Stress Hormones are the Key to Checking Hormone Levels
Getting fully tested
I have spent a lot of time over the last few years listening to my patients talk about their hormones. A very common scenario that I see is that my patients have had only a few of their hormones checked. While this is valuable information about their state of health, it lacks completeness. Fully understanding the hormone cascade is vital to addressing hormone levels. The hormone cascade is highly dependent on all of the hormones. When men have their hormones checked, testosterone is the only hormone commonly checked. Women are not immune from this same narrow view of hormones. Many women that have their hormone levels assessed know their estrogen and progesterone levels, but they are not familiar with the hormones which more directly influence them.
One of the main categories of hormones that is rarely looked at is the stress hormones. The predominant stress hormone cortisol is responsible for a multitude of dysfunction that we typically blame on hormone levels not being balanced. The unfortunate aspect of this is that cortisol has an overwhelming impact on the other hormones. This predominant stress hormone will be produced at the expense of other hormones, thus denoting its importance. If the demand for cortisol is frequent enough, the ability to produce testosterone, estrogen and progesterone is greatly reduced. So for example when the level of testosterone or progesterone is low, the question should be asked if the need is related to lack of production of the hormone or if this is associated with increased need for the stress hormones. This emphasizes the point that when it comes to checking hormone levels, a full analysis must include cortisol.
However, cortisol cannot be assessed the same as any other hormone with a one-time blood draw. Cortisol fluctuates throughout the day. The levels of this hormone begin high in the morning and continue to taper off as the day progresses. This fluctuation provides insight into whether or not cortisol should be considered when it comes to restoring hormone levels. Elevated levels may indicate the shift of production away from vital hormones like estrogen, progesterone and testosterone over to cortisol. Additionally, if levels are low, a reduced state of total hormone production may have been reached, leaving the ability to make any hormone compromised.
Stress hormones are a key to checking hormone levels. Without the information they provide, adequate direction to guide hormone replacement therapy is lacking. I have seen many times in my patients that simply addressing stress hormones is enough to make significant changes in the hormones that are commonly checked. However, gaining control of your stress hormones means understanding those factors which most dramatically increase demand. A few of the more frequent ones are lack of sleep, a poor diet that includes the consumption of refined and pro-inflammatory foods, and lack of exercise.
Finding the correct approach to supporting your hormones is not difficult, it just means taking a complete approach. This is best done by not simply addressing the hormones that appear to be the cause of your hormone symptoms, but also looking at the hormones that may be most directly influencing them. This is most often the stress hormones. Upon adequately assessing the stress hormones as part of a complete hormone workup, a realistic plan can be put into action to help overcome hormonal deficiencies.