“Women are complicated”
This is literally one of the most cringe worthy statements in the English language! Women aren’t complicated! They have rhythm, they are complex, they have depth, they need to be understood, but it’s not like we are defying gravity here! The female hormonal system is vast and although I am all for the education of my patients I do not believe that you need to know all of your hormones! That being said, there are some main players in this hormonal network that can make or break your progress away from frump, fatigued and fed up! These are cortisol, estrogen, progesterone, insulin and leptin (You will see these come up again and again around this little internet home of mine!)
Now, before we even start I want to dispel the societies nasty theory that our hormones are out to get us. I am so over being pitted against my own body! You’re hormones are not, let me repeat, are not, out to get you! But what they are, are messengers. They are trying their best to tell you something and those messages they are trying to convey come out in your exhaustion, weight gain, cravings, moodiness and other symptoms. So now what we need to do, together, is to look into your symptoms and decode what is happening behind them! (The female hormone balance quiz can also offer insight into this!)
In order to do this, I break things down into 4 main areas of investigation and then work on 4 key areas of treatment. This is just the start of my individualized approach, but for many women this framework provides enough that they can take their first steps back into their balanced and embodied lives!
What could be causing your hormonal issues?
When getting to the root cause of your hormonal condition we will dive deep into each of the following areas, looking into your individual causes.
- Synthesis– are we making enough, too much or too little. The main locations of hormone synthesis occur in the adrenal glands, and the ovaries. That is why stress and thyroid issues can have such a huge impact on hormone production!
- Interaction – hormones interact not only with their receptors, but also with each other and other proteins in the blood, such as sex hormone binding globulin. For this step to work properly we need receptor sensitivity and also appropriate levels of carrier proteins.
- Breakdown and Metabolites– the metabolism of estrogen and progesterone happen mainly in the liver, and also in the intestinal tract. In fact, there has now been coined a term in the research known as the estrobolme. In the liver, the breakdown of hormones occurs in the presence of appropriately functioning detoxification pathways. The detox pathways require many nutrients, and in today’s day and age, in our nutrient poor, toxin full society the liver often needs support in order to detoxify all of the products of our environment along with the internal hormones and metabolic waste products . The pathway in which hormones are metabolized is also important, for example, many of you have heard about the detrimental effects of estrogens, well it is mainly one metabolite known as the 4-OH metabolite that produces an increased risk of breast cancer. When proper detoxification occurs we make less of the potentially detrimental metabolites, and more inert metabolites. This helps to ensure that we have balanced hormones and healthy tissues.
- Elimination – this is intricately tied into our digestive health. Are we eliminating our hormones properly? Regular defecation, and urination, are critical for this! Along with appropriate balances of intestinal bugs, known as the intestinal microbiome. When you have a plethora of the good guys, not too many bad guys and a healthy diet, you should be having a once to twice daily bowel movement, eliminating food byproducts, but also hormonal byproducts from your body.
What is the foundation of a healthy hormonal system?
Although there are many intricacies in the female hormonal pathway there are also many universal truths that can help all women suffering with hormonal imbalances. No matter what your underlying cause the following lifestyle changes can set the stage for hormonal balance.
- Address the stress you can. There are many different types of stress in our lives, some of it, like relational stress and work stress, we can address. Then there are other stresses that we can’t pin point, or feel we can’t change at the moment. In either case though, we have to support our nervous systems and our adrenal glands! If you are feeling wired but tired, totally depleted throughout the day, losing muscle mass or gaining abdominal weight, then this area definitely needs attention!
- Stabilize blood sugar levels. Your diet, meal time, activity level and stress all dictate your blood sugar levels. If they are too high, damage can occur, if they are too low, your stress system kicks into play, and if you are like many women, and they fluctuate throughout the day- then whole system chaos can ensue! Check out my diet plans and articles for more information on this area.
- Be mindful of digestion. The gut is the center of everything, period. And if it isn’t happy then no one is happy! That is why the gut is addressed in every program I put together for patients. Although you will often notice that it is not always the thing that needs to be addressed first. There are many reasons for this, but one is that if your stress levels are out of control, and your diet is all over the place, then all of the gut support in the world won’t restore function. So save your self some time, and money, and start with stress and blood sugar if you are attempting hormonal balancing on your own.
- Support the liver. As we discussed before the liver is the master processor. It breaks down hormones, controls metabolism, removes toxins from our bodies etc etc. It has a huge job in todays day and age! And if it is sluggish, then so are we. Exploring a liver ‘detox’, correction nutritional deficiencies and reducing inflammation and chemical exposure can help bring our livers, and our hormones back into balance.
Okay ladies, so there is a lot of homework there for you!
Remember that every step is a success, every symptom is a signal, and know deep down that your body wants nothing more then to be well! Also, reach out on Facebook and our lady tribe can help you to overcome your hormonal obstacles!
Oh also! I mentioned insulin and leptin. For more on that check out the Metabolism page.