“Dr. Marcantel, I know I’m not crazy but when I told my last doctor about my mood swings, inability to lose weight, and sleeplessness he put me on antidepressants. I’m just so frustrated with taking medications to try to feel better and instead I often feel worse. What’s going on with my body?”
One thing that could be causing problems for you is an imbalance of chemicals. Often doctors try to restore that chemical balance by prescribing antidepressants or anti anxiety medications that mask the symptoms for a time but that can have side effects over the long run. While there is a place for prescription medications for temporary relief from serious symptoms, it’s essential to get to the root of the problem. I like to explain it to my patients this way: You weren’t born with those synthetic drugs in your system–what you were born with are hormones that need to be brought into a proper balance before your body can heal itself.
Female or male, young or old, it is hormones that keep our bodies functioning properly and keep us feeling healthy and happy. Hormones are chemical substances that are released by various glands in the body to target organ systems and specific cells to help them function normally. They are essential for every activity of daily living, including the processes of digestion, metabolism, growth, reproduction, and mood control.
Hormones produced by the thyroid gland, for example, are essential to the proper function of every cell in the body. Insulin, produced by the pancreas gland, helps us to process sugars and convert them into energy. Sex hormones such as estrogen and testosterone affect our libido (sex drive), but are important in many other bodily functions, as well. Stress hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine (adrenaline) help us to cope with the many stressors (both physical and emotional) that we face as we go through the day.
Proper amounts of these hormones can keep our bodies running healthy and help us feel good, but when we get imbalances of these chemicals in our systems it can have a negative impact on our health.
Causes and Symptoms
Some causes of hormonal imbalances for men and women are:
- consistent, long-term stress
- changes in life cycles (e.g., from adolescence to adulthood)
- genetic predisposition
- exposure to environmental or food toxins
- xenoestrogens found in some foods
For women in particular some causes may be:
- Use of birth control pills (past or present)
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
- Postpartum changes (childbirth)
- Perimenopause and menopause
- Estrogen dominance
Symptoms of hormonal imbalances can include:
- Mood swings
- Weight gain or prevention of weight loss
- Low libido
- Irregular menses
- Hair loss or unusual hair growth
Detection and Diagnosis
Symptomology–The first and foremost method for diagnosing and treating hormonal imbalances is a careful review of the patient’s symptoms. It is critical that the doctor gets a thorough and detailed history from the patient. The doctor and the patient should trust the intelligence of the body’s symptoms in searching for the root causes of patients’ medical complaints.
Physical examination such as palpation of the thyroid to examine for enlargement and a pelvic exam to detect abnormalities.
Blood tests and salivary hormone tests can also be done to confirm hormonal imbalances. The results of these tests are also crucial in developing a proper treatment protocol for patients.
It’s important to note that any treatment plan should be highly individualized. Each person’s body is unique and responds differently to different protocols, so as a doctor I must evaluate each person according to his or her specific needs and symptoms.
Still, there are some basic starting places for every patient. A good foundation is a proper meal plan that may include a mild detoxification, food sensitivity inquiries, and possibly an anti-candida diet. Certain nutritional supplements may be helpful, if called for. And, of course, the use of prescribed bioidentical hormones may be an essential part of the treatment protocol if there is sufficient need for this type of treatment.
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