Millions of women each year seek relief for
hormonal issues, including hot flashes, night
sweats, hormonal migraines, PMS, ovarian
cysts, fibroids, endometriosis, fibrocystic
breasts, weight gain, foggy thinking, and
heavy bleeding. These symptoms are lumped together
into the hormonal imbalance pigeonhole. In the case of
menopause, HRT or Bioidentical Hormone Replacement
Therapy is the conventional cure. For menstruating women,
oral contraceptives are most often prescribed.
When resolving hormonal problems, women are led
to believe all that is required is tweaking their hormonal
levels or, in the case of oral contraceptives, a complete
shutting down of ovarian function. However, hormonal
imbalances, rather than merely aberrations of a wayward
reproductive system, are, in fact, symptoms of deeper root
cause issues. For long term hormonal balance and optimal
health, understanding and addressing these deep problems
is a critical piece of the hormone puzzle!
The Adrenals and Hormones
The adrenals are involved in manufacturing numerous
hormones; blood sugar regulation; the regulation of the
body's minerals; modulating the immune system; producing
and maintaining the body's energy levels in conjunction with
the thyroid; and producing stress-monitoring hormones.
The adrenals, considered to be the body's shock
absorbers, are the core of the endocrine stress response
system. Two of the most important hormones produced by
the adrenals, adrenaline and cortisol, are responsible for
the fight-or-flight response. Adrenaline deals primarily with
short-term stress while cortisol is produced as a result of
both acute and long-term stress.
Prolonged stress, whether as a result of emotional,
environmental or physical causes, is disastrous for the
adrenals. Initially, it results in chronically elevated cortisol
levels, resulting in weight gain (especially around the
midsection), blood sugar imbalances, thinning skin, muscle
wasting, memory loss, high blood pressure, dizziness,
hot flashes, night sweats, excessive facial hair, and other
Overworked adrenals eventually crash, leading to
adrenal exhaustion, where the body is unable to maintain
adequate adrenal hormone production. Symptoms of
overtaxed adrenals include extreme fatigue (Chronic Fatigue
Syndrome), irritability, inability to concentrate, frustration,
insomnia, addictions to either sweet or salty foods, allergies,
nervousness, depression, anxiety, PMS, sensitivity to cold,
diabetes and headaches. Chronic low blood pressure can be
a key symptom of seriously exhausted adrenal glands.
Since the adrenals produce about 35 percent of
premenopausal female hormones and almost 50 percent of
postmenopausal hormones, compromised adrenal function
directly impacts hormonal balance.
Progesterone is the primary raw material for producing
cortisol. When the glands are in overdrive, the body will
divert progesterone to the adrenals to support cortisol
production. With reduced progesterone, the body may
experience estrogen dominance, i.e., PMS, hot flashes,
night sweats, migraines, fibroids, heavy bleeding, breast
tenderness, weight gain, etc. Excessive cortisol also
blocks progesterone receptors, further contributing to low
progesterone. These two imbalances are the primary reasons
why adrenal exhaustion leads to estrogen dominance.
Restoring adrenal function is a pre-requisite for
restoring and maintaining hormonal balance. Nutrients
that have special importance to the adrenals are the B
vitamins (especially B5), vitamin C, proteins, magnesium,
manganese, zinc, potassium, plant enzymes, adaptagenic
herbs, adrenal extracts and the amino acids tyrosine and phenylalanine. Rest is essential to rejuvenate the adrenals.
Individuals who suspect adrenal exhaustion can
determine whether the body is producing healthy levels of
adrenal hormones through proper testing. Cortisol levels
can be measured with a saliva test that collects at least four
samples over 24 hours.
The Thyroid and Hormones
Overtaxed adrenals can lead to hypothyroidism, which
has a direct effect on women's hormonal health. By age
50, one in every twelve women has a significant degree of
hypothyroidism. By age 60, it is one woman out of every six.
The thyroid, which regulates metabolism, may tune
down its hormonal activity in an attempt to reverse adrenal
overdrive. Some symptoms of hypothyroidism include
fatigue, weight gain, fibroids, endometriosis, ovarian cysts,
heavy bleeding, fibrocystic breast disease, depression,
PMS, migraines, lack of concentration, cold hands and feet,
menopausal symptoms, miscarriage and infertility.
Birth control pills and estrogen increase thyroid-binding
proteins in the bloodstream. This means that thyroid blood
test results may be unreliable. Even though they may show
normal thyroid hormone levels in the blood, there may be
insufficient thyroid hormone in the tissues.
Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal axis activation due to
stress causes decreased production of thyroid-stimulating
hormone (TSH), and blocks inactive thyroxin conversion to
the biologically active triiodothyronine (T3), which has the
greatest effect on the body.
Effective natural approaches help in regulating the
thyroid. Natural progesterone balances the thyroid-inhibiting
effect of estrogen dominance, as does supplementation
with thyroid glandular extracts, enzyme therapy, minerals
(Iodoral, selenium and magnesium), vitamins and herbals.
The Candida-Hormone Connection
A serious digestive concern is the yeast-fungal infection
known as candidiasis. Approximately 75 percent of women
suffer from at least one yeast infection during their lives. This
toxic yeast overgrowth is caused by eating large amounts of
sugar and/or prolonged or repeated use of antibiotics, birth
control pills, estrogen therapy, and cortisone.
Candida produces 79 different toxins known to
wreak havoc with the immune system. A long list of
potential symptoms associated with Candida overgrowth
include depression, anxiety attacks, mood swings, lack
of concentration, drowsiness, poor memory, headaches,
insomnia, fatigue, bloating, constipation, bladder
infections, menstrual cramps, vaginal itching, muscle and
joint swelling, pain, hypothyroidism, and skin problems.
However, it is rarely understood that Candida also
contributes to hormonal problems. A Candida waste
product produces a false estrogen, which tricks the body
into thinking it has produced adequate levels, signaling a
reduction of its own estrogen. Similar messages can also
be sent to the thyroid, reducing thyroxin production and
initiating or worsening a hypothyroid problem.
Elevated estrogen levels also increase vaginal candidiasis
incidence. Estrogen will literally feed Candida growth, which
is why birth control pills and estrogen replacement therapy
put women at a greater risk of developing Candida.
The botanicals pau d'arco, oregano oil and olive leaf
extract can be used along with a sugar-free and low carb
diet to reduce the effect of this harmful yeast overgrowth.
Probiotics are another key player to re-establish the
beneficial bacterial in the colon.
Get Hormonally Balanced by Getting Healthy
It is commonly believed that conditions of hormonal
imbalance somehow just happen to us. For some reason,
our culture has taught us that when diagnosed with a
hormonal issue such as PMS, endometriosis, fibroids, hot
flashes or night sweats, the answer lies in a pharmaceutical
intervention such as some form of contraceptives or some
variation of hormone supplementation with HRT or Bioidentical
If we really want to regain hormonal harmony, it is vitally
important that we understand that all hormonal problems
are symptomatic of underlying dysfunctions occurring in
our body. Learning to understand the message our body is
trying to give us, will direct us to the real source of the
problem so permanent healing can occur.
All hormonal imbalances are a message that our body
is out of balance. A big piece for resolving hormonal issues
requires understanding the significant role of ensuring the
health of our adrenals, thyroid and colon. Getting healthy is
the key to getting our hormones back on track!