Hormones are secreted by endocrine glands and have a very complex and important role in our health and well-being. The optimal function of our physiology depends on the interaction and balance of many different hormones. Testosterone, progesterone, estrogen and DHEA, known as the sex hormones, interact with other hormones from the pituitary, thyroid, adrenal glands, pancreas, and other endocrine glands to help the body stay balanced and function optimally. When our hormones are balanced, our energy lifts, our mood stabilizes, metabolism balances, cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems are supported, and sexual drive and function and fertility are optimized.
Hormone balance is delicate and can be disrupted quite easily. Hormone levels naturally change throughout the time of day, month, year and phase of life. Natural aging is associated with a loss of sex hormones. When this happens, bioidentical hormone replacement therapy leads not only increased well-being, but also to increase sex drive and sexual pleasure. Additionally, it can reverse the muscle and bone loss often seen with aging.
Types of Male and Female Hormones:
Found in greater amounts among women, estrogen is a sex hormone whose main function is growth and development. Since estrogen stimulates fat cells to grow, it is a key component in reproduction. Estradiol, estrone, and estriol are the three different forms of estrogen. Estradiol is considered the main player in physiological function. A deficiency can cause several health concerns, including decreased libido, fatigue, inflammation, hair loss, wrinkles, brittle bones, dry skin and mood swings. Excessive amounts of estrogen can lead to bloating, bleeding, breast tenderness and mood swings.
Considered the counterpart to estrogen, progesterone antagonizes estrogen-driven growth in the lining of the uterus and it is thus essential to the menstrual cycle. It rises during the second part of the cycle to reduce premenstrual syndrome and prepares the uterus for implantation of a fertilized egg. Also, it is needed for a healthy pregnancy as low levels of progesterone can lead to miscarriage. An imbalance in the ratio of estrogen to progesterone can lead to many problems with PMS symptoms such as irritability, bloating, fluid retention, headaches, and fibroids. It works with estrogen to strengthen bones, sustain cholesterol levels, preserve neuronal structure and function, and support libido. Too much progesterone can cause fatigue, dizziness, and an increased appetite.
Testosterone is the predominant secx hormone in men. Its main functions are to maintain healthy muscle mass, stamina, and strength. In addition, it supports libido, energy, bone density, memory, and well-being. But testosterone is also necessary for proper hormonal balance in women. In both men and women, low testosterone levels can lead to many symptoms, such as low energy, decreased cognition, decreased libido, increased irritability, fatigue and a decline in well-being. Testosterone decline in both men and women starts around age 35; this leads to an imbalance between testosterone and estrogen. Too much testosterone can cause aggression, depression, and can paradoxically cause impotence.
Released by the Adrenal glands, DHEA is most abundant steroid hormone in the body and the precursor to both testosterone and estrogen. As early as age 30,, DHEA levels starts to decline leading to fatigue, mood swings, and cognitive ailments. DHEA helps to stimulate protein synthesis, decrease visceral fat, support bone health, and maintain cardiovascular health. DHEA levels that are too high can cause acne, increased facial hair, skin rashes, and liver dysfunction.
Although there are many external factors that can affect hormone levels and balance, the good news is that there are steps that we can take to optimize our hormones:
- Exercise. Resistance training helps maintain muscle mass and support bone health, which supports testosterone and parathyroid function. Cardio helps achieve ideal body fat ratios, which supports estrogen metabolism.
- 2. Diet. Proper nutrition is vital for hormone balance. Specific recommendations for hormone optimization are to limit animal products (especially dairy) and to increase plant proteins, flax, green and cruciferous vegetables, and green tea.
- Vitamins and minerals. Ideal vitamin levels are necessary to support hormone production. Adequate levels of Vitamin D and zinc are needed for sex hormone function while selenium and iodine are needed for thyroid function. Omega 3 fatty acids are also important for hormone synthesis.
- Sleep. Improving the quality and quantity of sleep helps restore our natural circadian rhythm, which strengthens our optimal hormone rhythm.
- Stress. Cortisol is known as the stress hormone. When it is persistently elevated it wreaks havoc on other hormones such as insulin (resulting blood sugar fluctuations and cravings) and adrenaline (triggering the “fight or flight response.”) Reducing stress levels with practices such as exercise, meditation, and social connection all support hormonal health.
- Toxins. Avoiding toxic endocrine interrupters in our food and environment is also key. Eat organic foods when possible, drink filtered water, store (and heat) food in glass rather than plastic, and avoid pollution as much as possible.
- Next steps. If you suspect your hormones are out of balance, we can test your levels and create an individualized plan to optimize levels. In addition to the above we may recommend botanicals, supplements, and/or bioidentical hormones.
Dr. Sari Eitches is double board-certified physician by the American Board of Internal Medicine
And the American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine. For more information about her practice and her approach to bio-identical hormone replacement, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
or to schedule an appointment with her call 310-451-8880. To learn more about her practice, click here.