WHAT ARE HORMONES?
In medical school when we began to learn about hormones, I was like NO WAY am I ever going to mess with them. They are POWERHOUSES in the body that work as a team. Basically, these clever chemical messengers that tell organs, throughout the entire body, what and how to do and importantly when to do it. An important job.
Later though, I learned that supporting them when there is an imbalance is good stuff for achieving your best self.
As you can imagine, there are a ton of processes that only happen in the body because of our hormones. And because of this, if one hormone is off, it can throw off a few other processes. Yet, and this is why I am so fascinated with the human body, if one body system is not functioning optimally, another one will step in and help. You have to love that. Although a must to remember, this is not a good long-term solution. I mention this to patients all the time, ” the body does not want to be sick. It will adapt and adapt until it gives us symptoms. And these symptoms are their way of asking for attention, for help, for support. They need to be addressed.”
Generally, doctors test hormones with serum ( sometimes saliva). They primarily test for progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone.
Most Common Test: Serum
Most doctors test hormones in the blood which are both convenient and can also give us an overall idea of hormone status. However, when we look at hormones through serum, we see hormones that are bound to proteins and these hormones are inactive. As you can imagine, this does not give us a good idea of the availability or the active state of hormones.
( I like to go deeper and find root causes thus is not my favourite test!).
One other thing I like to point out, our hormones fluctuate during the month. For example, during week one of a 28-day cycle, estrogen and progesterone are low with estrogen slowly rising as well as testosterone ( we want testosterone higher before ovulation to put us in the mood!). Once we ovulate, around day 14, estrogen will drop and progesterone will be higher.
It’s good to know where you are in your cycle when testing. It gives us a better understanding of your hormones, and how to move forward with treatment.
The Test I Use: DUTCH
This is my test; for many reasons.
1. It’s done at home with your urine. Simple and easy.
2. It measures hormone ( Progesterone, estrogens, testosterone, DHEA, cortisol) production and breakdown: hormone metabolism. For example, there are 3 possible pathways for estrogen to be removed from the body. One is protective, one is not so much and the other falls in the middle. If your estrogen metabolites are going down the non-protective pathway, you are at a higher risk for cancers.
3. When looking at adrenal function, I can see if you are either making cortisol or not but more importantly, is your body utilizing it.
4. It also shows your melatonin status ( are you getting deep sleep? or we may get an idea about gut health since it is made there), oxidative stress ( DNA damage, inflammation), and recently, they have added three neurotransmitter – dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin and three nutrient markers – B6, B12, and glutathione.
The more information you have, the better the plan can be. The entire body’s systems are interconnected and are striving to keep you functioning every single day. Determining who is helping who along with your symptoms gives us a clear picture to creating a personalized treatment plan.