Hello there, it’s Dr. Alex Jimenez again and welcome to part four of “Taking Control of your Healthcare”. Today, we’re going to discuss hormones. Hormones regulate most of the human body’s systems as they are recognized as the messenger molecules of the endocrine system. Hormone imbalances can cause subtle changes, however, their effects can tremendously impact an individual’s overall health and wellness. And what’s worse, most healthcare professionals don’t treat hormonal imbalances unless they’ve already been considered extreme.
The sex hormones, the thyroid hormones, and the adrenal hormones are the most important hormones we have to keep in balance. There’s a variety of other hormones, of course, but health issues associated with those are often more rare. Many doctors generally won’t test a person for hormone imbalances unless they’ve been trying to conceive a baby or they have sexual dysfunction or any other health issue of this type. And frequently, many doctors miss other problems by performing a screening test rather than a complete test.
Hormones are essential towards mental health, gut health, and reproductive health. In functional medicine, we even believe that hormones are vital towards maintaining a healthy immune system. Even if you’re not trying to conceive a baby or if you don’t have sexual dysfunction, it’s important for both men and women to known what their hormone levels look like.
Now, let’s discuss hormonal imbalances in sex hormones. First of all, How does a hormone imbalance manifest itself? Do you experience mood swings and fluctuations in your energy levels? Or if you’re a female, do you experience symptoms of PMS? Or perhaps you need coffee to wake up in the morning and wine to sleep at night? Has your sex drive, or libido, decreased? Do you have brain fog? Or is it difficult for you to focus on tasks?
If you’ve experienced any of these symptoms, you might have a hormonal imbalance in your sex hormones. Hormones are small molecules in charge of transmitting signals from one body system to another. But, if these molecules aren’t functioning accordingly, our energy levels and our mood can be tremendously affected. If you feel that something is off within your own body, talk to your doctor and seek proper testing. Don’t simply guess.
Let’s begin by discussing how you test your hormones. In functional medicine, we can test through saliva, blood, urine, and even stool. But, which is best for testing hormones? The truth is, knowing how and when to test your hormones is important because testing can depend on the marker that you want to look at. By way of instance, blood testing is one of the best and most affordable if you’re simply looking for a preliminary screening. A functional medicine doctor can also determine when a urine test will be more helpful than a blood test or a saliva test.
So, now that you know how to test your hormones, we’ll discuss the different health issues caused by hormonal imbalances in the sex hormones of both men and women. First, let’s talk about men. As for the women, this is still an essential topic for you to learn about because the men in your lives are much less likely to schedule a doctor’s appointment for themselves.
Approximately 39 percent of men over the age of 45 have low levels of testosterone, or what’s known as low T. Elevated insulin levels associated with diabetes and obesity can lower your testosterone levels, which in turn, can increase estrogen levels. When testosterone goes down, your sex drive, or libido, and other functions can be tremendously affected. Excess consumption of sugar and starch can have different impacts for both men and women. Additionally, the utilization of certain drugs and/or medications, lack of exercise and physical activity, as well as inflammation, can also contribute to lower testosterone levels. While the majority of doctors won’t test testosterone levels in a man unless they have sexual dysfunction, I always want to make sure to test the sex hormones if a man has belly fat.
I would also like to discuss the serious side effects of a drug/medication which is commonly prescribed for sexual dysfunction. Statins can help lower cholesterol, however, did you know that your testosterone is made from cholesterol? That’s right. And when you start taking a drug/medication which was designed to decrease your cholesterol, you may also potentially be decreasing your sex hormones. It’s well-known that statins can decrease testosterone, leading to sexual dysfunction and even sometimes causing men to grow breasts, a condition known as gynecomastia. Side effects like these occur when we don’t treat the source of a health issue.
What you eat, including mainly sugar and starch, can be associated with your low testosterone levels and your abnormal cholesterol levels. Treatments like these where you take a drug for one thing but then end up taking another medication for the side effects of the fist medicine is unfortunately something that happens a lot in the medical field, and it can be a real nightmare.
Male testosterone levels are decreasing so much with each generation that normal reference ranges for testosterone levels in males are changing. But, that’s not something we want to happen. We don’t want these abnormal changes to become normal. Therefore, shouldn’t we be trying to find out why the overall health and wellness of our population is decreasing at such an alarming rate rather than lowering our normal standards of well-being?
Before we do that, however, we first have to understand why this problem is happening. From our increased exposure to toxins and our elevated levels of stress to our higher consumption of processed foods, these are only several of the more obvious reasons why our hormones are being affected.
In conventional medicine, the reference ranges for testosterone are between 264 and 916.
When you think about it, however, this is a tremendous range. Does a man with a testosterone level of 265 have the same sexual function as a man with a testosterone level of 916? Most definitely not. Yet these two people are classified under the same category. And with that in mind, what are the optimal reference ranges for testosterone? Men under the age of 30 should have a testosterone level of over 700, and men over the age of 30 should have a testosterone level of at least 500.
Evaluating men’s total testosterone levels is essential but we also need to evaluate their active hormone levels, or their free testosterone levels. Testosterone is carried around on what is known as a sex hormone binding globulin, which then releases it as the human body needs it. This carrier protein is found in the blood and when there’s too much of it, it becomes difficult for the human body to release testosterone when it’s needed.
In men, free testosterone levels should be of at least 10 but, they should optimally be closer to 15 or 20. Additionally, your doctor should check the sex hormone binding globulin or SHBG. As we discussed before, this carrier protein for testosterone and other hormones, can decrease your free testosterone levels. If you don’t check your SHBG, your total testosterone levels might be normal but your free testosterone levels might be too low.
By way of instance, SHBG is similar to a bus filled with many workers. In this case, the workers are testosterone. When we have too many buses, the majority of the workers will stay on the bus while only a few will be out doing their job. A man can have a total testosterone level of 700, however, if they have a free testosterone level of only 5, they’re bound to still feel like they have a total testosterone level of 300.
In summary, we want to make sure that our total testosterone level is over 500 or better, over 600 and we also want to make sure that our free testosterone level is between 15 and 20.
Another hormone you might want to make sure you get tested for is known as dehydroepiandrosterone, or DHEA. DHEA is a precursor hormone for testosterone. It’s also an adrenal hormone, however, we will discuss this later in another article. If an individual’s DHEA is too low, it can indicate that the adrenal glands, which are in charge of the human body’s stress response, may not be functioning appropriately. DHEA levels should be between two to 400.
DHEA, or dehydroepiandrosterone, can be supplemented directly. Many doctors and functional medicine practitioners may also implement stress-relieving methods and techniques into your life, such as mindfulness meditation and yoga, to treat the source of the health issue. Herbal supplements can also help regulate DHEA as well as testosterone levels.
Now, we will discuss a fundamental hormone that is generally only considered to be important in female health, however, this hormone also plays an essential role in men; estrogen. Estrogen helps maintain a healthy sex function as it promotes your libido. It is also protective for the brain. In men’s health, estrogen is often demonized because it can cause health issues like breast development if estrogen levels are too high in men. But, normal estrogen levels are fundamental towards maintaining hormone balance as well as mental health.
Estrogen can increase in men with diabetes and obesity. Elevated insulin exchanges more testosterone into estrogen which may cause additional symptoms like fatigue. This can also create more problems alongside sexual dysfunction, including hair loss. So, if you have less than optimal testosterone levels, you should seek help from a doctor or functional medicine practitioner to find out why. And looking at your estrogen levels is a great place to start.
There are two types of estrogen tests which can help demonstrate your estradiol and estrone levels. These are important markers to look at because one can be elevated while the other can be in the normal range. The brain is the other place you can look at to determine your estrogen levels. Your brain produces hormones which can stimulate sex hormones, such as the follicle stimulating hormone, or FSH, and the luteinizing hormone, or LH, which helps produce testosterone and sperm within the testicles. If your LH is low, then your low testosterone levels may be caused by a brain health issue. However, it’s much more likely that sugar and starch consumption may be causing hormonal imbalances in your sex hormones.
Approximately 70 percent of the testosterone deficiencies in the United States are associated with insulin resistance due to diabetes and obesity. So, if your diet is filled with sugar and starch or if you have belly fat, you may already have decreased testosterone levels.
Hormones are secreted directly into the blood stream in order to control a variety of bodily functions. These can affect growth and development, mood, sexual function, reproduction, and metabolism. As a fundamental part of the endocrine system, hormone imbalances can have a tremendous effect on our overall health and wellness. Men’s hormones, by way of instance, can significantly impact a man’s quality of life. Research studies have demonstrated that decreased testosterone in men can cause a variety of health issues. Evaluating sex hormones in both men and women is essential towards overall health and wellness.Dr. Alex Jimenez D.C., C.C.S.T. Insight
While we keep discussing the importance of lab tests, we also need to keep asking ourselves why these health issues are happening in the first place. The answers trace back to the basics of health and wellness. What are you eating? Do you participate in exercise or physical activities? Do you sleep properly? Do you have stress? What are your nutrient levels? Of course, several of these answers require more evaluations. That’s why I highly recommend you find a functional medicine doctor who can help get you on the right path towards optimal health and wellness. Most of the time, basic lifestyle modifications including diet, exercise, stress management, sleep and supplements can help. Other times you may need hormone replacement therapy.
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