Hormones often bear the brunt of our complaints. We blamed them for acne and awkwardness during puberty, as well as the mood swings during pregnancy. We peg them as the villain behind PMS in women and aggressive behavior in muscled men. Although the role of hormones is often misunderstood, there’s no doubt that they are largely part of why you act, look, feel, and perform the way you do.
There is an extensive list of hormones that contribute to making your body a well-oiled machine, but for the sake of brevity, we’ll focus on only four of them—testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, and DHEA (short for dehydroepiandrosterone). And because hormones get such a bad rap, we consulted Dr. Georgeanne Freeman, a local osteopathic physician, to debunk any myths and sort out the facts.
Think of these particular hormones like a baseball team with four players. Each player is important, and each play in the game affects the other team members. Your thyroid is the coach—it’s directing the whole game.
So, why do we care about managing our hormones, anyway? If you’ve ever complained about slowing down with age—whether that comes in the form of chronic fatigue, depression, decrease in mental clarity, low sex drive, or trouble managing weight—your hormones are may be the reason for it. In your mid-thirties, regardless of gender, most people’s hormones start to decrease, which can cause those “classic” signs of aging.
Men and women have testosterone, but men carry more of it. Having too much testosterone is not limited to bodybuilders exhibiting signs of ‘roid rage. In fact, tumors can also cause too much testosterone to be produced. On the other end of the spectrum, low testosterone can be a problem—and it’s not just something pharmaceutical companies made up to generate sales. It’s actually not uncommon in men and women. Giving this hormone replacement to women doesn’t make them beefy or burly; it can help them return to feeling like they’re in their prime.
Similar to testosterone, men and women have estrogen, but women have more of it. The decline of estrogen with age often comes in the form of menopause. It is also possible for women to have too much. A symptom of estrogen dominance often presents itself in an inability to shed weight. In both cases, seeing a doctor about regulating your hormones can lead to a dramatic improvement in your quality of life.
An imbalance of this hormone can be tricky to pin down, but progesterone deficiency is alive and well. It can result in problems that aren’t quite obvious or plainly explained. Experiencing difficulty with weight gain or loss, fatigue, depression, decreased mental clarity, insomnia, skin and hair changes are all signs of potential progesterone issues.
This naturally occurring steroid can really throw you off your game if it’s not in a normal range. When getting out of bed feels like the most daunting task, it’s easy to self-diagnose depression, or chalk it up to simply being overworked. What many people don’t consider is that the solution to this slump can be in treating low levels of DHEA. Taking a medically-prescribed dose helps supports adrenal functions and gets you back to feeling energized and focused.
In athletes or active people, a significant hormonal change can become evident through exercise. If you’re training harder, but getting slower, or experiencing a general plateau in performance, it may be time to consult a physician. Regardless of how a hormonal dropoff reveals itself, a doctor can prescribe a bioidentical replacement that may have you feeling young again. This simple boost can have you feeling like you’re in your prime beyond your mid-thirties.