Updated: Jun 5, 2020
A variety of hormones control our everyday lives, both physically and mentally. The balance of these hormones can be derailed by what we eat, our stress, toxins we're exposed to and medications we're taking. How do we ensure we're in balance so we feel great, lose weight and enjoy life?
For women, signs of hormone imbalance include:
Irregular or excessively heavy menstrual bleeding
Poor sleep, fatigue, poor memory
Family history of breast, uterine or ovarian cancer
Low libido or sex drive
PMS, or peri- and post-menopause with symptoms
Difficulty losing weight or excessive water weight
For men, signs of hormone imbalance include:
Poor sleep, poor memory
Low libido or sex drive, erectile dysfunction
Family history or breast cancer
Loss of lean body mass, muscle mass
Difficulty losing weight
Many other symptoms can be attributed to hormone imbalances as well.
The most common hormones we're referring to here include thyroid hormone, cortisol, adrenaline, norepinephrine, estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. Some of these are easy to check through standard blood tests, but others, are best evaluated through salivary testing. We commonly think of estrogen as a female hormone and testosterone as a male hormone, but both are important in either sex and need to be balanced in order to function normally and feel great. In fact, having hormones out of balance can put us at a higher risk of chronic conditions such as cancer and heart disease down the road.
Saliva measures the "unbound" biologically active or free hormone levels in the body: When blood is filtered through the salivary glands, the bound hormone components are too large to pass through the cell membranes of the salivary glands. This leaves only the unbound (free) hormones in the saliva. This "free", or bioavailable hormone, is what will be delivered to the receptors in the tissues of the body and have a direct action on how we think and how we feel.
If you read our article on Adrenal Dysfunction, you already know that adrenal function and cortisol levels are best evaluated through saliva testing. But, so are the sex hormones - estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. This way we get a better idea of "free: or "bioavailable" hormone levels.
This is an example of a common pattern I see on salivary testing. Estrogen is in 3 main forms, Estrone (E1), Estradiol (E2) and Estriol (E3). This female patient has too low estriol (E3), which is a protective form of estrogen. It helps to balance out the effects of the much stronger estradiol and estrone (E2, E1). From this we can calculate the estrogen quotient, which helps determine where the patient is in terms of risk from excessive estrogen. Excessive estrogen is responsible for many symptoms including weight gain, difficulty losing weight, heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding, breast tenderness/pain/swelling or cysts and low libido. Over time, higher estrogen levels can increase your risk of breast and uterine cancers. Having plenty of E3 and progesterone around can help mitigate this "Estrogen Dominance".
Here's a male salivary hormone panel which shows progesterone relative to estrogen, low/normal testosterone and low DHEA. When men have estrogen dominance, this puts them at a much higher risk of prostate problems later in life (cancer and BPH, benign prostatic hyperplasia). DHEA is an adrenal precursor to testosterone, which the low DHEA may explain why his free testosterone is on the low end of normal. Stress is likely playing a large factor in his symptoms from low testosterone and low progesterone, which adrenal support ended up being what he needed. You have to be careful with testosterone supplementation, however, as it easily converts to estrogen and can make matters worse.
Hormones are complicated, but they are easy to correct. Many different nutrients or glandular supportive products exist which can be powerfully helpful in getting the system back to normal again. Topical and oral hormone support is also easily accessible through prescription when needed, and can be tailored to you and your individual needs.
If you're interested in learning more, we love to educate our patients about their hormones and how they can affect your health. Call and schedule a complimentary consultation and we can assess if hormone testing is right for you. (971) 279-7260.
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