I used to call it Hormone Hell! My hormone problem was what brought me to Functional Medicine 30 years ago when I was in chiropractic school. I literally had 2 different personalities a month. Dr Jeckyl and Mrs Hyde. Premenstrual Syndrome wasn’t just premenstrual it was Whole-Month menstrual syndrome. Can you relate? I knew I didn’t want to be on the pill, I wanted to balance hormones without hormone replacement.
- mood swings
- lack of energy
- breast tenderness
- irregular cycles
- heavy bleeding
These symptoms were getting the best of me! And although I laugh now, they probably contributed to ruining good relationships in my 20’s. Hormone imbalance can really wreak havoc in your life.
I had my kids around 40 years old. I was nursing full-time and my periods returned. Subsequently, this sent me into another round of hormone challenges, post part depression, brain fog, peri-menopausal symptoms.
Now I am on the other end of the hormone balancing spectrum. Menopause has been easy compared to my 20’s or child-bearing years.
I was trained to believe the body has the innate ability to balance and heal itself. So, I have been on a trek to take on these challenges without the use of hormone replacement therapy. Functional medicine provides the explanation and the answers.
WHAT ARE HORMONES ANYWAY?
Hormones, like estrogen, progesterone, insulin, and thyroid, regulate major processes in your cells. Like the knobs on a mixing board achieving the perfect sound. In order to get just the right hormonal effect, you have to have a precise amount of each hormone.
- Estrogen and progesterone, along with several other hormones regulate your “female” system.
- During puberty your hormones orchestrate breast growth and secondary sex characteristic development like leg and armpit hair.
- Your ability to have regular periods and get pregnant are dependent on balanced hormones.
- Insulin regulates blood sugar.
- Thyroid regulates your metabolism.
Imbalanced hormones create these symptoms:
- Irregular periods, heavy bleeding, cramping, PMS
- Unwanted hair growth or sudden hair loss
- Low libido
- Hot flashes, night sweats or freezing all the time
- Mood swings, depression or anxiety
- Fatigue and brain fog
- Poor sleep, feeling unrested in the morning
- Sleepy mid morning and/or mid afternoon
- Carbohydrate Craving
WHY DO HORMONES NEED TO BE BALANCED?
Basically, your body cannot be normal without your hormones being regulated. They must be balanced because all systems communicate with all the other systems. So, doctors try to regulate hormones by giving bio-identical or birth control pills. But, this throws the system further out of balance, as other hormones respond to the prescriptions. Therefore, it becomes a vicious circle. However, there are certain times when Hormone Replacement is necessary, but in general, I am not a fan.
Balancing Your Blood Sugar is the First Key to Balanced Hormones
Eating complex carbohydrates, pasta, bread, cookies and processed food, causes blood sugar imbalances. Then, relatively higher amounts of insulin, over time, create inflammation from two sources.
- Left over glucose creates fat, usually around the belly – YUCK! Next, Belly Fat causes inflammation. Belly fat stores estrogen.
- Too much estrogen causes thyroid disruption, estrogen dominance and infertility.
- Stored estrogen can be shifts to testosterone when inflammation is present.
- High levels of insulin can be inflammatory. And, in women this can cause increased testosterone production. This creates unwanted hair growth, irregular cycles, possibly Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome(PCOS) and infertility.
Consequently, you can see that hormones are somewhat complicated and JUST balancing estrogen and progesterone, like Hormone Replacement Therapy, is not enough and comes with other issues. I want to be clear here, sometimes it is necessary, but let’s try shifting lifestyle habits first. Eating a Paleo or lower carb diet isn’t that difficult to regain your sanity. Download my Clean It Up or PCOS eBook to learn more. Watch for Part 2 of this blog…