Functional Medicine Doctor Explains Women’s Hormones
We discussed the basics
By way of instance, depression affects 20 percent of women, about twice as much in women than in men. And premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, affects between 60 and 75 percent of women in the United States. Infertility is also an epidemic which affects more than one in seven couples and it is generally managed by reproductive endocrinologists through invasive procedures, hormone treatments, and in vitro fertilization, or IVF, often without even evaluating what is the cause of the reproductive health issues. I’ve helped many women improve their hormone imbalances through the basic principles of functional medicine.
Now, these are only several of the reasons why we need to determine the source of hormonal imbalances in women. And I believe this knowledge can help women find the answers they need to improve their overall health and wellness. Most importantly, you need to learn to listen to what your body is telling you. After all, the human body is one of the best doctors.
Taking Control of Women’s Hormones
Women’s hormones are much more complex than men’s hormones because they’re constantly changing based on their cycle as well as on their stage of life. If you’re experiencing mood swings, irregular cycles, menstrual pain, heavy bleeding, infertility, weight gain, and brain fog, functional medicine can help improve your symptoms by balancing your hormones.
Next, we will discuss the following tests you should include in your lab panels if you’re a female, including the follicle stimulating hormone, or FSH, the luteinizing hormone, or LH, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, and estrogen. Also, it’s important to note that there isn’t just a single estrogen hormone. There are many different types of estrogens, such as estradiol.
So, let’s discuss the differences between pre-menopausal women and post-menopausal women. Pre-menopausal women should experience regular cycles every 28 days that last two or three days without a lot of pain, not too heavy bleeding, and no PMS. However, most women don’t experience regular cycles. A proper nutrition consisting of low sugar and starch, high fat, and more fiber can help correct abnormal cycles. A plant-rich diet can also help improve abnormal cycles. Caffeine and alcohol consumption can even cause hormone imbalances in women. Proper nutrition, including taking supplements like magnesium, B vitamins and fish oil, exercise, sleep, and stress management can help regulate your hormones. This is generally enough to help most women.
A doctor or functional medicine practitioner can also help balance your hormones. Because women’s hormones fluctuate throughout their cycle, progesterone and estrogen levels may be different for each woman. Also, depending on the hormonal health issues, patients may need to run their hormone lab panel tests on either day three or day 21 of their cycle for best results.
Furthermore, we will also need to evaluate your ratio of hormones, like that of estrogen to progesterone, because these can be the cause of numerous symptoms for many women. Estrogen dominance is one of the most common problems associated with a woman’s hormone ratio. Progesterone levels in women should be at their highest during the last half of their cycle. The hormone ratio between progesterone and estrogen should be 10 to one. However, if the human body is not producing the required amounts of progesterone, symptoms of estrogen dominance may begin to manifest, regardless if the human body’s estrogen levels themselves are low. Symptoms of estrogen dominance can include: anxiety, heavy bleeding, PMS, breast tenderness, shorter cycles or spotting between cycles, infertility, fluid retention, weight gain, and sleeping problems.
FSH is produced by the brain to help the follicles and the ovaries prepare to release an egg. LH is another hormone produced by the brain which triggers the release of an egg into the uterus so that conception can occur. LH also helps produce progesterone during the second half of your cycle, which may be another reason why many women have low progesterone levels.
These hormones are fundamental to look at if you’re trying to have a baby. The elevated hormone ratio between LH and FSH can demonstrate the presence of a common health issue known as PCOS or polycystic ovarian syndrome. PCOS is actually not an ovarian health issue. As a matter of fact, it’s a common problem associated with a poor diet and insulin resistance. An increased consumption of sugar and starch can cause irregular cycles, heavy bleeding, acne, hair loss, and infertility.
As for post-menopausal women, hormone blood panel tests are just as important and we generally don’t need to worry about having to evaluate them on a specific day of the month. Also, when we test a woman who’s in their perimenopause, their hormones may be tremendously unstable. Therefore, it’s ultimately essential to diagnose a woman’s symptoms to help treat the source of the health issue.
We previously discussed the importance of testosterone in men. However, testosterone is also important in women. Many women visit numerous doctors after experiencing low energy levels as well as a decreased sex drive. Most doctors will associate these symptoms with aging or they may even tell them it’s all in their head and simply prescribe them some Prozac. But if we were to run a blood panel test on them, their testosterone levels would often come back undetectable. It’s no wonder why women don’t feel like themselves after they’ve lost their libido and their vitality.
Total testosterone levels in women should be between 60 and 80 while free testosterone levels should be over 0.5. Testosterone is fundamental towards maintaining lean muscle mass and optimizing energy. Testosterone is also important for clear brain function.
Now women, if you have low testosterone levels, this may be causing you to experience a reduced sex drive or it may even be making you feel fatigue. However, this isn’t always the cause of these symptoms. That’s why it’s so essential for women to test their sex hormone levels. Testosterone is what is known as an androgen, or a male hormone, but it’s also found in women. Other androgens that help contribute to male characteristics include androstenedione, dihydrotestosterone, or DHT, and DHEA. In polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS, women will commonly develop elevated levels of any of these hormones. Women who consume a lot of sugar and starch may also develop acne, hair loss or they may even grow facial hair. All of these are symptoms of too much testosterone in women.
PCOS affects approximately 8 to 12 percent of women. As previously mentioned, this health issue is a metabolic problem caused by poor nutrition which ultimately affects the human body’s insulin levels. It can also affect other hormones, such as the androgens we previously discussed. When women develop insulin resistance, the production of male sex hormones can increase. Other tests are important when PCOS is caused by FSH and LH hormones.
FSH generally triggers ovulation. However, if a woman’s FSH is too low due to PCOS, ovulation, and therefore, conception can’t occur. This is why women with PCOS are also commonly diagnosed with infertility. And the key is in a woman’s LH to FSH ratio. Increased levels of LH can stimulate androgens, such as testosterone, and decreased levels of FSH can stimulate the follicles and estrogen. Furthermore, facial hair or thinning of the head hair, irregular menstrual cycles, heavy bleeding, and weight gain in women can be symptoms of PCOS. Although PCOS is believed to be a health issue which exclusively affects overweight women, we’re starting to see an increase of women with healthy weights develop PCOS.
Because functional medicine focuses on finding the source of the health issue, if we see cysts on your ovaries or if any other lab tests indicate the presence of PCOS, we won’t simply stop there. And most often, we just have to look back at the patient’s diet. The high consumption of sugar and starch causes a tremendous metabolic disturbance which can cause a variety of other health issues. We will discuss these various metabolic conditions in another article.
Hormones are fundamental to women’s health. Female sex hormones, including estrogen and progesterone, influence a woman’s mood, menstruation, pregnancy, menopause, and more. A variety of other hormones can also affect other aspects of a woman’s health. One of the most common health issues associated with hormonal imbalances in women is known as polycystic ovarian syndrome or PCOS. Women can be tremendously affected by hormone fluctuations. It’s essential for women to seek help from a doctor to find out if their symptoms are caused by hormone imbalances. Functional medicine can also help regulate hormones.Dr. Alex Jimenez D.C., C.C.S.T. Insight
Understanding Women’s Hormones
Now, let me explain what are some of the most important things doctors or functional medicine practitioners look at when ordering a DUTCH test or an Essential Estrogens test. Hormone metabolism tests demonstrate your absolute hormone levels as well as which types of metabolites are being triggered. And this is what we utilize to look at your estrogen levels, androgen levels, and progesterone levels, as well as your cortisol levels, which we will discuss later. These are essential metabolites that can be found through our saliva, blood, and urine. We even look at all the different varieties of estrogens which get broken down by the liver.
So, it’s fundamental that we look carefully at our hormone levels. Testing for hormonal imbalances in both men and women can tell us a lot about what’s causing our symptoms as well as what we can do to treat them. We can recommend a series of lifestyle modifications, including guidance and advice in nutrition and exercise. At least that’s what a good functional medicine doctor would do.
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Additional Topic Discussion: Acute Back Pain
Back pain is one of the most prevalent causes of disability and missed days at work worldwide. Back pain attributes to the second most common reason for doctor office visits, outnumbered only by upper-respiratory infections. Approximately 80 percent of the population will experience back pain at least once throughout their life. The spine is a complex structure made up of bones, joints, ligaments, and muscles, among other soft tissues. Injuries and/or aggravated conditions, such as herniated discs, can eventually lead to symptoms of back pain. Sports injuries or automobile accident injuries are often the most frequent cause of back pain, however, sometimes the simplest of movements can have painful results. Fortunately, alternative treatment options, such as chiropractic care, can help ease back pain through the use of spinal adjustments and manual manipulations, ultimately improving pain relief.
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