Welcome to August! I know it came way too fast and it has been a bit hot lately, but we will soon get a couple of cool rainy days. It seems to happen in the first week or so of August every year.
With the heat we have had recently my thoughts turn to hormones and hot flashes. When the air conditioning in my house and car both failed in the same week that the temps were in the high 90’s, I was experiencing my own hot flashes and night sweats!
The endocrine system and its balance of hormones is an interesting subject and can be a bit complicated. You have heard a lot about hormone replacement therapy and the debate between synthetic and bio-identical hormones. There are ads targeted to men about getting human growth hormone (HGH) shots or testosterone shots and gels. Sly Stalone still looks 20 from the neck down due to his use of these male hormones. I have a picture on my fridge of a 67 year old doctor with a great body in an ad from a clinic that helps supply men with these hormones. I want those 6 pack abs but I’m not going to use HGH to get them. Suzanne Sommers has been touting the benefits of bio-identical hormones for women in several of her books. So are these hormone replacements the "Fountain of Youth" or will there be other bad effects down the road because of their use?
One of the problems with using any type of external hormone replacement is that is eventually “down-regulates” the hormone receptors. What this means is that the receptors need more and more hormone to create the same effect. We see this many times in women who have been using progesterone or estrogen cream. Though they have been using the hormone, they are exhibiting all the symptoms of being hormone deficient. If we test their free hormone levels using a saliva test, their levels are through the roof which shows an over-dose of that hormone. But their body acts like it is not getting enough. Fortunately, our body replaces these receptors every 3-4 days so there are ways to recover from the over-use of external hormones.
This is not a bad work performance review or a description of a conversation with your teenager; it is how our endocrine system functions. Simply stated, the more hormone there is in circulation in your blood, the less hormone that gland will be told to produce. This is accomplished through two glands in the brain called the hypothalamus and the pituitary which stimulate or sedate the other endocrine glands like the thyroid, adrenals, ovaries and testes.
Diabetes is one of the fastest growing diseases in this country. The Standard American Diet (SAD) is composed of lots of carbohydrates and empty sugar. When you eat a sugar, the body releases insulin to affect the cells to allow sugar to pass out of the blood and into the cells. When we eat a high sugar meal or snack the body senses an elevated level of sugar in the blood stream and produces a lot of insulin to get that sugar mobilized into the cells. The cells get exposed to this large amount of insulin and start to down-regulate their reaction to the insulin. Consequently, the cells need more insulin to create the same effect as before. If you monitor a person’s insulin levels over time, you can see them developing diabetes long before it shows up as high sugar levels in the blood. There is a continuum of illness that can be followed if you look at the right indicators. For adult-onset diabetes, the “diabetes bug” doesn’t just jump out and bite you one day while walking the dog. It is a process that took time and over-stimulation of the insulin hormone receptors to create it.
So is hormone replacement therapy always a bad thing? No. Sometime it is the only thing that will help stop someone’s health decline. But it should only be used long enough to repair the underlying health issues. The longer a condition goes on, the harder it is to get a person’s body back to producing their own hormones. Most people who have taken thyroid medications know that their dose needs to be increased over time. The receptors need more of the hormone to do the same amount of reaction. In men using testosterone gels and creams, the testosterone is altered by an enzyme in the skin that turns the testosterone into estrogen. That’s why long-term use of these hormones can actually back-fire and create the opposite effect of what you intended. Hormone use causes:
If you have a weak thyroid, taking thyroid medication will make your thyroid weaker over time because it atrophies from disuse. The glands in the brain monitoring the circulating levels of T4 notice that there is plenty in the blood so it does not stimulate the thyroid to make more. The old adage from physiology is; if you don’t use it you lose it, so the thyroid gland starts to atrophy from not being stimulated to produce thyroid hormones. So you see the vicious cycle that is created?
Fix the problem, don’t cover it up
That is why we have to nourish the glands at the same time and try to get the body back to producing its own hormones. In post-menopausal women, we are not going to get their ovaries to magically make more eggs and restart their periods. The adrenals were designed to make more than enough sex hormones to keep a woman healthy and feminine into her golden years. Unfortunately, bad habits and dead food have over-taxed her adrenals and they cannot respond normally. As she enters peri-menopause, she develops hot flashes, vaginal dryness, skin aging, etc. because her hormone levels are dropping. Fix the adrenals and the thyroid and most of the time you fix the hot flashes.
Gut, Liver, Insulin and EFA’s
Intestinal dysbiosis or more bad bugs (like yeast and parasites) in your digestive tract than good bugs will have an adverse effect on your endocrine system. If your liver is toxic and cannot perform its functions properly, it can’t fully metabolize hormones for their removal. These partially metabolized hormones can block hormone receptors and not allow fully functioning hormones to properly affect the cell. Insulin surges from hypoglycemia and insulin resistance block the healing and balancing of the endocrine system as well. Lastly, if you are deficient in your essential fatty acids, it can affect the way the cells react to the circulating hormones. This is why getting rid of chronic infections, lowering your sugar intake, taking your fish oils and doing a cleansing program once or twice a year is important to your health and your hormone function. We can help you with all of these conditions and figure out what you need to do to eventually balance out your hormones and your health.
Many people still don’t realize we are in the office on Friday mornings and have been for a long time. A staff person will no longer be in the office on Wednesday afternoons so our office hours are:
and Thursday 9-6 Wednesday
Hope you are having a great summer!