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Stress and Hormone Function

Stress is an unavoidable part of our world and our life. As individuals, we are starting to understand more and more that when we experience stress it has an impact on our physical body and our health.

Some of the hormones in our bodies are designed to help us deal with stress. The adrenal glands produce adrenaline. Most of us are familiar with the term adrenaline rush, which is the fight-or-flight response when we are in an emergency situation.

Adrenaline can also serve us for a long period of time when we are feeling under stress, such as a period of pressure at a job. For example, tax season for accountants or young mothers trying to balance a newborn and a toddler.

Have you ever wondered why you can put in a huge effort at work to get ready for your annual vacation, working overtime and skipping your lunch break, all the while staying healthy. Finally your vacation arrives, and within the first two or three days of your time off you come down with a cold or flu. This is because, while under stress, adrenaline protects our immune system. This protection is one of the functions of adrenaline. Then, when you change your environment and start to relax, this protection falls away and any latent virus which has been waiting in the wings has a chance to pounce. Also, our alcohol consumption tends to rise on while we are on vacaion which also suppresses your immune system.

This is why, when you go on holiday, it is a good idea to plan some activities in the first few days. Keep your body somewhat busy and wind down slowly instead of just arriving at your destination and sitting in a deck chair.

While researching the effects of stress on hormones, the advice is usually “avoid stressful situations”. I can’t help but chuckle at this because really, we have to live in the real world. How do we avoid stressful situations when we have kids to pick up from school and ferry to various other activities, we have jobs, the house is a mess, and we still have to get groceries. Stress is with us. The only way we can manage our stress is to…manage it.

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You and Your Doctor

It is so important to have clear communication with your family doctor. The patient needs to do their best to explain their symptoms or concerns to their family doctor.  And, ideally, the family doctor will take time to explain things in terms which the patient can understand.

This is the ideal situation, but it is sometimes far from what actually happens. It is stressful going to see our doctor when we are not feeling well. We can be forgetful or feel intimidated. Add to this having to wear a paper dress in a freezing-cold examination room, and we have a recipe for a disappointing experience.

Here are some things you can do to take responsibility for your side of your patient-doctor relationship:

1.         Make a list of what you want to discuss before you come to the appointment. Most doctors welcome this, some do not. If your doctor does not like lists, make one anyway. This list is for you and your comprehensive care. And, whether your doctor appreciates it or not, it is a way to respect her time as well, by efficiently addressing your concerns.

2.         Take someone you trust with you to make notes and help ask questions. Two sets of ears will pick up more than one. Having another person there who present in your best interest may have different questions or perspective which will bring more information to light.

3.         Be honest. Tell your doctor about everything you are doing with regard to your health – good or bad. She needs to know if you are under the care of an alternative practitioner, such as a naturopath or acupuncturist. Your doctor also needs to know how much alcohol you consume, and if you take over-the-counter non-prescription medication on a regular basis.  This is not the time to be coy or try to paint a better picture of your practices.

3.         If you have frustration or disappointment in dealing with your doctor, talk to her about it. We may feel tempted to just find another doctor and start over again, but this can be a trying experience especially if you are in the throes of an existing medical condition. Instead, tell your doctor how you are feeling about how she interacts with you, and be honest. This may be an opportunity to come to a better understanding of each other. And, if your honest comments are met with an unsatisfactory response, then you can feel certain that it is best to move on and find another doctor.

4.         Trust yourself. If you have questions about your health which remain unanswered, ask to have a second opinion or to see a specialist in the field of our concern.

We are a generation of women who recognize that we have responsibility to take part in our health care. Gone are the days of accepting our physician’s diagnosis or treatment without question. Asking questions and doing a little research on our own is the best way to ensure that we are taking the treatment path that best works for us.

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Blood Test for Hormone Levels

Having your hormones tested is critical if you are experiencing symptoms of hormone disruption.  Testing gives a starting point for treatment and understanding of what your body is doing.

Thyroid testing – this is done easily as a blood test requisition by your family doctor.  However, be aware that requesting general blood work, does not include thyroid levels.  The thyroid must be requested and tested separately.  Be sure to ask your doctor if the requisition includes a Thyroid test.

Cortisol testing – Cortisol is also easily tested through a requisition from your family doctor.  Like the Thyroid, it must be noted separately on the requisition, otherwise it will not be included.

Sex Hormone testing (progesterone, estrogen, testosterone) – These blood tests are not commonly requested by a doctor unless there is a suspicion of a woman entering menopause.  Having these levels tested, even when not in menopause, or long after menopause has occurred, can be important in managing your optimal health.  If your doctor is reluctant to request these tests, go to a Naturopath and request saliva testing.

Use Your Common Sense

Warning bells should go off in your head if your ND wants to make drastic and immediate changes to your current medications or treatments initiated by your family doctor. Sometimes, with natural therapy, some people are able to reduce or eliminate certain medications, but it is a slow process which must be monitored carefully by both your family doctor and your ND.

At the end of your appointment, your naturopathic doctor may make several suggestions for vitamin or treatment therapies based on the findings of your appointment. Most naturopaths have a “pharmacy” in their office containing vitamins, minerals and tinctures (liquids which are dispensed with an eye-dropper under the tongue). It is in this pharmacy that your ND may compound a specific remedy for you.

You may be given several recommendations for therapies to purchase. I have found some naturopathic doctors to be quite aggressive in their approach to having me buy their recommended products at the close of an appointment. At some points in my life, my financial situation simply would not afford the purchase of everything that was recommended. In this case, I have simply asked the doctor “If I can purchase only one of all the therapies which you recommend for me today, which would it be?”.   I have employed this strategy many times and it has always been met with a positive result.

In conclusion, your treatment plan should make sense to you and your lifestyle.   You should feel comfortable with your ND, and confident that your concerns and questions are being heard. Take some time to research the new information you have received from your appointment.

Your Naturopathic Doctor is your partner in preventative and proactive health care.

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Cocktails and Mocktails

The Wino That I Know!  Trying to cut down on alcohol consumption for both health and calorie implications is always a good idea.  However, it can be easier said than done.  Men are built to tolerate alcohol better than women (this is NOT an encdorsement, by the way).  However, with one drink, alcohol affects many systems in a woman’s body, not the least of which are hormone imbalance, sleep disruption, the triggering of sweats and hot flashes, to name a few.  Add to this the extra pounds and doesn’t it make you wonder why we do it?   Sometimes it is as simple as a force of habit, or the ‘ritual’ of cocktail hour.  I discovered this while trying to cut down on my beloved 5:00 martini(s).  I realized that a big part of the ritual for me was putting ice in the martini shaker, adding the ingredients and then pouring the exlixir into an ice-cold fancy glass.

So here’s I do now and it has really helped me find a new happy hour rythmn.  Ahead of time, I make home brewed iced tea.  I often use a fragrant or delicious fruit herbal tea, or my favourite green or black tea.  Put it in the fridge to get ice cold.  Try not to add sugar, as this defeats the whole purpose of taking in a healthier drink, but if you must sweeten, try to do just a little bit, or use Stevia.  At “martini time’, put the ice in the shaker (love that clinking sound!), add the beautiful iced tea, shake the dickens out out of it, pour into your favourite frosty fancy glass, add a twist of lemon or lime and enjoy!  In my experience, everyone starts to ask me what I’m drinking and they feel a bit jealous because it looks so delicious!

If wine is your poison of choice, try this trick:  pour purified water into your wine glass and add one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (or more if your taste demands).  Apple cider vinegar has that pungent fullness of flavour which we often crave from our glass of wine.  It also contains phenomenal health and weight loss benefits.  Cheers!

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Hormone Test Results

Hormone Test Results – what you should know that no one will tell you!

Test Results – Whether you return to your general family doctor, or to your Naturopath for results, the doctor will explain to you what the results mean.  Here is an important thing to consider.  Sometimes, test results will show that your levels are in a “normal range”, and this may lead your doctor to say that all is well and send you on your way.  Sometimes, to feel optimal, you may need your level to be in the lower or higher end of the “normal range”.

This happened to me with my last thyroid test.  The normal range is considered 0.5 – 5.0.  My test came back at 4.85 so my doctor said I was normal.  I explained that I still was not feeling well.  The symptoms I had been enduring had lessened somewhat, but I was not feeling the fullness of health and well being.  After some research, and speaking to another doctor, it was recommended that I try for a level of 1.0 – 2.0.  As of the time of writing this article I am working towards this score and am feeling progressively better as weeks go by.

Moral of the story – you know your body better than anyone.  Listen to your symptoms and if you don’t feel well, keep going back to your doctor, keep talking, or get a second opinion until someone works with you to find your body’s optimal level for health, regardless of what is considered normal for the entire population.

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Heather’s Story

I’m Heather Gagne’ a mother of two grown children, a Gramma and Homemaker. I got married at nineteen and have been married now for thirty years! Almost twenty years ago I was diagnosed with a Disease called HYPOTHYROIDISIM.  I was thirty years old then.

Before being diagnosed I can remember getting up each day and wondering how I was going to make it through the day with two young children. One of our children was ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyper Disorder).

My husband had his own Company and that required a lot of his time….so he was working long hours each day and gone! I was so tired and exhausted, gaining weight very quickly and depressed but didn’t know it at the time. I didn’t want to be around anyone and felt anger towards people if they even phoned.

All I wanted was to be left alone and everything was very overwhelming to me. It was my own Mother who is like a Sister to me and we are very close that noticed something was terribly wrong with me. Mum suggested going to the doctor and talking about what was happening. I had no idea what to say to the doctor and so I just explained how I was feeling at the time.

I really thought she was going to think I was NUTS or CRAZY! My regular Doctor was away and so I went to her replacement. Fortunately, Dr. Margo Link (I will never forget her name) actually sat and listened to me and told me she would do some test to find out what was wrong! When my regular doctor had returned from pregnancy leave she asked me why all these tests and so I explained to her how I felt and what was happening in my life.

She felt I was too young to have a Thyroid Condition and mentioned if the tests come back normal we could try Prozac!!! I wonder if she would have ever done those tests for me if she was the Doctor I had first gone to see. It was such a relief when the Doctor phone and said I was Hypothyroid.

I didn’t know what that was at the time but just grateful to know something was actually wrong! Now I had a name to go with how I felt. I was put on Synthroid which is a Synthetic Hormone that most Doctors put their patients on.

The medication helped somewhat but it’s never the same. Years later I was reading in our local Newspaper, information from a Naturopath. It was mentioned that if your Ferritin (iron storage) is low then your thyroid won’t function properly.

Your levels should be around 90 and I have my levels checked and I was at 4. It took me almost two years to bring up my levels. I actually emailed the Naturopath and he mentioned that I should be taking Desiccated Thyroid Hormone because it has t3 and t4 and it’s natural. ERFA is the company in Canada. I asked my Doctor to switch me to this thyroid hormone two years ago now.

I feel a lot better being on this compared to the Synthyroid. Being on the Desiccated Thyroid Hormone has helped me with Thyroid Disease symptoms that I still had such as brain fog and hard to concentrate, hair loss, weight gain, etc.  I still struggle with weight issues and it’s something that I continue working at.

I have educated myself over the years on this disease and have found that Alternative Medicine has really helped me. There is so much information now through books and the internet that a person can help heal themselves and feel better.

Take charge and control of your own Health and remember nobody knows you like yourself!

Recently I purchased over the Internet a DVD – Dr. David Brownstein’s OVERCOMING THYROID DISORDERS – 52 million Americans Suffering, 59 Debilitating Diseases and Your one tiny Thyroid . . . (Excellent DVD). Dr. Brownstein is a doctor and Naturopath. His own father suffered and had Thyroid Disease! I highly recommend joining his website as there is lots and lots of info. Books, DVD’s, etc.

You can purchase these from his website as well. The Video Documentary shares exactly what you can do to protect yourself and family from the little – known dangers of Thyroid Disorders now linked to 59 diseases and conditions.

We all need to educate ourselves about this disease. I look forward to sharing info. and ideas on Brenda’s Website & hope that we can share our experience with others so it may help them!

 

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Saliva Test for Hormone Levels

Saliva testing is just that, testing your saliva for hormones. Why use a saliva test instead of a blood test?

Blood test for hormones measures the level of a particular hormone as it is circulating throughout your body.  However there is always a portion of your hormone level which is “unbound”  and bio-available.  This means that a quantity of hormone is readily accessible and usable by the cells in your body.  This level is not captured in a regular blood test.  When we are supplementing our hormone health with a natural therapy, it can take weeks, and sometimes months for the level to show in a blood test, even though our bodies are using the hormones immediately.  A saliva test gives a picture of what your hormone levels are right now!

Whether you visit your Naturopathic Doctor for a kit or if you order at At-Home kit online, you must be careful to follow the instructions exactly. Depending on which hormones you are wanting to test, you will need to spit into a series of little test-tubes several times a day over a series of days. You would think you will never run out of saliva, but it can be surprisingly challenging to collect the amount that the sample requires. Just be patient with yourself, and allow a few minutes of quiet during collection.

Once your collection has been completed, your test is then returned to the Naturopath, or returned per the instructions in your At-Home test kit.  Your results are forwarded to a lab and you will have your results within one or two weeks, depending on how far afield the lab is from your home town. Saliva testing is not generally covered by government medical plans, but it may be covered under your corporate benefits. Check with your administrator.

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Your Hormone Test Results

What you should know that no one will tell you!

Test Results – Whether you return to your general family doctor, or to your Naturopath for results, the doctor will explain to you what the results mean. Here is an important thing to consider. Sometimes, test results will show that your levels are in a “normal range”, and this may lead your doctor to say that all is well and send you on your way. Sometimes, to feel optimal, you may need your level to be in the lower or higher end of the “normal range”.

This happened to me with my last thyroid test. The normal range is considered 0.5 – 5.0. My test came back at 4.85 so my doctor said I was normal. I explained that I still was not feeling well. The symptoms I had been enduring had lessened somewhat, but I was not feeling the fullness of health and well being. After some research, and speaking to another doctor, it was recommended that I try for a level of 1.0 – 2.0. As of the time of writing this article I am working towards this score and am feeling progressively better as weeks go by.

Moral of the story – you know your body better than anyone. Listen to your symptoms and if you still don’t feel well, keep going back to your doctor, keep talking to your doctor, or get a second opinion until someone works with you to find your body’s optimal level for health, regardless of what is considered normal for the entire population.

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Blood Test for Hormone Levels

Thyroid Testing
 
This is done easily as a blood test requisition by your family doctor. However, be aware that requesting general blood work often does not include thyroid levels. The thyroid must be requested and tested separately.  It is a separate box to be “ticked” on the form.  Be sure to ask your doctor if the requisition includes a Thyroid test.

The common test is for the thyroid is TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone).  The TSH results will be measured against a scale from 0.5 – 5.0.  Results within this range are considered normal.  The score can be a bit confusing, as a low thyroid is a score of over 5.0 and an overactive, or high, thyroid is below 0.5.  A less common test for thyroid is called a Free T4.  This measures another background aspect of thyroid function and can be very helpful for your doctor in getting a full picture of what your thyroid is doing.  Free T4 testing is expensive and must be made by special request by your doctor.

Cortisol testing

Cortisol is also easily tested through a requisition from your family doctor. Like the thyroid, it must be noted separately on the requisition, otherwise it will not be included.

Usually this test involves going to the lab for your bloodwork twice during the day of the test.  Once, to measure your morning cortisol level (usually before 9 a.m.) and again in the afternoon to measure your p.m. cortisol level (usually around 4:00 p.m.)  Specific times are required for this, so ask your doctor which times you need to attend.

Sex Hormone Testing
(progesterone, estrogen, testosterone)

These blood tests are not commonly requested by a doctor unless there is a suspicion of a woman entering menopause. Having these levels tested, even when not in menopause or long after menopause has occurred, can be important in managing your optimal health. If your doctor is reluctant to request these tests, go to a Naturopath and request saliva testing.
For more excellent information, consult Dr. Maegen Davis’ website:  www.NaturalBodyinBalance.com