Revealed: Why swallowing, injecting, rubbing, and/or applying bioidentical or synthetic replacement is the last thing I think about when balancing hormones for my clients.
After extensively covering the role of essential oils as a tool for reproductive harmony, I wanted to provide an overview of complexity of the topic of hormones and why I am so cautious about using external hormonal applications. This is why I tried to breakdown the essential points in balancing them in my recent discussion. Specifically, I highlighted:
- assessing hormonal levels, the caveats with laboratory measurements, and the (imperfect) evaluation of dosages for any intervention
- hormonal metabolism and its missing role in assessment
- the importance of getting to the root cause of imbalances in order to achieve lasting relief
You probably noticed that the topic is quite complicated. In fact, I’m convinced that I could dedicate the rest of my clinical career to writing solely about hormones and still not cover all the intricacies and impact they have on overall health.
Now, I’d like to provide a snapshot into the absolutely amazing way our bodies regulate our hormones. My hope is that it will give you an appreciation of why “tweaking” and “tinkering” with mother nature’s wisdom is very tricky and must be respected.
Before using them as an intervention, I believe all clinicians and patients should thoroughly appreciate the downstream effects. Without knowing the underlying issue of the imbalance, one could inadvertently cause some seemingly unrelated and even more aggravating symptoms immediately or down the road.
Why Unintended Effects Can Occur with Hormonal Replacement
1. Throwing Off the Complex Feedback Loops
In my previous blog, I reviewed the essential roles hormones play in the body. The impact of these chemical signals is so far reaching and powerful in action, that they are only needed in tiny amounts. Due to their system-wide impact, and the many influences and influencers they have, our body has complex feedback mechanisms to regulate them. (source, source, source)
Whereas, non-sex hormones are more directly regulated by the variables they control, e.g., insulin amount will impact the output of the pancreas and calcium levels will give feedback to the parathyroid glands, reproductive hormones have more “middle men.” Like the game of telephone, miscommunication can occur at any one of these levels.
As an example, this simple image portrays how the adrenals’, thyroid’s, and sex organs’ circulating hormones are under the feedback control of the hypothalamus and pituitary glands. The hypothalamus is constantly monitoring levels of various hormones in the blood. If it decides there’s too much or too little, it will either stop or start its message to the pituitary glands. If the pituitary is able to accept the hypothalamus’s request without interference, it will adjust the strength of its stimulatory signal.
Of course, the body always has funky exceptions. The thyroid will cross talk with other reproductive hormones, other organs, while continuously our metabolism. This visual of the overview of the systems will give you an appreciation of the details of all that it effects. It is enough to make even the most dedicated hormone expert’s eyes go blurry.
2. The System-Wide Effects and Complex Interactions
If you’re really a geek and/or one who is a glutton for details beyond the necessity of application, you will want to read this whole article. That is, if you want to join me in going cross-eyed! It goes in-depth regarding:
- The various organs effected by thyroid hormone
- Thyroid hormones’ sites of regulation
- Manifestations of resistance to thyroid hormone due to genetics
- The role of thyroid hormone converting enzymes and the consequences on the target sites
- Metabolic actions of the forms of thyroid hormones (synthetic and endogenous)
- The thyroid’s role and connection to metabolic diseases
- And way more details that I couldn’t see because my vision became blurry….
For those who want a kinder, more layman view of thyroid health, you may want to reference my previous blogs on the topic of thyroid:
- So You Have Hypothyroidism, Now What?
- Listening to Your Thyroid
- Your Thyroid, Your Health
- Autoimmunity and Essential Oils
Here is Take-Home Point One:
Putting a hormone into this feedback loop will have more than just the intended effect of that hormone. What effect? Well, as you can see from the thyroid feedback mechanisms, practically anything!
3. The Many Principles of Hormonal Production, Utilization, and Regulation
You think that’s mind-blowing? That’s just a snapshot of what occurs with the feedback of just one of many hormones.
Add to this complexity all the many other chemical signals, and it’s truly awe-inspiring that your body even function.
Yet, it doesn’t stop there!
You also have to add in the impact of the delicacy of the following other factors in regard to every single chemical messenger:
- oversight of its production
- transport into the cell
- its target organs’ receptivity to it
- cellular receptor sensitivity to the hormone to perform the intended function
- how the body metabolizes it and recycles it (excretion and detoxification)
- interactions with other neuroendocrine signals
- etc., etc. (source)
4. The Goldilocks of Minuet Precision
Finally, what hormone discussion would be complete without going into more detail regarding their mind-blowing power at such small doses. So now, we must again multiply all the above complexities to the fact that they are needed in tiny, precise amounts!
Below is a good scientific explanation for those with some medical background or just those who want more details:
Usually less than 5% of hormone receptors are occupied at any one time and maximum biological responses are achieved when only a fraction of the total number of receptors are occupied. Thus, it might be questioned why a small reduction in receptor number or a change in hormone concentration should make much difference to the overall biological response. This is governed by the law of mass action. If receptor numbers are reduced then the chances of a hormone binding to a receptor are decreased. Thus, a higher concentration of hormone is required to achieve a similar receptor occupancy. A similar argument may be applied when hormone concentrations are reduced. Together these two parameters are important in determining the target cell’s response to a hormone despite low occupancy of receptors (Box 1.14). (source)
With our poor lifestyle factors and our modern-day nourishment being so poor, you can a hodgepodge of signaling confusion that can make hormonal issues more common today.
Take Home Point Two:
With knowledge of all the above, even the most dedicated atheist will begin question who is overseeing the intelligence of our body!
This can also be terrorizing for those who wonder if hormonal balance and regulation is ever achieved…
Don’t worry, it can be!
Covering the Basics: A Holistic and Lifestyle Approach to Balance Out a Potential Biochemical Nightmare
With all the geniuses I’ve had the privilege of learning from, I have yet to run into any brain that can hold all these details in their mind for instantaneous access to their patients. Thankfully, with functional and naturopathic medicine, no one has to!
A practitioner that is aware of all the interfering factors to hormone balance and addresses them will help their patient to restore proper feedback. In this way, they will remove all the goop that messes with smooth signaling of the body. Only now will the body reset to its optimal functioning to receive better communication.
This is the new set point to work with. It is only here, that I would refer to a hormone replacement expert, in the rare cases it is needed
In my upcoming article on NatPath, I will go into more specific examples of how I get to the root cause of hormonal problems for my clients, so stay tuned.
Final Take Home Point
Before putting any outside hormone in your body, please consider an integrative, functional, and naturopathic perspective for balancing out the root causes of imbalances. Work with someone who has an appreciation of all the downstream effects that can occur from it and has experience with using hormones in their practice. This approach prevents clinical and patient burnout, blow up, and interventional hormonal-balancing associated trauma and after effects!
This material is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness. You should check with your doctor regarding implementing any new strategies into your wellness regime. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. (Affiliation link.)
Disclaimer: This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic quality essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been tested for purity and standardized constituents. There is no quality control in the United States, and oils labeled as “100% pure” need only to contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin. The studies are not based solely on a specific brand of an essential oil, unless stated. Please read the full study for more information.