Hormonal and Metabolic Imbalances...
When we hear the phrase "hormone imbalance", most people automatically we are referring to the female reproductive cycle hormones Estrogen and Progesterone. Imbalances in these reproductive hormones are certainly common, but hormone imbalances can go well beyond these particular two hormones, and can affect men as commonly as they affect women.
There are five major hormone systems in the body.
Female (Estrogen, Progesterone,Testosterone, FSH, LH)
Thyroid Stimulating Hormone
Epinephrine, Norepinephrine, Dopamine
Immune System Hormones
Tumour necrosis factor
Blood Sugar Control Hormones
The complex diagram shown above indicates many of the symptoms and conditions that can be associated with slight imbalances (excesses or deficiencies) in the various hormone systems. The more important message in the diagram above are arrows indicating known influences of one hormone system on another. An imbalance in one system can literally influence and effect an imbalance or dysfunction in ANY OTHER HORMONE SYSTEM.
An imbalanced Estrogen level as compared to Progestrone can suppress thyroid function, causing various metabolic issues such as fatigue, weight gain, mood disorders, sleep issues, etc. At the same time, a weak or hypofunctioning thyroid gland can lead to imbalances in estrogen and progesterone causing menstrual cycles irregularities, mood disorders, fatigue, etc.
A chronic immune system or inflammatory disorder can lead to a weakening of the adrenal system causing symptoms associated with adrenal excess (fight or flight) or adrenal weakness or fatigue (anxiety disorders, fatigue, sleep issues, blood sugar imbalances, etc.) A weak adrenal system can lead to deficiencies in immune system functioning causing increased susceptibility to colds, flus, bugs and infection, fatigue, inflammatory disorders, autoimmune diseases, etc.
A poor diet causing imbalanced blood sugars, can lead to a weakening of the adrenal system, thyroid system, immune system and reproductive system and can therefore be associated with any of the symptoms assiciated with any of the hormone balances listed above.
The point of this rather complex description and diagram is to illustrate just how complex the interplay is between all these hormone systems. It's also to show that "balancing hormones" involves far more that balancing estrogen and progesterone in women.
In order to improve symptoms associated with a suspected hormone imbalance, a program must be implemented that addresses ALL of the associated hormone systems and not just one system.
45 year old Female with Fatigue, Weight Gain, Hot Flashes, Sleep Issues, Anxiety and a history of IBS and bowel dysfunction and irregularity.
Due to her age, it would be very easy for her and her health professionals to assign blame for her symptoms solely on hormone imbalances associated with perimenopause. Let's investigate her symptom picture according to the 5 hormone diagram shown above.
Can be caused by adrenal weakness, hypofunctioning thyroid gland, immune system strain caused by the food allergies associated with her IBS and digestive dysfunction, inadequate protein intake and subsequent blood sugar imbalances.
Can be caused by reproductive hormone imbalance associated with perimenopause; adrenal system fatigue, immune system reactions to food, hypofunctioning thyroid gland, increased carbohydrate intake caused by poor blood sugar control
Can be caused by high estrogen to progesterone ratio during perimenopause, anxiety episodes associated with adrenal fatigue, stimulant based hot flash caused by caffeine intake, food allergy reaction caused by the same foods associated with her IBS history, thyroid imbalances
Can be caused by adrenal weakness causing anxiety, reproductive hormone imbalances caused by perimenopause, thyroid dysfunction, hypoglycemia caused by poor blood sugar control, stimulants affecting cortisol levels at night
Can be caused by perimenopausal hormone imbalances, thyroid dysfunction, adrenal hormone deficiency or fight or flight adrenal excess
It's VERY EASY to see in this example, how a simple trip to the health food store to try some Evening Primrose or Flax oil, some herbal Black Cohosh or Chaste Tree or any other female menstrual hormone "balancer" will be of limited help to her. It is very likely that her perimenopausal estrogen and progesterone imbalance is PART of the cause of her overall symptom picture, but it is very UNLIKELY that it is the only cause. In many cases it's actually only a small piece of her hormonal "puzzle".
In order to truly "balance" someone you have to take all of the possible imbalances into account and provide a treatment plan that will address all of these imbalances.