When women think of their hormonal health, they often focus primarily on the balance of their sex hormones-estrogen and progesterone. This is of course important; however, our endocrine system is composed of many different organ systems that secrete many different hormones that need to be considered when investigating hormone imbalance.
The adrenal glands secrete the hormone cortisol which impacts our stress response, blood pressure and blood sugar regulation. The thyroid gland secretes T3 & T4 which impact our metabolism, mood, and energy and of course our ovaries respond to FSH & LH for healthy ovulation and secrete estrogen and progesterone for cycle regulation and fertility. Part of our endocrine system is also regulated and influenced by our environment. For example, exposure to bright light at night can suppress the secretion of the hormone melatonin from the pineal gland, which has been shown to impact another hormone insulin from the pancreas that helps regulate blood sugar and weight control.
When looking at hormone imbalance, it is important to investigate the entire endocrine system and treat with the intent to also prevent future imbalances. Naturopathic doctors investigate all aspects of each individual’s hormone health. This includes unique environmental exposures, sleep patterns, nutrition, lifestyle, mood, family history and past medical history. Naturopathic doctors also run lab work to help examine the cause and impacts of hormone imbalance. Female hormone panels, thyroid hormones, 4-point salivary cortisol testing can be run along with an investigation of liver and bowel function via liver enzymes and comprehensive stool analysis.
Optimal liver, gut and bowel health are essential for the foundations of hormone balance. The liver not only detoxifies chemicals and medications we are exposed to, but metabolizes and packages our hormones and sends them to our bowels for excretion. Supporting the livers phase 1 and phase 2 detoxification pathways with the nutrients it requires as well as providing adequate antioxidant support to protect it against free radicals and oxidative stress which damage and slow it down is fundamental to keep our blood hormone levels balanced. In regard to gut and bowel health, is it important to keep the bowels moving to eliminate toxin and hormonal waste. Fiber not only does this but when fermented by healthy gut microbes, fiber becomes the fuel source for bowel cells. Healthy balanced gut flora is also important in preventing the reabsorption of hormones in the bowels, especially when someone is constipated, giving the bacteria more of a chance to convert estrogen back into a form that can be reabsorbed causing imbalance.
In general, when trying to maintain or rebalance hormones, it is best to focus on these foundational goals with your healthcare provider:
- Achieving circadian sleep cycle regulation
- Maintaining balanced blood sugar
- Optimizing liver nutrients for detoxification and providing antioxidant protection
- Balancing gut microbiome and consuming adequate fiber for optimal bowel function and regularity
- Stress management
- Consumption of adequate nutrient building blocks and mineral cofactors for hormone production and function
Visit my website at www.malloryharrisND.com to also read my blog on endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs) and learn how to limit your exposure to chemicals that can impact your hormone balance.
Dr. Mallory Harris, ND
* The information presented in this article is intended solely for educational purposes and is not medical advice. You must always speak with your health care provider before beginning or modifying any approach to managing your health including diet, vitamins, minerals and botanicals. In no event shall Dr. Mallory Harris, ND, ESM clinics or Balance Fitness be liable in any manner for direct, indirect, incidental or punitive consequences that may arise from the access or use of this article.