Hormone Imbalances are a big problem in this day and age. Our hormones can get out of control for a number of reasons. Most people go see their doctors when they start feeling “out of sorts” but a doctor visit will not do a bit of good if the doctor isn’t ordering the right tests.
The problem with having your thyroid checked is that most doctors will only check your TSH (thyroid stimulating hormones). In order to have a real picture of what’s going on you need to have a full panel done of T3, T4, anti-bodies and TSH. Unfortunately most doctors seem reluctant to do thorough testing for some reason. So if you have your hormones checked, insist that the doctor does a full panel. If he/she won’t – they don’t have your best interests at heart.
Does your doctor look for the underlying cause of your low thyroid symptoms? Does he or she order antibodies or reverse T3 to see if your thyroid is dysfunctional? Does he or she test to see if you are converting your thyroid medication into the active form of thyroid hormone that will actually make a difference? Does your doctor test for autoimmune thyroid conditions?
If you suspect that you might have a hormone imbalance do a check to see if you suffer from any of the symptoms below.
- sleep problems/insomnia
- cystic acne
- brain or memory fog
- digestive problems
- constant fatigue
- mood swings/depression
- weight gain
- headaches and migraines
- hot flashes/night sweats
- loss of libido
- facial/chin hair
- sugar cravings
- hair loss
- muscle weakness
Despite their prevalence, disorders of the thyroid remain relatively misunderstood. The thyroid gland acts as an energy thermostat for the body, so when your thyroid is operating smoothly, so do you. When your thyroid stops functioning optimally, multiple areas of your health can come crashing down. Out of the symptoms listed, fatigue, weight gain, mental fogginess, depression, hair loss, insomnia, and muscle weakness can be symptoms of an under-functioning thyroid. If you suspect you have a thyroid issue, have your doctor conduct thyroid hormone blood tests, including TSH, free T4, free T3, and thyroid antibodies. Even if your tests are in the normal range, bear in mind that your thyroid may still not be functioning optimally.
Foods that help with hormone problems
While some conventional treatments may supply the body with extra hormones in hopes that the problem may be corrected, it still does not address the cause of the symptoms. This is where using food to give your body and thyroid what it needs comes into play. Good, healthy good, really is the medicine our bodies needs to be healthy and in balance. When you give your body and your thyroid what it needs, it has the ability to health itself. Some foods can help repair your thyroid and boost production of your thyroid hormones. These foods include:
Atlantic Dulse, Wild Blueberries, Sprouts, Cilantro, Garlic, Hemp Seeds, Coconut Oil, Brazil Nuts, Cranberries, Oranges, Avocados, and Black Beans
Food isn’t the only source that can help combat thyroid issues. Vitamins and supplements are also helpful to give our bodies what they need for good hormone health. In fact there are some nutrients that stimulate your thyroid gland to produce the hormones needed. Helpful nutrients include:
Protein, Magnesium, B-12, Zinc, Iodine, B2, Vitamin C, Selenium, Vitamin D, and Vitamin A
Key Thyroid Tests
The following 6 key tests that can unlock the mystery of your thyroid function and are what your doctor should be looking at. Thyroid testing should be simple to obtain from your primary doctor or local lab. However, not every doctor is skilled in interpreting these test. Therefore you might consider going to an endocrinologist, or a skilled functional medicine doctor to get your testing done.
Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH)
Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) is produced in a part of your brain called the pituitary gland. The job of TSH is to tell the thyroid gland that it’s time to get busy producing more thyroid hormone. The normal range for TSH is somewhat controversial.
TSH is one of the most common reasons that women get under-diagnosed for hypothyroidism and suffer with unnecessary symptoms that can seriously interfere with health and quality of life.
In most cases hypothyroidism occurs because the thyroid gland is sluggish – that is, it is having trouble producing T3 and T4. This can be due to a variety of reasons ranging from nutritional deficiencies to autoimmunity. Stress can also suppress the pituitary gland enough to interfere with producing TSH.
Thyroid Hormones (T3 and T4)
Triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) are the hormones produced by your thyroid gland. T4 is produced in a much larger amount and is then converted to T3, the active form of the hormone, as needed to up-regulate metabolic functions. T3 and T4 are sent out into your bloodstream where they are responsible for the thyroid’s actual work of controlling your metabolism. Measuring FT3 and FT4 is important because they are the indicators of thyroxine and triiodothyronine activities in the body.
Thyroid antibody testing is ordered to diagnose autoimmune thyroid disease and distinguish it from other forms of thyroid dysfunction. Some people do have an autoimmune thyroid condition but don’t initially test positive. If positive, antibody testing can be repeated every six months to trend improvement while you are working with an integrative physician to address possible underlying causes.
Reverse T3 (rT3)
Reverse T3 is the third most abundant form of thyroid hormone. When your body wants to conserve – rather than “burn” – energy, it will divert the active T3 into an inactive “reserve” form. This might happen when you are sick, under stress, or undernourished. There is some controversy amongst conventional doctors about the utility of this test – Some doctors find it useful.
If labs return showing that there is hypothyroidism, additional test for deficiencies of selenium, iron, iodine, and zinc, should probably be done. In addition look for other underlying causes such as gluten intolerance, heavy metal exposure, and other environmental triggers.
Why Skipping Meals Endangers Hormone Balance
Do you normally skip breakfast, or other meals throughout the day for various reasons? What did you have for breakfast this morning? Skipping meals daily affects your long-term health Do yourself a favor and get out of the business of skipping meals. You might pay for this eventually.
So many people I know are regularly in the habit of skipping meals. We tend to think that we can make up for it later with a big lunch or dinner, or tell ourselves we’ll eat a really healthy meal later on. Our busy lifestyles can really mess up being and eating healthy. Long-term health implications when you skip meals include hormone balance, overall health, and fertility.
Unfortunately weight gain or inability to lose weight is another side effect of skipped meals. When you skip a meal, you’re directly affecting two key hormones: insulin and cortisol. Your cortisol increases because your body thinks it’s starving, which triggers a stress response. Over time, increased cortisol can lead to weight gain, particularly in the abdominal region. Not only is this weight difficult to take off, it’s the perfect place to store excess hormones such as “bad” estrogen.
Meal skipping can also affect insulin regulation. The meal that you consume after a skipped meal can spike your insulin. Increased cortisol can raise your blood sugar.
If you continuously skip meals, you use up a lot of your progesterone to create cortisol. This results in estrogen dominance and can present as a variety of symptoms including PMS, irritability, breast tenderness, bloating, headaches, anxiety, decreased libido and of course, an irregular cycle.
Another consequence of increased cortisol is the fact that it directly inhibits something in your brain called the hypothalamus, which can inhibit the release of thyroid hormone. Over time, this can result in symptoms of hypothyroidism.
Causes of Hormonal Imbalance
Here are some surprising everyday causes of hormonal imbalance. Read below to see if you could be setting yourself up for a hormonal nightmare.
Plastics are everywhere, but certain chemicals that they are made from can mimic hormones or bind to hormone receptor sites, disrupting the body’s natural hormonal balance. They can alter how natural hormones are produced, metabolized and eliminated from the body.
The most harmful chemical found in plastics is bisphenol-A commonly known as BPA. In 2008 the FDA told us BPA was safe, but months later in that same year they repealed that approval after studies linked BPA to miscarriage, hormonal disruption, infertility risk, cancers, attention deficit disorder in both children and adults and even diabetes.
- Avoid purchasing water in plastic bottles and never drink water from a plastic bottle that has been left in direct sunlight or heat. This leeches the toxins into the water. Choose reusable water bottles that are BPA free, stainless steel or glass.
- Store leftovers in glass containers.
- Never microwave foods in cellophane or plastic wrap. The heat causes the plastic to off gas harmful chemicals which go into your food.
- Purchase meat in bulk from your local meat counter and have it wrapped in butcher paper.
Body Care Products
You would think that the products designed to make you more beautiful would actually be good for you right? Not really unless they are organic or all natural.
Many body care products contain hormone disrupting chemicals including parabens, phthalates, and even lead. These aren’t the only chemical toxins you are slathering on your body each day, some body care products can contain up to hundreds of chemical toxins.
Well, human skin has pores and it is highly absorbent. These chemicals are absorbed into the skin and circulate through the body via the bloodstream and on top of that can become stored long-term in fat cells.
It seems like everywhere you turn there is some new exercise program designed to burn fat and get you looking like a supermodel, but extreme exercise may actually be harmful.
Some research indicates that high-intensity, strenuous and prolonged exercise may increase cortisol levels, while lowering thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormones stimulate your metabolism and the desired outcome of exercise is definitely not to lower your metabolism. Both high cortisol levels and low thyroid hormones have been linked to poor adrenal health which also in-turn directly impacts thyroid function and how the body handles stress long-term, all of which can negatively impact overall hormonal balance.
Body Fat Content
Too much body fat has been shown to create too much estrogen in the body. Body fat stores and produces estrogen and other toxins. This creates an internal environment of too much estrogen which can lower progesterone levels. High body fat content can also lead to high insulin levels which affects hormones.
Alternatively, having too little body fat can disrupt hormonal balance just as easily. Instead of having too much estrogen though, underweight women are more likely to have low hormone levels across the board. Women with low body fat are more likely to have absent menstrual cycles, irregular menstrual cycles, low estrogen, and progesterone.
There are a number of reasons non-organic foods are linked to hormonal imbalance. Produce, grains, seeds and nuts crops are often heavily sprayed with herbicides, pesticides and chemical fertilizers. All of these contain known endocrine disrupting chemicals, shown to alter hormonal balance and even alter reproductive function in both animals and humans. On top of that, there is a growing list of genetically modified foods (GMO) consumed by Americans on a large scale.
GMO foods have been linked to elevated estrogen levels and even the development of tumors. The only way to ensure you are not eating GMO foods is to buy organic.
Non-organic meat products are a number one source of hormone disrupting chemicals. This is because animals raised for their meat are given antibiotics and synthetic hormones regularly to ensure rapid development. The animals are fed GMO, non-organic feed. Animal meat has a fat content, which stores all of these toxins and synthetic hormones and then we in turn eat all of this. Choose organic, free range or grass fed meat.
There is no other system related to thyroid health more overlooked than the adrenal glands. These small glands located above the kidneys are responsible for managing all stress in your body. What most people don’t understand is that thyroid hormone in its own way is a stress on the body.
The adrenal system plays an equally important role even though the thyroid needs to be addressed directly. The interplay of adrenal hormones, particularly cortisol, and thyroid hormones are so closely related it is a huge disservice to not take both into account. Properly testing and assessing adrenal hormones is a critical part of managing thyroid disorders. Consider these 3 very important supplements for good thyroid health.
A severe iodine deficiency can lead to a weakened thyroid as well as possible fluid retention and swelling around the thyroid. An iodine deficiency can really showcase itself in the way of a sinus infection, pneumonia, ulcers, boils, easily catching colds and flus, and laryngitis. . There are also many subtle symptoms of a lowered immune system caused by iodine deficiency, such as cold sores, styes, itchy eyes, itchy ears, allergies, sore throat, chronic cough, and toenail and fingernail fungus. If you develop goiter or a swollen thyroid that is a sign as well.
Zinc deficiency is another that can cause hormonal imbalances. It’s the missing mineral deficiency that deserves far more attention. Zinc synergistically works to get iodine to working. Without zinc it’s hard to hold onto iodine. Zinc also supports the thyroid, the rest of the endocrine system, and the immune system.
Not all supplements are created equal. Be sure to use quality supplements to be sure you are getting the nutritional value and benefits that they offer. Here are some excellent quality supplements to include in your health regimen. If you’re wondering what dulse is, it’s great to eat to make sure you’re getting your iodine. You can use it on salads, eat it plain or whatever you prefer. To decrease the strong taste I mix it in my smoothies. I make it a priority to get iodine and zinc in my body every day and highly recommend these particular brands below.
If you think you may have a hormonal imbalance, please considering getting the proper testing, taking supplements, and eating the suggested foods. Also, consider the factors and causes of hormone imbalances and make the proper lifestyle adjustments if you can.
And remember to Eat well. Be well. Repeat.