Balancing Our Hormones for Health: A Functional Medicine Approach -- By Dr. Stephen Stevenson
For years, I worked with men on hormonal issues, providing them with hormone replacement therapy. I always found the hormone balance and the endocrine system fascinating, particularly since I found good results in my own treatment for related issues. Having our hormone production balanced is essential for maximizing the body's ability to function, heal, recover, and generally deal with life's bumps in the road.
Hormone production also fuels many body functions, including the working of the thyroid, which controls metabolism. When the thyroid is under-functioning, people often experience fatigue, weight gain, dry skin, coarse hair and other physical symptoms as well as cognitive and emotional symptoms, such as depression and foggy thinking.
In Conventional Medicine, we would simply test men for hormone deficiencies, and if their hormone production was low, screen for thyroid and related issues, but 98% of the time, we wouldn't find anything in those screenings, leading physicians like me to treat such patients with hormone replacement therapy. While this approach often brought immediate changes, I found over time that those changes weren't always sustainable, and furthermore, such treatment doesn't get to the root causes of hormone deficiencies in the first place.
Functional Medicine's approach to this issue focuses on first discovering why hormone production is low, then looking for the underlying causes. One common cause of low testosterone in men has to do with overstimulated adrenals because of stress or other issues. By assessing adrenal function in a patient, I can work with the patient to find out if it's his adrenal system that needs treatment to effectively address hormone issues.
Adrenal issues can often be the culprit because, when under stress, our bodies have evolved to make more cortisol over producing the necessary hormones for optimal health. Adrenal fatigue can be caused by any number of stresses – a boss who doesn't treat you well, a job you hate, an acute infection, food sensitivities or allergies, or a myriad of other problems. This more comprehensive approach looks at hormone replacement therapy as the last rather than first step to remedy this problem
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