s risk of heart disease, it actually increased it. It also increased the risk of breast cancer.
But there is as much difference between synthetic and bioidentical hormones as there is between plastic and real fruit. They may look similar, but they won’t act similar in your body!
Bioidentical hormones are recognized and utilized safely by your body. Synthetic hormones are not. This is an important key to remember.
Just as important, hormone levels must be monitored with proper testing. When women are prescribed hormones (whether transdermal patches, creams, or orally), they must be checked at least twice a year. (More on that under “What Questions to Ask Your Doctor,” a little further down.)
Learn what you need to know about hormone replacement therapy here.
Be Aware: Not All Doctors Understand Hormone Therapy.
Certainly, doctors are among the most educated in our society. We tend to think that they know everything.
The truth is, however, that by reading this piece, you may currently know more about hormone replacement therapy than many of your doctors do.
That’s not a bad thing.
I believe patients should be knowledgeable about their bodies and their treatment options. Patients should be in a respected partnership for their health with their doctors, in my opinion.
After all, your doctor can’t make your daily lifestyle choices for you. He or she can’t choose your foods (healthy or not), fitness routine, bedtime, and stress reduction techniques.
You’re completely in charge of that part of your health care. And in reality, it’s a huge majority of your life—a lot more time than you spend with your doctor!
So, please realize that your doctor may not be specifically trained in hormone replacement therapy. It’s possible they may not even know about the Women’s Health Initiative study in 2002 (1) as well as more recent studies. They may still be prescribing the way they always did in the past.
Therefore, you need to know what questions to ask your doctor. You need to be sure that if you are taking hormones, you are smart about it.
Unique Care for a Unique You
I hope you’ve found this essential hormone reading guide helpful to better understand your body and hormonal health. Now you can see why I say that hormones literally affect everything.
This fact inspired me to become a trained bioidentical hormone replacement therapy specialist within the field of functional and integrative medicine.
A functional or integrative medicine doctor evaluates the functioning of your whole body, seeking the cause of your health imbalances. Humans are complex living ecosystems. All parts of our bodies (especially our hormones) affect all other parts. True health is a balance.
In addition to specializing in bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, I am double-board certified in both Internal Medicine and Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine. Plus, I’m one of the few physicians in the U.S. certified in the Shoemaker Protocol for treating biotoxin illness.
This background gives me a unique ability to discover and treat the root causes of complex health conditions, which helps my patients thrive at every age.
If you have any health questions and would like to become a patient, book a complimentary 15-minute consultation with me here.
Experience the difference that respectful and individualized health care can make.