March/April 2005 Alternative Health
Fatigued? Your Hormones May Be Out of Balance
by Pamela Sky Jeanne, ND, PC, with JP Christy
Hormones are chemical project managers for You, Incorporated. These
proteins circulate throughout your body, signaling your organs to stop
or start their specialized functions in response to your physical needs.
Among other things, hormones help to determine how tall you grow and
how you handle stress and, of course, they regulate the functioning
of your sex organs. And just as time causes changes in your body, it
also causes changes to your hormones. The normal aging process causes
hormone production to decline in everyone, resulting imbalances that
have both physical and psychological effects.
Estrogen Out of Balance
Typically, hormone imbalances in women are initially experienced during
the peri-menopause years (between the ages 40 to 50), when progesterone
is usually the first hormone level to drop. When the amount of progesterone
in a womans body declines, the balancing hormoneestrogenbecomes
the bodys dominant hormone. An excess of estrogen can also be
caused by estrogen replacement therapy or hysterectomy surgery. Too
often when conventional doctors put women on hormone replacement therapy,
they prescribe only estrogen. But this approach leaves a woman to function
with only half of her hormonesshe needs progesterone too!
What happens when women have too much estrogen? They can experience
psychological symptomsirritability, mood swings, depression, or
anxietyas well as physical symptoms, including weight gain around
hips and thighs, cold hands and feet, and tender breasts and/or fibrocystic
breasts. Some researchers believe theres a link between high estrogen
levels and breast cancer.
Excess Estrogen and PCOS
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is another estrogen-related condition
that affects women. High levels of insulin in the body and high levels
of estrogen relative to lower levels of progesterone cause the ovary
to become covered with fluid-filled cysts. As a result, the ovary is
less able to produce an egg or ovum each month, which then leads to
decreased progesterone production. This cascade of events renders a
woman less fertile, and it typically occurs in those who are between
the ages of 18 and 40.
Although an estimated 10 percent of women have PCOS, only 30 percent
of them tend to have symptoms. These symptoms include increased body
and facial hair, extra weight around her waist, water retention, anxiousness,
abdominal pain, and infrequent or irregular periods. In short, women
with PCOS experience a hormone imbalance that, because it is undiagnosed,
Excess Estrogen and Thyroid Dysfunction
Excess estrogen can also interfere with the thyroid hormone, causing
thyroid gland dysfunction. What are those symptoms? In my experience,
fatigue is the complaint that usually sends people to see their doctors.
However, when conventional medicine is unable to identify causes, doctors
do little more than tell their patients to go home and get some rest.
This is good advice, but often, it isnt enough to help fatigued
people regain the energy levels they once had.
Hormones and Fatigue
Your body has a daily rhythm that requires a certain level of production
of DHEA and cortisol. These hormones help you maintain energy, metabolize
sugar by keeping insulin in balance, strengthen our immune system, and
support cognitive brain function and memory. However, when you experience
either an underproduction or an overproduction, you may feel we didnt
get a get good nights sleep. You may also experience sugar cravings,
allergies, and aches and pains in muscle and bones. You have less endurance,
and less stamina. At the end of the day, you feel exhausted. Adrenal
fatiguewhich is often associated with stressis recognized
as a clear indication of the loss of adrenal function. In the natural
medicine approach to health, we use specific remedies to restore depleted
Finding Your Balance
Our hormonesthese chemical project managers circulating in our
bodies communicate best when they are in the correct proportion
to each other. Testing your hormone levels and then creating the balance
uniquely suited to your physiology can make a life-changing difference
in how you feel and function throughout the day. Here in the Northwest,
there are several specialized laboratories that use a saliva test to
check hormone levels, at a cost ranging from $30 to $45 per hormone
tested. (Your health insurance company may cover part or all of this
cost.) Once you have your test results, you can talk with your physician
about appropriate next steps. Restoring balance can bring new vitality
to anyone, regardless of age. And when you are considering hormone therapy,
the right combination results in finding the right balance.
Dr. Pamela Jeanne, former RN and now a practicing naturopathic physician,
is a consultant at ZRT, a hormone testing laboratory. JP Christy is
a professional writer who has a life-long interest in health issues.
Contact her at 503-286-7730.