This month, I turn 48, and with a grateful heart, I’m pretty sure I’m coming out of my “completely, totally, unequivocal” hormonal phase. Gone are the days of panic attacks in anticipation of a casual dinner with friends, unjustifiable irritability, night sweats that turn my feather bed into a creek bed and weight gain as a result of simply thinking about eating food.
In my book The Health Revolution: Give Yourself the Healthcare You Deserve, there is a chapter titled “Harmonious Hormones.” In all honesty, in my early drafts of the book I called that same chapter “Hell-raising Hormones.” And here in lies the irony. Hormones are tricky creatures. They do so much for us and they also create trouble, but only when they are not in balance.
Hormones come into play, notoriously, at specific times in life—puberty, pregnancy, menstruation, menopause and post menopause, but they are there, inside of us, doing their job (or not) throughout our lives. Balanced hormones regulate metabolism, aid in sleep and allow us to feel sensual and centered. Hormones are the messengers that help regulate body systems so we run more efficiently and smoothly. I imagine balanced hormones flitting around the body, high-fiving each other and cheering one another on. “Great job thyroid hormone and melatonin! Keep up the good work!”
There are times in life, other than those that are age and sex related, where hormone health is very important. If you have been diagnosed with cancer or it is a genetic predisposition, balanced hormones offer the body a wider avenue to healing and a return to health free of disease and illness. Diabetes, obesity, mental health, insomnia, cancer and many other disease states are all affected by hormonal balance or imbalance. Although female hormones get the most newsprint and airtime, men have hormones, too. Most men mistakenly believe testosterone is the only hormone that counts. This is simply not the case.
The first step to hormonal balance is to gather information via lab tests. I am appalled by the number of women on birth control who have never had their hormone levels checked. When it comes to HRT (hormone replacement therapy) very often estrogen and progesterone are prescribed as a result of what the patient reports and not actual lab work. The same is true of men with testosterone. Fortunately, more and more integrative MDs are employing actual lab result data, but it’s still not the norm.
Traditional blood labs can measure hormones such as fasting insulin, Vitamin D, thyroid stimulating hormones (TSH) and others. In addition to basic blood work, I prefer urine samples taken over a 24-hour period to measure several hormone levels including, but not limited to melatonin, DHEA, cortisol and the major sex hormones (estrogens, progesterone and testosterone). Dutch Labs in Portland, Oregon is a great resource with easy to understand results. The test results provide an overview of a patient’s unique biochemistry so a comprehensive wellness plan, as well as a specific hormone- balancing act can ensue. Interview your healthcare practitioner to ensure either compounding hormones, botanical herbs or specific supplements are considered and that risk factors such as cancer or sensitivity to medications are taken into account.
After my last lab tests in 2017, I learned that the bioidentical hormones I’d been taking for eight months did nothing to boost my cortisol and sex hormone levels. So, I stopped taking them and let nature take its course. In all honesty, it took about four months before I felt “a change” for the better. I became “myself” again and regained the freedom to fully express my passions and desires.
And that’s what I wish for you. I don’t want you spending countless hours in the doctor’s office, or searching the Internet for reasons why or experimenting with over the counter supplements to cover-up symptoms resulting from unbalanced hormones. I don’t want you spending money on HRT that isn’t providing any benefit. So, here’s my February Health Revolution suggestion: get your hormones checked and balanced and welcome “a change” for the positive.