Hormones! We all have them! They’re molecules that help with regulating essential processes in your body. Hormones are usually made in one part of the body, and they move through the bloodstream and act on receptors in different organs and your brain. The hormones in your body all work together to keep you healthy and happy. Many complex pathways of hormones interact with each other, and an imbalance in one hormone can lead to imbalances in others. Some of the more well-known hormones are described here.
Cortisol is the primary stress hormone in your body. The adrenal glands produce cortisol as a potent stimulant and immune system suppressor. Over time, when people are under stress beyond their body’s ability to cope, something called adrenal fatigue can occur.
Adrenal fatigue is a more common and significant thing that naturopathic doctors treat. Like digestive health, adrenal health is essential for your whole body to function and heal. Most people have felt at least some burnout after working too hard: if this becomes the norm, you might have adrenal fatigue. It occurs in stages:
Because cortisol is a precursor to sex hormones, when there isn’t enough of it around, your body can’t make enough sex hormones either. Sex hormones play a more significant role than just sex, and a lack of them can result in depression, weight gain, and infertility. Treating your stress and revitalizing adrenal glands will help with all the other systems.
Testosterone is the primary male sex hormone. It’s normal for men to decline testosterone levels with age, but sometimes the levels drop sooner than they should. This seems to be increasingly common. Some warning signs of low testosterone levels include depression, weight gain, decreased sex drive, and fatigue. Many factors play into men’s health and many natural approaches to supporting men in being healthy.
Estrogen and progesterone are the two main female sex hormones produced by the ovaries. In a healthy woman, these two hormones balance each other out. Estrogen helps the uterine lining develop and is essential for ovulation. Estrogen levels typically peak just before ovulation and then drop off in the second half of a woman’s cycle.
It is common to see relatively high levels of estrogen and low levels of progesterone. This is called estrogen dominance and might appear as headaches, anxiety, food cravings, weight gain, and PMS.
The thyroid gland is essential in regulating your metabolism and energy levels. There are four main thyroid hormones: TSH, T3, T4, and rT3, and you need to have proper levels of all of these. Read more about the thyroid and conditions.
Naturopathic medicine has many tools to help with hormone management. Healthy levels of good fats and cholesterol in your diet give your body the building blocks to synthesize hormones. Supplementing with vitamins and minerals that work in different metabolic pathways helps various hormones convert into active forms, meaning you get more energy, less PMS, and more excellent overall health.
Herbal medicine is an excellent way to help balance hormones of all kinds. Herbs like a chaste tree and black cohosh are great for female hormone balancing, and herbs like saw palmetto and nettle are for male hormones. Adrenal hormones can be supported with Withania, licorice root, and thyroid hormones with iodine-rich seaweed.
With hormone problems, there is often an imbalance of two hormones that would generally balance each other – estrogen and progesterone. Acupuncture can be a great adjunct to a hormone-regulating protocol because it works to balance whatever is out of balance in the body.
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