As a naturopath I have helped many people with diverse symptoms and conditions associated with hormonal imbalances. I love working with patients on their hormones, it’s such a fascinating and complex area of holistic health, challenging and yet so rewarding when you get to the bottom of what’s going on.
In my early days as a clinical naturopath (over 10 years ago) I saw lots of women with PMS and I still find this really rewarding work. It doesn’t usually take too long before you see improvement in mood swings and irritability, physical symptoms such as breast tenderness and fluid retention and regulating cycles (also important for conception care), which is great. These results sparked my interest in women’s hormonal health and other hormone systems such as adrenal/stress hormones in particular, and thyroid associated conditions.
Seeing improvement in mood and mental health is so fulfilling and there are some really great tools like B vitamins, magnesium and high strength herbs like Withania and Zizyphus, yet it is certainly different for each person with the complex interplay between adrenals, sex hormones, thyroid and more which alters for individuals and is intertwined with nutrition and lifestyle factors of course.
Gut health is a good example of this, where constipation or dysbiosis (an imbalance of the various bacteria that make up the microbiome in the gut) is known to affect oestrogen clearance for example. We can also increase our intake of certain foods or nutrients that are known to support stress reduction or increase the clearance the more proliferative types of oestrogen if this is a problem (e.g. fibroids or endometriosis).
When unravelling the drivers, there is a good deal of investigation involving questioning around current symptoms and concerns, health history, and potential functional pathology testing to piece it all together. The levels of hormones seen in bloods or salivary hormone tests can be a good starting point as an indicator of hormone dysregulation, but these tests rarely divulge the full picture. We have come to understand that it is not just about the levels of hormones in your body but also how your various tissues and their receptors are responding to these.
Many symptoms assumed to be associated with different hormonal systems or due to different drivers are intrinsically linked and holistic health professionals are continuing to understand more and more about the interplay between the seemingly independent parts of our endocrine system. For example, the impact of chronic or ongoing stress on the adrenals, the glands that sit on the top of the kidneys which secrete cortisol and adrenaline as well as other important hormones, have a lot to answer for when it comes to the harmony of our reproductive hormones and our thyroid function. This may be in part due to our master hormonal regulators in the brain (the hypothalamus and pituitary gland in the brain) as the pituitary gland can also be affected by factors such as ongoing stress.
I’ve come to recognise common patterns of hormonal dysregulation and interplay between systems, which is really what it’s all about. You can’t treat symptoms in isolation or rely on testing alone but a naturopath can do the problem solving for you, peace it together and help you manage symptoms, support healthy hormone balance and wellness.
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