Healthy hormone balance is critical to good health for both women and men. As we age, undergo stress, pass through transitions such as pregnancy or menopause, are exposed to environmental chemicals or poor food choices, hormones often become imbalanced. Some typical symptoms associated with hormone imbalance include:
- Brain fog
- Weight gain, difficulty losing weight, or loss of muscle mass
- Anxiety, depression or mood swings
- Menstrual irregularities
- Hot flashes & nights sweats
- Sexual dysfunction, decreased libido or vaginal dryness
- Hair loss/thinning
- Thyroid dysfunction
When we talk about “hormone imbalance” we most commonly think of the sex hormones such as estrogen, testosterone and progesterone. These hormones are very important and account for many of the symptoms listed above. We also need to consider the thyroid gland in any hormone discussion, as it is a very common site of dysfunction. Too many people, especially women, are living with a sub-optimal thyroid gland. This can cause fatigue, weight gain or difficulty losing weight, brain fog, constipation, dry skin and hair, hair loss, depression and more.
The adrenal glands are the third major hormone producing site in the triad, and are crucial for dealing with stress in a healthy manner. In the modern world, stress is an everyday occurrence, which humans should be well adapted to. However, in reality, the nature of modern stressors can cause dysfunction and ill health in many people. This will then impact the other hormonal systems, including the thyroid, ovaries and testes, as well as most other systems in the body.
At the Wallace Integrated Health Centre, we believe in treating the whole person in order to achieve optimal health. You will receive a thorough individualized assessment including detailed medical history and physical exam, and any necessary testing (possibly including salivary, urinary or serum hormone testing). Different testing methods are helpful in different cases. Serum (blood) testing is the standard, most commonly used form and is most useful for thyroid assessment and certain sex hormones, while saliva can be very useful to measure cortisol levels throughout the day, to monitor the stress response, and when levels are too low to see in serum. Urine testing is helpful with complex cases, including those dealing with or at risk for hormone-dependent cancers, as it can give insights into how the body metabolizes hormones, as well as the overall levels. This information will be used to create an individual treatment plan which may include dietary & lifestyle changes, herbal medicine, vitamin and mineral supplementation, acupuncture, and/or bio-identical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT).
BHRT uses hormones made from natural sources (such as soy or wild yams) to create hormones which are identical to human hormones. Bio-identical hormones bind to our receptors, and are broken down in the same way as our own hormones, resulting in less harmful by-products than conventional hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which is usually made from hormones found in horse urine. This generally results in fewer side effects and improved efficacy with BHRT versus conventional HRT. Bio-identical hormones can be individually compounded to the exact level that each person needs and are often given topically (in creams, gels or suppositories), which means that lower doses can be used. Natural dessicated thyroid (or NDT) is also considered a bio-identical hormone, and is a good option for many with low thyroid function, as it closely resembles the ratio of thyroid hormones found in the human body.