Hormones; A Balancing Act
The HPA Axis
Our Endocrine system is made up of all our organs and glands that product hormones. They are interconnected and constantly talking to each other to regulate the bodies processes. Although each play a role, the Hypothalamus, Pituitary, Adrenal or HPA axis are intricately connected. The hypothalamus is a gland located in our brains and is the main control center for metabolism. The hypothalamus sends hormones and chemical messengers to the pituitary, also located in the brain to release its own hormones which then go and stimulate the appropriate organ such as the adrenals, thyroid or gonads (ovaries or testes). Once the hypothalamus detects that our bodies are making enough of a particular hormones it stops sending out the signals to the pituitary and the pituitary stops sending signals to that organ. This is called a negative feedback loop. This system of releasing hormones is often on a circadian rhythm. That is, a scheduled release based off the time of day and amount of light. It also will release based off of eating patterns, in particular blood sugar levels, stress levels and times of the month. The hormones that play the biggest roles include the sex hormones (estrogens, testosterone, progesterone), adrenal hormones like cortisol- our stress hormone, and epinephrine, DHEA, and thyroid hormones. When our circadian rhythms are off or we are under a lot of stress, have a chronic or acute illness, or exposed to environmental toxins, all these things can interfere with these signaling pathways and create imbalances in our hormones.
When there are major issues like sleep disturbances, weight gain or weight loss, fatigue, mood changes, disturbances in women’s menstrual cycle, and low libido think hormonal imbalance. The hormones are so crucial in our metabolism. When people have been sick for a long time this can throw off hormones making it harder to heal. The opposite can happen as well where hormones are thrown off due to stress or environmental toxins and can lead to infections and illness in the body. Ways to diagnose what is going on include blood tests or urine testing to look at sex hormones, blood testing for thyroid hormones and salivary testing for adrenal hormones. Here are some typical tests we run:
- Sex hormones- blood or urine: Estrodiol, Etrione, Estriol, Progesterone, FSH, LH, Testosterone, free Testosterone, SHBG (sex hormone binding globulin) DHEA
- Thyroid hormones- blood: TSH, fT3, fT4, and if needed may add: total T3 and T4, rT3, thyroid antibodies
- Adrenal hormones- salivary: Cortisol x 4 collection throughout the day, S-DHEA
Once the results come back we will discuss where the root cause is and support your hormones naturally.