Earlier in the month, I was invited to give a presentation about hormones at a Women Empower meeting in North Austin. What I wanted to get across at the meeting, in addition to basic information about the endocrine system, is the importance of choosing the right healthcare practitioners and of trusting your intuition. Here’s a summary of the presentation. Enjoy! Dr. Robin
Deborah invited me to speak tonight about hormones and their impact on women’s lives. I realized that in only giving me 20 minutes, she is preventing me from boring you to death with the biochemical reasons why estrogen is bad, progesterone is good, and both of those statements aren’t always true. What I would like to give you instead are some bottom line things to think about.
First, when I say hormones, I am referring to the endocrine system, which is much, much more than just the sex hormones or monthly menstrual cycle hormones. The endocrine system runs a vast majority of your body functions and has long-reaching effects. You may be surprised at what symptoms are your body’s hormones giving you a signal that something is amiss.
So here’s the bottom line:
If you are tired, check your thyroid.
And just because your doctor says that your blood work says your thyroid is fine, keep checking. Find someone else to check it, if necessary. There are excellent tests available that are far more comprehensive than those offered by most doctors.
If you are depressed, check your adrenals and blood sugar.
If your doctor doesn’t know how to do this, go elsewhere. It isn’t all in your head, nor do you suffer from Prozac deficiency syndrome. Seventy-five percent of people with depression have physiological imbalances in their bodies.
If you have lost your sex drive, check your entire endocrine system with a saliva test.
Blood tests are limited, and results are very dependent on what part of the month, even what time of day, you’re test.
If you have panic attacks, check your adrenals and change your diet.
If you have asthma, again check your adrenal glands.
Asthma is not a lung issue; it’s an adrenal issue.
If you have gallbladder problems, check your estrogen and cortisol levels.
If you have high cholesterol, check your thyroid.
If you can’t sleep, check your thyroid and estrogen levels.
If you have heartburn, check your adrenal glands.
If you crave sweets, check your blood sugar.
If you have allergies, check your thyroid.
If you have hot flashes, night sweats and insomnia, check your estrogen levels.
If you have PMS, cramps, migraine headaches, irregular cycles, heavy bleeding, lack of fertility, check your progesterone levels.
Now I’ve just told you to “check” all these different systems of your body. How do you go about doing that?
The endocrine system–the thyroid, pancreas, adrenal glands, parathyroid gland, ovaries, testes, the pituitary gland and pineal gland–is a beautiful feedback system similar to an orchestra.
When stresses occur, the adrenal glands are the squeaky wheel that gets the most attention. Your adrenal glands are a survival gland. This means that you can’t live without them and that they have the priority in the body to steal hormones from the other glands. Over time, this “theft” can lead to hypothyroidism, decreased progesterone, DHEA, and pregnenolone, and sometimes even decreased testosterone.
The adrenals are a fight or flight mechanism, meaning they respond to stressful situations. Keep in mind that your body views a stressful situation as “anything that isn’t neutral.” So anything that creates heart palpitations–good or bad–such as anxiety or excitement, causes the adrenals to work harder. From their point of view, a perceived stressor is the same as a real stressor, meaning that the thoughts and feelings that run through your head constantly have a huge impact on your adrenal glands, and therefore, on your endocrine system. Adrenals glands are vital, and in this day and age, are often literally physically exhausted and running down.
It’s often when the adrenal glands start to become exhausted that people end up in my clinic, asking me, “What’s wrong? I just don’t don’t feel good anymore. All my blood work says that I’m fine, and all my doctor offers me is an antidepressant.”
It’s important to keep in mind that the medical profession attracts the kind of thinkers that need to have a clearly defined solution to a problem. Balancing the endocrine system isn’t clear-cut; it can take time and patience to uncover what’s happening in each person’s unique body. This is why so many women are turning to alternative healthcare.
Checking and re-balancing your endocrine system isn’t easy. It requires you to be an active participant in your healthcare. Educating yourself is an important first step. It’s not that you need to become an expert on medical procedures, diagnosis, herbs, homeopathics, or chiropractic care. Rather, you need to educate yourself on your options.
It’s also important to become an expert in listening to and honoring your intuition about your health and your body. Handing over your power to a medical professional will not serve you. Instead, keep in mind that you are hiring doctors to help you with your health. If they’re not serving you, fire them! Don’t discount your intuition when confronted with the cold logic of the western medical model. Research your symptoms online, read books, and ask friends for references. Austin is filled with incredible alternative and conventional resources. If you don’t agree with a diagnosis or solution, keep looking.
Honor your intuition.
Let me know how I can help you in your journey to health and well-being!
May the Blessings Be,
* The information in this article cannot be substituted for medical advice about your unique body.
WHAT IS STRESS?
Simply put, stress is a measurement of all life experiences–good and bad. You may not even know your body is stressed. Any change from a neutral position is considered stress by the body. Breathing poor quality air, eating hormonally charged foods, thinking about your finances, getting married, buying a new home–all of these are stressors.
SO HOW DOES THE BODY COUNTERACT STRESS?
Our bodies have handled stress in the same miraculous way for 50,000 years. At the sign of a dangerous situation (the approach of a mega-sized animal thousands of years ago or a semi truck headed in your direction today), your body immediately goes into survival mode–fight or flight. Your adrenal glands kick into high gear, emitting first adrenaline and then cortisol. As cortisol levels increase, immune activity decreases, and all non-vital functions–reproduction, tissue repair, digestion–shut down. This survival mechanism will save your life in dangerous situations. But when your body is in a constant state of stress, as so many of ours are, the same mechanism can be harmful, even deadly.
STRESS IN THE LONG RUN . . .
When you’re subjected to prolonged stress (real or imaginary), your adrenal glands get bigger and increase production of adrenaline and cortisol. All systems of the body shift into survival mode. There may be nothing threatening your survival, but your body doesn’t know it. It turns off the immune system, growth, repair and digestion.
If the stress continues, adrenal reserves become depleted and eventually exhausted. Adrenal exhaustion is characterized by the following symptoms:
breathless when climbing stairs
feeling tired all the time
increased urine flow
low back syndrome
rashes and acne
stiff neck and shoulders
You can survive without your reproductive organs, and even without full use of your digestive organs. You cannot, however, survive without your adrenal glands, so they are considered a high priority by the body’s survival brain. If your adrenals are exhausted, your reproductive hormones will be used to fuel them. (This is why it is so important to fix the adrenal glands before addressing other hormonal problems. Otherwise, you can provide supplemental progesterone and estrogen all day long for the reproductive hormones, and it won’t fix the problem.)
SO WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Assessing Your Stress Levels
The most effective way to measure the long-term impact of stress on your body is to use a 24-hour hormonal test. I use a simple saliva test from Sabre Sciences, Inc. that tells your current status, plus an indication of any possible future problems.
Protecting Yourself from Negative Stress
Know Yourself! Learn to better identify how stress affects you. Notice the stressors in your life. Can you avoid them? If not, how can you deal with them? Also, determine where in your body you feel stress. The solar plexus? The neck? The back?
Breathe! Yoga can relax tight areas of the body and help improve breathing. Oxygen is a great healer for the adrenal glands. Check right now to see if you are holding your breath or if your chest feels tight and constricted. Long, deep breaths are vital for health.
Move! Long, sustained exercise with a slight heart-rate increase, such as cycling, walking, or swimming, is best for your adrenals. Avoid quick spurts of energy that get your heart rate too high.
Eat Right! Avoid sugar, alcohol and refined carbohydrates. Due to the glucose / insulin / cortisol interactions, sugars are a primary stressor of everyday life that contribute greatly to aging, weight, fatigue and adrenal exhaustion.
Get Adjustments! Chiropractic care, Applied Kinesiology, NAET, and massage are proven to improve adrenal function.
Stress is a factor of everyone’s life. Properly dealing with it will enhance and prolong your life. If there is one key to a long and healthy life, it is proper stress management!