Hormone Imbalance and Root Cause Medicine
Hormone Imbalance and Root Cause Medicine
I wanted to write about the most common complaints patients come in to see us about and what we do that is so effective and different from what most other clinicians do.
Sometimes I don’t realize how unique our thought process is until I’m speaking to a patient about their problems and frustrations regarding their health. This was one of the reasons we changed our name; we have always discussed our approach of “getting to the root cause” with our patients, and we have found the concept is not only instantly comprehended for its meaning, but most realize they have never been evaluated from that viewpoint before. When they hear how root cause medicine works and experience the thought process as we review through their personal health history, one for one they feel it makes sense. And once they learn of our success rate, they are excited to begin the program.
Hormone imbalance is a BIG topic. We used to think of it as exclusively relegated to women, their monthly cycle, and breast health. Now, likely due to the introduction of chemicals and drugs that offset hormonal balance, plus the presence of hormones in our food supply, our environment affects men, women, and children in ways not seen a generation ago.
Let’s review some statistics:
Statistics of Common Hormonal Imbalance Conditions in the U.S.
PMS – over a four year period between 2012-2016, occurrence remained constant at 30-40% of the population. Another study said 75% of women have some symptoms, while 3-8% suffer severe PMS.
PCOS – up to 10% of women are diagnosed during visits to their gynecologist. At an incidence of 4-12%, PCOS is- one of the most common endocrine disorders of reproductive-age women.
Birth control pill (BCP) – is often used for reasons other than contraception, all of which are associated with hormonal imbalance: 14% of pill users take them for non-contraceptive purposes. Fifty-eight percent of users take them for reasons in addition to pregnancy prevention, leaving only 42% of pill users taking the pill exclusively to prevent pregnancy.
Reasons women take the pill include menstrual cramps or pain, migraines associated with the period, to control irregular periods, heavy bleeding, acne, and endometriosis.
Many adolescent girls, 82% according to a study, are put on the pill for non-contraceptive purposes.
All BCPs utilize synthetic hormones to disrupt a woman’s natural cycle and prevent ovulation. Basically the high levels of synthetic hormones trick your body into thinking you’re pregnant and therefore no egg is released and you can’t get pregnant. That might sound good, but what about the side effect of increased cancer risk, liver toxicity, and heart disease? A woman should not have to make the choice between avoiding pregnancy and risking her health.
There is a way to avoid pregnancy naturally with bio-identical hormones and none of the scary side effects of synthetic hormones. We provide this treatment for our female patients of all ages.
Infertility, Women – 6% of married women between the ages of 15 and 44 are infertile. 11% of them have sought out infertility services. (If you’re thinking 15 is beyond young, I agree, but it was the age quoted in the studies.)
Infertility, Men – 7.5% of men under the age of 45 saw a fertility doctor during their lifetime. Considering men do not seek help from doctors as often as their female counterparts, the percentage of suffering is likely much higher. 18% of men who sought help were diagnosed with an infertility problem.
Research points to the fact that one out of four (25%), of men over 30 have low testosterone.
A group of 100,000+ men over the age of 40 had their testosterone levels tested between 2012 and 2014. Forty percent had low testosterone levels. They considered “low” to be less than 300 ng/dL, but here at Root Cause Medical Clinic, we consider anything below 400 to be low. Based on our more sensitive standards, a greater percentage of men would fall into the category of deficient testosterone.
A frightening trend projects a 38% increase of American men suffering from testosterone deficiency by 2025.
Erectile dysfunction (E.D.) – considered to once be a condition of older men, a more recent study shows one in four (25%) men seeking help are under the age of 40. Almost 50% of them had a severe case of the condition. The younger men were not as overweight as their older counterparts and had higher testosterone, but smoked or used illegal drugs more often than the older men with E.D.
Another risk factor for E.D. is heart disease, diabetes, and certain medications.
Precocious puberty – at the turn of the 20th century, the average age for an American girl to begin menstruation was 16 or 17. The current “normal” for girls to begin puberty is between 8 and 13. As you can see, the age of puberty has decreased rather dramatically. Why?
The change has been attributed to overweight in our children, chemicals, and other hormone disturbing substances found in our environment, including outside hormones (known as exogenous hormones) being ingested when they eat beef and drink milk.
HPV, Human Papilloma Virus – according to a CDC study, 42.5% of women age 14-59 were infected with HPV. The highest prevalence, 53.8%, was among 20-24 year-olds. The risk of HPV is that it can, if not resolved, cause cervical cancer. For more data, read “You Have HPV, Now What?”
There are many, many conditions associated with hormonal imbalance. Traditionally, medicine tends to first rule out disease and then treat hormonal imbalances with synthetic hormones.
Root Cause Medicine has a very different approach. While the root cause approach looks at the body as a whole and appreciates how the various parts, systems, and organs work together to all influence one another, it also appreciates a hierarchy of sorts that exists within the human body.
We all understand that the brain and nervous system, “run the show”, if you will, when it comes to bodily function, but the digestive tract is often called “the second brain” because of its ability to influence the brain. The digestive tract is also responsible for fueling the entire body, all of your 10 trillion cells. When it malfunctions, adequate fuel is not delivered to your cells. Without fuel, no system in the body performs adequately, including the glands and organs that affect hormonal function.
Too often something like PMS, irregular periods, or migraines associated with the menstrual cycle, are treated with synthetic hormones such as the birth control pill. Ignoring for a moment the synthetic nature of the hormones used, and the vast array of side effects they cause, the facts are most women do not suffer these conditions due to a deficiency of sex hormones. Rather, an imbalance in their digestive tract, adrenal glands, toxin or chemical exposure, and the quality of their diet, is typically what we find at the root of the problem. It is these root causes that then, secondarily, create the hormonal imbalance.
The great thing about addressing the problem at its root is that it is truly resolved. As long as the patient understands his or her body’s needs as regards diet, nutrition, and lifestyle, they won’t have to suffer from the problem ever again.
That might sound unbelievable; I appreciate that. Interestingly, I was such a young woman with many hormonal imbalance problems. I used to suffer from PMS, horrific menstrual cramps, and migraines. Fortunately I never even tried synthetic hormones, but it turned out I didn’t require natural ones either. The root of my problem lay in my diet, digestive and adrenal health. Once those problems were addressed I never suffered again – never.
We find this consistently. Sometimes women do require bio-identical hormones in addition to the other factors we address, but when they are needed we only utilize hormones that are identical to what a woman’s body has always made, thereby avoiding the side effects associated with synthetic hormones.
Men are the same. Often, men suffering from fatigue, low libido, or erectile dysfunction don’t require actual hormones to normalize their condition. The root cause, once identified and treated, is enough to normalize the condition.
Because we live in a medical model that addresses hormonal symptoms with drugs, most often, it can be odd to think of hormonal related problems as linked to digestion or diet or even one’s toxic burden. It makes more sense to link hormonal problems exclusively to organs within the hormonal system, such as the thyroid, ovaries, and prostate, but the human body doesn’t work that way. Certainly, it does occur that the problem can lie within the hormonal organ itself, but the body and its parts do not function in a vacuum. Even if the problem is the ovary, as an example, there are reasons the ovary is malfunctioning and those factors typically lie outside the ovary itself.
When the root cause of an individual’s health problem is discovered and addressed, the result is more than one symptom or complaint resolves. A patient can come in with a veritable “laundry list” of seemingly unrelated problems, for which only 1 or 2 underlying root causes exist. That’s the beauty of being able to analyze and diagnose the true root cause; the long list of symptoms succumbs once the true root cause is identified and treated.
What follows is a list of hormonal conditions we treat successfully through Root Cause Medicine. To write about each one in detail would lengthen this article into a small book, therefore suffice to say the root cause approach works because it can and does identify why the condition occurred in the first place. The conditions mentioned below tend to have common root causes and the most common of them are described just after the list of conditions.
- Migraine associated with the menstrual cycle
- Heavy periods
- Brain fog or loss of concentration
- Irritability and mood swings
- Precocious puberty
- Post-partum depression
- Gestational diabetes
- Infertility or miscarriage
- Low libido – male and female
- Erectile Dysfunction
- Thyroid imbalance
- HPV infection
Causes of Hormonal Imbalance
As mentioned above, the majority of hormonal imbalance problems share common underlying causes. If you haven’t had experience with Functional Medicine or Root Cause Medicine in the past, I understand that statement may sound unbelievable. I can assure you that after seeing thousands of patients over 25+ years, treating the root causes we are about to review lead to long term resolution of hormonally related conditions.
1.Food sensitivities. Sensitivities are very common. Many individuals don’t appreciate how what they eat affects their bodies. While no part of the human body can remain ill-fed and function normally, it is certainly true of the systems and organs affecting hormonal balance that are very sensitive to unstable blood sugar. It is not difficult to accurately identify if food sensitivities are troubling you.
2.Foods that affect the craving centers. There are foods known to affect the part of the brain that dictates cravings. Some common foods in this category are sugar, dairy, and gluten. The areas of the brain affected by these foods can also influence hormonal balance. Much like food sensitivities, identifying if such foods are having an effect on you is not difficult. An individual experiencing craving feels they are “addicted” to particular foods and has difficulty imagining successfully avoiding them. The truth of the matter is that while the addiction and cravings are real, it is not difficult to get over them. We truly do it successfully with patients all the time and it doesn’t take long.
3.Poor diet. Over and above the mentioned food sensitivities and foods that can result in cravings, the Standard American Diet (SAD) is loaded with hormone-disrupting chemicals. These are found in meats, dairy products, fish, fowl, artificial sweeteners, other chemicals, preservatives, and GMO foods, to name just a few. The “quality” of the American diet is truly frightening. The number of hormonal disruptors causing everything from obesity to diabetes to infertility and early puberty is truly concerning.
4.Adrenal gland exhaustion. Many people are unaware they have adrenal glands, let alone knowledge of what functions they perform. Our medical system focuses on disease and the adrenal glands very rarely get diseased. They malfunction at an alarming rate but because they don’t disease, they are ignored. This is unfortunate because the normalizing adrenal function is not difficult, it’s a completely natural program, and it is very often a root cause of multiple hormonal imbalance symptoms.
Why do the adrenal glands affect hormonal balance? They make the precursor hormones that in turn make your sex hormones. If they are not functioning normally, hormonal production is majorly affected. Remember, the root cause approach addresses why a symptom or imbalance arises. Ignoring the adrenal glands is therefore a bad idea when you want to understand why a hormonal imbalance arose.
5.Thyroid function. The thyroid works closely with the adrenal glands mentioned above. Yet, since 17% of the American public has thyroid disease, unlike the adrenal glands, we are very aware we have a thyroid. Its proneness towards disease makes it better known. Thyroid malfunction can be detected on blood tests but it is typically treated with synthetic thyroid hormones rather than trying to understand why the malfunction has developed. It’s interesting to note that untreated adrenal fatigue can secondarily affect thyroid function. In fact, mild cases of hypothyroid often normalize once the adrenal function is handled.
6.Digestive health. We mentioned food reactions above, but digestive health can be compromised even if you’re not eating something you’re reacting to. The key to proper function requires fuel of the cells of the body. Food turns into fuel in the digestive tract. If good nutrients are coming in but you cannot properly break them down and fuel your cells, it’s a problem. Maldigestion and malabsorption of nutrients must get handled to enjoy hormonal balance.
7.Microbiome health. You may not have heard of your microbiome, but it’s composed of approximately 100 trillion organisms in your gut that do many important things such as give strength to your immune system, keep bad genes that program you for disease turned off, diminish inflammation, and generally keep your gut and immune system strong. Hopefully, you already appreciate the importance of a healthy gut to keep your hormones balanced. Regardless of what you’re trying to improve your health, the microbiome is critically important and is therefore always something we evaluate in our patients.
8.Toxicity. We live in a toxic world that sadly only becomes more toxic with each passing year. Hormone disruptors from chemicals found in plastics, pollutants, preservatives, GMO foods, drugs, antibiotics and so much more, literally “bathe” Americans from in utero through life. It’s a small wonder, and a testament to the strength of the human body, that we can still regain good health in the face of such chemical challenges. Identifying the sources of such hormone disruptors, that are avoidable, while healing and restoring the function of the organs negatively affected, is the key to a successful treatment plan.
9.Infection. What’s interesting about the types of infections we frequently find taxing the immune system and offsetting hormonal balance, is they are often “hidden”. What is meant by this is that the infectious agent, be it bacterial, parasitic, fungal, amoeba, etc, is not creating the typical symptoms you would associate with an infection. You will not have a fever nor feel so acutely ill that you would need to call in sick to work, as an example. These infections are more chronic in nature, meaning you’ve had them for a long time. Their presence in your intestines does weaken your immune system and digestive tract, both of which affect hormonal balance, as we have described.
10.Nervous system. When looking at the body as a whole it is important to not neglect the “boss”, the brain, and the nervous system. The brain “talks to” parts of the body via the nerves. It is quite common, as an example, for a woman who is being treated by a doctor of chiropractic or physical therapy to experience resolution of menstrual cramps as a result of treatment on her low back. Why can this occur? The nerves that travel to the uterus originate in the low back. This is one of the reasons the team here at Root Cause Medical Clinic includes both doctors of chiropractic and physical therapy.
11.Insufficient hormones – We have been discussing the underlying root causes of hormonal imbalance but addressing the underlying root cause does not, at times, negate the need for hormone augmentation. It’s not the sole treatment, but, in tandem with the above-mentioned causes, women in menopause, men in andropause, along with younger women and men suffering hormone insufficiency symptoms, treatment with natural, bio-identical hormones is very beneficial. The idea is to use the hormones to help “reset” the system naturally, and especially in younger patients, it shouldn’t be a treatment they require long term. For older patients, depending on their history and health status, hormones can be used long-term safely and with great physical and mental benefits.
As clinicians, it’s our job to explain the best route to achieve the goal of achieving hormonal balance. This may mean handling digestion, addressing diet, adrenal fatigue, and more.
We explain how root cause medicine works at our first meeting and it is for this reason every new patient receives a free initial consultation. We want each and every patient to have the ability to meet with us and understand our approach before they pay for any visits.
We want success with our patients as much as they want to be successful. This is a team approach. We don’t just hand our patients a pill, far from it. We work extensively together to change diet, lifestyle, repair faulty organ function, and more. This doesn’t happen overnight and it won’t occur without help. Therefore we like to ensure each and every patient is ready to embark upon the adventure to regain, retain and reclaim their health with a clear understanding that it will require some work and change on their part. But they won’t be alone; we are right there with them.
As we like to say, with patient compliance, success is all but assured.
Do you need help with hormonal imbalance? Do you know someone who does? If so please share this with them.
Do you need help with your health?
We have the tools to discover why you may be having trouble with a weakened immune system. It’s not difficult as long as you’re ready to make some dietary and lifestyle changes. If that sounds daunting, don’t worry. We will hold your hand through the changes and make each step of change an easy one.
Dr. Vikki Petersen DC. CCN
Founder of Root Cause Medical Clinic
Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner
Dr Vikki Petersen is a public speaker, author of two books, several eBooks and creates cutting edge content for her YouTube community. Dr Vikki is committed to bringing Root Cause Medicine and its unique approach to restoring health naturally to the world.