Updated: May 17, 2019
When I was really unwell, my clinician at the time referred to me and my health concerns as something resembling "hormone soup". Think low lying fog, think white out when you're skiing, think soup that you can stand a spoon up in and you can't see the bottom of the bowl - well that's "hormone soup".
Whatever the visual is - it amounts to the same. You are trudging through your day, everything is a struggle. You can't see a way through - I’m sure you get the picture. Hormone’s play a HUGE role in this.
The topic of hormones seems to come up everywhere - on social media, at work, at book club, I even heard two women talking about it at the supermarket. The signs and symptoms that your hormones are all over the place are many and varied and are not just related to your reproductive system. The “chaos” (or soup) is most often because of a hormone imbalance. You have too many, you don’t have enough or the ratio between some of them is skewed. Most often people are actually talking about sex hormones and sex hormones are incredibly important, but there are many other hormones in this crazy mix.
Hormones by definition are chemical substances (molecules) that act like little messengers in the body. They are made in one part of the body and travel to other parts of the body where their job is to help control how cells and organs do their work. Here’s a few to give you an idea of what we’re talking about:
Insulin: made by the beta cells in the pancreas JOB = glucose metabolism and helps control blood sugar.
Progesterone: made in the ovaries, placenta if you are pregnant and adrenal glands (yep that’s right - adrenal glands are big multi taskers!) JOB = it prepares the body for conception, regulates the menstrual cycle and has a role in sexual desire (we better be taking care of our progesterone ladies).
Cortisol: made in the adrenal glands (there they go again those busy little adrenal glands and yet we give them a pretty rough ride everything considered) JOB = it helps the body deal with stress and/or danger and increases our body’s glucose metabolism.
Melatonin: made in the brain (pineal gland) JOB = regulates our sleep/wake cycles. There is also evidence that there is a relationship between light exposure and melatonin secretion and irregular menstrual cycles, menstrual cycle symptoms, and disordered ovarian function.
Now here’s the thing. That’s just four hormones (of around 50 in total) so it gives you a bit of an idea of their importance and of course to let you know that possibly I know what I’m talking about (har-de-har).
That’s only four hormones, four out of 50, and we can already see that even on that very simplistic level they are all interacting with one another - insulin and cortisol, cortisol and progesterone, melatonin and progesterone and so on.
Aha!! So now we are getting somewhere. They don’t work alone. They are all linked. And we need them ALL to be doing their respective jobs to be feeling good. THAT’S the holistic model of wellness that gives me the passion for this job. It’s ALL LINKED. No singular gland or organ or hormone works independently. We need to look at as much as we can to see what’s going on.
Ok, forgive me, I may have just gotten a bit excited there for a minute!!! Back to the blog post. The symptoms of your hormones being out of whack can include:
Messed up metabolism and appetite
Body temperature all over the show
Altered heart rate
Sleep/wake cycles a bit of a shambles
Irregular cycles (long cycle, short cycle, anything in between cycle - sounds catchy but a pain in the proverbial)
Heavy bleeding, bleeding more than 5-7 days
Irritability (think poking a raging bear)
Tearfulness (oh and yes tearfulness and irritability yoyo-ing for no apparent reason - good times people, good times!!)
Weight Issues (gain, loss, can’t shift it)
Tiredness/Insomnia (can’t get to sleep and/or can’t stay asleep)
Hot Flushes, night sweats (this isn’t just menopause either - thyroid imbalance can do this too)
Already diagnosed conditions: endometriosis, PCOS
Difficulty staying pregnant
Hirsutism (that's hair)
Breast tenderness (at any time of your cycle)
Even gut symptoms like bloating, reflux, gas, pain, constipation. IBS etc etc
The list goes on……….
Supporting your hormones is not difficult per se, we know which hormones should be where and when. We know what helps get hormones back to where they are optimal (lifestyle, food, supplements, herbs). We know that we are all different and that no two “hormone pictures” are the same. We know there is no magic bullet, no special pill to miraculously “fix” everything. And we know that it takes time. Time to heal what has gone before. Time to make the changes. Time to let the changes take effect.
BUT what we don’t know is exactly what the different hormones are doing for each person so that we can make the precise changes needed.
At Renew with Rach, functional testing is not a prerequisite. We can start with the symptoms, look at subjective tracking (temperature and cycle mapping). Make educated assumptions and make some changes and see what happens. This does work folks, clinical experience is a great tool. But it takes longer because we don’t know exactly what’s going on for YOU.
My personal and professional opinion however, is that if your hormones are playing havoc, even just a bit, it's a great idea to have a look at what exactly they are doing. Information is power folks - in this case very much so.
If your quality of life is lower than you think it should be, or if you have any of the above mentioned symptoms, your imbalanced hormones will most probably will be playing a key part. My feeling is that if you can, getting your hormones tested is a no brainer. I’m not just talking about your sex hormones and their precursors either (progesterone, estrogen, testosterone etc) I’m including cortisol, melatonin, as well as some Organic Acids to give us a look at your neurotransmitters (and more) and how they are doing.
My preference is the DUTCH test or the DUTCH Plus because it’s a whole lot of bang for your buck. More so than any test I’ve seen or worked with. Can’t say it any clearer than that.
As Chris Kresser (NY times and best selling author and founder of Kresser Institute for functional and evolutionary medicine) quotes "the DUTCH Plus is a game changer in the world of Hormone Testing. It provides the most comprehensive look at adrenal and sex hormones available in one test, which means more accurate diagnoses and more effective treatments".
As I mentioned earlier up the page a bit, there is much that can be done for hormonally related symptoms. A few simple lifestyle and diet adjustments and some key nutritional and herbal supplements that can be completely life changing.
And, to get you in the game, to get you more in touch with that amazing body of yours and to give me more information, I also get my clients to start cycle mapping, (and temperature monitoring if I think the thyroid is out of sync) - either old school charting with pen and paper or on an app. There are also a few key blood markers are very useful.
I can’t say it enough - information is power. The deeper we can dig - the more change we can effect. The more change we can effect, the better you feel :)
Any questions or for an obligation free chat please don’t hesitate to get in touch.