Hormones are chemicals that travel through your bloodstream and help your organs do their work. You can think of them like messengers that relay information from your brain to help your body function. Most people know them best for the role they play in reproduction, but they’re also critical for things such as growth, repair, digestion, stress, sleep, and much more. This includes homeostasis, a term that describes your body’s internal balance, which will help you feel your best every day.
Here at Tri-Cities Functional Medicine, we focus on treating the root causes of problems, not just the symptoms, to help our clients reclaim their health. We’re based in Johnson City, Tennessee, and we work with people from all over the region including Bristol, Kingsport, Knoxville, Greenville, and Abingdon (in Virginia). In this blog, we’re going to explain three of the most important ones so you can learn why they are key to restoring your health. Our goal is to help you live an abundant life with a true sense of well-being.
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Hormones are About Much More Than Sex
When we talk about hormones, the first two people typically think of are testosterone and estrogen. We learn about them in high school health classes and we know that they are responsible for many of the differences between men and women. However, these hormones affect much more than just puberty and reproduction. When they’re out of balance, they can significantly impact your health.
Let’s start with testosterone. It’s the major sex hormone in men (and it’s actually also present in women), but it doesn’t just regulate sex drive. It also plays a major part in things like bone mass, muscle mass, fat distribution, strength, production of red blood cells, sperm production, and mood. Too much testosterone can cause issues like heart muscle damage, liver disease, fluid retention, weight gain, high blood pressure, insomnia, headaches, and irritability and aggression. Too little can cause reduced muscle mass, infertility, depression, brittle bones, and other symptoms.
Estrogen is the major sex hormone in women (although it’s also present in both men and women). Its primary role is to trigger sexual development and it plays a key role in things like menstrual cycles and pregnancy. However, it’s also involved in bone growth, glucose metabolism, cholesterol metabolism, insulin sensitivity, appetite, body mass, and more. Low levels of estrogen can cause irregular periods, mood swings, headaches, depression, fatigue, and decreased bone density. High levels, on the other hand, can put you at higher risk of blood clots, stroke, and thyroid issues.
As you can see, it’s possible that a single root cause such as a hormone imbalance could explain a whole range of seemingly unrelated symptoms. We’re here to help you get to the bottom of it.
Want to learn more? Find out what’s really causing your symptoms.
Why Thyroid Hormones are Underappreciated
What is your thyroid? Where is it? What does it actually do? If you’ve been experiencing symptoms of poor health for a while, you’ve probably heard the word “thyroid” a few times in your search for answers. The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in your neck that makes two types of hormones which are critical to overall health and well-being: triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4).
Why do we say these hormones are underappreciated? They control your metabolic rate, which includes things like heart function, digestive function, brain function, and bone density. This includes the chemical processes that help your body break down food for energy, adjust to hot or cold temperatures, speed up or slow down your heart rate during exercise, and much more.
The two opposite ends of the spectrum here are Grave’s disease, which is the most common cause of an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism), and Hashimoto’s disease, which is this is the most common cause of an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism). An overactive thyroid can make you feel hot, sweat, struggle to fall asleep, loosen your bowels, elevate your heartrate, increase anxiety and irritability, and make you lose weight. An underactive thyroid can give you dry skin and hair, constipation, make you gain weight, cause muscle cramps, increase symptoms of depression.
Again, it can cause a range of seemingly random symptoms at first glance. The good news is that there are solutions available to restore your health so you can resume living an abundant life.
Ready to find answers? Watch our free on-demand webinar on thyroid disorders.
Hormones Link Our Bodies and Minds
The final hormones we’re going to discuss in this blog are adrenaline and cortisol. These are made in your adrenal glands, which are located on top of your kidneys, in response to perceived threats. In a modern setting, this can be everything from family stress to work anxiety and more. These are triggered by the brain and have a significant impact on both physical and mental health.
Adrenaline triggers the body’s fight or flight response, prepares it to jump into action. This includes increasing the heart rate and blood pressure, expanding the airways, enlarging pupils, maximizing blood glucose levels. It reduces your ability to feel pain, increases strength and performance, and heightens your awareness. When your body is producing too much, you may feel dizzy, light-headed, restless and irritable. It can cause heart damage, insomnia, and anxiety. If your body is producing too little, you can experience fatigue, unexplained aches and pains, weight loss, and low blood pressure. This can be caused by chronic stress, which has a significant impact on mental well-being.
Cortisol, meanwhile, is a vital part of your body’s stress response. It’s best known as being a stress hormone, but as we’ve already established, hormones can affect multiple things simultaneously. Too much cortisol can lead to a condition called Cushing’s syndrome, which includes symptoms such as rapid weight gain around the face, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, skin changes, muscle weakness, and mood swings. Too little cortisol can lead to Addison’s disease, which can include fatigue, dizziness, weight loss, weakness, and mood swings. It plays a very important role.
Functional medicine differs from traditional medicine because we don’t simply treat symptoms with medication. Instead, we dive into your health history and your lifestyle to find the root cause.
Tired of feeling unwell? Contact us today to start your functional medicine journey.
How a Functional Medicine Approach Can Help
Functional medicine is a new way of looking at medical practice. We look at your health holistically, taking things like environmental and lifestyle factors into consideration to diagnose and treat illness. This means that in addition to prescribing medication, we can use strategies like diet, exercise, and stress transformation to help you take control of your health and live the life you want to be living.
Here at Tri-Cities Functional Medicine, our medical director is a licensed doctor who has completed advanced clinical training in functional medicine. He spends more time with our practice members than regular doctors spend with their patients in order to conduct a thorough physical examination, take a detailed health history, order in-depth labs, and get to know who you are as a person so he can help you figure out what’s causing your symptoms and achieve your long-term health goals. He doesn’t do this alone. Our health coaches are here to support you through the journey and help you implement your individualized treatment plan so you can get your life back.
In other words, we’re here to support the unique expression of health for each individual.