For the past few months, the topics on my naturopathic blog have been mostly focused on the connection between the mind and body. Specifically, I’ve been discussing how the trauma and emotional impacts from the current events are impacting society’s mental health and how this in turn is affecting physical symptoms.
As a naturopathic doctor (ND) and functional medicine practitioner, it is my job is to get to the root cause of an issue, not just cover up the symptoms. This is why I am so passionate about advocating for the importance of being more mindful of these emotional impacts. This is to prevent and alleviate some of the negative mental and physical effects that can result.
Stress has system-wide effects and dealing with it at the level of cause, the mind, is imperative. Stress is also very interconnected with hormonal balance, and the two are reciprocal. For example, long-term, chronic stress can effect steroid hormone biosynthesis and thyroid conversion. This can lead to thyroid resistance, immune dysregulation, and various other physical and emotional strains on the body.
In this series I will explore how hormones interact with neurotransmitters and their connection to various psychiatric disorders. Specifically, I will focus on estrogen, progesterone, thyroid, testosterone, and oxytocin. I previously covered cortisol, the major stress hormone, and its effects in a preceding essential oils’ series. (Part 1, Part 2)
First, in this post, I will give a brief overview on the whole-body impact of hormones. Then, I will introduce how hormones and neurotransmitters interact.
How Hormones Impact the Whole Body
In a previous article on thyroid health, I explained that when the thyroid hormones are imbalanced, like stress, it can have far reaching consequences due to its complex interactions. This article goes into exquisite details on this. In summary, it explores:
- The various organs affected by thyroid hormones
- Thyroid hormones’ multiple sites of regulation
- Manifestations of resistance to thyroid hormones 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
As you can see with this example, hormone interactions are quite complex. This is why hormonal regulation has many feedback and control mechanisms that oversee hormonal production, transport, detoxification, elimination, and their interaction with target receptors. (R, R) The body needs all these methods to control the power of these tiny chemical messengers which produce major effects in such minuscule amounts.
To add to the intricacy of these processes, there are also many factors which impact how hormones are utilized, distributed, metabolized, and excreted. Some of these influencers in hormonal balance include:
- lifestyle, such as sleep (R, R) and movement
- stress (see above)
- food and nourishment (“diet”)
- toxic exposure
- the microbiome (estrobolome) and reproductive microbiome
- genetic variations in hormonal production, transport, detoxification, and elimination (R, R, R, R) (common examples include: MTHFR, COMT, SHBG, CY1B1, and VDR)
- prenatal environment and adverse childhood events
- relationships and social connections
- blood sugar balance
With all this in mind, it is important to consider that hormones being imbalanced can also result in perpetuating, contributing, and/or causing a mood or mental health diagnosis.
Now, let’s look at their interactions with brain signaling chemicals.
The Interactions Between Hormones and Neurotransmitters
Many women have experienced the mood shifts that can occur throughout the lifespan with their cycles. (R, R, R) So, it probably comes as no surprise that the sex hormones have intricate interactions with brain neurotransmitters, including serotonin, GABA, glutamate, and dopamine. (R, R, R) Sex hormones also have effects on overall brain functioning. They “have been implicated in neurite outgrowth, synaptogenesis, dendritic branching, myelination and other important mechanisms of neural plasticity.” (R)
This article goes into exquisite detail regarding a full overview of all the interactions between the neurotransmitters serotonin, GABA, glutamate, and dopamine and sex hormones and their influence on cognitive, emotional, and mental formation and processing. A visual is available in Figure 1 of the article.
Published online 2015 Feb 20.
Hormones on the Brain
Although there are many different hormones that impact mood, in my next article in this series, I will focus on how estrogen, progesterone, thyroid, testosterone, and oxytocin influence mental and emotional health. I will also discuss why it is not as simple as tweaking hormones to balance psychological effects.
Stay tuned and your feedback is always welcome below.
In the meantime, if hormonal and mood balance interest you, be sure to sign up to receive exclusive access to my two-part video series on how essential oils can soothe the mind, balance the emotions, and optimize hormonal health.
Mental Health Resources
*If you are experiencing a mental health crisis and/or are suicidal, please seek professional mental health support:
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (U.S.) — Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
- Crisis Text Line — Text HOME to 741741 to connect with a crisis counselor
- Lifeline Crisis Chat — Chat online with a specialist who can provide emotional support, crisis intervention and suicide prevention services at www.crisischat.org
Other Helpful Resources
Below are some of the highlights of the many free resources on this website:
- Four Essential Oils Blends for Supporting the Mind-Body and Easing Tension
- VIDEO: How Your Brain and Body Suffer with Too Much Stress & Naturopathic Medicine Tips for Calming the Mind and Relieving Overwhelm
- Video Recap: Essential Oils to Ease the Stress & Anxiety of Back to School
- The Importance of Fun, Music, & Play for Mental Health
- Video Recap: Essential Oils for Brain and Mental Health & Soothing Stress
- 10 Natural Ways to Relieve Stress and Calm the Mind-Body During Trying Times
- Video: A Naturopathic Doctor’s Approach to Thyroid Health Using Essential Oils: Video Recap & Additional Resources
Additional Supportive Techniques & Tools
- The Tapping Solution, A Technique to Lower Cortisol and Reduce Stress- Podcast interview by Dr. Kara Fitzgerald with Nick Ortner.
- Stress management tips and resources
Disclaimer: 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.)
According to experts and the World Health Organization (WHO), there is no approved standard of care treatment, cure, or preventative for COVID-19. Supportive measures and containment are in full force as a result. Please see the CDC website and your state’s website for more information and updates. They also state when to contact your physician related to symptoms and travel history, exposures. Please read my more detailed article on this subject here.
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.
Thanks Pixabay and Canva.