Imbalances are often triggered by stressful events (environmental, dietary, emotional or physical). Life changes, like the death of a family member or friend, marriage, break up, birth of a child, surgery, accidents, loss of a job, moving or effects from COVID-19, can trigger increased stress hormones, which will affect other endocrine glands and body systems.
Hormones are messengers of the endocrine system, and are triggered by a feedback system from the hypothalamus and pituitary parts of the brain. Endocrine glands release hormones. Hormones are derived in the liver and endocrine glands from cholesterol, proteins, amino acids and fatty acids. They often depend on one another to create the balance of hormones in the body.
For example, cortisol is released by the adrenal glands in times of stress, which, in turn, speeds up the heart rate, dilates the pupils and pulls blood from the digestive organs to fuel the muscles needed to help us run. Normally, we do not use this “fight or flight” system on a daily basis unless we are running away from a tiger or jumping out of a plane.
But persistent stress results in adrenal exhaustion, leading to fatigue and lower immunity. This can affect how well the male or female hormones work and can make your thyroid sluggish, affecting your metabolism. The adrenals play a major role in hormone balance. Imagine them as the air-traffic controller of source energy to all endocrine glands.
Testing your hormone levels is key for properly addressing and treating hormone imbalance and improving overall health.
Normal vs. Optimal Hormones
Patients experiencing symptoms of hormone imbalance may feel like at times they are going out of their mind. They don’t know the cause of their issues and seek help from their current doctor. Some practitioners are not well versed in hormone optimization, so they don’t know how to help them.
They may get bloodwork taken and all the results come back “normal.” That is fine and dandy. But the patient is fatigued, has low libido, low mood, increased belly fat, mind fog and is not sleeping well. The next step is for the doctor to give such patients an antidepressant and send them on their way. The patient chalks it up as, “Well, this must be aging or I must be crazy.”
Why does this happen so frequently? Many physicians do not understand hormone optimization and therefore often give the patient their opinions regarding hormones. They may also give the patient false information because they don’t know any better or were taught the old ways in medical school. Unfortunately, the patient suffers and often walks away feeling more confused about his or her overall health. With any luck, the patient gets frustrated and seeks the insight of a hormone specialist.
Patients who have been through this experience feel such relief that they are not crazy and what they are experiencing is, in fact, hormone related and can be treated. Their hormones can be brought to optimal ranges. What I mean by optimal ranges is this: hormone levels in blood or saliva testing that are at the higher end of normal or even outside the normal range. Normal results are not optimal results.
Blood hormone levels naturally decline as we age. Most people feel that they have to settle and accept that as part of aging. The truth is that this natural decline results in increased risk for cardiovascular disease and changes, insulin resistance/diabetes, increased risk of osteoporosis, skin changes (wrinkles, sagging skin, vaginal dryness, etc.), cognitive decline, increased visceral fat (belly fat) and increased cancer risk. When hormones are optimized in patients who may or may not have symptoms of hormone imbalance, they often feel better. They feel more like their old selves, have more zest for life, improved energy, better sleep, better libidos and better mood. Optimal hormone balance saves lives, decreases disease progression and saves relationships. FBN
By Christina Kovalik NMD, LAc
Dr. Christina Kovalik NMD, LAc, The Vitality Doctor, is a naturopathic physician and acupuncturist specializing in hormone optimization, optimal health and vitality. She is a new Flagstaff resident, practicing since 2004 and opened her second location in Doney Park in 2020. For more information, visit thevitalitydoctor.com or call 928-863-6086.