Restore Hormonal Balance for Improved Fertility
We live in a fast-paced world, full of high demand. That demand puts a lot of stress on the body. Life’s demands put our dietary habits low on the priority list. On top of that, we are exposed to more human-made chemical toxins than at any other time in the history of the human species. Most hormonal imbalances are a reflection of lifestyle choices over a long-period of time, perhaps months, years and decades. Fertility problems are often directly linked to a hormonal imbalance. In order to bring our bodies back to a fertile state, we must change how we view our lives. We must take time to nurture ourselves.
“Nurture thyself to promote inner wellness.”What exactly does hormonal balance mean for our fertility health? What do hormones do anyway? Does hormonal balance really matter? Absolutely! If our hormone levels are not balanced, our health will suffer. We cannot live without hormones. Hormones deliver messages. Our cells are genetically programmed to only receive and respond to messages from certain hormones. Each cell in the body contains hormone receptor cites. Once a hormone fits into a cell’s receptor, it gives the cell instructions. This is similar to a key fitting in a lock. Hormones control our bodily processes. Hormones are coordinated by the endocrine system. Without proper endocrine function, our bodies cannot maintain proper hormonal balance. Hormone levels can be influenced by stress, fluid changes in the body, vitamin and mineral levels, infection, exposure to environmental toxins and the amount of body fat we have. Each endocrine gland plays a specific role in the ability of our body to maintain proper function. Each endocrine gland also communicates with the other in an amazing design. If one of the endocrine glands is not functioning properly, it may cause a broken link in communication with other endocrine glands or actions of the body, which may greatly impair fertility. Because the endocrine glands secrete hormones, and the hormones are messengers for actions within the body, if the gland is not functioning properly, hormonal imbalance occurs and the ability to reproduce may be impaired.
Different Types of Hormones: Natural and SyntheticThe hormones produced by our bodies are known as steroid hormones. There are also bioidentical hormones, derived from natural sources that are duplicates of steroid hormones. Hormones prescribed by doctors are man-made and are not found in nature. These are commonly used for hormone replacement therapy (HRT), birth control and artificial reproductive technology (ART). Steroid Hormones: These are natural hormones our bodies produce. Natural Bioidentical Hormones: Estrone, estradiol, DHEA and progesterone are currently approved by the FDA. There is limited availability of bio-identical Testosterone in the US. Some countries do not approve bioidentical hormones. Bioidentical hormones are isolated from plants, minerals or animal sources and are considered natural because of this. Bioidentical hormones are duplicates of steroid hormones. Synthetic Hormones: These hormones are made in a lab. They are patented medications. These types of hormones have a similar effect to our own endogenous hormones. They are commonly used for hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and artificial reproductive technology (ART). The most common use of synthetic hormones is birth control. Xenohormones: Xenohormones are human-made chemicals that mimic our natural hormones. The most common xenohormones mimic human estrogen and are called xenoestrogens.
Hormones Important for Reproductive FunctionThere are key hormones that directly affect fertility health in both men and women. There are many different hormones in the body, so I am only going to cover the major players; the hormones most commonly out-of-balance and their role in fertility health.
Important Hormones in Women of Childbearing Age: The BasicsEstradiol (E2 estrogen): Estradiol is produced primarily by the follicles and corpus luteum (remnant egg sac) in the ovaries. This estrogen is the most potent and abundant. Estrogen is essential for healthy bone formation, healthy gene expression, maintaining healthy cholesterol levels, and formation of secondary sexual characteristics (pubic hair, breasts, etc). Estradiol is vital for a healthy menstrual cycle. Progesterone: Progesterone is needed for healthy libido, bone formation and proper blood clotting. Progesterone is produced by the corpus luteum in the ovaries and by the adrenal glands. Progesterone is one of the main hormones in helping to regulate the menstrual cycle. It works to balance the effects of estrogen. Progesterone also signals the release of insulin, playing a role in a person’s susceptibility for diabetes or insulin resistant PCOS. Adequate levels of progesterone are vital for proper fallopian tube function. Almost all of your other hormones are made from progesterone. Progesterone is vital for conception and maintaining pregnancy. One of the main actions of progesterone is to help support a developing embryo. During pregnancy the placenta produces progesterone to help sustain the developing baby. Luteinizing Hormone (LH): This hormone is produced in the anterior pituitary gland. LH surge is responsible for triggering ovulation and development of the corpus luteum. LH works synergistically with FSH. It stimulates specific cells to produce testosterone. Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH): This hormone is also released and synthesized by the anterior pituitary gland. It regulates the body’s development, growth and maturation. It also regulates reproductive processes. FSH works alongside with LH. FSH signals some of the follicles in the ovary to begin maturing in preparation for ovulation. Cortisol: Cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands, but it is controlled by the hypothalamus. Its primary function is to increase blood sugar, aid in fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism and suppress the immune system. Cortisol is released in response to stress. Androgens DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone): DHEA is a precursor to testosterone and estrogens. This means that those hormones are made from it. DHEA is necessary for protein building and repair. It is made by the adrenal glands. DHEA levels decline dramatically as we age. Testosterone: Testosterone in women is in much lower amounts than in men. It helps to support a healthy sex drive and build bones. Important Hormones in MenTestosterone:
This hormone is produced and secreted primarily by the testicles, but it is also manufactured in lower amounts by the adrenals. Testosterone is vital for the development of the testis, prostate and secondary sexual characteristics in males. For example, it increases muscle mass, bone mass and stimulates body hair growth during puberty. It also plays an important role in libido, sexual arousal, erection and male reproductive function.Estrogen: Men produce much lower levels of estrogen, but without estrogen, sexual arousal could not happen. Estrogen is responsible for many functions in the health of the body, in both men and women. Without appropriate levels in men, sexual function will be decreased. Too much estrogen may cause erectile dysfunction, low/lack of libido, low sperm count, and lowered production of seminal fluid. Progesterone: Progesterone in men is produced by the adrenal glands and testes. It has similar actions for regulating certain body systems, just as it does in women, but of course does not have the same reproductive actions for men as it does for women. It helps to balance estrogen levels in men just as it does in women and it also helps to regulate immune system and inflammation response. In fact, progesterone is considered to be an anti-inflammatory agent. Progesterone’s other actions include normalizing blood clotting, vascular tone, and aiding in the regulation of the mineral levels of zinc and copper in the body. In addition, it helps to regulate cellular oxygen levels and the use of fat stores for energy production. Luteinizing Hormone (LH): LH acts upon cells called Leydig cells within the testis, this action is responsible for the production of testosterone and plays a role in the creation of sperm. Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH): This hormone stimulates primary spermatocytes to divide in the first stage of meiosis, which forms secondary spermatocytes. FSH plays a vital role in signaling spermatogenesis. This is the very beginning of the creation of sperm. DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone): DHEA has many of the same actions for the body as it does for women, and is vital in helping men maintain testosterone levels, which is important for sex drive and sustaining an erection. Cortisol: Cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands, but it is controlled by the hypothalamus. Its primary function is to increase blood sugar, aid in fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism and suppress the immune system. Cortisol is released in response to stress.
Symptoms of Hormonal Imbalance in Men
Signs and Symptoms of Hormonal ImbalanceSymptoms of hormonal imbalance can be a blessing. This is because they are the body’s signal that something needs to be changed. Symptoms of Hormonal Imbalance in Women
Hormone Testing: Should I Get My Hormones Levels Tested?If you checked off two or more of the above symptoms and you have been struggling to get pregnant or keep a pregnancy, it is important you get your hormone levels tested.
“The next major advance in the health of the people will be determined by what the individual is willing to do for himself.” -John Knowles, Former President of the Rockefeller FoundationWhat kind of test should I get? Saliva or Serum? If you suspect a hormonal imbalance, you have two options, one, purchase an at-home saliva test kit, or two, schedule an appointment with your doctor to have a blood serum test performed. Depending on what your symptoms are, you may want to only have certain hormone levels tested. If you are unsure which hormones may be out-of-balance, it may be best to get a full hormone panel run. In the case of fertility health, we suggest you get the following hormone levels tested…
|For Women: Progesterone Estradiol FSH LH Prolactin Testosterone Sex hormone binding globulin 24 hr. urinary free cortisol Glucose Tolerance Test Thyroid Panel Blood Lipid Profile||For Men: Testosterone DHEA Estradiol Progesterone FSH LH Prolactin Cortisol Glucose Tolerance Test|
Saliva Hormone TestingDr. John Lee was very adamant that testing for hormones should be done through saliva testing, not blood testing (almost all doctors will test the blood). You can order an at-home saliva test that you will take at a certain time during your cycle and then send away to a lab for analysis. They will then mail back the results so you can find out if you have any hormonal imbalances. You can order FDA approved home hormone tests here.
Blood Hormone TestingWhile Dr. Lee was adamant about getting hormone testing through saliva, it may be more helpful to work with your doctor to get your hormones tested so they can explain the test results to you, even if it is a blood test. Women most likely will have the tests performed a couple different times in a cycle, since hormone levels change throughout the menstrual cycle. This can give you insight to your entire hormonal profile. We have women come to us daily asking us to interpret their hormone test results. Remember, it is extremely important to have your doctor explain what your test results mean for your health and fertility.
How Does Hormonal Imbalance Happen?Stress Research shows that stress boosts levels of stress hormones such as cortisol, which inhibits the body’s main sex hormones GnRH (gonadotropin releasing hormone) and subsequently suppresses ovulation, sexual activity and sperm count. GnRH is responsible for the release of luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone by the pituitary gland, the suppression of testosterone, estrogens, and sexual behavior. Chronic stress may cause lack of libido as well as a decrease in general fertility. Chronic stress may cause adrenal fatigue and thyroid problems. Poor nutrition The body is extremely sensitive to vitamin, mineral and fluid levels. If you are not eating healthy whole foods daily, your body cannot function properly. In addition, if you are eating foods that are unhealthy, full of preservatives, dyes and other human-made processed chemicals, you may be damaging your endocrine glands, thus causing hormonal imbalance. Many food additives are xenohormones. We need whole foods, in their natural state to support hormonal balance. We also need clean filtered drinking water to sustain fluid levels and flush toxins. Xenohormones Xenohormones are human-made chemicals. These chemicals have the ability to interfere with the natural functions and development of our bodies. Not only can they mimic our natural hormones, but they can block other hormones from binding to receptor sites. All xenohormones are endocrine disruptors. They can alter how natural hormones are produced, metabolized and eliminated. Common Sources of Xenohormones:
- Solvents & Adhesives (paint, nail polish, household cleaners)
- Non-organic meats (animals are given hormones to fatten them up or to grow quicker)
- Pesticides, herbicides, fungicides
- Emulsifiers in soap and cosmetics
- PCBs (Polychlorinated Biphenyl) from industrial waste
- Hormonal birth control (pill, shot, ring, implant)
Natural Therapies for Hormonal Imbalance
Eat a Nutrient Dense Fertility DietThe best way to support balanced hormones is to eat a nutritious whole foods diet. The building blocks for hormones are found in the foods we eat. Just as nutrients in food can be helpful for fertility, there are some foods and chemicals added to foods that can be harmful for your health and fertility. What you eat, when you eat and how you eat are essential to maintaining hormonal balance. Learn how to eat a fertility diet here…
ExerciseRegular exercise strengthens our muscles, builds stamina, may increase flexibility, increases circulation, keeps stress, depression and anxiety at bay, and promotes regular detoxification of excess hormones and toxins in the body. It is important to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, 5 times a week. Make sure that the exercise you choose to do promotes sweat. Sweating is not only the body’s way to cool itself off, it is it’s way to naturally detoxify daily. All of this is very important for healthy hormonal balance and circulation to the reproductive organs.
Reduce Exposure to Endocrine Disruptors: XenohormonesWays to support healthy endocrine function and avoid xenohormones:
- Eat organic foods
- Avoid exposure to pesticides, herbicides and synthetic fertilizers
- Use natural feminine care products
- Use organic, natural body care products, including makeup
- Avoid food preservatives and dyes
- Use low VOC paints
- Use recycled unbleached paper products
- Use non-chlorinated oxygen based bleach in the laundry
- Avoid plastics
- Exercise regularly, be sure you are sweating during exercise