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Doing the Hormone Dance

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Doing the Hormone Dance

When you think of hormones, are you thinking about estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone? Complete hormone balance involves other crucial hormones as well, all participating in a delicate dance between sex hormones and thyroid and adrenal hormones.

When you think of hormones, are you thinking about estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone? Complete hormone balance involves other crucial hormones as well, all participating in a delicate dance between sex hormones and thyroid and adrenal hormones.

In their book Feeling Fat, Fuzzy or Frazzled? (Hudson Street Press, 2005), Drs. Richard and Karilee Shames compare the function of these three glandular systems to a three-legged stool, sturdy when all three legs are of equal length, but rickety when a leg is too short or too long.

Sex hormone imbalance frequently begins as we age, manifesting as the familiar symptoms of perimenopause: hot flashes, insomnia, night sweats, irritability, and mood swings. Thyroid and adrenal dysfunction are less a result of aging than a side effect of modern life with its high stress, poor diet, and exposure to environmental toxins. The thyroid, adrenals, and sex glands comprise a “solid foundation upon which the rest of our hormonal and metabolic health is built,” say the Shames.

Overlapping symptoms for imbalances in these three hormone systems make it difficult to separate which one–or two or all three–is causing which problem. Imbalances in all three systems are characterized by fatigue, insomnia, cold and heat intolerance, depression, suppressed immune-system function, and palpitations. Altogether there are hundreds of symptoms, but these are the most common.

Diagnosis can be difficult, both from your point of view and your doctor’s. The best methods are blood and saliva tests. You may find your doctor is resistant to taking a full hormone panel that includes estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone for sex hormone function; DHEA and cortisol for adrenal function; and TSH, T3, and T4 for thyroid. It’s important to know that at least 30 percent of cases of low thyroid function are subclinical or do not register on test results.

Once you’re certain of your diagnosis, it’s best to find a good holistic practitioner who can suggest the precise balance of supplements you’ll need. Prescription drugs can be used to treat hormonal dysfunction, but you may prefer to use some of the natural remedies outlined below.

For Fluctuating Sex Hormones

Black cohosh, Agnus vitex (chasteberry), soy isoflavones, and red clover are the most commonly used and most effective for relieving symptoms of perimenopause. There is some evidence that soy isoflavones and other plant-based estrogens may help achieve hormonal balance. Wild yam cream can be helpful in treating low progesterone levels. It is not necessary to take horse-urine-based prescription hormone replacement. A natural form of estrogen and progesterone hormone replacement, called bioidentical hormones, is available by prescription through compounding pharmacies.

For Low Thyroid Function

Thyroid glandulars, l-tyrosine, DHEA, selenium, essential fatty acids, coconut oil, and evening primrose may be helpful in stimulating thyroid function. Dessicated thyroid, a natural prescription medication made from pig thyroids, can be very effective.

For Adrenal Fatigue

Some of the most commonly used supplements to promote adrenal health are vitamins B5 and C, dessicated adrenal, holy basil, rhodiola, ashwagandha, schizandra, wild oats, phosphorylated serines, low-dose compounded DHEA, cordyceps, bacopa, Siberian and Asian ginseng, glycerated licorice (full-strength licorice extract), and echinacea.

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