Is your ‘Hormonal Orchestra’ tuneful or tone deaf?

Did you know that we have several hormones that work in concert together?  It’s not just about oestrogen for girls and testosterone for boys.

Your hormones such as oestrogen, progesterone, testosterone, cortisol, dihydrotestosterone (DHEA), thyroxine and their interactions are responding not only to each other but are moderated by our lifestyles and significantly impacted by stress.

Throughout a woman’s lifetime you can experience the fluctuating hormones and attribute mood swings, hot flashes, cravings, anxiety, depression, fatigue, joint pain, weight gain, low libido, mental confusion or memory loss and insomnia to the imbalance of female hormones. Frequently, this is only one piece of the puzzle.

Our bodies are complex – how we feel and respond involve the interaction and integration of the endocrine (hormonal), immune, enteric (gut) and nervous systems. Neurotransmitters carry messages to every organ, muscle and gland. Poor nutrition, drugs, heavy metal toxicity and over-stimulation deplete and imbalance the neurotransmitters which impairs the function of all systems. Thus, the balancing of these systems is like an orchestra – all must play together nicely to ensure the body works beautifully in sync.

Often, when a woman experiences premenstrual syndrome (PMS), peri-menopause or menopause, conventionally they are prescribed female hormones e.g. ‘the pill’ or HRT. When this is not effective or symptoms remain, the hormones are changed or the dose is increased. Looking at only one hormone, however, is inadequate and like listening to the recorder without any accompaniment (or earplugs). Successful treatment of women’s hormonal symptoms also requires proper diagnosis and treatment of adrenal and thyroid function. When adrenals are stressed, oestradiol and testosterone can be shunted to DHEA while progesterone goes to cortisol. In women, the adrenal glands are the only source of DHEA.

Therefore the key to balancing the endocrine system is first testing the levels of estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, thyroid, adrenals, and neurotransmitters.

In the menopausal female we begin to play a different song – the adrenals are the only source of testosterone and the ovaries produce estrogen and progesterone at a much reduced level (and none if you’ve had your ovaries removed). If the adrenals are exhausted and cortisol is low, menopausal or PMS symptoms intensify.

Neurotransmitter evaluation and support is also important. The inhibitory neurotransmitters, serotonin and GABA help to maintain calm and mood in the body, while the excitatory system, the dopamine, noradrenaline and adrenaline influence energy, focus, and memory. While imbalances in sex hormones can create a cacophony of symptoms in the peri-menopausal and menopausal woman, these symptoms can also stem from adrenal, neurotransmitter and thyroid imbalances.   

The complicated balance of our hormonal orchestra and our brain chemistry challenges our stress adaptation mechanisms, and fatigue can result. These fluctuating levels in hormones such as oestrogen, progesterone, testosterone, cortisol and thyroid, interact with brain neurotransmitters that affect our emotional and physical responses to life, stressors in our environment and even infections.

Neurotransmitters affect hormones. Serotonin increases thyroid function while GABA inhibits it. Noradrenaline excess can increase or decrease cortisol depending on whether it is acute or chronic stress.

And conversely, hormones affect neurotransmitters. Estrogen supports serotonin function and a dopamine modulator. Progesterone supports GABA. Testosterone supports both serotonin and dopamine. Low cortisol can lower serotonin and adrenaline. High cortisol blocks serotonin. Thyroid hormone supports serotonin and decreases dopamine.

So to the big finale…Replacement of deficient female hormones alone without addressing the overall health of the adrenal function, neurotransmitters and thyroid function may provide a ‘quick-fix’ but often becomes ineffective in the long run.

So your body can play its favourite song tunefully free from symptoms, we recommend appropriate testing and monitoring be done to determine the current state of balance, the ongoing need for specifically designed and targeted supplements with appropriate dosing.  Call us on 07 4946 7910 or book online to arrange a consultation with our Clinical Naturopaths who can help you tune in to yourself.

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