Functional medicine and the hormone therapy connection
Hormones rule all of our body’s processes. They help determine our longevity, weight, reproduction, energy levels, sleep patterns and even our neurological health. Hormones do their job by attaching to specialized receptor sites on the cell’s surface which triggers a unique chain of events, and sends a wave of signals (information) throughout the body. These signals tell the body how to metabolize fats, proteins and carbohydrates, and how to cope with “environmental stress”. Environmental stress is a broad concept that encompasses many things. It can include psychological stress, such as that from toxic relationships, financial worries or the death of a loved one, or it can include physical stressors such as food allergies, blood sugars swings, or toxin exposure from chemicals and pollutants. Hormone therapy can help enhance our ability to optimize the hormones related to weight loss: cortisol, leptin, melatonin, DHEA, estrogen, testosterone and more. Functional medical testing tells physicians which interventions will best serve each patient’s personal needs.
Common hormone therapy intervention
1. Melatonin. Commonly known to bring balance to a sporadic sleep schedule, melatonin has been shown in research to be one of the most powerful antioxidants today. Melatonin helps reduce stress by controlling circadian rhythms and therefore cortisol levels.
2. DHEA and 7-Keto DHEA. DHEA helps keep cortisol in check. Cortisol increases in response to stress and can negatively impact insulin levels, causing them to spike. DHEA or 7-Keto DHEA will be chosen depending on the results of functional medical testing. DHEA can convert into testosterone, which is helpful if there is a testosterone deficiency. But in females, if increased testosterone levels are not desired, 7-Keto DHEA will be chosen because it doesn’t convert.
3. Milk thistle and DIM. We live in an estrogen-dominant society. Estrogen comes into the body through soy, dairy and animal products. Excess estrogen is stored (and more is manufactured) in the fat cells of the abdomen, thighs, and breasts.
- Milk thistle. Silymarin and silibinin, the active constituents contained in milk thistle, help the liver to metabolize and remove excess estrogen and other hormones.
- DIM. Di-indole methane acts to break down estrogen, allowing the body to use what it needs while sending unusable estrogen to be eliminated. Milk thistle works with DIM to help act as a vehicle out of the body.