This amazing guest post was written by Dr. Andreia Horta, ND and Dr. Emily Lipinski, ND, founders of Infusion Health! You can check out their website here!
Did you know that unbalanced hormones can contribute to low mood, including anxiety and depression?! Testing for hormones may be an important factor in getting to the bottom of your health.
A hormone, by definition, is a chemical messenger released by a gland, cell or organ that affects cells in other parts of the organism (or body). Hormones can affect our brain, heart, muscles, bones and reproductive organs. Hormones work best when they are in a healthy balance. When this delicate balance is disrupted, various symptoms can result including a low mood.
There are many hormones in the body, and hormone levels vary between men and woman. Some of the hormones that can contrite to anxiety, depression, and changeable moods include progesterone, estrogen, testosterone, LH, FSH and thyroid hormones. In this article, we will address a few common hormone imbalances.
Common Hormone Imbalances and Their Influence on Mood
1. For Woman Only! Periods and Menopause
A woman’s hormonal picture is more intricate than a man’s as her hormone levels are in constant fluctuation due to the menstrual cycle.
The hormones primarily responsible for menstruation include progesterone, estrogen, testosterone, LH, and FSH. A woman typically goes through monthly fluctuations in these hormones from puberty (around age 11-13) until menopause (around age 42-52). Menopause means that a woman no longer has her period and is defined as an entire year without menstruating.
It is very well known that changing hormonal levels in the body can affect the mood! Many woman experience PMS symptoms such as anxiety or anger before her period begins due to changes in hormone levels. As a woman is approaching menopause she will also notice changes in her temperament because of decreasing hormonal levels in her body.
Mild mood changes are normal when a woman is menstruating or approaching menopause. However, when the hormones involved in menstruation are not in balance, these symptoms can become more severe and affect a woman’s quality of life.
Common symptoms of these hormonal imbalances when a woman is still having her period:
- Bloating/Water retention
- Mood swings
- Fibrocystic breasts and breast tenderness
- Sugar cravings
- Dysmenorrhea (menstrual cramping)
- Secondary amenorrhea ( you have had you period in the past but are no longer experiencing monthly bleeding)
- Mastalgia (Breast tenderness)
Symptoms of perimenopause, which begin in the months and years leading up to menopause include:
- Irregular periods
- Vaginal dryness
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Sleep problems
- Mood changes
- Weight gain and slowed metabolism
- Thinning hair and dry skin
If you consistently experience some of the symptoms listed above, hormone testing may be a good idea.
Various studies support the use of salivary hormones to investigate menstrual cycle profiles. Hormone testing can allow a practitioner to properly understand and treat the hormonal imbalance causing fertility issues, lack of menstruation and mood swings. By measuring estrogen and progesterone at multiple times during a woman’s cycle can identify cycle specific hormone issues.
Salivary hormone testing can be done with your Naturopathic Doctor or other health care provider.
Hormone levels can also be measured through urine or blood, however, this does not allow for the month-long assessment of hormonal fluctuation.
Once you understand and identify the hormonal imbalance, supplements, herbs, diet and bio-identical hormones can be provided by your health care provider to correct the imbalance.
2. The Thyroid
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped organ located in your neck that produces some very important hormones known as T3 and T4. When the thyroid is not working properly, it is referred to as being “underactive” and does not produce as much of the T3 and T4 hormones.
Symptoms of an underactive thyroid include:
- Weight gain
- Brain fog
- Dry skin
- Always being cold
Unlike periods and menopause, thyroid conditions can affect both men and woman.
All these symptoms point to the possibility of hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid function. Sometimes the TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone), the most common test for thyroid function, has been tested and may still fall into the “normal range”. However, TSH is only one of the markers for abnormal thyroid function, and many patients are unaware that there are other tests that can give a much better picture of thyroid health and function.
Statistically, hypothyroid is an under-diagnosed condition. In fact, in the US only ½ of Americans that have hypothyroidism know it!!
When testing for thyroid dysfunction, we recommend additional tests aside from the common TSH (thyroid stimulation hormone) test that is routinely run. Thyroid testing is done by blood collection.
Thyroid Test #1: TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone)
TSH is the commonly ordered thyroid test. This hormone is produced by the pituitary gland (a small gland in your brain). TSH communicates with the thyroid to tell it to produce more thyroid hormones T3 and T4. These T3 and T4 hormones have many important tasks, including maintaining metabolism.
When all is going well in the body, TSH is in a normal healthy range and so is T3 and T4. When T3 and T4 (those important thyroid hormones produced by the thyroid gland) are LOW, TSH starts to INCREASE, telling the thyroid gland to produce more T4 and T4.
The “healthy TSH range” has become a somewhat controversial topic in medicine. Most Canadian labs consider the upper range of TSH to be 4-5mU/L. However, many experts, including many conventional endocrinologists, consider the upper limit of TSH should be no higher than 2.5-3mU/L. This is based on the data collected on Americans without any hypothyroid symptoms. When they have a TSH test done, this is the common upper range.
It is important to note that if the thyroid is OVERACTIVE, the TSH will be very low. An overactive thyroid can lead to symptoms of anxiety, a racing heart, weight loss and fatigue.
Thyroid Tests #2 and #3: T3 (Triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine)
As mentioned above, T3 and T3 are hormones produced by your thyroid gland. T4 is produced in much higher amounts by your thyroid gland and then is converted into T3 in the periphery. This is important because T3 is a more active form of thyroid hormones and is necessary for proper metabolic function.
Thyroid Tests #4 and #5: TPO and TGAb (Thyroid Antibodies)
As mentioned previously, autoimmune hypothyroidism is the most common cause of hypothyroid. As with any other health condition, to achieve optimal health we must look at the underlying cause of the problem. If a patient has hypothyroidism but does not address the autoimmunity (if present), the problem will not be addressed at the root cause. Thyroid antibodies can also be measured every 6-12 months to gauge how thyroid treatment is progressing.
If the thyroid is underactive, medication may be necessary. However, if thyroid dysfunction is caught in the early stages, herbs, supplements, and dietary changes may be able to bring the thyroid back into balance. And, if you are already on medication, don’t forget the importance of diet and supplements to additionally help support thyroid function!
We have a great FREE download available on our website outlining the best foods to boost your mood. You can find the download here.
Yours in Vitality,
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- Gann, P. et al. Saliva as a medium for investigating intra-and interindividual differences in sex hormone levels in premenopausal woman. Cancer Epidemiol Biomark Prev. 2001;10:59-61.
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- Ishikawa M et al. The clinical usefulness of salivary progesterone measurement for the evaluation of corpus luteum function. Gynecol Obstet Invest. 2002;53 (1):32-7.
- Tivis et al. Saliva versus serum estradiol: Implications for research studies using postmenopausal woman. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2005;29(5)727-32
- Wood, P. Salivary steroid assays-research or routine? Ann Clin Biochem. 2009,46:183-96.
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