Healthy Hormone Balance
Published In: Health First E-Letter | May 2011
Written by: Marita Schauch, BSc, ND
Hormones are important chemical messengers that are responsible for thousands of reactions in the body. The stress of everyday living combined with a poor diet and other factors can upset hormone balance resulting in a variety of symptoms.
Healthy hormone balance is absolutely essential during a woman’s reproductive and menopausal years. Disruptions in hormone balance can lead to menstrual disorders such as irregular or heavy bleeding, symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), uterine fibroids as well as menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and insomnia later in life.
Stress, aging, exposure to pesticides, man-made chemicals, too much or too little exercise, or improper nutrition can all affect the delicate balance of hormones. When hormones return to balance, the organs and tissues can return to their proper functioning. It is now well known that one of the most prominent causes of PMS related symptoms, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, fibrocystic breast disease; and breast, uterine and ovarian cancer is excessive estrogen exposure from xenoestrogens which are synthetic estrogens from the environment. This is most often referred to as Estrogen Dominance. Two major sources of these exogenous estrogens are oral contraceptives (birth control pill) and hormone replacement therapy. These hormones are considered “foreign” which the body does not recognize to be identical to its own hormones. These foreign hormones can create damaging by-products and metabolites which can put a lot of stress on the liver as well as disrupt normal hormone pathways. Other major sources of xenoestrogens are environmental toxins found in pesticides, herbicides, plastics, refrigerants, and industrial solvents which are structurally similar to estrogen and have the ability to mimic the harmful estrogens in the body. Additionally, the hormones used to fatten livestock and promote milk production are found in meat and milk products, thereby increasing our exposure to environmental estrogens even more. There are also estrogens in the body that can cause problems and increase a women’s risk for a variety of cancers such as breast and ovarian cancer. Research has shown that both “good” and “bad” natural estrogens exist in the body; for example, 16?-hydroxylated estrogen metabolites are stronger and associated with a higher risk of breast cancer compared to 2-hydroxylated estrogen metabolites.
Estrosense® is a unique natural formula that helps maintain healthy hormone balance. It supports detoxification of “bad” estrogens and harmful xenoestrogens preventing estrogen dominance conditions and reducing the risk of women’s cancers. Calcium-d-glucarate, indole-3-carbinol and sulforaphane are important substances that all support healthy hormone metabolism by promoting liver detoxification and excretion of harmful xenoestrogens. Milk Thistle is a well researched botanical extract that contains potent antioxidants that protect liver cells from free radical damage and support detoxification pathways. DIM is a naturally occurring phytonutrient found in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli. DIM has been shown to promote the formation of 2-hydroxylated estrogen metabolites instead of 16?-hydroxylated estrogen metabolites thereby shifting the ratio of “good” estrogens and reducing the production of “bad” estrogens. Tumeric, Lycopene, Rosemary and Green tea are all powerful antioxidants and have anti-carcinogenic properties thus protecting the body from environmental insult as well as reducing one’s risk of cancer.
Fatigue is another common complaint that can be a result of hormonal imbalance. Every day in my practice I see patients who complain of unrelenting fatigue. They wake up unrefreshed, drag themselves through each day, and if given the opportunity could nap in the afternoon. Some patients sleep through their alarm every morning only to hit snooze a half a dozen times and then nurse themselves with coffee all day so that they can function and feel “normal”.
These patients feel unmotivated and irritable. Activities that once gave them pleasure do not anymore and most feel inundated with the slightest amount of stress. It is as if their body’s coping mechanisms are completely exhausted. These patients also have an incredibly hard time losing weight. Even though they may exercise vigorously and eat healthy, they just can’t seem to shed a pound!
Do these symptoms sound familiar? If so, you might have what’s called Adrenal Fatigue.
The adrenal glands are two small glands that sit on top of each kidney and are the body’s main stress responders. The body typically responds to physical and emotional stress by producing adrenal hormones such as epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol as a coping mechanism. These hormones are then released into the blood and prepare the body for combating perceived dangers by increasing blood pressure, heart rate and by making more energy available for fuel. This is known as the “fight or flight” response. The body then turns the response inward, affecting organ systems such as digestive, nervous, or circulatory just to name a few. When this happens, conditions such as ulcers, headaches, weight gain, atherosclerosis, allergies, asthma, fatigue and insomnia can develop.
The stress response is obviously essential to life because it allows us to handle life’s challenges. However, when we trigger the stress response too often, problems arise as the stress hormones are continuously pumped out and the body becomes depleted and exhausted.
The good news is that there are steps that you can take to optimize your adrenal function to prevent the deteriorating affects of adrenal fatigue including exercise, relaxation techniques, restoring sleep and reducing refined sugars, caffeine, alcohol and processed foods. Also look for AdrenaSense®, an adrenal gland supporting formula with Rhodiola, Suma, Siberian ginseng, Schisandra and Ashwagandha to help reduce stress, improve energy and promote restful sleep.