In part one we looked at how hormonal imbalance can affect your overall health. Functional medicine takes a broad, holistic approach to treating imbalances, not by treating the symptoms but by seeking out the root cause. A functional medicine practitioner like myself will look at your diet, your environment, and your physical condition to determine how to bring your hormones back into sync.
I recently spoke to the South China Morning Post on Menopause, Hormones and HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy). Here’s the article.
Symptoms And Hormonal Imbalance
While functional medicine doesn’t attempt to simply treat the symptoms of a hormonal imbalance, symptoms are still vital in diagnosing the underlying condition. When consulting your functional medicine practitioner, expect to answer some detailed questions. This will help guide your practitioner in determining what type of imbalance or imbalances you suffer from, and to developing a course of treatment.
Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) may be part of your treatment, but it’s not the only effective therapy. Keep reading for more on how we diagnose and treat hormonal imbalance.
Medical Tests That Can Help In Diagnosis
Your practitioner will also call on medical tests that can help determine which hormones need to be corrected. This may include some or all of the following:
- Saliva. Simple saliva tests can reveal the presence of stress hormones such as cortisol.
- Urine. A urine evaluation can reveal the presence or absence of stress and sex hormones.
- Blood. Simple blood tests can be used to determine whether thyroid hormones are a problem, along with insulin and a host of other hormones. A blood test can also look for indicators of inflammation, stress, and toxins. Unhealthily low levels of nutrients can also show up in blood tests.
- Genetics. Genetics has come into its own in recent years thanks to falling costs in genetic profiling. Such a profile – which a lab can produce from a saliva sample – can point to specific genetic issues that can affect how your body processes nutrients.
- Stool. Stool tests can indicate issues with gut flora, vital to the immune system and inflammation.
Diet: Vitally Important In Resetting a Hormonal Imbalance
Diet may be the single most important component of correcting an imbalance in some hormones. This makes sense, as it is what enters our bodies that hormones respond to. The food choices we make can affect a hormone such as leptin which controls appetite. Insulin requires changes in blood sugar levels to facilitate a response, so when we don’t spike our blood sugar, we have fewer insulin challenges.
So expect your functional medicine practitioner to address diet first. Some aspects of changing your diet may appear obvious: include more fruits and vegetables; get away from processed foods, as these are typically high in fats and sugars. Others can be more subtle, such as checking the packaging of food or the tools we use to cook it, or ensuring we avoid unfermented soy or MSG in what we consume.
It can be difficult to get all the nutrients we need from our diet alone. Some medical and genetic conditions can make absorbing key vitamins and minerals from foods difficult. Your practitioner may recommend supplements to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients you need.
Exercise is important to overall health. It helps keep muscles and bones strong and lubricates joints for greater mobility. In females, exercise can help mitigate some of the effects of PMS. It’s wise to incorporate exercise into your day rather than to treat it as something secondary. If you can bicycle or run to work, this is a great way to add exercise to your routine. You will likely find that you’re enthusiastic about exercise in the morning but less inclined toward it later in the day. If you have bicycled to work, this builds a second round of exercise into your day because you won’t have any choice about biking home!
Your practitioner will look closely at the amount of stress in your life. Stress may be a huge contributor to hormonal imbalances. Cortisol floods the brain during times of stress, and can increase your appetite leading to overeating and lack of interest in exercise.
The Whole Picture
Functional medicine attempts to bring all these disparate elements together in a way that attacks issues of hormonal imbalance from all sides. Your practitioner will look at all aspects of your body and your environment to determine a course of action tailored to you.