Do you ever feel like your hormones are ruining or running your life? Whether they are your own or someone else’s … they just might be. How do you determine if life just really sucks, or if your hormones have you hijacked? Before you run out and ask for a little pill from your doctor or stare blankly at the wall of supplements at your local health food store, there are a few things you should know that may give you insight into how to make the best decisions for your unique hormonal health. Hormones have a mind and personality of their own, and when they are all playing together nicely, they can sound (and feel) like a beautiful song. But when one of them gets too loud or beats its own drum, the music can be terrible. Let me introduce you to the band, and teach you how to get them to play together nicely.
Enter Estrogen: “The Diva”
Estrogen is the singer of the band. She is curvy, luscious and sexy. Her voice is like velvet and she makes you “feel like a woman.” She is the one responsible for the onset of puberty and is elevated in pregnancy. Think supple, moist and soft. She helps maintain good bone health and sharp brains. When she is in tune, you feel sexy, strong, and smart.
Too Much Diva
Too much of a good thing, as we have all learned (usually the hard way), can be a bad thing. When estrogen takes over the stage and drowns out the rest of the band, things can get ugly. Too much of this velvety singer can make us moody, anxious, sleepless, bloated, tired and fat. Estrogen likes to be balanced by sporty progesterone. We all know what happens when there is more than one Diva competing for the spotlight.
So how do we keep estrogen in check and make sure the stage is just for her? We have to have very good self-care. All Divas take meticulous care of themselves and just like them, we need to care for the estrogen in our body… Not too much and not too little. Estrogen can get out of control when we party too much (excess alcohol), eat foods that make us fat (think sugar and simple carbohydrates), use chemicals that mimic estrogen (known as xenoestrogens) in our personal products and foods, don’t consume enough cruciferous veggies (like broccoli and cauliflower) and don’t get enough fiber to bounce those extra ladies off the stage. Essentially, the liver takes care of excess estrogen… so if the liver is busy with other things, then too much estrogen is left to circulate. As if excess fat didn’t make it hard enough… it also produces estrogen. If you think you have too much estrogen, try some of the following before rushing off to take herbs and supplements:
Goodbye Estrogen: The Singer Has Left the Stage
When the Diva has left the stage it can be because life has become just too stressful for her. The adrenal glands also produce estrogen. In fact, after menopause they are the primary producer of estrogen. If you’re chronically stressed, you can bet that your estrogen production has gone down. Those of you who have low estrogen know that it feels like a dried up desert in your body; hot, dry, brittle and desolate. When the Diva has left the stage, you might get hot flashes, low libido, and reduced memory. You might also feel moody and horrible. Before pumping your body full of hormones, try these simple solutions below:
Progesterone: The Feel Good Guitar Player
Everyone knows that guitar player on stage who is always happy, always smiling, rocking out and keeping the show going. Who doesn’t love the guitar player? Nobody ever says, “man that guitar player sucked tonight,” or “that guitar player was boring.” They just don’t. Progesterone is like the guitar player hormone. It’s just good, and it complements estrogen.
Too many singers and not enough guitar players makes the body feel very wacky. These two hormones like to play together in unison and balance.
So… how do you know if you have too many singers and not enough guitar? You feel stressed out, sleepless, might be struggling with infertility, depressed, foggy, PMS!, headaches, shorter cycle lengths, and weight gain. The stress response in the body blocks progesterone. Progesterone also regulates weight and has a thermogenic effect. The most important factor in playing good hormone music is to have a good balance between estrogen and progesterone. Interestingly, too much intense exercise can reduce progesterone (think crossfit 5 x week). So before slathering on that progesterone cream (which does work for some) try these simple techniques:
Testosterone: Beat that Drum
In my humble opinion, you can’t dance without a base beat. You need that rhythm to keep the song moving and dancing fun. This is testosterone. It provides a war cry of action and ambition. The drum makes us want to move. To do things in this world… to dance. Without enough testosterone, you will feel dull and unmotivated. Usually this does not happen for women until menopause hits. You will notice a drastic sinking of libido, energy and weight gain. Yikes! So how do we keep testosterone going as menopause hits? We must avoid things that turn our estrogen into testosterone. This happens to men too! I see this frequently in my practice… men with elevated estrogens from backed up livers, too much alcohol and a crappy diet. Yep! Thats right … the Standard American Diet (known as SAD) can turn a robust testosterone level into lots of estrogen. This equates to unwanted ‘man boobs’, a thick waste and lots of metabolic risk factors including depression. Yeast infections can do this too (a topic for another blog post). So, how do we keep that drum beating?
If you try many of the listed things above and still cannot seem to get the music right… I highly recommend working with someone who truly understands hormones and can test you appropriately for excesses and deficiencies. Remember our toxic world, poor diet and stressful lifestyles are the main contributors to any body imbalance. However, sometimes the music is just so bad we need a conductor to get us back on track. That is when I recommend seeing a Functional Medicine practitioner. You can find one at www.ifm.org, or visit me at The Remedy in downtown Martinez.
About the author:
Andrea Telfer-Karbo is a Functional Nurse Practitioner located in Martinez, CA. She practices functional and integrative medicine with the goal of revitalizing the mind, body and spirit of her patients. She specializes in GI health, chronic inflammatory diseases, hormones and allergies. She is the co-founder of The Remedy in Martinez, CA. For more information, go to www.theremedymartinez.com or call her at 925-448-1861.
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