Hormone imbalances can begin at any point in life, but most commonly start at middle-age as sex hormones gradually decline. A majority of imbalances stem from conditions such as menopause, andropause (low testosterone in men), cortisol imbalance (burnout), or chronic medication use, such as birth control. Long-term exposure to stress and toxins in the environment can speed up the process. If left untreated, these imbalances may result in weight gain, poor exercise tolerance, low sex drive, mood swings, depression, decreased energy, fatigue, poor concentration, and memory loss.
Hormone issues can also be caused by thyroid conditions like hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, thyroiditis, and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. These are typically brought on by autoimmune diseases, iodine deficiency, inflammation from viral or bacterial infections, medications, or radiation for head and neck tumors.
In conventional medicine, treating a thyroid condition typically includes daily oral or injectable synthetic hormones. In the case of an underactive thyroid condition (hypothyroidism), treatment can consist of long-term adherence to a prescription of medication that provides a steady stream of synthetic hormones to replace what the thyroid is unable to make on its own. Medication is usually required to be taken while fasting and improper dosing may result in side effects including chest pain, shortness of breath, muscle pain or weakness, leg cramps, irritability, and trouble sleeping.
A functional medicine approach to addressing a thyroid condition involves a more comprehensive and personalized plan that is developed by first exploring the root cause of the condition. A functional medicine-trained provider can first help establish why a thyroid condition has developed through specialty testing and in-depth discussions with a patient about genetics and possible contributing lifestyle factors. Once the likelihood of the root cause of the condition has been determined, a functional medicine approach to treatment can be utilized. For example, if an autoimmune disorder has been found as the likely cause of a patient’s hypothyroidism, as in the case of Hashimoto’s disease, a provider may “prescribe” dietary changes and supplementation to allow the body to regulate the immune system naturally over time. Particularly for women, bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) may also be used to provide the body with a source of hormones identical in nature to the ones it produces through the use of plant-derived estrogens.
Managing a thyroid condition through lifestyle adaptations and natural supplementation may provide a more suitable long-term solution for many patients than a lifetime of synthetic hormones through medication. A balanced endocrine system can lead to overall better health, through regulated appetite and energy metabolism, a reduction in body fat and increased muscle mass, enhanced stamina and vigor, and improved sexual health.
Essential Health’s highly trained providers are among the select few that have completed additional rigorous education in functional medicine to address thyroid conditions. Start your journey to optimal health by scheduling a meet and greet with one of our providers today.