Hormones and the Endocrine System
Hormones are special chemical messengers that control most of our major bodily functions.
Hormones are secreted by glands in the body also known as our endocrine glands. These glands make many different hormones that work together to regulate our health and well-being. Although hormones circulate in relatively small amounts, they play an essential role in complex systems such as our metabolism, growth, fertility and mood. The physicians at NaturoMedica frequently test many different hormone levels to identify imbalances that may impact your health.
Symptoms of a hormonal imbalance can include:
- Hot flashes
- Irregular or heavy menses
- Fertility problems
- Weight gain/loss
- Change in appetite
- Cognitive decline or memory loss
- Decrease in attention and focus
- Loss of muscle mass or muscle weakness
- Decrease in Libido
- Erectile dysfunction
- Depression and anxiety
- Hair loss
- Blood sugar imbalance or hypoglycemia
- Feeling cold or cold intolerance
It is important to understand the different roles the main hormones play in the body to truly understand the impact they have on your health.
Estrogen: the main sex hormone for women that regulates puberty and the menstrual cycle. Drops in estrogen levels cause many of the uncomfortable symptoms associated with menopause.
Progesterone: is also a main sex hormone for women hormone that helps regulate the menstrual cycle and pregnancy. Changes in progesterone levels can lead to heavy or irregular periods and worse PMS symptoms.
Testosterone: is a main sex hormone for men and found in small amounts in women. It plays a role in sex drive, muscle mass and bone density for both sexes.
Cortisol: is known as the “stress hormone” produced by the adrenal glands which helps the body respond and adapt to emotional and physical stressors like injury and infection. You can have a negative response if you have too much or too little of this hormone.
Thyroid Hormones: are comprised of three different hormones including TSH, T4 and T3. These hormones work together and play a critical role in brain development and metabolism.
Insulin: is a hormone that helps the cells in the body to use sugar (glucose) to make energy. The most common imbalance occurs in diabetes when the body no longer uses insulin effectively and leads to blood sugar imbalances, weight gain and fatty liver.
Leptin: is a hormone released from the fat cells that play a role in maintaining our body weight and food intake. The most common problem occurs with the brain no longer “listens” to leptin and we end up consuming more calories than what we burn.
Vitamin D: this “vitamin” is a hormone that is made when your skin is exposed to the sun. It plays a role in many different areas of the body including the immune system, cardiovascular system, bone and mental health.
Melatonin: is a hormone that increases after dark to help the body regulate its circadian rhythm and sleep.
Neurotransmitters: are hormones that function primarily in the brain to regulate mood, focus and emotion. More recently it has been discovered that some of these hormones such as serotonin also play a role in a healthy digestive system and what some call the “gut-brain connection”.
When in proper balance these hormones help the body thrive with good mood, energy and vitality. When evaluating almost any health complaint an extensive hormone evaluation is a good place to start. Hormone testing is done through blood, saliva and/or urine testing depending on the hormone being evaluated. NaturoMedica physicians are well trained in the evaluation and treatment of various hormone imbalances that affect both men and woman. Our physicians are well versed in the treatment of different hormonal conditions such as hypothyroid, menopause, andropause, infertility, adrenal fatigue and metabolic syndrome. Comprehensive treatment plans may include diet and lifestyle changes, nutritional and herbal supplementation and/or bio-identical hormone replacement. If needed NaturoMedica physicians can refer to or work with an Endocrinologist for management of complex endocrine conditions.