10 Hormone Myths
“We put drugs of which we know little, into our bodies of which we know less, to cure diseases of which we know nothing at all.” – Voltaire
Hormonal issues are often misdiagnosed and mistreated. I would like to use this newsletter to inform you of the common misconceptions associated with hormones and what you can do to protect yourself.
If you would like to learn more about hormones and holistic health you can click on this link below to listen to a radio show that Dr. Skolnikoff recently did.
Hormones are similar to the lock and key system. The lock is the receptor site and the key is the hormone. Once a lock has a key in it, it is no longer possible to put any more keys into that lock until the key is removed or the lock is changed. The hormone has an R end (receptor end) and an E end (enzyme end). The R end fits precisely into the cell receptor and unlocks the cell’s metabolic door to initiate action. The E end fits precisely with protein molecules called enzymes that transform the hormone into another hormone, or into a metabolite for excretion.6
Many people have the false belief that if they have low levels of a certain hormone such as estrogen, that if they use hormone replacement therapy orally, lingually, or transdermally (swallowing, putting under the tongue, or applying a cream to the skin) that this will INCREASE their estrogen levels. The truth is that the exact opposite is what happens. Hormones are not nutritional supplements and so they cannot be supplemented. Hormones are either balanced or imbalanced. Hormones are powerful chemical messengers that affect nearly every cell in the body. Hormones can be compared to a well-orchestrated symphony. They are made in glands from which they are released directly into the blood stream. The main female hormone glands are known as the hypothalamus, pituitary, pineal, thyroid, parathyroids, adrenals, pancreas, ovaries and uterus. The music might be compared to the hormones themselves – produced/emitted by all of the different instruments – endocrine glands. The hypothalamus may be thought of as the composer and the pituitary as the conductor. The pineal gland is the metronome which keeps time. The thyroid, parathyroid, adrenals, pancreas, ovaries and uterus are all of the different musicians playing their instruments exactly as the pituitary signals them to.3,6
When bio-identical estrogen is introduced into the body from outside of the body (exogenous hormone therapy) it causes the hormone receptors of cells which receive the progesterone to close off and become insensitive to more exposure to estrogen. This is sometimes called “desensitization” of the receptor cell. This causes the body to make LESS estrogen because the body senses the newly introduced bio identical hormones in the blood and no longer needs as much of them as the receptor sites are now full. While this type of Hormone Replacement Therapy is needed in many cases, and Dr. Skolnikoff does use HRT with his patients whenever necessary, if this is done improperly or for too long of a period of time it can create terrible sounding music from a poorly conducted orchestra with all of the players playing out of tune.4, 6 This is what is known as hormone overdose. What is fascinating is that hormone overdose creates the same symptoms as hormone deficiency. Because the cell’s receptors are no longer sensitive to the estrogen, most estrogen receptor sites in the body shut down so they are no longer able to receive estrogen. The estrogen that the woman is exogenously taking that has risen in her blood stream has now bombarded her body’s estrogen receptors so that she is no longer able to properly metabolize estrogen. The biofeedback loop to the pituitary (the conductor) has been disturbed. Using synthetic hormones such as Premarin (horse estrogen) always causes side effects. Really, the side effects that they cause are not side effects at all; they are the EFFECTS of giving horse estrogens to a human. The lock and key mechanism no longer works the way that it should. The improperly shaped horse hormone does not properly fit into the cell’s estrogen receptor site and the result is lots and lots of symptoms that doctors like to brush off and disregard as “side effects.” Death and heart attacks, known complications of premarin, should not be considered “side effects.” Premarin and other synthetic hormones are popular because they can be patented and sold for a profit, whereas bioidentical hormones that are identical to the hormones in our bodies are naturally derived from plants and cannot be patented and are relatively inexpensive. Synthetic hormones ALWAYS DISRUPT the delicately balanced Endocrine System.3, 4, 5
Because I am a hormone specialist, people often ask me about hormones and how they function in the body. Due to the many, many misconceptions about these powerful chemical messengers, I have decided to lay out 10 important myths and truths about hormones below.
1. Myth: Men do not experience Menopause like women do because they do not have female hormones.
Truth: Both men and women have female hormones. However, men usually have more male hormones and women have more female hormones. When women have an unhealthy increase in their male hormones they experience symptoms such as PMS, facial hair, menopause, stubborn belly fat, trouble sleeping, feeling like crying, etc. The most well-known group of these symptoms is called Menopause. When men have an unhealthy increase in female hormones, they then experience symptoms known as Andropause –the Male Menopause.4
2. Myth: Allergies do not affect hormones directly and hormones do not directly affect allergies.
Truth: Food allergens such as wheat, can upset hormonal balance and at times be so severe that they could last as long as 6 months from just one exposure. This is known as an IgG reaction (immuglobin G) and may take several days or even a week to take effect, making it difficult to know what exactly caused the allergic reaction. Also, the allergic response produced will often create a false endorphin high very similar to the high that a person gets from sex, exercise, or drugs. Wheat and other gluten containing grains are such powerful allergens that they have been directly attributed to Celiac’s Disease, Dermatitis Herpetiformis (skin disease), Sjorgren’s Syndrome (mucous membrane disease), IgA Nephropathy (kidney disease), Multiple Sclerosis, Hashimotos Thyroiditis, Chrones, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Asthma, and Type 1 Diabetes amongst others.10, 11, 3
3. Myth: Bone loss is due to a natural decrease in estrogen that happens with aging.
Truth: Hormonal imbalances cause osteopenia (bone loss) and osteoporosis (bone disease due to wear, tear and aging). These diseases are directly linked to adrenal and thyroid health. If osteopenia and osteoporosis were a natural part of aging due to decreases in estrogen, then men would never get these diseases because they have far, far less estrogen than women. In areas of the world where dairy products are not consumed and very few grains are consumed, there isn’t any osteopenia or osteoporosis. These bone diseases were unheard of prior to the introduction of grains in Egypt approximately 10,000 years ago. There are billions of causes of hormonal imbalances. Because the hormones that lead to proper bone health are metabolized primarily by the Adrenals, Thyroid, and Parathyroid glands, proper therapies directed toward these glands have been well documented to reverse osteopenia and osteoporosis. The thyroid gland makes a hormone called Calcitonin that causes calcium to be deposited into the bone. The parathyroid gland makes parathyroid hormone that takes calcium out of the bone and gut and puts it into the blood. The adrenal glands work in conjunction with the thyroid to create all of the sex, longevity and vitality hormones.10, 11, 3
4. Myth: A woman no longer makes any estrogen or progesterone during Menopause because she is no longer releasing any eggs. It is best to use Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) at the time of Menopause in order to compensate for these missing hormones.
Truth: Estrogen and progesterone levels drop during menopause naturally. Women do not ever stop making sex hormones such as estriol, estradiol, estrone, testosterone, progesterone, luteinizing hormone or follical stimulating hormone. Symptoms only occur if the woman has an unhealthy thyroid and adrenal glands which need to work harder because the ovaries and uterus are putting out far fewer hormones. The thyroid regulates temperature in the body, dysfunction of which leads to hot flashes. The adrenal glands help to regulate sodium and potassium levels in the body with a group of hormones known as mineralocorticoids that cause inflammation, help regulate blood pressure, allow for healthy perspiration, etc. The main mineralocorticoid is called aldosterone. When aldosterone levels are too low, a woman may experience night sweats. Night sweats are also common among men who like to pretend like they don’t have them.3
5. Myth: For a woman who has low levels of progesterone and estrogen, a good approach would be to use a transdermal estrogen and progesterone cream.
Truth: Hormone creams used over a long period of time are incredibly dangerous and may put a person at a high risk for estrogenic tumors and cancers. These creams saturate the fatty cells underneath the skin. There is no way to measure hormones in these fat cells under the skin. A woman may sweat and then release the hormones and experience hormone overdose in this way. The sex hormones are very important but also very difficult for the body to detoxify. When there is an imbalance of these hormones the liver, gallbladder, kidneys and colon become burdened and are unable to detoxify them. 6, 4
6. Myth: Blood and saliva labs are an accurate and effective way to measure hormones.
Truth: Active (free) hormones that can actually produce changes in the cells of the body are not measurable in the blood because 99% of these active hormones travel in the lymph system. The blood contains inactive (bound) hormones that cannot produce any changes in cells. Most “hormone” studies were not actually done on hormones in women, but rather, these studies were conducted using horse estrogen (Premarin-conjugated estrogens) and synthetic progesterone (Provera – medroxyprogesterone). What quantity of horse hormones does a woman need? How synthetic or horse hormones affect the human body is not directly measurable as blood lab and saliva labs can only detect bioidentical hormones.8
7. Myth: Soy foods can prevent osteoporosis.
Truth: Soy foods can cause deficiencies in calcium and Vitamin D, both needed for healthy bones. Calcium from bone broths, vitamin D from seafood and lard and organ meats prevent osteoporosis in Asian countries – not soy foods. Soy foods are known to stimulate the growth of estrogen-dependent tumors and cause thyroid disease. Low thyroid function is associated with difficulties in menopause.14, 15
8. Myth: The thyroid lab provided by my primary health care provider through my insurance company; which checks for Total T-4, Free T-3, Free T-4 and TSH provides an accurate measure of thyroid function.
Truth: Every cell in the body, including hair follicles, responds to thyroid hormone. Thyroid hormone is very similar to Human Growth Hormone in that it leads to the growth of new cells and increases metabolism. A proper thyroid lab includes the thyroid Antibodies TPO, TGA, Thyroxine Binding Globulin, Free T-3, Free T-4, TSI, Reverse T-3, T-3 Uptake, Total T4, TSH, FTI a complete blood chemistry panel to include glucose, BUN, Creatinine, Uric Acid, electrolytes, CO2, Total Protein and its fractions, liver panel, kidney panel, GGT, LDH, and CBC with differential and platelet count. It would be necessary to do both an Adrenal Stress Index and Female Hormone Panel saliva lab with the leading saliva laboratory in the field known as Diagnos-Techs, Inc. They are the only company that gives an accurate measure of the pituitary hormones in the saliva. This would be just one small part of analyzing thyroid function. Because the conversion of T4 (thyroxine) to T3 (tri-iodothyronine) takes place in peripheral cells throughout the body, it is not really possible to do an adequate lab to assess thyroid function because the cause of a dysfunctional thyroid may be due to toxic peripheral cells and not show up in laboratory analysis. It is the duty of the well trained specialist to have the skills and procedures necessary to examine their patients in the office. The most effective method to diagnose thyroid function is with the use of a laser that can determine the speed of the Achilles deep tendon reflex. Unfortunately, this equipment is no longer being manufactured and so the test is no longer able to be performed. In the 1960s many doctors would check the axillary temperature during the first 10 minutes after waking before the patient got out of bed for about a month. This method has become less popular during the last few decades. In the 1980s, high cholesterol levels always indicated a sure sign of thyroid dysfunction, now this obvious indicator of thyroid dysfunction is ignored by most doctors and statin medications that lower the cholesterol levels are a popular choice.5, 2
9. Myth: Oral and Injected contraceptives can help with PMS and have minimal side effects. Doctors will sometimes prescribe contraception for PMS or an irregular cycle and so it is relatively safe.
Truth: The pill does not regulate a woman’s cycle, it suppresses it. Contraceptives create numerous B Vitamin deficiencies and other nutritional deficiencies. They triple the lifetime risk of breast cancer when taken before the age of 18. Contraceptives create brain damage by upsetting the signals sent to and from the Hypothalamus, Pituitary, Adrenals, Ovaries, and Uterus. This leads to fatigue, mental and emotional issues, sweet cravings, cervical dysplasia and ovarian cysts, headaches and a slew of other health problems. They are also known to create birth defects and birth marks in offspring to list just a few dangers.9,6
10. Myth: A 33 year old woman, who has had difficulty getting pregnant and has already had a miscarriage, asks her general practitioner for help. They run a gamut of labs and find nothing. They do a complete laboratory analysis on the Thyroid indicators (or so she is told) and still are not able to find anything wrong. A saliva lab is done and there are no indicators for adrenal or thyroid dysfunction.
Truth: Infertility is always linked to an unhealthy woman with unhealthy adrenal glands and thyroid. The labs do not necessarily reveal a thyroid condition unless you have the proper training to perform the correct labs and know how to interpret those labs properly. For example, a patient with Hashimotos Thyroiditis may have normal labs and yet have an auto-immune thyroid condition. If the patient is not constantly eating wheat and dairy, the thyroid antibodies may not show up on the lab. It is normal for a Hashimotos patient to have their antibodies come and go. What few health care providers realize is that Hashimotos Thyroiditis is really more of an immune system disease due to severe digestive imbalances rather than a primary thyroid disease. The way to treat Hashimotos is to treat the virus that has caused it rather than to treat the thyroid. Viruses lay dormant or active in nerve cells. When the virus is dormant it will not show in the blood lab but when it is active it shows again on the lab. When tests done to diagnose thyroid dysfunction are not specific enough or the health care practitioner is not well trained enough, they often will miss a diagnosis of thyroid dysfunction. The research literature demonstrates this quite clearly.5, 2
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2. Francis TD. Applied Kinesiology – The Basic Course. Portland, OR: Privately Published; 2007.
3. Guyton AC, Hall JE. Textbook of Medical Physiology, 9th Ed. Philadelphia; W.B. Saunders Co.; 2000.
4. Kharrazian D. Functional Endocrinology, Sponsored by Postgraduate Department at the University of Bridgeport & Apex Energetics, Inc., Irvine, CA; 2007.
5. Kharrazian D. Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? When my Lab Tests are Normal – A Revolutionary Breakthrough in Understanding Hashimoto’s disease and hypothyroidism, Morgan James Publishing LLC.; Garden City, NY; 2010.
6. Lang, JR. Balancing Female Hormones Naturally: The Essential Physiology & Principals, Lang Integrative Health Seminars; 2007.
7. Lee JR. Natural Progesterone: The Multiple Roles Of A Remarkable Hormone, BLL Publishing, Sebastopol, CA; 1994.
8. Lee JR, Hopkins V. What Your Doctor May Not Tell You about Menopause: The Breakthrough Book on Natural Progesterone, Warner Books, New York, NY; 1996.
9. Lee JR, Zava D and Hopkins V. What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Breast Cancer: How Hormone Balance Can Help Save Your Life, Warner Books, New York, NY; 2002.
10. Star M. Hypothyroidism Type 2 The Epidemic, Mark Starr Trust, Columbia, MO; 2005.
11. Thomas NM. Separating the Wheat from the Chaff – Exposing the detrimental impact of grains on human health: a nutritional and evolutionary perspective, Portland, OR: Privately Published; 2006.
12. Walther DS. Applied Kinesiology Synopsis, 2nd Edition. Pueblo, CA: Systems DC; 2000.
13. Wright, JV. Morgenthaler J, Natural Hormone Replacement for Women Over 45; 1997.