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What is Hormonal Imbalance?

woman at home hand on headYour hormones are intended to influence specific functions such as digestion, metabolism, appetite, sleep, activation of the immune system, and reproduction and tissue repair. For various reasons your organs and glands may become weak or damaged overtime. When a specific organ and its related hormones are compromised it causes your entire hormonal system to spiral out of balance. This is why some people, regardless of their diet and exercise habits, feel lousy, while others do nothing at all and feel great.

Damage to the organs and glands occur for a number of different reasons. Here’s just a small sampling:

  • Medication side effects
  • High cortisol levels from stress
  • Food sensitivities
  • Deficiencies and lack of antioxidants
  • Toxins and hormone disrupting chemicals
  • Parasites/Yeast/Bacterial Overgrowth

The symptoms of hormonal imbalance are often treated with medications.

Unfortunately, these medications don’t get to the root cause of these problems. Without addressing the root cause of these problems and merely treating the symptoms, your overall health will continue to decline and can lead to more and more medications. As these problems spiral out of control there is typically a set of symptoms that occur. Listed below are the most common signs and symptoms of hormonal imbalance we see in our clinic every day.

The Top 5 Signs Your Hormones Are Out Of Whack

1) Continual weight gain despite exercise and diet

Your metabolism is controlled by your hormones, it’s not the exercise that causes the weight loss it’s the exercise that triggers the hormones that cause you to lose weight. This is why some people can eat whatever they want, don’t exercise and have the body you have always wanted. While others can eat very little, exercise an hour a day and gain weight. Research has shown us that certain hormones, like insulin and cortisol, lead to fat storage. While other hormones help us lose fat, like growth hormone and thyroxine (a thyroid hormone). Therefore if you are having troubles losing weight or gaining weight despite an honest effort, then it may very well be a sign your hormones are out of balance.

2) Suffer from fatigue

Hormonal imbalances, specifically adrenal and thyroid imbalances are a major cause of fatigue. The adrenal and thyroid gland work hand-in-hand to support your energy levels, so it’s important to understand exactly how they are functioning. In our clinic we see many patients who suffer from fatigue. I believe the number one cause of fatigue is stress (emotional, biological, chemical, and physical). The fact is we all have stress but each of us has a different breaking point. Therefore it’s important to understand how unknown stresses such as infections, food sensitivities, and toxins can add to your total stress levels causing you to surpass your breaking point leading to fatigue.

3) Abnormal menstrual cycle

Cramping, irritability, PMS, and heavy prolonged menses are often believed to be a normal part of a women’s menstrual cycle. On the contrary, a normal women’s cycle should have very little cramping, with only a minor change in mood. The menses (bleeding) portion should be 4-5 days long, light red, and with no clots. Many of the patients we see in our clinic report they have never had a normal menstrual period. Upon further investigation we discover an imbalance in the progesterone and estrogen levels which can be easily remedied with a few lifestyle, dietary and supplement recommendations.

4) Problems with digestion and loss of sex drive

If you are wondering what digestion and sex drive have to do with one another, think about this scenario. While our ancestors were being chased by a predator their body would switch from the ‘feed and breed’ mode to the ‘fight-or-flight’ mode. During this stress response, cortisol and adrenalin would be released from their adrenal glands (little glands that sit on top of the kidneys), increasing blood pressure and blood sugar improving our ancestors ability to get more sugar and blood to the major muscles to help improve muscle strength and stamina. Their bodies would also shift the blood from the digestive and reproductive system to the arms and legs to further enhance performance and shut down systems of the body (reproductive and digestive) that are not necessary. When things calm down, cortisol secretion decreases, along with blood pressure and blood sugar levels, and blood flow is redirected back to the stomach and reproductive system. This is the body shifting gears between the two opposing systems, the ‘fight or flight’ or the ‘feed and breed’ system. Your body cannot do both at the same time.

In today’s modern life, and its many chronic stressors, the ‘fight or flight’ system can be activated and not turn off. If the chronic stress response doesn’t leave, those cortisol triggers never stop. Eventually, this leads to problems with digestion and loss of sex drive because the body isn’t in the ‘feed and breed’ system long enough to perform the functions it supposed to. Regaining this balance is essential to long term health.

5) Brain fog, anxiety, depression and sleeplessness

Hormones affect our moods and memory. Almost anyone who has suffered from a thyroid problem before being treated will complain of mood swings, brain fog, depression and anxiety. Why is this? Certain hormones are essential for brain function. For example, estrogen is a stimulating hormone and when high it can result in anxiety. Progesterone is more of a calming hormone and when low can lead to sleeplessness. Cortisol can help with short term memory but cause long term memory loss. Testosterone at high levels can lead to competitiveness or rage but a lack of testosterone can lead to apathy and lethargy. The key with these hormones isn’t to figure out which ones are low and then be prescribed a prescription hormone or natural hormone replacement. It’s more important to discover why these particular hormones are low or high. For example, if someone was under chronic stress like we mentioned earlier, maybe their digestive system isn’t working properly which leads to a deficiency. All your hormones are made from amino acids and fats that are available from the food you eat. Therefore a nutritional deficiency can negatively impact your hormone levels.

With Functional Medicine, we seek to identify the root cause of your imbalance and loss of normal system function.

In other words, we discover the “why” of your suffering.  We help end the out of control spiral of your health condition. When we address your unique reason of “why” your glands or organs are not working properly, your hormones become balanced and your body starts to heal itself!  We find there are four organs and glands that are the most common culprits leading to out-of-control hormones. Let’s look at these four in more detail.


Specific Types Of Hormonal Imbalance

The Adrenal Glands  (The glands responsible for coping with stress)

The adrenal glands are little glands that sit on top of your kidneys that are responsible for the “fight or flight” response. When the adrenal glands are over stimulated they tend to get out of balance and affect your sleep-wake cycle. It often feels as if it is hard to ‘turn off’ your thoughts. You may find it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep despite the fact during the day you feel exhausted and want to sleep.

The adrenal glands are responsible for the release of the stress hormone cortisol. Research has shown that when the levels of this hormone are elevated it can cause weight gain in the midsection, leading to the dreaded “belly roll” of fat.

Swelling and rounding of the face, puffy eyes, and a double chin can develop because of adrenal dysfunction.

An orange hue (almost appearing tan) of the face and very dark circles may also develop. The Adrenal Body type can also result in facial hair and swelling of the ankles.

It is common if you suffer from adrenal fatigue you will have anxiety and feelings of severe exhaustion.

You may also be the type to rely on caffeine and sweets to get through the day, especially in the afternoon. Once the adrenals become exhausted, you will have difficulty waking up, concentrating, or even remembering simple tasks.

To learn more about Adrenal Fatigue click here.

The Thyroid Gland

The thyroid gland makes hormones that regulate your rate of metabolism. If you have troubles with your thyroid, you may notice that you mysteriously gain weight… even though nothing has changed in your life. When the thyroid begins to dysfunction you may experience hair loss, especially the outer third of the eyebrows.

When the thyroid is at fault, your energy levels drop and your legs and arms can start to feel heavy. Many times, if you suffer from thyroid problems, you are more prone to suffer from depression.  In an effort to improve your mood and increase your energy you will crave carbohydrates like breads, pastas, crackers, juice, and so on.  Unfortunately, eating these foods can make the problem worse.

When the thyroid isn’t functioning well, your body starts to feel cold, especially the hands and feet.  In an effort to stay warm you are always wearing extra clothes and even socks to bed.

To learn more about thyroid dysfunction click here.

Estrogen/Progesterone Imbalance

For various reasons the hormones estrogen and progesterone will become imbalanced and you may notice the following symptoms: PMS (premenstrual syndrome), irregular menstrual cycles, infertility, early menopause, and excessive or absent menstrual cycles. People who suffer from estrogen/progesterone imbalance crave chocolate or dairy products.

If you are menopausal this can lead to hot flashes and night sweats.

The Liver

The liver is responsible for several functions of the body and when it malfunctions you end up with an array of symptoms.  When the liver becomes damaged, it may lead to high blood sugar issues (like diabetes or insulin resistance), high blood pressure, and elevated cholesterol levels.  You may also begin to suffer from the accumulation of toxins.  These toxins can seep into your joint capsules causing painful joints (arthritis).  These toxins can also cause you to suffer from allergies, skin problems, hives and bad body odor.

Toxic accumulation can also lead to poor memory, headaches or migraines, and you will often wake up an hour or two before your alarm clock goes off.

When your liver is affected, you crave fatty foods, fried foods, and alcohol, but feel worse after actually having them. You may suffer from hemorrhoids, feel the sensation of fullness after eating, and burp after meals.

No Two Hormone Imbalances Are Alike

Most people report they suffer from a few different types of hormonal imbalance.

So, regardless if you fit into one specific category or fit into all of them, we are here to help. There are thousands of things you could do to try and improve your health but wouldn’t it be great to discover exactly what your body needs?  

There is more to getting well than eating less, exercising more and following the standard medical modus operandi. We have a clinically proven step by step process for helping our patients achieve health. Get started today and schedule a complimentary consultation with one of our doctors to learn more about how you can regain your health and get your life back.

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Rather than looking at the body as separate parts or systems and working to “fix” individual parts with surgeries and drugs, functional medicine sees the body as one complete being—where the function of each organ, cell and tissue works in harmony with the rest.


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