Hormones are vital to our health, energy and youthful vitality. As we age there are natural changes in the release of hormones and in the body’s ability to metabolize them. The decline in estrogen at menopause is often what comes to mind when people think about hormonal imbalance, but did you know that there are many other hormones, like progesterone, testosterone and cortisol that change with age and that imbalances can happen long before menopause? Hormone imbalances can affect women of all ages, not just women approaching menopause. This is why taking a proactive approach to health, including hormone health is so important.
Before we can address balancing hormones, let’s look at 3 of the more common hormone imbalances and their associated symptoms. Keep in mind that these represent just a fraction of the hormones that are evaluated when assessing for hormonal imbalances.
Estrogen Dominance: This is something that I see often in my patients. Exogenous sources of estrogens like the birth control pill, as well as xenoestrogens (chemicals which are able to mimic estrogens in our bodies) are common in today’s environment. Things like pesticides, plastics, cosmetics and even soy act as xenoestrogens. A progesterone deficiency typically accompanies estrogen dominance.
Conditions associated with estrogen dominance include endometriosis, fibroids, breast cancer and ovarian cysts. Symptoms of estrogen dominance can include cyclical migraines, irregular and/or heavy periods, mood swings and breast tenderness.
Low Estrogen: This is more typically seen leading up to and after menopause. Symptoms include hot flushes, night sweats, recurring urinary tract infections, vaginal dryness and depression.
Low Progesterone: I see women with low progesterone in my practice almost every day. Symptoms of low progesterone can include PMS, irregular menstrual cycles, spotting before your period, insomnia, mood swings and anxiety. Progesterone deficiency is seen in menstruating women as well as in peri-menopausal and post-menopausal women.
There are several ways to assess for hormonal imbalance including clinical symptoms, using blood tests, saliva tests or urine tests. My preference is to use saliva if a smaller number of hormones need to be tested, and urine testing if it looks as though there are also larger imbalances in the thyroid and adrenal hormones. Once we have determined where the imbalances are, we can start to bring the body back into balance.
My number one rule whenever correcting hormonal imbalances is to support the adrenal glands and the thyroid. This is because there are overlapping functions between these 2 organs and the ovaries. If the ovaries have had problems maintaining a hormonal balance, then the adrenal glands and the thyroid will have been working harder to pick up the slack. Therefore we need to give them extra support after all their hard work.
There are countless options for treating hormonal imbalances. Choosing healthy, organic whole foods with a focus on vegetables and plant-based proteins is a must. Adequate water intake to help flush excess hormones and toxins from the body is also a must. Herbal remedies, either in pill or liquid form are excellent hormone balancers and can be combined to treat each individual’s specific hormonal imbalance. Some commonly used herbs for hormone balancing are Tribulus, Black Cohosh and Chaste tree. Bio-Identical Hormone therapy is also a great option for hormone balancing and anti-ageing medicine. Bio Identical hormones are plant based hormones that have the same molecular structure as those that your body makes. Because they are identical to hormones found in the body and are custom-dosed to the needs of each patient, adverse side effects and risks are significantly reduced when compared to the use of synthetic hormones.
Happy hormones really are the key to staying healthy and feeling youthful. Supporting balanced hormone production and metabolism should start long before menopause and continue through the aging process. Determining where the imbalances lie is vital to effective and safe treatment, and fortunately is very simple to do. There are a wide variety of treatment options, making it possible for every women to choose a hormonal support or treatment that feels right for them.