Hormones, such as estrogen, testosterone, cortisol and insulin are created by endocrine glands and work as chemical messengers throughout your body to accomplish a wide range of important physical and chemical functions – from turning on/off hunger cues to running your reproductive systems, and even influencing emotional states and mood.
Understanding The Endocrine System
Your endocrine system is responsible for the production of the various hormones necessary for essential functions – from regulating metabolism, to maintaining healthy tissues, sex drive, reproduction, sleep cycles, and mood. The endocrine system pairs specific hormone functions to each organ, to determine which chemicals need to be released, at what time, and for which purpose.
The pituitary gland, a small pea-sized gland, is also called the “master gland” as it controls the other glands in your body. It produces many hormones, like growth hormone (GH or somatotropin), while stimulating other glands to release additional hormones like cortisol.
Other important glands of the endocrine system include the pineal gland, a pine cone-shaped gland that regulates melatonin and circadian rhythm, the thyroid gland important for thyroxine (T4) production, the thymus gland responsible for childhood growth and releasing disease-fighting T cells as well as the adrenal glands that regulate cortisol levels.
The glands that are part of your endocrine system work together, like a complex hormonal symphony to control the level of hormones that circulate throughout your body at any given time.
So when just one of these glands is “out of tune,” creating imbalances, it can lead to widespread health issues ranging from chronic fatigue to increased risks for other imbalances like low metabolism and reduced libido.
So when patients present with hormonal imbalances, most traditionally-trained clinicians typically focus on a diagnosis along with a drug protocol to treat the symptoms – for example synthetic hormone replacement therapies such as thyroid medications.
Unfortunately, this drug-first approach oftentimes “misses the boat.”
- Taking prescription drugs oftentimes just masks the symptoms but does nothing to remedy the underlying root cause creating the imbalance in the first place — which can be poor diet, nutritional deficiencies, gut issues, or stealth infections.
- Using prescriptions to mask symptoms is dangerous as it allows the disorder to progress without the patient knowing — and in many cases can create additional “downstream” imbalances in other areas of the body.
- Many medications have serious side effects — such as stroke, osteoporosis, anxiety, reproductive problems, cancer and more.
Balancing hormones naturally is not only effective but can frequently have additional benefits such as increased energy, weight loss, improved sleep, and healthier skin.
That’s why at Enlighten Functional Medicine, I am focusing on identifying the root cause of your hormonal imbalances so I can craft a personalized plan that addresses the issues for good.
Signs & Symptoms of Hormonal Imbalances
Symptoms of hormone imbalances can manifest in many ways, including:
- Painful or irregular periods or PMS
- Unexplained weight gain or weight loss and change in appetite
- Depression, anxiety or brain fog
- Fatigue or low energy
- Insomnia or lack of deep sleep
- Low libido
- Digestive issues, skin issues, or vision issues
- Hair loss and thinning hair
Symptoms of hormonal imbalances can range quite a bit depending on what role that specific hormone plays in balancing your body.
For example, high estrogen levels or storing too much estrogen in the body can contribute to longterm health issues including blood sugar imbalances that may lead to diabetes, unexplained weight gain, changes in appetite, and problems with eyesight.
Some issues associated with hormonal imbalances may include:
- Estrogen Dominance: disrupted sleep patterns, weight and appetite fluctuations, increased stress and anxiety, and slowed metabolism
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS): infertility, weight gain, acne, abnormal hair growth
- Low Estrogen: decreased libido, reproductive issues, loss of menstrual regularity, mood changes
- Hypothyroidism: slowed metabolism and fatigue, weight gain, anxiety, irritability, digestive problems, irregular menstrual cycles
- Low Testosterone: erectile dysfunction, loss of muscle mass, weight gain, fatigue and mood issues
- Grave’s Disease: anxiety, hair loss, weight loss, IBS or digestive issues, irregular sleep and heartbeats
- Diabetes: weight gain, neuropathy, vision loss, fatigue, trouble breathing, dry mouth, skin issues
- Overworked Adrenals: muscle aches, fatigue, anxiety and depression, trouble sleeping, brain fog, reproductive challenges
Potential Causes of Hormonal Imbalances
Hormonal imbalances are created by a combination of lifestyle factors — such as diet, exercise, environment, genetics, stress, and exposure to xenotoxins from plastics, makeup, cleaning supplies and even residual pesticides in food. Some of the major causes of hormonal imbalances include:
- Food allergies & gut flora imbalances: New scientific research shows that the flora in your gut (microbiome) plays a crucial role in hormone regulation and regulating inflammation that is at the root of so many chronic illnesses. If you have IBS, SIBO, leaky gut syndrome or a lack of good gut bacteria residing in your intestines, you’re more susceptible to hormonal imbalances.
- Weight gain or obesity
- High levels of inflammation caused by a poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle along with chronic stress
- Genetic predisposition
- High levels of toxin exposure including exposure to pesticides, harmful bacteria, parasites, viruses, cigarette smoke (even second-hand), excessive alcohol and other harmful chemicals or compounds like lead and formaldehyde
- High amounts of stress and regular release of stress hormones like cortisol, paired with a lack of rest and deep sleep
The earlier hormonal imbalances are diagnosed, the sooner you can start addressing them naturally – feel free to schedule a complimentary phone consultation to see what the best next steps are for you.
Take The First Step On Your
Perhaps you have questions you’d like to ask before you make a decision to become a patient. My patient coordinator, Laci, is standing by, happy to answer any questions you have to determine if Enlighten Functional Medicine is right for you.