Hormones work together like a beautifully choreographed dance.
The thyroid hormones, the adrenal hormones and the sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone) need to be in balance with each other for optimal functioning. Treating a sluggish thyroid is going to be more difficult if you have adrenal fatigue. If you think your moodiness is from your estrogen being out of balance you may be right but there is likely more to it.
For effective treatment and thyroid, adrenal and hormone correction, think of the hormones as the points on an equilateral triangle. If you shift one, they all shift. That is why it is essential to monitor all the hormones, not just some of them. There are differing opinions on what is the most effective way to measure hormones- is it with blood, saliva, or urine? There is something to be said for consistency, and I like to use the same testing method each time to watch the change and fine-tune the treatment.
Symptoms of a Hormone Imbalance
Symptoms of a hormonal imbalance may include adrenal fatigue, hypothyroidism (clinical or sub-clinical), low testosterone (also called low T), menopause, progesterone deficiency or estrogen dominance can include most of the body systems. Fatigue, mood issues, skin changes, libido changes, hair changes/hair loss, sleep disruption, and weight change are reasonably common symptoms of a hormone imbalance, but this list is far from exhaustive. It helps to keep a “symptom journal” as many symptoms can be cyclic or intermittent. Symptoms can often tell us more than the lab reports.
Hormone Balancing Treatment
When supplementing to treat hormone imbalances there are many options. Some herbs and nutraceuticals support the endocrine system. Pharmaceuticals can also be used successfully. Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, or BHRT, is just what the name implies, and exactly replaces the same molecule as the one we use in the body. Many commercial preparations use a different molecule, such as equine hormones. In these instances, the body needs to break it down first and rebuild it to utilize. They can be effective but often there are more side effects or concerns.
Bioidentical hormones are prescribed customized to the individual and the order sent to a compounding pharmacy. Estrogens used are Estradiol and Estriol in a topical or vaginal cream. Testosterone for women is also delivered via a topical cream. Testosterone support for men has more options. Progesterone is often oral but can be delivered topically. Pregnenalone, a hormone earlier in the steroid pathway, can also be supplemented. It is important to know what encourages and discourages the body from creating one hormone vs. another in order to balance them properly.
When necessary, thyroid correction can be with pharmaceuticals. The treatment can be synthetic thyroid hormone or desiccated animal thyroid gland, usually porcine. There are herbs and supplements that support the thyroid as well, including iodine and ashwaganda, to name a few. Ashwaganda is an adaptogenic herb and can help the body during stress and support the adrenals. When supporting the endocrine system, the dosing and timing of pharmaceuticals and supplements do make a difference; this is an important discussion I like to have with my patients, so we can gain the most benefits from treatment.
If you have concerns about hormone balancing and supplementing, the best thing you can do is get tested and see what is going on. Then we can treat this beautifully designed hormonal system to work together for optimal health. The goal is feeling great, having good energy and getting back to your best self!
Cathlene Heideman NP, LAc, practices at National Integrated Health Associates and blends her knowledge of integrative medicine, acupuncture and herbals for the optimal health of the patient. Her areas of focus include adult primary care, Lyme Disease and co-infections, hormones, gut issues, acupuncture, detoxification, and acute and chronic disease management.