For both men and women, hormones act as essential communicators between cells in our bodies and are responsible for regulating many of our bodies’ functional systems. However, as we age, our hormones begin to change or become imbalanced. Many people explore hormone optimization as a potential solution. Quench Wellness in Chicago, IL is committed to offering the best hormone replacement therapy options for both men and women.
Hormone Optimization: What You Need to Know
Hormones guide our bodies through many important functions, such as growth, metabolism, and reproduction. They are produced by glands that make up the endocrine system, and they are constantly sharing information with organs that tell them how to behave, when to activate, and how to expend energy (and for how long). If we didn’t have hormones, we wouldn’t know when to eat or sleep, or when to stop.
Many things can affect or inhibit hormone production, including age, health conditions, and chemical interference. While regular shifts in hormones throughout the day and during various physiological cycles, persistent and irregular imbalances can present health problems. Too little or too much of any hormone can wreak havoc on the body and create unpleasant side effects.
The Endocrine System
The organs that produce hormones and make up the endocrine system include the reproductive organs (testes and ovaries), pituitary gland, pineal gland, thyroid gland, hypothalamus, parathyroid, thymus, pancreas, and adrenal gland. These glands produce different hormones for different targets and send these hormones into the bloodstream to reach their intended destinations. Disruptions in the endocrine system can alter the amount of hormone reaching the bloodstream or being delivered to the cells and organs that require them.
Sometimes chemicals in our environment can also affect the function of the endocrine system. Aptly named, these endocrine disrupters are linked to adverse effects in hormone production and other functional systems. Unfortunately, these chemicals are difficult to avoid – they are found in everyday products such as plastic bottles, cosmetics, toys, and detergents.
Why Hormone Changes Occur
Hormone changes can occur for several reasons. The endocrine system generally declines in functionality as part of the aging process. Even if hormone levels stay the same, the receptors for those hormones become less sensitive as we get older. However, most of the time, the issue is with a decrease in the levels of hormones as we age.
Health conditions can also affect hormone production. Diabetes is one of the most common endocrine disorders. In this disorder, the pancreas does not produce the right amount of insulin. Conditions that cause poor circulation can also impair endocrine function, as hormones rely on a healthy blood supply to reach their targeted locations in the body.
Women and Hormones
Women have a unique set of hormones for navigating life changes such as menstruation, pregnancy and birth, and menopause. The latter receives a good bit of attention because the symptoms can be frustrating, and at times, even dangerous. During menopause, the ovaries slow their production of estrogen and progesterone, which has a number of side effects.
As these hormones decline, the pituitary gland tries to overcompensate. It produces an excess of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). To navigate this cycle, many women choose to explore hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to ease their way into menopause. At this time in a woman’s life, it is more important than ever to be living a healthy lifestyle and listening to the body’s needs.
Men and Hormones
While the term “male menopause” gets thrown around quite a bit, this isn’t exactly an appropriate description of the hormonal changes men experience as they age. Only some men experience what is called andropause, which is a decline in testosterone production. Men who are concerned about their testosterone levels can have our doctors order a test to measure production.
For women experiencing hormonal imbalances, symptoms will vary. However, the most commonly reported symptoms include hot flashes, insomnia, fatigue, and even depression. Osteoporosis is a complication of the hormonal changes during menopause, so it is important to have regular screenings during this time.
Commonly experienced symptoms for men include a decrease in muscle mass, loss of cognitive function, erectile dysfunction, low libido, and loss of energy. Similarly to women, supportive self-care is important, as depression and fatigue are side effects of testosterone loss. Also as for women, osteoporosis is a risk for men at this time, so bone density screenings are important.
What Is Hormone Optimization?
The goal of hormone optimization is to assess whether hormone levels in the body are below their optimal threshold and, if so, to treat this by developing a plan to improve hormone function. If your body is simply not producing the hormones as it should, HRT could be an option. This treatment can either supplement under-produced hormones or replace them altogether.
Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) is a form of HRT that uses hormones that are chemically identical to the ones naturally produced by our bodies. While traditional HRT uses synthetic or animal-derived hormones, BHRT uses only those that are plant-derived. BHRT has been shown to improve well-being in several areas, but especially in restoring balance to the endocrine system.
How Are Hormone Deficiencies Diagnosed?
If you are experiencing symptoms, our doctors will schedule a physical exam and consultation with you. We will ask you about the duration and severity of your symptoms and begin to suggest possible diagnostic tests. Most hormones can be detected with blood tests, and this is likely where we will want to begin.
Forms of Hormone Replacement Therapy
There are several ways to receive HRT. Tablets are the most common and are typically taken once a day. Other common methods include skin patches and gels. However, Quench Wellness specializes in bioidentical hormone replacement pellet therapy for both men and women.
Pellet therapy is an efficient method because it allows for consistency in dosage as opposed to creams or gels. The pellet is inserted subcutaneously just under the skin, where it provides a constant flow of hormones to the body. The process is quick, simple, and painless with the use of a local anesthetic.
Signs Hormone Optimization Therapy May Be Right for You
Many of us are quick to dismiss irritability or mood changes as normal responses to our busy schedules and daily frustrations, and this may be true in many cases. However, if you find yourself experiencing severe ups and downs, debilitating anxiety, or lengthy depressive episodes, you should speak with our doctors about your options. Hormone replacement therapy may be one way to ease these symptoms.
Hormone imbalances may cause unexplained weight loss or weight gain, low libido, and changes in bowel or bladder habits. Our doctors will ask questions to discern how long you have been experiencing the symptoms and what helps alleviate them. By narrowing down which hormones may be causing specific problems, we can develop a treatment plan tailored to your hormone needs.
Increased Risk of Bone Loss
As we age, our bone density decreases. If you are particularly at risk for falls or fractures, HRT may be a good choice for you. Also, the spine is at risk of degeneration as we get older, so protecting the vertebrae and discs in between them becomes increasingly important.
There is a big difference between being tired and being constantly fatigued. Being tired may result from a poor night’s sleep, a stressful day, or being mentally drained at work. Being fatigued is a feeling of being unusually exhausted day after day. If you are fighting to stay awake before the evening hours, it might be a good idea to discuss this with our doctors.
Failure of Alternative Treatments
If you have tried alternative methods to improve hormone balance and they have not worked, hormone replacement may be the key to a sustainable solution. On average, many patients find that their symptoms lessen or go away completely within one to two weeks of beginning treatment. Don’t wait to have a conversation with our experts about the potential benefits HRT can have for you.
Benefits of Hormone Optimization
Reduction of Symptoms
Hormone replacement therapy has been studied for nearly a century. Anecdotal and empirical data have shown that patients report more manageable symptoms quickly after treatment begins. Thus, the most obvious benefit to HRT is the relief it provides from the discomfort of side effects from hormone loss. By restoring balance to the endocrine system, the body functions more optimally and is relieved of challenging symptoms.
Restored Quality of Life
Many men and women find that the increase in energy they feel after beginning treatment inspires them to resume activities they had abandoned when they were suffering from the side effects of hormone loss. Regaining enjoyment from hobbies and work often has a domino effect. People receiving HRT often find that they have new motivation to live a healthier and more active lifestyle.
Supporting Healthy Hormones
Risk factors for hormone imbalances include smoking, being overweight, drinking too much alcohol, and having poor sleeping habits. Even with HRT, it is helpful to reduce these risk factors to support a healthy environment for balancing hormones. By making lifestyle changes and being watchful of stressors, you can take control of many factors affecting hormone imbalance.
The benefits of stress reduction have been shown over and over again to reduce the effects of many physical ailments. The mind-body connection has been proven to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which in turn reduces cortisol levels in the body. Cortisol can be a damaging hormone, so by introducing calming practices such as yoga and meditation into your lifestyle, you are one step closer to a more balanced endocrine system.
It seems obvious that exercise will improve the body’s functional systems, but it may not be as obvious that physical activity actually releases a hormone called endorphins into the bloodstream. Endorphins are secreted by the pituitary gland and are responsible for reducing pain and supporting a more effective stress response. These hormones increase feelings of well-being and reduce feelings of stress and depression.
Watch Eating Habits
The ghrelin hormone is what signals to your body that you have eaten enough and are full. However, if you do not consume the right kinds and amounts of protein, this hormone may not activate. In turn, the body’s response may be to over-eat or to eat at inappropriate times. Similarly, avoiding eating too many foods that create inflammation in the body (like simple carbohydrates) will create a more hospitable environment for maintaining a healthy hormone balance.
Get Relief Today
If you are ready to take the next step in managing your hormones, call our experts at Quench Wellness in Chicago, IL for a consultation. We take great pride in offering cutting edge hormone replacement therapy, and we would love to answer your questions. Often, a simple conversation is all it takes to determine whether hormone optimization is right for you.