Medical Information

SEX HORMONES AND THEIR EFFECTS ON THE BODY:

Estrogen

  • Protects against osteoporosis, heart disease, memory loss, colon cancer, incontinence and tooth loss
  • Helps maintain normal sleep patterns, emotional well-being, mental sharpness, memory, attention, communication, vision, hearing, taste, touch, smell, digestion, libido and skin tone
  • Can relieve menopausal symptoms (e.g. depressed mood)
  • Helps maintain normal tolerance to pain

Progesterone

  • Helps maintain calm mood
  • Regulates fluid balance
  • Regulates blood sugar, thyroid function and mineral balance
  • Relieves menopausal symptoms
  • Decreases risk of endometrial cancer and may help protect against breast cancer and fibrocystic breast disease
  • Protects against osteoporosis and heart disease

Testosterone

  • Builds muscle and promotes healthy muscle tone
  • Increases energy and libido
  • Maintains a sense of well-being
  • Helps strengthen bone

Dhea

  • Protects against heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, cancer, memory loss, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Can increase and enhance energy levels, libido, memory and immune function
  • Protects against the effects of stress
  • Helps with weight loss
  • Assists in the healing of burns
  • Prevents wrinkles and dry eyes

Cortisol

  • Main component of responses to stress, trauma and infection
  • Increases energy and metabolism
  • Helps regulate blood pressure and blood sugar
  • Enhances blood vessel integrity
  • Reduces allergic and inflammatory response

THE ADRENAL GLAND, STRESS & ADRENAL FATIGUE:

What is stress?

Stress has been around since the beginning of mankind. Early man had to hunt for food and sometimes fight for his life with his bare hands. In modern times, stress still is with us, but it can assume many different forms including chronic stress.

Adrenal Gland – Nature’s response to stress

Nature has provided us with two powerful glands that help us confront stress. These are called the adrenal glands, and there is one gland sitting on top of each of your kidneys. When the adrenal glands fail to function normally, it can lead to a wide variety of symptoms or diseases.

Adrenaline – The lifesaver in acute stress

The lower part of the adrenal gland is called the adrenal medulla, and it produces the catecholamines: epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (noradrenaline). These hormones are released into the bloodstream in response to acute stress, and they are often referred to as the “fight or flight” hormones. These hormones prepare the body for violent physical combat or for a fast sprint to safety. The catecholamines produce a near instant outpouring of ATP, or the “energy molecule” that is believed to be responsible for giving persons extraordinary strength for short bursts of time. This is the mechanism that explains episodes of superhuman strength seen in emergencies or severe psychotic states.

Adrenaline helped prehistoric man face dangerous beasts in the wild. Upon facing danger we experience an adrenaline rush (or “sympathetic mode”) which enables us to run as quickly as possible away from danger. Or it might allow us to defend ourselves if attacked. In the sympathetic mode, adrenaline prepares our body to face danger by increasing blood pressure, heart rate, lung air flow and deep muscle blood flow. Digestive blood flow is decreased since it is not required in emergency situations. So when facing danger our bodies are at their maximum physiologic level for physical action. When the danger passes, our sympathetic mode shuts down, and our bodies revert back to a resting state, also known as the parasympathetic mode.

What is chronic stress?

Man often lives in a state of prolonged stress. The challenges and responsibilities of life can cause us to feel stress for long periods. Even prehistoric man had to face prolonged stress perhaps during long winters of after natural disasters. In the case of prolonged stress, the adrenal cortex comes into play by producing aldosterone and cortisone. These hormones neutralize the “fight or flight” hormones, adrenalin and noradrenaline. Cortisone (the active form is called cortisol) and aldosterone are also referred to as the “anti-stress” hormones.

Cortisol is perhaps the most important anti-stress hormone in your body. When cortisol levels are too low, your body’s ability to handle stress is greatly weakened. Some even refer to cortisol as the “hormone of life and death”.

How cortisol protects the body

  • Regulates blood sugar: Cortisol increases your blood sugar levels providing your body with energy to deal with stress. Cortisol works together with insulin to regulate glucose available to your cells. In adrenal fatigue, or exhaustion, blood sugar balance breaks down.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Response: Cortisol’s powerful anti-inflammatory properties can diminish swelling, redness and inflammation in every tissue of your body.
  • Immune System Regulation: Cortisol influences all the cells in your body responsible for proper immune function, especially white blood cells. When your adrenal system is weak your immune defense is weak too. This can increase your risk for infection and delay healing. Autoimmune diseases in general may be associated with poor adrenal function.

The proper balance of minerals is also critically important in the stress response, especially the balance of cellular sodium and potassium. Stress increases the release of aldosterone leading to sodium and water retention and a subsequent rise in blood pressure. Aldosterone also leads to the loss of potassium and magnesium. Magnesium is involved in virtually every enzymatic reaction in the body so proper magnesium regulation is necessary for good health.

Adrenal Fatigue

The problem for modern man is that sometimes the stress is non-stop and can even go on for years. In these cases, hormone balance cannot be maintained as your adrenal glands get worn out or fatigued. Your body cannot recover adequately and symptoms begin to develop.

The symptoms of adrenal fatigue can be:

  • Cravings for stimulants such as sugar, coffee, chocolate, salt or alcohol
  • Irritable mood or anxiety
  • Hair loss
  • Facial acne, especially around the chin
  • Persistent fatigue despite adequate sleep
  • Low afternoon energy levels; nighttime being the most productive time of day
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Prolonged recovery time from illness, injury or stress
  • Memory loss, forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating
  • Worsened premenstrual syndrome in women
  • Loss of happiness and joy, loss of motivation, sense that extreme effort is needed just to get through the day

Some illnesses that may have a strong adrenal component are:

  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Adult Onset (Type II) Diabetes
  • Heart Disease
  • Allergies
  • Auto-immune diseases
  • Alcoholism, Substance Abuse

Andropause (Male Menopause)

As men approach middle-age, their bodies can begin to experience a decline in the production of hormones such as testosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone. This process can lead to symptoms similar to those experienced by women in menopause. For this reason, andropause is sometimes referred to colloquially as “man-opause”.

The symptoms of andropause can include:

  • Loss of sex drive
  • Nervousness
  • Depression
  • Memory difficulty
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Hot flashes and sweating

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

Premenstrual syndrome is a combination of emotional and physical symptoms associated with a woman’s menstrual cycle. The likely causes of PMS are related to hormonal and central nervous system factors. The symptoms of PMS typically occur in a predictable pattern and can include:

  • Mood swings
  • Breast tenderness
  • Food cravings
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability and depression

PMS is very common and occurs in about 3 out of 4 menstruating women. The symptoms tend to peak in when you reach your late 20s to early 30s. Although these symptoms can be severe, they do not have to control your life. Treatment and lifestyle modification can greatly reduce the discomfort associated with PMS.

Perimenopause

In perimenopause a woman’s body gradually makes the transition from having regular menstrual cycles to the complete cessation of menstrual cycles associated with the natural infertility of aging. Perimenopause can start at different times in life, and even in your 30s you might start noticing symptoms.

Periods may become irregular, longer, shorter, heavier, lighter or even sometimes even more frequent. Some symptoms can be hot flashes, vaginal dryness and problems sleeping. There are treatments available to ease the symptoms of perimenopause. Once you have experienced 12 consecutive months without a menstrual period you have reached menopause.

Menopause

Menopause means that you have permanently stopped having menstrual periods and have entered into the natural phase of infertility associated with aging. Menopause starts when you have completed 12 consecutive months without a menstrual period. Most women enter menopause between the ages of 40 to 50. There can be emotional and physical symptoms associated with menopause such as:

  • Problems sleeping
  • Hot flashes
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety, depression or feelings of loss

There are many treatment options for the symptoms of menopause, including lifestyle modifications and hormone therapy.

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