Todays read discussed some of the finer points to hormone imbalances, how they present, and why some treatment just won’t work.
In this article:
- Adrenal test example
- Symptoms check list
- Why medication doesn’t always work
Our hormonal (endocrine) system is a very complex bodily system that reacts to nutrition, diet, stress, inflammation, mental health, environment – basically our world!
Whilst mainstream medicine focuses on testing diseases of the endocrine system, and using replacement therapy when needed, functional medicine focuses more on understanding the root cause to the hormone imbalance and correcting it. Some people will be required to stay on their hormone replacement medication, especially if their thyroid gland was damaged for any reason, medical or otherwise. People with a milder imbalance (sub-optimal) respond well to natural medicine and corrective therapies to revive their hormone status again and prevent future reliance on medications. More importantly, both scenarios should notice an improvement in symptoms, return of energy, natural balance to their healthy weight range, and a clear sharp thinking mind.
One link between sex hormones and thyroid metabolism is the anatomy of our glands.
All mammals (not just humans!) need certain nutrients and enzymes to regulate our hormones. Enzymes are biological molecules (typically proteins) that significantly speed up the rate of virtually all of the chemical reactions that take place within cells.
So while a key thyroid nutrient like iodine is stored in the thyroid gland and used to build hormones, our other bodily tissues also contain the special ‘NIS’ in their cell membranes to transport iodine into the cell.
The sodium iodide symporter (NIS) transports iodine into the thyroid gland and a number of extrathyroidal tissues.
If an Iodine deficiency is affecting your thyroid, so too will the rest of your body’s glands be affected. Puberty, pregnancy and perimenopause are very stereotypical times for thyroid function to crash or become diagnosed, which is when we see the majority of our patients.
Iodine also is essential for our DNA and normal cellular energy cycles, glucose regulation, inflammation, immunity and more.
In no way is iodine a cure-all treatment. Selenium, zinc, methylated folate, active b12, zinc, activated b6, chromium, vitamin d3, iron… hormone metabolism is complex! So while the body needs many minerals to activate our thyroid metabolism, other enzymes need those same minerals to convert our other hormones back and forth.
Weight gain (whether originating from diet and exercise, a sex/steroid hormones imbalance, thyroid you name it) will cause further complications with our hormones if left untreated for too long. Obesity will often increase our estrogen and testosterone levels, as well as blood sugar, and the hormone leptin that assist the regulation of weight, appetite, fertility and inflammation. If you have a confirmed imbalance of any of these hormones, it’s recommended to screen for the other hormones as well, especially if there is weight gain involved. Sex hormone imbalances can affect mood, libido, skin health and bone density – to name a few.
Understanding the status of the hormones takes forensic style testing. Many hormones can also be inaccurately tested, leaving the patient without answers.
For example, when having a thyroid hormone serum test, the lab should test free hormone. If this is not specified, then testing reflects bound and unbound hormone. Bound hormones can not be used by the body.
When testing fatigue pictures, saliva testing is the most useful pathology, as this tests free cortisol. Testing should be done at 3 points of the day to understand the diurnal and nocturnal status of the adrenal glands and understand which stage of adrenal dysfunction you are in. As you can see from the image, there are 3 very different stages, and each responds to very different treatment.
Stage one will respond to high intensity exercise in most cases, along with calming herbs.
However, if you asked someone to do this same protocol and they were in stage 2 or 3, they will worsen. Good testing will give clear answers and good direction for treatment.
Symptoms vary greatly amongst people with any hormone imbalance, which is why testing is so important.
Listed below are the most prevalent symptoms associated with specific endocrine functions, although they can cross relate, making symptom diagnosis unreliable.
Why Some Treatment Don’t Work
There are actually many reasons why you could be on medication, and not feel better. Our goal is first to figure out WHY, then we can target treatment to help balance the body better. Sometimes people also need a better quality medication – such as NDT (natural desiccated thyroid extract) instead of synthetic thyroid hormone.
Simply replacing a hormone that is low simply may not be enough!
What about diet, nutrition, inflammatory status, food intolerances, vitamin deficiencies???
Some symptoms may be a totally different factor! This is where thorough testing is needed. For example, low vitamin D could be the reason for your low mood, or low active folate could be why you are fatigued and bloated. Usually, it is several significant factors happening at the one time, and only treating one of them won’t fix the issue.
If you are ready to finally get answers, we can help.
Book an appointment today!
We can run testing that will give you answers, and guide the best treatment to get you feeling better in as little as 2 weeks! Most of our patients have met their original health goals in 12 weeks or less.
The most popular goals are:
- More energy
- Lose weight
- Banish brain fog
Don’t put it off – book your first appointment now!