Hormonal Imbalance Testing for Weight Loss and Other Health Issues
So, most of you know I’ve been on a mission to fix my “mysterious” health issues for years now. This year, I’ve really switched into high gear by adopting a paleo diet, and working with integrative doctors and health practitioners that are interesting in healing, rather than pushing pharmaceuticals (been there, done that, got the t-shirt…).
Does Western medicine have all the answers?
Western medicine is all about fixing you when you’re completely broken, while integrative or functional medicine is about healing you before you get to the broken place. I don’t want to sound like I’m anti-Western medicine. My sister is a doctor, and she helps SO many people. I take medications that have saved my life. Look – if I have a broken bone or an aneurysm in my brain, I am not going to an acupuncturist or herbalist – I’m going straight to Cedars Sinai to get help!
But that being said, there is a very wide range between “perfect health” and “diseased”, and that space can cause a lot of pain and discomfort. Especially when you’re uber-sensitive like me. I’ve been on the Western medicine circuit – had a zillion blood tests, ultrasounds, stress tests, even an MRI, and they all said “you’re perfectly fine” (Well, one said I have fibromyalgia). So doc – why do I feel awful all the time?
The reason is that I have complaints that either can’t be fixed with a pill or they aren’t taught in medical school (and are generally seen as psychological problems – good article on this here). Or sometimes the pill makes the problem worse. A good example is when I told a doctor that I didn’t want to take Advil every day for migraines because I was worried about what it would do to my liver. He told me he could prescribe me a much higher dose of ibuprofen (generic for Advil). Great – thanks.
On the flip side, there are a lot of QUACKS and crazies out there in the “natural” or “alternative” medicine space. A LOT. So I keep my skepticism on level 11, and I look for practitioners who do a lot of research, and preferably ones who can measure results. Not everything can be measured of course, but I’d rather base my progress on test results and not just “a feeling” when possible.
Do you need to test for a hormonal imbalance?
So I was very intrigued when my friend Sophie Uliano raved about her “hormone guru” Candace Burch. Candace has a company called Your Hormone Balance, and she consults with women (and men) all over the world to help them get their hormones into balance. My personal feeling is that if you’re having health issues (especially unexplained ones) or you’re over the age of 35, you should probably get your hormones checked.
Candace says that a hidden hormonal imbalance can sabotage our health and cause a huge number of unwanted symptoms:
- weight gain
- belly fat and difficulty losing it
- heavy periods
- bad PMS
- loss of muscle
- mood swings
- lost libido
- fluid retention
- sugar cravings
- cold body temperature
- oily skin or dry skin
- facial or body hair
- aches and pains
- many, many more
So, first you need to know what the symptoms of hormonal imbalance are (more info on the Your Hormone Balance site). Then testing is the next step to detect specific imbalances and match them up to the symptoms you are experiencing.
The key hormones that Candace looks at are: estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA and cortisol (adrenals). This article is already way too long, so I won’t go into what each hormone does, and what the symptoms of an imbalance for each one are, but you can read all about that on Candace’s website. I highly recommend checking this out and doing more research to see if your symptoms match up.
Which kind of hormone test is best?
Hormones can be tested via blood, urine or saliva. There is a lot of debate between Western and functional medicine tribes on which is better. Here’s an article on the pros and cons of blood tests, urine tests and saliva tests. Saliva testing is preferred by functional and integrative medicine practitioners, not only because it is non-invasive and pain free, but because test results tell us so much about the root cause of numerous hormonal woes.
In saliva, we are measuring free, unbound, bioavailable, or ACTIVE hormones that have left the blood stream to become activated in the cells of the body where hormones do their work. Capturing these hormone levels in saliva, as they move freely through salivary glands into the target cells of the body, we can pinpoint deficiencies, excesses and imbalances that match up with the specific symptoms we are experiencing.
In standard blood tests, free, active hormone levels are not measured. What is generally measured are hormones still “bound” to red blood cells and thus INACTIVE. So a blood test can’t tell us if we are making the right amount of hormones, or how well they are working for us at the cellular level. But that’s exactly what we need to know in order to determine if the symptoms we suffer from are hormone related.
According to this article, “About 95-99% of steroid hormones circulating in the bloodstream are bound to carrier proteins. Saliva contains unbound, bioavailable hormones. Therefore, salivary concentrations better represent circulating levels of free hormones, which are likely to affect the body and be responsible for symptoms related to excessive or deficient hormone levels.” This PubMed article explains more about the pros and cons of saliva testing for hormones. Candace has a great article about why she prefers saliva testing here.
And one more thing – saliva testing is known as the gold standard for checking adrenal (cortisol) function since standard blood draws using needles can provoke a stress response (because no one likes being pricked with a needle!) that falsely skews test results. Plus, it’s better to look at a graph of cortisol over the course of the day rather than just one point in time.
So, Candace sent me a saliva hormone test from Ayumetrix. I had to wait until a specific range of days of my cycle, and then I had to spit into a series of test tubes at specific times during the day. It’s not exactly fun to try to get enough saliva to fill up tubes throughout the course of a day, but it beats a blood test every time (I hate needles!). I put the saliva samples in the mail and then waited anxiously for my test results.
My hormone test results and treatment plan
Finally after a few weeks or so, I got the results back, and scheduled a 50-minute session to go over them with Candace. Here’s what we found. I have:
- Low progesterone
- Low progesterone to estradiol ratio which causes estrogen dominance
- Low testosterone
- Adrenal fatigue – low cortisol all day, but especially in the morning
- Possible subclinical or functional hypothyroidism (which means the thyroid is fine but T4 is not converting properly because of estrogen dominance) – I’m doing a blood test to see if this is the case for me. If you think you might have thyroid issues, and you mention the word “subclinical” to your Western medicine doctor, be prepared for a laugh or an eye roll. You will need to find a functional medicine doctor who is willing to test more than just your TSH levels – more on that here.
After my call with Candace, she gave me a 50+ page action plan. Most of the lifestyle changes were ones I have already made this year – like adopting a paleo diet with wild-caught fish and grass fed meat, cutting out alcohol and sugar and artificial sweeteners, etc. She gave me several supplement recommendations, and the list below is what I ended up ordering. I will be trying these out in very low doses to start (because I’m a sensitive little flower lol!), and I’ll let you know what works for me.
The supplements I’m trying out:
- Emerita ProGest (to be taken on days 12-28 of my cycle for low progesterone)
- Emerita DIM Formula with Calcium D Glucarate (to help my body get rid of excess estrogen and other hormones – DIM comes from cruciferous vegetables and was also recommended by my acne coach, Emme Diane, to stop breakouts)
- 7 KETO DHEA (this is a metabolite of DHEA that does NOT convert into testosterone or estrogen, but may help with weight loss and metabolism)
- Gaia Adrenal Health (I’ve taken this one many times before – it’s a combination of adaptogenic herbs that help to nourish my adrenals, but more importantly it gives me focus and helps me to feel calm down when I’m feeling stressed or overwhelmed. I call them my “B*tch Calm Down pills”!)
I also ordered Aviva Romm M.D.’s book, Adrenal Thyroid Revolution on Candace’s recommendation. For the low testosterone, I’m going to make an attempt to lift weights more often (which I’m already doing but not as regularly as I’d like), without doing anything with very high intensity, because that can hurt my adrenals even more.
Candace tells me that SO many women ask her, “Why didn’t my doctor tell me about this?” Or, “Why did my doctor put me on synthetic hormones?” Women have been using bioidentical hormones in Europe for many years. I don’t know why the US is so slow to catch up on things like this, gut health, and even animal testing laws! The good news is that functional and integrative doctors are making progress, so I encourage you to find one. And if hormones are something you’re interested in testing, contact Candace at Your Hormone Balance and tell her Jen from My Beauty Bunny sent ya! Mention code BEAUTYBUNNY for a 10% off discount towards any of Candace’s test kit + consultation packages!