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Hormonal Imbalance – The Cause Of Many Health Issues

So, a hormonal imbalance is a root cause of many different health issues.

Hormonal Imbalance

Hormones are your body’s chemical messenger system and play a vital role in almost every process in the body.

Therefore, hormonal imbalance symptoms may involve your metabolism, fertility, weight, skin health, period health, sleep quality, blood sugar levels, sexual function, mood, and more.

The truth is healthy and balanced hormones are essential to the way your body functions, your overall health, and how you feel.

In fact, many of us are experiencing symptoms of hormonal imbalance without even knowing that the imbalance is the culprit and that it’s stopping us from being optimally healthy.

What are the Big Players?

This is the steroidogenic pathway, and it’s how your sex hormones are made.

Source: FullScript

All sex hormones are derived from cholesterol, which is why it’s so important to have an abundance of healthy fats in your diet if you’re looking to support hormone health.

From cholesterol, progesterone is made, and from progesterone the rest of your sex hormones are synthesized.

Estrogen

Estrogen is one of two main sex hormones in women, the other being progesterone.

Overall, it is essential for a healthy menstrual and ovulatory cycle, fertility, bone health, cardiovascular health, sexual health, mood, weight control, energy, sleep and more.

Too much or too little estrogen in relation to progesterone is unhealthy and can lead to many symptoms.

Progesterone

Progesterone is not only essential for the synthesis of all other sex hormones, but also for a healthy menstrual and ovulatory cycle.

When we see period irregularities, progesterone is often the first hormone to investigate. Progesterone is also very important in pregnancy maintenance, and deficiency of progesterone is often involved in recurrent miscarriages.

Progesterone and estrogen should always be in optimal balance with one another and should always be investigated together.

Androgens

These are the sex hormones more abundant in men. They have many important functions for men – too many to list here. Androgens also play a very important role in women’s health.

They contribute to muscle mass, strength, sex drive, and energy. When androgens are present in high amounts in women, many unwanted symptoms can arise.

These include acne, head hair loss, and increased body hair growth. Important androgens to watch for include testosterone, DHT, DHEA, and androstenedione.

Cortisol

Cortisol is your infamous stress hormone. We feel it in times of stress, to help us fight off the perceived “threat”.

It’s also released in response to physiological stressors such as nutrient deficiencies, or infections, which helps our bodies compensate appropriately.

Unfortunately, with overwork, overabundance of stress, and many physiological insults, cortisol is often secreted too much and too frequently. This causes hormones from your pituitary gland to downregulate production of hormones such as estrogen and progesterone, causing many unpleasant symptoms.

Of course, there are many important non-reproductive hormones not included in this infographic. Other hormones that play an important role in your overall well-being include your thyroid hormones, melatonin, and insulin, just to name a few.

Why Does Hormonal Imbalance Occur?

Hormonal imbalance is one of the most common causes of feeling unwell.

So, there are many reasons for poor hormone health – poor diet, chronic stress, poor gut health, poor immune health, sedentary lifestyle, genetics, and increased exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals all play a role.

All of these factors can cause hormonal imbalance by negatively influencing our steroidogenic pathway.

Due to our modern ways of living (think: poor diet, chronic stress, toxic environment), conditions such as PCOS, endometriosis, infertility, declining testosterone, and hormone sensitive cancers are becoming more common.

Most of us are struggling with some sort of hormonal imbalance, however because it’s become so common, we’re often told symptoms are normal.

Symptoms of Hormonal Imbalance & Hormone-Derived Conditions

Common symptoms of hormonal imbalance include the following:

  • Absent or irregular periods
  • Heavy or light periods
  • Bleeding or spotting between periods
  • Painful periods
  • Acne
  • Hair loss
  • Increased hair growth on the body
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Fertility difficulties
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Poor sleep
  • Diminished memory
  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats
  • Breast distention/discomfort
  • Chronic headaches
  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
  • Breast discharge
  • Sexual dysfunction

Common hormone-derived conditions include the following:

  • PCOS
  • Acne
  • Endometriosis
  • Fibroids
  • Thyroid dysfunction
  • Infertility
  • Menopause
  • Recurrent UTIs or yeast infections
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Weight loss resistance
  • Low testosterone

Most importantly, if any of these symptoms or conditions sound familiar, there are many naturopathic treatments that may be of benefit you.

Naturopathic Approaches to Hormonal Imbalance

Firstly, we need to understand what’s happening in your body.

After discussing your symptoms and unique contributors to health, lab work is often requisitioned to provide an accurate diagnosis. There are several ways naturopathic doctors can test hormonal imbalances:

Serum Testing

Serum testing is measuring levels of hormones in the blood. It is easy to collect, affordable, and accepted by all health care professionals as standard.

Unfortunately, serum testing of sex hormones has some pitfalls. It can’t always differentiate between free and bound hormones – making it difficult to tell if a person truly has a functional hormonal imbalance.

As well, serum testing only provides a ‘snapshot’ in time, since hormones are secreted in a pulsatile manner. This poses a potential problem with monitoring treatment – it can make it falsely appear as though treatment is either not working or working better than it actually is.

Serum testing is an excellent option when testing testosterone – this is available in both total and free measurements. It’s also an excellent option when testing thyroid hormones, insulin, and pituitary hormones that control the menstrual cycle.

Salivary Testing

Salivary testing is measuring levels of hormones in saliva.

That said this test is for to sex hormones only – meaning we can only check estrogen, progesterone, cortisol, testosterone, and DHEA.

It has some advantages: it’s not invasive, it allows for multiple check points which can show us abnormal hormone patterns over a period of time, and it measures the level of free hormones.

This can give us a better sense of which hormones are functionally available. Its biggest utility comes from testing our stress hormone cortisol. Testing free cortisol at multiple times in the day allows us to see irregular patterns of secretion that we wouldn’t be able to see on a blood test.

Salivary testing also has major disadvantages. It’s not used by all health care providers, you still can’t mitigate the pulsatile nature of hormones through this test, and the results can be skewed by things like brushing your teeth, drinking water, or chewing gum.

These things can cause false positives or negatives, preventing us from getting an accurate reading.

Urine Testing

Finally, we have urinary testing. This test is called the DUTCH test, which stands for Dried Urine Test for Comprehensive Hormones.

This test requires you to collect 4-5 dried urine samples over a 24-hour period. It is the most extensive hormone profile you can complete – it tests free sex hormones and their metabolites.

It has many advantages: it mitigates the pulsatile nature of hormones due to multiple check points, it tests free levels of hormones so we know what is functionally available to the body, and it tests hormone metabolites so we can see exactly where things might be going wrong.

Another advantage is that this test also provides us with a profile of organic acids. Organic acids show us biomarkers of certain nutrients such as B12 or B6, as well as neurotransmitter biomarkers such as dopamine.

Organic acids also show us levels of melatonin as well as the amount of oxidative stress in the body. This additional information helps us greatly when we are managing cases of hormonal imbalance since nutrient deficiencies and inflammation can play a large role in their development.

You can do this test in one day, or in more complex cases – such as unexplained infertility – you may do it each day for an entire month. The biggest pitfall of this test is the cost.

Treating

At your first visit, you’ll receive a preliminary treatment plan which will go over the foundations of good hormonal health.

Further, this includes things like cleaning up your diet, reducing your exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals, and providing you with basic supplementation support.

Once we’ve received your lab results, more targeted treatment can commence.

Source: FullScript

So, there are many ways to approach hormonal imbalance with naturopathic medicine.

For example, the infographic above shows how certain herbs and supplements directly impact our steroidogenic pathway, pushing our body back into a more optimal and balanced state.

In conclusion, we often use a combination of botanicals, supplementation, dietary changes, and acupuncture to achieve hormone restoration.

Depending on your symptoms, health history, and lab results, we will find an approach that works for you and your body’s unique hormonal needs.

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If you’re looking for help with hormonal imbalances, contact us at 416-792-4400 or by using the form below and we’ll book you for a FREE 15-minute phone or in-person consultation with one of our naturopathic doctors.