“I was on HRT happily for 4/5 years and then suddenly it stopped working and I was back to square one with all the same horrendous issues that I had in the first place! Namely anxiety, palpitations, insomnia, panic attacks, just feeling wretched. Tried numerous regimes and nothing worked again for me unfortunately HRT wise.”
Does this sound familiar to you? One of the guests on a forum I frequent wrote this. I hear similar stories quite often. And when women go to the doctor with these issues, many wind up on anti-depressants or anti-anxiety pills – along with a higher dose of HRT. And yet, still feel off.
I'm a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner who believes doctors who focus on solely on HRT are missing three critical areas that will make a difference.
Before we get to those areas of concern, lets remember that Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) focuses on 1 – 3 sex hormones; estrogen, progesterone and sometimes testosterone. However, there are 50 hormones at play in your body. Additionally, neurotransmitters also play a role with how you feel. If you HRT isn't working, you want to look deeper and even broader for the solution.
The good news is, there are 3 areas you can support on your own that have a high-chance of making a difference. These three are often overlooked by doctors, but they shouldn't be.
The first one is gut health and nutrient absorption.
I could talk about eating well, but if you gut function is diminished, you're still facing an uphill battle. And to improve gut health, you need to focus on diet anyway.
Why gut health? First, every symptom whether it's emotional or physical has a gut connection – so always pay attention to gut health.
In relationship to your hormones, even if you are on HRT, you want to promote your body's ability to produce any and all the hormones it needs. And that starts with nutrition to include healthy fats. In addition, you will need vitamins and co-factors that assist hormones in doing their job.
If your gut isn't healthy or you're not digesting and assimilating nutrients well, then you will not have the building blocks you need to produce hormones or have the necessary resources to actually use the hormones – even the ones provided for by HRT.
Here are 3 steps you can take to support gut health and digestive function:
- Eat well. Healthy fats, clean protein and lots of vegetables. This will provide you with the nutrients you need and the plant matter necessary to feed you good gut bacteria.
- Avoid sugar, processed foods and gluten. This will help reduce gut irritation and help keep blood sugar level. By keeping blood sugar level, you will avoid sending nutrients along with excess sugar to fat cells for storage instead of utilization.
- Prepare to eat. Eat in a calm manner with plenty of time to chew and enjoy your meal and take digestive enzymes. This will help you with digestion. When you are in an agitated state, your body doesn't focus on digesting and often as we age we produce lower levels of digestive enzymes.
The second is natural detoxification.
Your symptoms may be contributed to low levels of hormones, and that's why you were prescribed HRT. HRT will raise the levels of hormones in your body, but that's all it does. Your symptoms may be due to a combination of low levels, high levels and inversed ratios of hormones too.
If you are not excreting the excess hormones from your system, hormones continue to float around in your body. And ratios between hormones can become skewed or invert. Hormones don't work in isolation. They work together. They are messengers and provide instructions to your cells. Your body is always trying to find homeostasis.
As one hormone level increases the function(s) it controls does as well, but once it's complete, another hormone must come in and turn it off or at least slow it down. Consider the gas and brake pedals of your car. You push on the gas, increasing gas, to speed up. When you want to slow down or stop, you stop pressing the gas pedal and step on the brake. What if the gas was always “higher” than the brake?
To maintain balance among the levels of hormones, your body produces them and releases them. To do this properly it requires healthy liver function and active elimination.
Here are 3 steps you can take to support natural detoxification:
- Stay well hydrated. I can't emphasis this enough. A couple of glasses of water a day isn't enough. Aim for 6 – 8 12 oz. glasses per day. Don't worry, you won't drink too much water. This will support your liver's filtering ability, digestion and elimination (urine and bowel), maintains fluidity of interstitial fluids (the fluid that bathes your cells) and lymph, and helps you sweat.
- Eat lots of greens. The fiber supports healthy bowel movements, and the vitamins, mineral and phytonutrients are necessary to help neutralize and flush toxins along with excess and neutralized (used) hormones.
- Move your body, breathe and sweat. Moving your body supports bowel function, increases your blood flow, moves lymph, causes you to breath deeper & harder and can make you sweat. All of which, flushes unwanted substances from your body.
The third area is rest.
But I don't just mean sleep, though that is a big factor in the amount of proper rest you're getting. You want to get plenty of it. However, I'm also referring to just taking a break and resting your nervous system.
When you are on the Go-Go-Go, you have your stress response system on high alert. And that means you are pulling resources from thriving processes which include Thyroid and Sex hormone production and utilization, and instead your body is focusing on survival mechanisms. Your adrenals and the hormones they produce, primarily cortisol.
And just like all symptoms have a gut connection, all hormone imbalances have an adrenal connection. For example, when you are stressed your thyroid function decreases and you feel colder and achy. When your stressed, your cortisol levels rise and block progesterone from accessing your cells, now you are raging and hate everyone and everything. Even when you have enough progesterone in the system, if it can't access your cells – you're going to express it in horrifying ways.
There's actually a larger picture, but for now just focus on reducing stress and give your nervous system periods of down time.
Here are 3 steps you can take to calm your nervous system:
- Practice breathing exercises. My favorite to recommend is Box Breathing. That's when you inhale > hold > exhale > hold & repeat. The goal is to reach a count of 5 for each – 5 times. Once you can do this comfortably, your nervous system has reset to calm mode. After all, you can't breathe like this when you are under threat of any kind. Note: You may have to start at a lower count and work you way up to 5. It depends on how much stress you are experiencing.
- Take routine breaks throughout the day. Preferably get outside in nature and take a walk with your head up looking toward the sky. Movement will help shift your brain from focusing on what's bothering you and the fresh air will help lift you up. Additionally, when you look up as you walk the requires more concentration and effort from your parietal lobe. And when this happen, energy is pulled away from other areas of your brain and relaxes you.
- Practice yoga, Tai chi, mediation or a hobby that quiets the brain and helps you center. This will help you feel safe and calms your nervous system. If your practice includes good friends, smiles and laughter – all the better.
All three of these are good practices for any stage of life and under all circumstances. However, if you are experiencing mood swings, hot flashes, low libido and other symptoms you thought your HRT would take care of –it' time to regroup and take a new look at these areas in your life.
I know it sounds like a lot of work, but if done correctly they will relieve stress. And I'm all about reducing stress, not piling more on.
If you try these out and still feel like something isn't right, there might be something deeper to uncover. You could have a parasite, a bacteria or yeast overgrowth, your gut needs more support to heal or you have deep-rooted insulin resistance that needs reversing.
If this is the case and you want to get off the hormonal rollercoaster and finally feel like yourself again, let me help. To get your hands on the right diagnostic labs and resources you need to uncover what's going on and restore your body's function, click here to fill out a Hormone Health Questionnaire and then schedule your Hormone Troubleshooting Session.
Your partner in health,
P.S. You may also be interested in these posts:
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