Women and young girls are generally given one solution for any hormone-related issues:
PCOS? Birth control.
Irregular cycles? Birth control.
Long periods? Birth control.
Headaches? Birth control.
Hormones are a multifaceted network and they must be treated as such.
Girls are being put on birth control younger and younger, trying to fix hormone-related problems, leaving them with the inadequately outdated concept that this is an appropriate go-to solution, while simultaneously disrupting their natural biorhythm combined with a total misunderstanding of their own body. Before resorting to these replacement therapies we must consider these contributing factors and causes of hormone imbalances:
- Your ability to produce hormones
- Hormonal interactions with other hormones
- Cellular response to hormones
- Toxic endocrine disruptors
- Thyroid function
- Hormone pathways and clearance
- Liver detoxification
- Genetic SNPs like MTHFR
Hormone imbalances are often a complex problem that requires comprehensive approaches to figure out the root cause. When we utilize birth control for every problem women and girls are faced with, doctors make it seem like it’s a magic pill, giving women false hope and misguided information, only cultivating the problem.
Sex hormone imbalances rarely should be treated as a separate isolated issue, but rather should be looked at as a sign that a higher metabolic problem is at fault, such as adrenal and thyroid dysfunction, elevated inflammation and poor detoxification and biotransformation of hormones through the liver. When you only address hormones with birth control pills, especially at a young age, you run the risk of creating more metabolic dysfunction down the road.
An Alternative to Birth Control for Hormone Balancing
When you suspect that a hormone imbalance is the cause of some of your symptoms, consider these early steps to dive deeper:
Before we think about giving hormone replacement therapies, we have to ask, what we can do to affect the hormones to make the system work better? Pinpointing the root cause of your hormonal imbalances allows you to be prescribed targeted nutrients and therapeutic supports to help rebalance your system. This is the core of systems-based biology in root cause medicine.
Food As Fuel
You may have heard it said that food is fuel for the body, but don’t limit that concept to just your musculoskeletal system – it applies to your hormones as well! Foundationally, balance your blood sugar by not going long periods without eating, as dysregulated blood sugar can prolong desired hormone balancing. There are certain science-backed foods that have been shown to help keep hormones in balance, as well as improve metabolism of hormones.
- Cruciferous vegetables: These are broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kale, arugula and cabbage, and they all contain a phytochemical called Indole-3-carbinol (I3C). When broken down, I3C gets converted into DIM. DIM has been shown to improve phase 1 detoxification of estrogens down the favorable protective pathway, and away from the harmful pathway that can cause cellular and DNA damage.
- Soluble fibers: Foods rich in soluble fibers such as sweet potatoes, lentils and beans, oats, avocado and carrots are effective in preventing the reabsorption of estrogens back into the body through the digestive system, mitigating estrogen dominance.
- Essential Fatty Acids: Studies show that dysmenorrhea, or menstrual cramps and pain, was significantly improved by increasing omega 3 fatty acids through chia seeds, flax seeds, wild-caught fish and walnuts.
Comprehensive Lab Testing
Functional medicine is all about personalized care, and hormones are no different. With hormones, we need to take an individualized approach instead of a one-size-fits-all approach. Advanced comprehensive lab testing allows you to get an authentic blueprint of your hormone picture and how they are being processed. Some of my favorite lab tests to pinpoint hormone imbalances are:
- A full thyroid panel, including TSH, Total T4, Total T3, Free T3, Free T4, Reverse T3.
- A four-point cortisol and adrenal panel, assessing your cortisol and DHEA biorhythm.
- Urinary sex hormones and their metabolites allow me to see the pathways that may be disrupted in hormone processing and to have a laser focus on the root cause of hormone imbalances.
- Blood levels of the following hormones: progesterone, estrogen, testosterone, leptin and insulin, especially if there is a concern of weight gain, weight loss resistance, and estrogen dominance.
Supplements and nutraceuticals
Suffering from symptoms that are a result of hormone imbalances is something most women seek help for from me. They often hear from their other doctors that there’s nothing else they can do other than take birth control pills or perform an irreversible medical procedure. We can incorporate safe and effective supplements and nutraceuticals to help reduce symptoms and improve physiological function to the parts of the body systems for improved hormone signaling. These nutraceuticals and supplements are often personalized after comprehensive lab tests and along with dietary changes and other lifestyle modifications. With this root cause approach, it’s possible to experience energy, vitality and optimal health through proper hormone balance.
I challenge you to be an advocate for your healthcare. Know that you have options and you should be treated as an individual. You deserve it.
If you’d like to explore alternatives to birth control let chat! Book a call here.