Why I Recommend Checking Your Hormones
By Dr. Michael Corsilles, ND, PA-C at Vida Integrated Health
Hormones play a vital role in all of our body systems, so it’s not a surprise that hormones play such a big impact on weight gain, energy levels, mood, as well as reproductive health. While hormonal imbalances are often associated with women, especially during times like menopause, it’s crucial to understand that men, too, can suffer from similar imbalances.
Some women and men may have been “written off” by their healthcare provider as having anxiety or depression. And simply being prescribed an antidepressant may not be the best solution. From a Functional Medicine perspective, where the focus is on treating the root cause rather than just the symptoms, looking for a hormonal imbalance should be a more standard practice.
The Functional Medicine Approach
Functional medicine is a holistic, individualized approach that seeks to identify and treat the underlying causes of disease. Instead of simply treating symptoms, functional medicine physicians, like myself, look at the body as an interconnected system. When it comes to hormonal health, this means investigating all factors that can influence hormone levels, from diet and lifestyle to stress levels, environmental toxins, and gastrointestinal health.
Hormonal Health in Women
For women, hormonal fluctuations are a natural part of life, occurring during menstrual cycles, pregnancy, and menopause. However, several factors can throw hormones out of balance including:
- Nutrition: Eating excess processed foods, sugars, and caffeine can disrupt hormonal balance. A diet rich in whole foods, especially nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables, can support liver detoxification, mitochondrial support, and hormone regulation.
- Stress: We all face stress, but chronic excess stress can lead to prolonged elevated cortisol levels, which in turn can negatively impact estrogen, progesterone and testosterone levels.
- Environmental Toxins: Chemicals like BPA, commonly found in plastics, can act as hormone disruptors, mimicking our natural hormones and causing imbalances.
- Gastrointestinal Health: A healthy gut microbiome plays a vital role in metabolizing and excreting excess hormones.
Hormonal Health in Men
We can’t ignore men’s hormonal health either. Testosterone, plays a role in muscle mass, erection, and libido, but there are other important factors affecting men’s health which include:
- Aging: Testosterone levels naturally decrease with age, leading to symptoms like fatigue, low libido, and depression.
- Diet: A diet full of processed foods, full of sugar and devoid of nutrient-dense fruits, vegetables, fats and proteins, can disrupt hormonal balance in men. Obesity can lead to excess conversion of testosterone into estrogen, ultimately lowering testosterone levels.
- Stress: Chronic stress and elevated cortisol can lead to a drop in testosterone levels much quicker than the aging process alone.
- Environmental Toxins: Men are also susceptible to endocrine-disrupting chemicals, which can affect testosterone levels.
Restoring Balance with Functional Medicine
The power of functional medicine lies in its comprehensive and individualized approach. Here are some strategies we may recommend at Vida Functional Medicine to restore hormonal balance:
- Testing: We check hormones levels like testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, thyroid, and cortisol. But we may also check vitamin levels, inflammation markers, cardiometabolic labs like cholesterol and glucose, and even gastrointestinal testing. What testing depends on symptoms, a person’s lifestyle and even genetics.
- Dietary Changes: Most of our patients benefit by teaming up with one of our functional medicine nutritionists. We emphasize a balanced whole-foods diet, rich in healthy vegetables, proteins and fats.
- Stress Management: Techniques like acupuncture, meditation, deep breathing exercises, and yoga can help manage stress and, in turn, support hormonal balance.
- Detoxification: Reducing exposure to environmental toxins and supporting the body’s natural detoxification pathways can help restore hormonal balance. This might include strategies like using glass instead of plastic containers or incorporating liver-supporting foods into the diet.
- Supplementation: In some cases, specific supplements, like adaptogenic herbs to support the adrenal glands, probiotics to support gut health, and these in turn can support overall hormonal health.
- Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT): For some individuals, especially post-menopausal women or men with significantly low testosterone, BHRT can be a beneficial tool. It involves using hormones that are chemically identical to those produced by our bodies to restore balance.
Hormonal health is a cornerstone of our overall well-being. A functional medicine approach to diagnosing and treating someone involves addressing the root causes of hormonal imbalances, by offering a more holistic, individualized, and thus a more effective solution. Whether you’re a man or a woman, understanding and optimizing your hormonal health can pave the way for a vibrant and long life.
Dr. Michael Corsilles is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor and Physician Assistant-Certified at Vida Integrated Health in Bellevue, WA. With a passion for holistic health, he believes in treating the whole person, not just the symptoms.
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