Hormone challenges are some of the most common, yet least understood conditions affecting women today.
A study published in the Endocrine Society’s March 2015 issue of Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that women with hormone imbalances are twice as likely to be hospitalized for other conditions.
Women may end up in your office due to issues like excess weight gain, thyroid imbalances, or insulin sensitivity, and be completely unaware that hormone imbalance is behind it all.
The key is identifying the underlying hormonal issue, and managing it appropriately.
In a functional medicine approach, our job is to help the patient address the root cause of these symptoms.
Insulin, Inflammation, and Metabolism
With hormone imbalances, the female body may produce excess male hormones, causing the ovaries to develop cysts or follicles. These issues may prevent ovulation and cause irregular periods, painful periods, or amenorrhea as well as acne, excess hair, and baldness.
Excess testosterone can throw off your patient’s insulin metabolism, too, which is why the syndrome can be associated with metabolic disorder. A patient’s excess weight gain increases inflammation, and they may appear to have a blood sugar issue or thyroid issue. When a patient is overweight or obese, symptoms of hormone imbalance can worsen.
Managing Symptoms vs. Addressing Underlying Causes
Traditional medicine often treats hormone imbalances with birth control pills, but if a woman is trying to get pregnant, this approach is obviously off the table.
If the patient presents with insulin sensitivity or low thyroid, many medicine practitioners will prescribe medication and instruct her to watch her weight and what she eats, but they won’t do much to address the true underlying cause.
In functional medicine, we combine a few approaches to help patients:
Combat insulin resistance.
Regulate blood sugar metabolism to help shift hormonal balance.
Control inflammation in the ovaries.
Insulin must bind to a receptor, and if it doesn’t do this properly the body will keep producing more of it, which can lead to insulin resistance. Myo-inositol is directly linked to insulin metabolism because it helps the insulin bind to the receptor, promoting blood sugar management.*
Curcumin is a plant-based curcuminoid derived from the herb turmeric. This extract helps promote a healthy inflammatory response and is a free-radical fighter.* Curcumin also aids in detoxification*. In the gallbladder, it stimulates bile production. which the liver utilizes to eliminate toxins from the bloodstream.* "This can be particularly critical since a healthy liver can remove harmful environmental toxins and well as excess androgens and estrogen,” says Alyssa Humphrey MS, research scientist at FoodScience Corporation.* Some research shows it helps with blood sugar control, too.*
These ingredients are designed to promote balance, either through insulin sensitivity and management of insulin resistance or leveling blood sugar.* When a healthy inflammatory response is achieved, excess antigen hormones will be reduced, allowing for some abatement of symptoms. Weight loss will also help alleviate symptoms, too. So encourage your patients to make lifestyle adjustments that impact weight, such as diet and exercise, alongside any supplements they begin taking.
Hormone imbalance affects many women in many different phases. The advantage of a functional medicine approach is that it targets underlying issues of the condition, promotes balance in the body by supporting a healthy inflammatory response, and regulating insulin resistance. When it comes to supplements, look for quality ingredients like inositol and curcumin. As a functional medicine practitioner, you’ll also want to encourage healthy lifestyle changes in your patients who have hormone imbalances. These lifestyle changes should include diet choices that help reduce stomach inflammation and promote hormone balance.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
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