What is the deal with hormones and why do they need balancing? Who needs to know about them and how do they affect your body? The short answer is, they control everything you are feeling, and everything you feel controls them. One of the biggest lifestyle factors that impact them is stress. Are you inexplicably tired even when you wake up in the morning? Do you have anxiety, depression, weight gain, moodiness, irregular periods or low libido? All of these symptoms could be due to hormone imbalance. Once your hormones become ‘out of sorts’ it’s hard to get them back to functional order, unless you do some serious intervention. I have personally been on a journey of healing, so sit back and relax, while I share a little story time.
The beginning of the end
There I was, a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, brand new medical student. I had my books, computer and caffeine of choice on my desk, and I was so excited to start my med school adventure. After the first week I realized what I had signed up for. I have 4 midterms on the third week, and a final for my first course on week 4. The amount of material that was covered in just 1 week of medical school equated to one entire 16-week class in undergrad. I was determined to not only pass but thrive in my classes. At the end of the 4 weeks I had secured my first ‘A’ in medical school and I was thrilled. The problem was my body did not take the extreme abuse that I was dishing out with stride. Every quarter I pushed myself harder to achieve success. In the end I graduated with honors, but at what cos
When I graduated I had nothing left in the tank. This was especially challenging because I had to study for board exams. I spent 4-8 hours a day, 6 days a week, for 5 weeks studying. The Naturopathic Medical Board exam consists of 3 days of testing, 700 questions and 15 hours of test-taking in total; no small feat, I promise you. So? What does this have to do with hormones? The answer is, everything!
What are hormones and why are they important?
Hormones are what make your body function. They are the “email” communication of the body. They are messages that your body sends when they need more of less of something. You have many different hormones in your body, and they are all in charge of separate functions. Most hormones are released by glands that do different actions in your body. The major glands that I am going to discuss is your Adrenal gland, Thyroid gland, and the Ovary/testes (yes, they are glands too). Without getting too complicated or turn this into an anatomy lesson, just know that the thyroid gland is located in your throat, your adrenal gland is located on top of your kidneys and I hope you know where the ovary and testes are. The Thyroid controls most of the body’s energy needs, the ovary/testes make some of the sex hormones and the adrenal gland has multiple functions. For the sake of simplicity, I am just going to narrow down the focus to the adrenal gland.
[Warning! Possible TLDR moment approaching]The adrenal gland is composed of two major sections, the outside and the inside. The inside, called the medulla, controls your fight or flight hormones, epinephrine and norepinephrine. This is important because it is a short term signal that tells you to either run away or fight. The outside section is subdivided into three different hormonal functions. This outer section of the gland is called the Cortex, and it is the one that has a complex signaling pathway. It controls many facets of our body including sex hormones, a stress hormone called cortisol and also a ‘water control’ hormone called aldosterone. The cortex sends more of your ‘slow-burning’, endurance stress signales, such as when you’re stressed about bills, school, tests, kids, traffic, your boss, or other stress adult things.
Within this cortex, all the hormones pathways start with one molecule of cholesterol and can be further differentiated into Progesterone, which can then become Cortisol, Aldosterone or sex hormones. If the body is experiencing a significant amount of stress, then Cortisol will be made instead of other hormones. This is where you get into trouble with your sex hormones, because your body isn’t producing enough with the demand for cortisol. Because progesterone is at the top of the pathway, it is the first to deplete – then there is a trickle down effect to the other hormones. Progesterone is the bodies’ natural anti-anxiety pill, cancer protection, and it helps with sleep (among other actions). It is as equally important for men as it is for women.
What about birth control’s impact of hormones?
An important point to make is the impact of hormonal birth control on natural hormones signaling. There is a non hormonal source of birth control but there are far fewer women on it. When you take hormonal birth control, you are giving your body something that it naturally makes.The problem arises when your body becomes reliant on that source, and doesn’t make its own source of hormones. If and when someone decides to discontinue birth control, their body is thrown into a whirlwind of confusion and deficiency. This can cause all kind of problems that can be addressed in another blog.
What is Adrenal Fatigue?
With all biological organisms, if it is used enough, it will become fatigued and possibly not work as well. This also happens in the adrenal gland, and is referred to as ‘Adrenal Fatigue’. There are different levels of fatigue that can range from never-feeling-quite-awake to exhaustion, and finally absolute insufficiency. This is when the gland can’t keep up with the demand of cortisol, so it puts out a lower level than needed. This can give you feelings of fatigue/exhaustion, salt craving, anxiety and depression (just to name a few).
What was the result of 4 years of stress?
So, what happened to my hormones when I went through 4 years of medical school?
Answer: Flat line. I had stressed out so hard, for so long, that my progesterone and testosterone were almost undetectable. My cortisol test was remarkably low and I had an irregular menses because my sex hormones were so badly affected. So, what did I do about it? I am now on bio-identical hormone replacement and I am on my way to recovery. Moral of the story is, make sure to take care of yourself.
In today’s society, we do not have time to take care of ourselves. We have to take care of the business, kids, house chores, relationships, etc., which leaves little room for ourselves. But, how do you expect to take care of others if you can’t function? What I hear all the time is the rationalization and excuses for what we are feeling. “Yeah I’m tired but I’m but getting older.” “I am just an anxious person.” “I have felt like this for so long that I can’t remember when I didn’t”. This is doesn’t have have to be your reality.
I have been in that situation before, feeling like something was wrong with me, and that was my normal. But, there was a logical/medical explanation for my feelings. This is why I offer hormonal assessment in my office. BHRT (Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy) changed my life and I want to provide that change for others. It was the single most effective and life-changing therapy I have ever experienced, and I am so thankful for it.
Does any of this sound like your situation?
So, if you are experiencing symptoms of irregular menses, anxiety, moodiness, weight gain, dry hair/skin, reduced libido, night sweats, or reduced drive in life, please contact me and we can assess what is going on with your health.
I have recently started practicing at Innate Healthcare in Phoenix Az. We are a membership based practice that offers unlimited amount of phone, email, text, and office visits for only $60/mt. With the membership you also get discounted rates on IV therapy, procedures and other services. We also offer pay-as-you-go options. For more information, go to Innatehealthcare.org, or visit through my front page. I hope to hear from some of you soon.
Thanks for taking the time to read.
Dr. Faith Coats is from a rural area in Northern California. Her passion lied in medicine and she knew she wanted to be a doctor when she was 12 years old. She worked relentlessly so she could finish high school to attend college early. While attending Humboldt State University she became unhealthy and obese. She decided to take control of her health, and was able to lose 100 pounds. She graduated with honors, in a bachelor degree in Cellular Molecular Biology from Humboldt State University. She decided to take a gap year before applying to medical school and she became a medical scribe in the emergency department. It was through this experience that she decided conventional medicine was not a passion she wanted to pursue. This is when she found Naturopathic Medicine and decided that it was the right path for her. She then transitioned to Arizona where she attended Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine and graduated, yet again with honors, in a degree of Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine. As a practitioner of Naturopathic Medicine, she integrates conventional and traditional therapies to promote optimal health. Dr. Coats is a dedicated and compassionate medical practitioner with a primary focus is on skin related complaints, hormone balancing, medically supervised weight loss, and some aesthetics. In her free time, she loves to research health and fitness. She is an avid wellness seeker and would love to share what she has found with you.