Hormones are silent, chemical messengers that help your body function on a daily basis. Hormonal imbalances can cause a number of unwanted symptoms including weight gain, irritability, fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, depression, and the list goes on and on. As Functional and Integrative Medicine practitioners, we check and balance hormones on a regular basis.
Often when people hear the word hormones, they think about female hormones such as estrogen and progesterone. However, both males and females have a number of hormones circulating their bodies at all times. Some of the most common hormones checked at CentreSpring MD include estrogen, progesterone, cortisol, DHEA, testosterone, insulin, and thyroid levels (including T3, T4, TSH, and reverse T3).
The majority of the hormones circulating your body are functioning in a negative feedback loop, meaning if one hormone is imbalanced it can cause a number of other hormonal imbalances. After all, our bodies are striving to achieve homeostasis or balance. For example, it is not uncommon to see individuals with elevated stress (both physical and emotional) develop thyroid imbalances. The thyroid and adrenal glands are both signaled by the hypothalamus and pituitary axis. If all of your energy or hormones are directed to the adrenals (stress regulating glands) then the thyroid can become sluggish.
Here are three reasons why we check hormones on a regular basis:
- Hormones fluctuate often based on:
- Stress levels
- Dietary Changes
- Increased exercise or lack of exercise
- Gut bacteria changes
- Hormonal imbalances cause a number of unwanted symptoms including but not limited to:
- Poor sleep
- Skin and weight changes
- Hot flashes, night sweats
- Decreased libido
- Balancing hormones can prevent chronic diseases
- Insulin resistance can become diabetes
- Thyroid imbalances can cause elevated cholesterol
- Low estrogen and progesterone can cause low bone density
The other important component to testing hormones is accuracy and consistency. Testing hormones through serum (blood draw) gives a “snap shot” of what your hormone levels are at that exact moment in time. By the time one of my patients leaves the office and gets stuck in Atlanta traffic, their hormones have altered. Therefore, it is difficult to determine hormonal trends based on the serum results alone.
At CentreSpring MD, we check hormones through serum, saliva, and urine. Hormone testing through saliva and urine reflect a more accurate average of the hormones circulating your body for a longer period of time. For example, our saliva hormone test requires a saliva sample at four points during the day to track cortisol trends. Cortisol levels are the highest when you wake up in the morning and it should gradually decline as the day progresses. It is also important to remember that female hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone, vary drastically depending on where a woman is in her cycle. For example, estrogen levels rise in the first half of your cycle and progesterone levels rise in the second half of your cycle.
In summary, due to all we know about hormones, we recommend checking your hormones at least once a year. While we are working on hormone balance, we often check hormone levels every 3 months to make sure we are making positive improvements. Hormones are powerful chemical messengers in the body that can either help you feel your best or worst. Therefore, monitoring hormone levels regularly can ensure your hormones are at optimal levels to help you thrive (not just survive).
|Kristin Corbin Oja, recently having completed her doctorate of nursing practice, is a board-certified family nurse practitioner, registered nurse, personal trainer, group fitness instructor and doctorate student.|
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a visit with Kristin Corbin Oja.