What are these all-important hormones?
Our hormones are circulated through the bloodstream to specific cells in the body. The two main sex hormones in women, produced in the ovaries, are oestrogen and progesterone. The ovaries also produce small amounts of testosterone - a hormone found in much larger amounts in men. Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is an important hormone which is a precursor to oestrogen and progesterone. Other hormones such as thyroxine from the thyroid gland and vitamin D can also have an effect on our overall wellbeing.
What symptoms can be caused by hormone imbalances?
Heavy irregular or painful periods | Vaginal dryness | Lethargy | Mood swings | Anxiety | Palpitations | Breast tenderness | Acne | Poor concentration & memory | Urinary problems | Low mood | Lethargy | Poor sleep | Migraines | Weight gain | Bloating | Hunger | Joint aches | Low libido (sex drive) | Dry & aging skin | Hot flushes & sweating |Thinning hair|Osteoporosis …and more.
Why might your hormones be out of balance?
There are natural fluctuations in hormones such as puberty, menopause and perimenopause but an overall hormone balance is vital to a healthy mind and body. Our hormone levels are linked to our diets, levels of exercise, body weight and stress levels. Toxins in the body or an erratic lifestyle can affect hormone balance. With time, hormonal levels reduce, triggering the onset of menopause. Lifestyle can potentially speed up this process, leading to early menopause and premature ageing. One of the most common hormone imbalances to occur in women is oestrogen dominance, whereby the levels of progesterone are too low compared to oestrogen levels. Progesterone naturally starts to decline from the mid 30s. Oestrogen dominance can be accelerated by unhealthy lifestyles and too much stress in the body. Examples of when oestrogen dominance can play a role are in a woman with hormonal migraines, post natal depression, anxiety and depression with no obvious cause, peri-menopause and menopause. It can be highly debilitating and affect the quality of your life.
Specific hormones produced in our bodies all have their own particular benefits…
Oestrogen is one of the most powerful hormones in the human body and helps regulate women through puberty, fertility and menopause.
It helps with:
Body temperature regulation
Promotes healthy sleep
Increases blood flow
Helps with memory
Reduces risk of heart disease
Maintains collagen levels in the skin
Reduces the risk of colon cancer
Progesterone is an incredibly beneficial hormone. As well as acting on the uterus (womb) and breasts for healthy reproduction and periods, it also acts on the brain, immune system and enzyme detoxification process. It is soothing and calming. It energises, strengthens and rescues your body in many ways.
It helps with:
- Increasing energy, stamina and endurance
- Improves sleep
- Improves mood
- Restores libido
- Nourishes hair
- Clears skin
- Lightens periods
- Builds bones and muscles
- Protects against breast cysts
- Reduces hot flushes
- Protects against endometrial cancer
- Enhances the break down of fat
- Prevents blood clots
- Counteracts carbohydrate cravings which may promote obesity.
Testosterone is often known as the forgotten female hormone. Although small in amounts compared to levels in men, it has many benefits:
- Increases libido
- Boosts muscle mass and strength
- Increases self confidence, motivation and energy
- Increases bone density – helps to reduce osteopenia and osteoporosis
- Improves memory
- Improves moods and vitality
- Reduces cardiovascular disease risk
+ DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone)
DHEA is the most abundant circulating steroid hormone in humans. It undergoes a series of chemical reactions, resulting in its conversion to testosterone or oestrogen. It is produced in the adrenal glands and the brain. It is an important hormone in both men and women.
Its benefits include:
- Improved memory
- Increased strength
- Increased quality of life
- Improved immune system
- Helps to deal with stress
- Increased energy levels
- Helps with weight loss
- Reduced joint pain
- Helps with menopausal symptoms
+ Vitamin D
Although not a hormone in itself, when your body receives vitamin D from the sunlight, food or supplements it converts it into a hormone. The body makes around 90% of the vitamin D it needs. This can only happen when it gets enough UV light from sunshine. The other 10 percent of vitamin D comes from foods that contain it.
Vitamin D is important in a huge number of functions in the body:
- Supports stronger bones
- Improves muscle function
- Supports the immune system
- Protective effect against multiple diseases including type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis
- Plays a role in preventing certain types of cancer
- May reduce the likelihood of seasonal affective disorder
+ Thyroxine (T4) & Triiodothyronine (T3)
The thyroid gland is an endocrine gland in your neck which makes two hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). The hormones are needed for all cells in your body to function normally but 1 in 20 people experience thyroid problems due to either an underactive thyroid gland (not enough thyroxine produced for your body’s needs) or an overactive thyroid gland (too much thyroxine produced).
The common symptoms of an underactive thyroid include:
- Feeling cold
- Weight gain
- Poor concentration
The common symptoms of an overactive thyroid include:
- Weight loss
- Heat intolerance
- Sore, gritty eyes
How can Hampshire Health & Hormones diagnose hormone imbalances?
A blood test will be carried out and an analysis of the results in conjunction with the history of your symptoms.
Your blood will be tested for oestrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, vitamin D and thyroid function, and FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) – a hormone produced in the pituitary gland. Dr Hodgkinson may suggest further tests following your history. If you have had any blood tests in the past 12 months through your GP, please bring the results with you to your appointment.
Blood samples are not taken at the Hampshire Health and Hormones clinic. You will be given details of where to go for this during your first appointment, including at your home if you prefer. Please note that following your initial blood test analysis, further blood tests may be advised by Dr Hodgkinson.
What will happen at my initial consultation?
You will be given a questionnaire to complete prior to attending your appointment. During the consultation Dr Hodgkinson will take a history of your presenting symptoms, current and past medical problems, medication, family history, and detailed discussion of lifestyle including diet, sleep, exercise, and other stressors. An explanation of hormones and the effect on the body will be given, including how stress of any kind can affect our hormone levels. Dr Hodgkinson will discuss different types of hormonal replacement therapy including bio and body-identical hormone replacement therapy, and non-identical hormone replacement therapy. Find out more about HERE.
The necessary blood tests will be advised (please note that the cost of blood testing is not included in the consultation fee. Find out more HERE. There is no obligation to commit to any treatment long term.
If you would like to start Bioidentical HRT, a baseline pelvic scan would be required initially, and then monitoring scans every 6 months of year depending on your treatment. Dr Hodgkinson will advise on this during the consultation.
If you have had a recent pelvic scan please bring a copy of the results to your appointment and if you are taking prescribed medication or supplements please bring details including the doses taken.
What will happen at follow up appointments?
Following the initial consultation Dr Hodgkinson will see you for a 30 minute follow up consultation. During this the results of your blood tests will be discussed. If your hormones are out of balance, you will be offered a prescription for hormone replacement therapy. Dr Hodgkinson will work together with you and discuss treatment options for hormone therapy, taking into account your history, and advising which would be suitable to help to restore your hormone health. You will receive advice on lifestyle changes and supplements, which together with hormone replacement can help to restore the balance again.
You will usually be advised to have an additional follow up appointment 6 to 8 weeks later. During the review you will have a chance to discuss with Dr Hodgkinson how you are progressing with your treatment plan and medication. At this point there may be necessary adjustments to your medication. Further follow up appointments will be scheduled 3-6 months later. Monitoring blood tests are usually taken after 3 months on the medication, and if there are any adjustments to the medication doses. Once you are stable and happy on the medication, then you will be advised to have a review every 6 months and blood test every 12 months.