By: Dr. Keith Kantor
An imbalance in hormones is often the overlooked reason why some struggle with their goals, despite major efforts with healthy nutrition and fitness regimens. Have you ever met a person who is living a healthy lifestyle with daily exercise and healthy eating habits, yet they are not seeing results like weight loss, muscle tone, or more energy? A hormone imbalance is often overlooked in these cases typically because people are unsure how to fix it, it seems too complex or they are completely unaware that they even have an imbalance in hormones. Hormones can be insulin related, sex hormones like estrogen or testosterone, stress hormones like cortisol, or thyroid related hormones. All of the areas of hormone metabolism can be influenced by lifestyle habits including nutrition, stress management, and fitness.
We will dive deeper into each area of hormones and natural remedies and lifestyle strategies that you can adopt to offset these symptoms.
Hormone Replacement for Women Approaching or Going Through Menopause
Women approaching menopause can suffer tremendously with hormone fluctuations resulting in weight gain, mood swings, dryness, decreased bone density and those dreadful hot flashes. This is most common in women who are going through perimenopuase or menopause because their body is no longer producing the same amount of hormones it did during childbearing years.
Some women immediately ask their doctor for hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Others try alternative methods for balancing hormones including changing their diet, exercise, nutrition supplementation and lifestyle behavior modifications. Although the natural methods may not work as quickly and may not be as noticeable they are better overall for the body then jumping right into hormone replacement therapy.
The Risk of Hormone Replacement Therapy
In some cases taking hormones can raise the risk for certain cancers especially if the women still has her uterus and she is supplementing with estrogen. This risk is high because the lining of the endometrium is no longer being shed and the cells can build up in the uterus resulting in the increased risk of cancer. For those women who have not had a hysterectomy, it is best to have a combination of estrogen and progesterone if they do decide to go forward with hormone replacement therapy.
Other risks of hormone replacement therapies include increased risk for blood clots, stroke, heart disease, liver disease and osteoporosis. Estrogen controls how our body utilizes calcium and it helps raise the levels of healthy cholesterol (HDL) in the blood that is a major influence on our bone density and heart health.
When the body is supplemented with hormones from injections, sprays, gels, etc. such as testosterone, estrogen and progesterone, the body gets lazy and what little natural production your body was making is decreased even more resulting in the need for higher doses as time goes on.
We always recommend making lifestyle changes first and if you are still suffering consider doing bio-identical hormone replacement therapy over synthetic hormone replacement therapy. It is best to get a recommendation of a doctor who specializes in this type of treatment because there are extensive labs that need to be drawn to get an idea of the entire endocrine system and the imbalance. The last thing that you want is for a doctor to start a trial and error approach with different combinations of hormones, this can make symptoms worse and even lead to increased risk for disease.
What is the difference between bio-identical and synthetic hormone replacement?
Bio-identical hormones are just that, identical to what your body produces and they are derived from compounds in foods like Mexican Yams, they are much safer and have less side effects. Synthetic hormones were developed during the technology age, in a lab. These are not identical to the hormones your body makes, but companies could make a profit off of the patents and that is why they became so popular, yet they are inferior to their bio-identical versions.
Estrogen Mimickers / Endocrine Disruptor Chemicals
It is not uncommon to see daily advertisements promoting supplementing the hormone testosterone for men and in some cases women. Testosterone levels are suppressed more now then they ever were due to all of the “estrogen mimickers” that we are exposed to daily. Today an overweight man tends to resemble a women’s body more then ever, they have more adipose (fatty) tissue around the breast, upper thighs, and hips then men did years ago. Natural sex drive is at an all time low as a population in both men and women.
Integrative health professionals are putting the pieces of this puzzle together and our increased exposure to hormone disruptors is a large part of the blame for the decline in overall health, despite the efforts to eat healthy and be active daily.
Estrogen mimickers are also referred to as endocrine disruptor chemicals (EDC’s). and toxins. Estrogen mimickers/ EDC’s will disrupt the natural balance of testosterone and several other hormones for children, teens, men and women. This increases the risk for reproductive disorders, pre-puberty, obesity, Type 2 Diabetes, cancer, thyroid disease and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.
These toxins are in the water we drink, bathe in, the air we breathe, the food we buy, the industrial chemicals we are exposed to, the cleaning products we use, the paint we use and the cosmetics we apply to our body.
These toxins include:
· Glycol Ethers
· Perfluorinated Chemicals
· Arsenic Lead
· Fire Retardants
Nutritional and Lifestyle Influence over Hormone Balance
A diet that is free of processed foods and rich in heart healthy fats, vegetables and fruits can truly alleviate some of the symptoms of hormone imbalance.
· Avoid processed and refined foods. Try to only buy one-ingredient foods, including protein sources like chicken, fish, steak, fruits, vegetables, and unrefined whole grains. The lack of fiber and excess of sugar in processed snacks is terrible for the gut and hormone balance.
· Avoid pesticides and herbicides. Buy all natural foods when possible to limit the exposure to pesticides and herbicides on fruits and vegetables.
· Buy high quality meats that ensure that the animals were fed chemically pure diet without any antibiotics or steroids.
· Natural detoxify with cruciferous vegetables. Cruciferous vegetables; are a specific family of vegetables that have a higher ability to detoxify the body naturally with extracts that work to reduce estrogen mimickers. These vegetables include cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, etc. Aim to consume at least 2 or more servings of these vegetables daily.
In addition to the nutrition recommendations above there are other lifestyle modifications that you can make in your own home.
· Avoid Plastics- Use glass, ceramic or stainless steel water bottles, storage containers, and eating utensils as much as possible.
· Avoid BPA– this is in most packages foods including the lining in the lids of glass jars, aerosols, aluminum, beer kegs, etc.
· Avoid mainstream cleaning products. Make your own household cleaners or go for “green and natural” brands that are free of phthalates.
· Read your cosmetic labels and avoid using any make-up, soaps, lotions, etc. with the above ingredients. There are several all-natural lines of cosmetics that are free of these toxins that can be found in the natural section of most local grocery stores.
If this information is completely new to you, try to make small changes in each area slowly. Education is power and so are your spending habits. Invest in the chemically pure products and slowly overhaul your household to a safe environment that will promote a healthy endocrine system.
Photo Credit- http://www.saragottfriedmd.com/5-faqs-on-hormones-and-weight-loss-resistance/