What are hormones?
Hormones are chemical messengers the cells in the body use to communicate with one another. They are produced from various glands throughout the body and are either transported in the blood to exert effects in other areas, or used locally. They play a role in every aspect of health and have a wide range of effects.
What are examples of hormones?
Hormones regulate every aspect of health, form sex and reproduction to basic functions like sleeping and eating. Some common hormones and their functions are listed below:
Luteinizing hormone (LH): This hormone is produced in the anterior pituitary of the brain and works to increase testosterone production in men and triggers ovulation in women.
Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) is also produced in the anterior pituitary of the brain and helps develop follicles in the female ovary that release eggs during ovulation as well as increasing estrogen production. In men, it helps regulate spermatogenesis (sperm production).
Estrogen: This is one of the most well known of the sex hormones in women. It is produced in the ovaries and to a lesser degree, the adrenal glands. In women estrogen is responsible for development of female sex characteristics in pre-pubescent women and it controls the menstrual cycle. Specifically, estrogen rising is responsible for building the uterine lining in the first half of the cycle and it’s decline in the second half causes menses to start. It has several other functions as well – it helps to maintain bone density, regulate blood clotting, regulate the immune system, as well as regulate mood and memory. It additionally plays important roles in hair and skin health, pelvic muscle strength, and production of vaginal lubrication.
Estrogen is important for men too. It has been shown to decrease inflammation in the brain as well as to playing role in sperm count.
Progesterone: Progesterone is another female sex hormone produced by the ovaries and adrenal glands. In a menstruating woman, it helps prepare the uterus for pregnancy after ovulation occurs and helps maintain pregnancy if fertilization does happen. Progesterone plays an important role in balancing out the effects of estrogen.
Testosterone: In men testosterone is produced in the testes and to some extent the adrenal glands. It regulates the production of sperm, red blood cells, distribution of fat, libido, and helps to build muscle. In women testosterone is produced by the ovaries and helps control sex drive as well as maintain and repair reproductive tissues.
Thyroid stimulating hormone is a hormone produced in the anterior pituitary of the brain. It works to regulate the production of thyroid hormones.
Liothyronine (T3) is the active form of thyroid hormone. It acts on every cell of your body to control metabolism – the chemical reactions that occur within an organism to maintain life.
Levothyroxine (T4) is the inactive form of thyroid hormone. It is converted to T3 to be used by the cells to drive metabolic function.
Adrenal cortical stimulating hormone is produced in the anterior pituitary of the brain and acts on the adrenal gland to regulate the production of cortisol.
Cortisol is our stress hormone. It is produced in response to stress and works to put our physiology into a “fight or flight” stage. This means increasing blood glucose, oxygen uptake, heart rate, and respiratory rate.
Human growth hormone is the hormone responsible for the bone and muscle development in adolescents. In adults it helps maintain bone density, muscle growth, and fat metabolism.
What is hormonal imbalance
Symptoms of hormonal imbalance are dependent on the hormone system being affected. Common hormonal imbalances occur with the thyroid, sex hormones, and cortisol. Hormone imbalance often contributes to symptoms of fatigue, weight change, heat/cold intolerance, dry hair/skin, hair loss, insomnia, low libido and acne.
How to find out if you have a hormonal imbalance
Step 1: Make an appointment with a doctor competent in hormone therapy. BioMed offers free 15 minute consultations for those who want to learn more and meet their doctors prior to their first visit.
Step 2: After your visit your doctor will order a comprehensive panel to assess your hormone function based on your specific symptom picture.
Step 3: Work with your practitioner to choose the treatment strategy that is right for you.
Treatment options for hormone imbalance
Diet and lifestly changes
Certain diet and lifestyle factors are crucial in maintaining hormone health. Our liver, for example, is responsible for binding excess estrogens and preparing them for elimination through our feces. If fiber is missing from the diet, this process is not able to happen. If the liver is burdened with excess toxins this process will also be impeded. Stress management is also a major part of maintaining healthy hormones. Dietary and lifestyle recommendations are always a part of your individualized treatment plan at BioMed Health Center.
Certain nutrients and herbs can be helpful in balancing your hormones. Your functional medicine or naturopathic doctor will be able to provide you with personalized recommendations based on your lab results.
Hormone Replacement Therapy
Hormone replacement therapy refers to replacing sex hormones with a synthetic medication. This is a popular form of therapy for menopausal women to restore their levels of estrogen and progesterone. In conventional hormone replacement therapy (HRT), hormones are synthesized using equine (horse) estrogens from the urine. These are then formulated into therapy in the form of a patch, cream, or pill. With this type of hormone replacement, there is a risk of cancer, stroke, heart disease and blood clots. In women who have not have their uterus removed, it is recommended that progesterone also be taken as it decreases these negative side effects from estrogen HRT. It is important to note that these risks increase if treatment is started further after menopause begins.
There are also synthetic replacements for thyroid hormone that your doctor may choose to prescribe in the presence of hypothyroidism.
Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy
Bioidentical hormones are medications synthesized to be the exact molecular structure as the ones found in your body. These are distinctly different than the medications used in conventional hormone replacement therapy which are not bioidentical to the molecules produced by your body. Estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone are typically prepared this way. Estrogen is usually compounded into a cream which is more bioavailable than oral estrogen. Progesterone can be in the form of a cream or oral medication. Testosterone can come in a transdermal cream or injection.
Adrenal hormone, cortisol, as well as thyroid can be replaced naturally using glandular tissues from animals. These are popular forms of hormone replacement because the molecular structure and function of the glandular hormones is more similar those produced by the human body.
Are bioidentical hormones safe?
Yes. Bioidentical hormone replacement gives patients the option for balanced estrogen therapy. Conventional hormone replacement carries more risk because the estrogens derived actually contain high amounts of the specific estrogen, estrone (E1), that can cause uterine and breast cancer. Bioidenticals are compounded to contain safe and healthy ratios of estrogens and are not associated with the adverse risk of cancer development.
Want to learn more about bioidentical hormones?
The Miracle of Natural Hormones by best selling author David Brownstein outlines the everything you need to know about hormone therapy, its safety, and even provides real case studies.