Recently I had the privilege of serving as keynote speaker at the Warrior Moms’ Pajama Party, an annual event held in honor of moms of special needs children by the Healing Complex Kids organization. The idea for this weekend retreat was both to give these caregivers some much needed time for themselves, and to stress the need for self care when you’re caring for others. As a specialist in women’s hormone issues, I know that self care is important to all caregivers, because if we’re not our best, we can’t give our best to others. With that in mind, I’ve adapted my presentation for a wider audience and will present it in four parts. This is part three.
As part of my recent series concerning “Caring for the Caregiver,” I’ve been addressing several health issues related to improper function of the endocrine system. A collection of glands responsible for producing hormones that regulate the body’s metabolism, growth and development, sexual and reproductive function, sleep patterns, and mood (among other things) the endocrine systems has a huge impact on overall health.
The constant physical and mental stress to the body often experienced by full time caregivers can eventually leave them feeling emotionally overwhelmed and chronically fatigued, and can even be accompanied by other symptoms that mimic illness.
We’ve previously touched on the over- and under-production of several hormones produced by the endocrine system — T3 and T4 from the thyroid gland, and cortisol and adrenaline from the adrenal glands. For this issue, I’d like to touch on the importance of achieving and maintaining balance with the body’s “sex hormones,” or more aptly, “gender hormones.”
What are the Sex Hormones?
While the “sex hormones” do pertain to sexual function, they pertain to many other bodily functions as well. Hormones that are generally associated with being male or female are actually present in both genders alike, but in vastly different amounts. As a rule, men produce many more androgens, such as progesterone and testosterone than do women, and women produce more estrogens than their male counterparts.
These hormones are created by each to balance out needs for proper growth, development and function of that gender. Aging, illness and stress, among other things, can create a hormonal balance.
Often called “the happy hormone” in women, Progesterone, helps stabilize and improve mood. (In men it’s responsible for facial and body hair among other things.) The constant ﬂuctuation of this hormone in a woman’s body is often to blame for symptoms like anxiety, moodiness and depression during puberty, before menstruation, after giving birth and throughout menopause, and is often used to explain why depression and anxiety disorders are 2–3 times more common in women than men.
Estrogens maintain the reproductive tissues and help preserve the texture and function of a woman’s breasts. When levels are too high or too low, a woman can experience hot ﬂashes, moodiness, depression, anger and low sexual desire.
Testosterone (another androgen) helps maintain lean body mass, bone density, skin elasticity, sex drive and cardiovascular health in both sexes. DHEA is a naturally occurring steroid that is a precursor to the production of estrogen and progesterone. DHEA gradually declines with age, but can decline much more rapidly in times of stress. This can affect energy and anxiety levels, as well as sexual desire and immunity levels.
When these hormones are out of balance, patients can experience extreme moodiness, depression, hot ﬂashes, unexplained weight gain, chronic fatigue and the early onset of menopause. In fact, we see cases of menopause starting as early as 35 years in adrenal-stressed patients.
If these symptoms sound familiar, several speciﬁc by simple hormone tests can determine if your sex hormones are in balance. While many conventional doctors are quick to prescribe hormone replacement therapy (HRT,) that only masks the symptoms and doesn’t actually ﬁx the problem, which is why HRT doesn’t work long term. In addition, there are a host of possible side effects associated with the use of synthetic hormones. The best approach is a natural and personalized plan that enables your body to regulate its own hormones.
At Inﬁnity Wellness Center, our approach to functional endocrinology and natural hormone balancing can eliminate many of your symptoms and restore overall health.