Bioidentical hormone replacement is a specialty of medicine that is growing at an impressive rate due to the increasing awareness of the health benefits of natural hormones and the detrimental effects of synthetic hormones. Replacing all of our deficient hormones to levels we had in our youth is beneficial to both our health and our quality of life.
Thyroid hormone is a metabolic hormone secreted by the thyroid gland. It regulates temperature, metabolism, and cerebral function, which results in increased energy temperature and warmth. It increases fat breakdown resulting in weight loss as well as lower cholesterol. It relieves symptoms of thin sparse hair, dry skin and thin nails. Thyroid effects every cell in the body.
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism
Fatigue, Weakness, Weight gain or increased difficulty losing weight, Coarse, dry hair Dry, rough, pale skin, Hair loss, Cold intolerance (can’t tolerate the cold like those around you), Muscle cramps and frequent muscle aches, Constipation, Depression, Irritability, Memory loss, Abnormal menstrual cycles and Decreased libido are all symptoms of hypothyroidism. Each individual patient will have any number of these symptoms which will vary with the severity of the thyroid hormone deficiency and the length of time the body has been deprived of the proper amount of hormone. Most will have a combination of a number of these symptoms. Occasionally, some patients with hypothyroidism have no symptoms at all, or they are just so subtle that they go unnoticed. Although treatment of hypothyroidism can be quite easy in some individuals, others will have a difficult time finding the right type and amount of replacement thyroid hormone.
DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone )
Dehydroepiandrosterone is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands, and is derived from cholesterol. DHEA improves the function of the immune system, improves brain function, relieves stress, and has been shown to be a very potent anti-cancer supplement. DHEA also increases energy and reduces body fat and cholesterol. DHEA has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity. This results in protection against diabetes, and greater control for those with diabetes.
Male Menopause (Andropause)
Although not as well known as menopause in women, andropause relates to men, and is caused by a decline in hormones–primarily testosterone, thyroid, growth hormone and DHEA. Replacing these hormones to younger healthier levels can and will reverse the signs of aging. Symptoms include: • Decreased mental quickness and sharpness • Decreased energy, strength and endurance • Less desire for activity and exercise • Decreased muscle and increased body fat • Mild to moderate depression and irritability • Depression and/or loss of eagerness and enthusiasm for daily life • Decreased sex drive • Decreased sexual function and/or sensitivity
Testosterone replacement has been shown to be effective in providing many health benefits. Testosterone replenishment results in increased muscle strength and lean body mass, improved sexual response, reversal of impotence and improved body composition. Men who receive testosterone replacement report that they feel sexier, stronger and healthier.
Estrogen is produced in the ovaries and adrenal glands. It protects against heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease and memory disorders. It protects against vaginal atrophy, urinary incontinence, and urinary tract infections. It prevents symptoms of menopause and improves overall well-being. The rapid loss of bone after menopause has been attributed to decline in the production of estrogen, which is essential for bone growth. Estrogen deficiency results in urogenital atrophy, incontinence, sagging skin, sagging breasts, increased skin wrinkles, fatigue, depression, mood swings and decreased libido, all of which can be corrected by estrogen replacement.
Progesterone is another female hormone of equal importance as is estrogen for the aging woman. It is a hormone produced by the ovaries and is used in nature to balance estrogen. It too can safely and effectively relieve menopausal symptoms, protect against cancer, prevent osteoporosis, and improve over all well-being. The combination of natural progesterone and estrogen can prevent a downward spiral by keeping women vital, strong and healthy.
Female hormone imbalance
The ovaries produce many hormones. Chief among them are estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. The ovarian hormones estrogen and progesterone interact to coordinate a woman’s menstrual cycle during her reproductive years. The brain produces the hormones follicle stimulating hormones (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) which trigger hormone production from the ovaries. When any of the hormones coming from the brain or the ovaries are imbalanced, symptoms may occur. Imbalances are most common in puberty and menopause, but imbalances can happen at any age. Several conditions are well known to be associated with hormonal imbalance including: polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, breast disease, and menstrual irregularities. Symptoms of female hormone imbalance (in alphabetical order) Acne or oily skin Bloating Bone loss Decreased fertility Depression Excess facial and body hair Hot flashes Heavy or painful periods Irregular periods Irritability Loss of muscle mass Loss of scalp hair Low libido Memory lapses Mood swings Nervousness Night sweats Poor concentration Sleep disturbances Tender or fibrocystic breasts Urinary incontinence Vaginal dryness Weight gain
Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the brain. It regulates the circadian rhythm as well as regulates the deep stages of sleep. It is in these deep stages of sleep that our immune system is stimulated. The pineal gland uses melatonin to maintain the body’s balance, equilibrium and homeostasis.
The circadian rhythm is an internal 24-hour time-keeping system that plays a critical role in determining when we fall asleep and when we wake up. Darkness stimulates the production of melatonin while light suppresses its activity. Exposure to excessive light in the evening or too little light during the day can disrupt the body’s normal melatonin cycles.
Melatonin also helps control the timing and release of female reproductive hormones. It helps determine when menstruation begins, the frequency and duration of menstrual cycles, and when menstruation ends (menopause).
Many researchers also believe that melatonin levels are related to the aging process. For example, young children have the highest levels of nighttime melatonin. Researchers believe these levels diminish as we age. In fact, the decline in melatonin may explain why many older adults have disrupted sleep patterns and tend to go to bed and wake up earlier than when they were younger. In addition to its hormonal actions, melatonin has strong antioxidant effects. Preliminary evidence suggests that it may help strengthen the immune system.
Cortisol is a corticosteroid hormone produced by the adrenal gland (in the Zona fasciculata of the adrenal cortex). It is often referred to as the “stress hormone” as it is involved in response to stress. It increases blood pressure and blood sugar, and reduces immune responses. In pharmacology, the synthetic form of cortisol is referred to as hydrocortisone, and is used to treat allergies and inflammation, and to supplement natural cortisol when its production is too low.
The adrenal glands produce three types of steroid hormones: glucocorticoids (cortisol), mineralocorticoids (aldosterone), and androgens (DHEA/DHEAS). Cortisol enables the body to respond and adapt to the stresses of daily life. It also helps to maintain blood sugar levels and promote a healthy immune system. Aldosterone works to balance salt and water in the body. Androgens secreted by the adrenals provide the majority of DHEA for both men and women. For women, the adrenal glands are the major source of testosterone. Imbalances in the adrenal system can contribute to problems with the nervous and immune systems, body composition difficulties, blood sugar irregularities, and high androgen levels. Symptoms of adrenal imbalance (in alphabetical order) Allergies / asthma Arthritis Bone loss Chemical sensitivities Morning/evening fatigue High blood sugar Increased abdominal fat Memory lapses Sleep disturbances Sugar cravings
Understanding Adrenal Fatigue
Our stress response system evolved a million years ago when we were living on the earth with formidable creatures and plant life, being chased by predators, chasing after our meals and scavenging for daily food. The major stressors were plentiful such as being eaten, infection or starvation, so our stress system evolved to ‘fight or flight’, to alert the immune response, and to store fat for energy during times when fewer calories were consumed.
During this difficult time, however, we had plenty of down time to contemplate nature and the heavens, to rest and regain our strength, and we were eating only what nature was providing us in it’s most simple form. This is what allowed our body’s to recover from stress.
Unfortunately, we were not evolved enough yet to endure the chronic, continuous low grade stressors that we have in our culture today. Stressful relationships, undesirable jobs, continuous over stimulation, sleep deprivation, and poor quality diets with no downtime makes for a poor quality of life. Poor gastrointestinal health is also a major source of chronic low grade stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline.
All stressors (physical, emotional, nutritional) affect the brain.) The brain then tells the adrenal glands to produce adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline causes your immediate “alarm” response such as increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, rapid breathing and diversion of your blood circulation from the digestive tract to the limbs. This prepares you to fight or flee.
Next, Cortisol is produced secondary to adrenaline. It is the “vigilance” hormone activating the body’s immune system and raising the level of glucose (sugar) in the blood. Glucose provides the energy needed by the muscles to flee or fight. Cortisol drives hunger for more sugar (carbohydrate cravings) and will store consumed sugar as fat if it is not immediately utilized for energy by the muscles or during periods of rest.
When the body is under any kind of stress both adrenaline and cortisol production is markedly increased. Continuous low grade production of cortisol and adrenaline, combined with very high production during times of intense stress, as well as inadequate amounts of downtime for rest and repair, depletes our ability to appropriately respond and wears out the system.
This continous stress can lead to adrenal insufficiency or (“adrenal fatigue”) in which prolonged periods of elevated cortisol are followed by the inability to produce enough. This is often reflected in low DHEA levels. DHEA is another adrenal hormone which can turn itself into cortisol as well as into testosterone. DHEA has many important immune system and cell regenerative functions.
The production of adrenaline and cortisol from the adrenal gland is intricately tied to insulin production from the pancreas. These three, adrenaline, cortisol and insulin, are considered the major hormones in the body, without which you cannot survive. The production of adrenaline, cortisol and insulin markedly influence the production and balance of all other minor hormones.
Estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and thyroid are considered “minor” hormones, because you can actually live a long time without them. You may feel miserable and have health problems related to not having enough, however their deficit won’t kill you. Insulin is utilized to allow glucose (sugar) to pass into individual cells, where it will be burned as a fuel for energy. Production of insulin in turn is related to how much sugar is consumed in the diet, and in what form.
As you can see, all of the hormonal systems are related to one another. Creating balance in the body first requires addressing the health of the major hormones. Balanced Health & Beauty begins with measuring both major and minor hormones through blood testing as well as checking for routine labs that are important for over all health. The initial panel of labs includes: TSH, T4, T3, DHEA Sulfate, Testosterone (total and free), Progesterone & Estradiol (female patients), Total PSA (male patients), Lipid Panel, CBC, Basic Metabolic Panel
Diet, adequate rest, nutrients, gently exercise, lifestyle changes and tools for managing stress are the keys to recovery from adrenal fatigue and improving overall hormonal balance, well being, vitality and long term health. Physical movement plays a key role. We can make the choice to move our bodies. Walk off the stresses of the day, run, bike, swim, dance etc. Move that stressful energy so it doesn’t get stuck and stored as fat!!
Recovery means taking good care of yourself. In addition to consuming high quality foods and taking supplements, you also need to make lifestyle changes. The diagnosis and treatment of adrenal fatigue and chronic fatigue syndrome requires an integrative, functional medicine, holistic approach. that is not alternative therapy, really it’s imperative!