Hormones are chemical messengers that travel through blood and enter tissues to regulate cell function. These chemicals are manufactured by glands in our body and released into the bloodstream for particular cells. Most cells ignore the hormone until the chemical “message” is accepted and the cell is doing what it is told to do. The premise of hormones is to keep the body functioning and maintaining balance. Hormones are only the messengers that start the cells into action. They are released when told to by the gland, but it is the cells that do the work. Hormones influence:
- The initiation and cessation of growth
- Mood and temperament
- Increase or decrease in metabolism
- Onset of puberty
- Onset of menopause
- Regulation of fight or flight
- Sexual function
Over the last few years I have been flooded with cases of hormonal imbalance and deregulation in women of all ages (16-20, 30-45 and 50+). While I do have cases of dealing with male hormonal health, the focus of this article will be on how to understand, recognize and treat women that suffer from thyroid disorders, irregular periods, mood disorders, weight gain, hot flushes, foggy thinking, bleeding changes and loss of libido to name a few. The most prominent hormones to investigate and evaluate for these instances would be estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA(s), as well as cortisol, and what varying levels of each could be indicating.
Low estrogen: Low estrogen levels are often addressed by supplementing with estrogen, however some nutritional supplements may also help improve symptoms. For example, boron may help boost estrogen production, and plant estrogens and progesterone may provide relief from symptoms of low estrogen.
High estrogen: Occurs either from making or retaining too much estrogen or supplementing with too much. Women who carry weight around their midsection often have high estrogen levels, because fat cells have an enzyme that makes estrogen from adrenal hormones. Thus, weight loss often reduces estrogen levels. When estrogen levels are high, it is important to make sure there is enough progesterone to balance its effects. Supplementing with too much estrogen can make estrogen receptors less responsive, leading to estrogen deficiency symptoms.
Low Progesterone: Treatment often includes natural progesterone supplementation, which is generally very safe and effective. The herb chasteberry may also help normalize progesterone levels. Sometimes low progesterone indicates low thyroid hormone levels, therefore lab tests for thyroid function may be recommended.
High Progesterone: Is almost always a consequence of over-supplementation. Therefore, it is likely that your health care practitioner will recommend a dose reduction. Prolonged supplementation of high doses of progesterone may cause progesterone receptors to become less sensitive, which could result in symptoms of low progesterone. An excess of progesterone may also lead to increased testosterone levels and symptoms of testosterone excess. A dose reduction or different progesterone type (cream instead of capsule) may be required.
Low Cortisol: Low morning cortisol may be indicative of adrenal issues, which require further testing or interventions by your health care provider.
High Cortisol: High cortisol levels are associated with numerous symptoms and conditions including: bone loss, high blood pressure, insulin resistance and diabetes, weight gain, memory impairment and immune system suppression. High cortisol levels also interfere with the action of other hormones. Therefore, when cortisol levels are high, the first step in restoring hormone balance is often to lower cortisol levels. Your health care provider may recommend lifestyle changes as well supplements to help address high cortisol levels.
Low DHEAs: The signs and symptoms of low DHEAs are not well-defined although low DHEAs is often associated with chronic illness. Some women may benefit from supplementing with DHEA to bring saliva hormone levels within range.
High DHEAs: Is associated with polycystic ovarian syndrome and insulin resistance. Thus, it may be necessary to undergo further testing, or to receive treatment for these conditions. High levels may occur when too much DHEA is given, in which case your health care practitioner will likely recommend reducing the dose.
Low Testosterone: Sometimes adding progesterone or correcting adrenal issues can improve low testosterone symptoms. However, in some cases it may be necessary to supplement with testosterone.
High Testosterone: Is associated with polycystic ovarian syndrome and insulin resistance. Thus, it may be necessary to undergo further testing, or to receive treatment for these conditions.
Factors that influence hormonal imbalance include:
Excess or prolonged use of birth control pills
Drugs (medicinal and recreational)
Caffeine, alcohol and smoking
Poor nutrition (low protein and fat portions but excess carbohydrate consumption)
Lack of physical activity or exercise
Xenoestrogens (poor 2-OH to 16-OH ratios in the body)
Exposure to chemicals and inhalants
Useful diagnostic tests include blood, saliva and urinary hormone testing as well as imaging (ultrasound and thermography).
In clinical practice I have come across cases of amenorrhea, menorrhagia, infertility, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), menopause, adrenal fatigue, uterine fibroids, ovarian and breast cancer. While each case within a given diagnosis may seem similar, they often are different and hold different key remedies to aid in treatment and improved prognosis. The most useful tool in treatment is accurate case taking and history. Many patients typically ignore or neglect key symptoms that help accurately determine the most beneficial remedy or remedies for treatment. Proper administration of the treatment plan, nutritional, and lifestyle advice and patient compliance pay dividends in healing. These are the key remedies in treating hormone imbalance that we have implemented successfully, however this list is not exhaustive.
Menses retarded, suppressed. Functional amenorrhea of young girls with backache. Before menses, inflammatory conditions of throat, chest, and bladder. After menstruation commences, these improve. Anemic dysmenorrhea with urinary disturbances. Premature and too profuse menses. Sleep: Great drowsiness, with unpleasant dreams. Nervousness and sleeplessness.
Pelvic organs relaxed. Bearing-down sensation as if everything would escape through vulva; must cross limbs to prevent protrusion, or press against vulva. Leucorrhea yellow, greenish, with much itching. Menses too late and scanty, irregular; early and profuse; sharp clutching pains. Violent stitches upward in the vagina, from uterus to umbilicus. Prolapse of uterus and vagina. Morning sickness. Vagina painful, especially on coition.
A milky, acrid leucorrhea, during urination. Itching of vulva and vagina; very sensitive. Discharge of blood between menstrual periods. Increased menses with paroxysms of icy coldness over whole body. Nipples very sore, ulcerated easily, drawn in. Fistulous ulcers of breast. Abscess of labia. Discharge of blood from vagina every time child is nursed. Vaginal cysts, hard lumps in breast.
Sleep: Night-walking, gets up while asleep. Sleeplessness with great orgasm of blood and heat in head. Frequent starts in sleep. Anxious dreams. Excessive gaping.
Amenorrhea. Suppressed menses from wet feet, nervous debility, or chlorosis. Tardy menses, too late, scanty, thick, dark, clotted, changeable, intermittent. Chilliness, nausea, downward pressure, painful, flow intermits. Leucorrhea acrid, burning, creamy. Pain in back; tired feeling. Diarrhea during or after menses.
Menses irregular; usually profuse. Vagina dry. Leucorrhea acrid, watery. Bearing-down pains; worse in morning. Prolapsus uteri, cutting in urethra. Ineffectual labor-pains. Suppressed menses. Hot during menses.
Spasmodic and severe pains, which fly in all directions; shivering, without progress; false pains. Revives labor pains and furthers progress of labor. After pains. Leucorrhea with moth-spots on forehead. Habitual abortion from uterine debility. Needle-like pains in cervix. Dysmenorrhea, with pains flying to other parts of body. Lochia protracted; great atony. Menses and leucorrhea profuse.
CIMICIFUGA – ACTAEA RACEMOSA
Amenorrhea. Pain in ovarian region, shoots upward and down anterior surface of thighs. Pain immediately before menses. Menses profuse, dark, coagulated, offensive with backache, nervousness; always irregular. Ovarian neuralgia. Pain across pelvis, from hip to hip. After-pains, with great sensitiveness and intolerance to pain. Infra-mammary pains, worse left side. Facial blemishes in young women
Women needing this remedy tend to have problems with puffiness and edema during times of menstrual stress, and can feel very awkward and clumsy. Pain may be felt in the pelvic region, often with soreness near the pubic bone. Menstrual flow increases at night (and may even be absent during the day). Diarrhea occurring at the time of the menstrual period is a strong indication for this remedy.
** All remedy notes used were from Homeopathic Materia Medica by William Boericke MD presented by Medi-T.
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