cortisol

Do You Have Low Hormone Levels?

Though usually undiagnosed, I’d say ‘low hormone levels’ is an epidemic these days. Let’s learn about what that term even means, how you can be diagnosed, and what you can do about it!

Five Ways Essential Oils Support Your Hormones

blog_site_support_hormones.png

Adding Essential Oils to Your Routine to Balance Hormones

You may have heard of essential oils, and maybe you already use them. You might be wondering, “how do these really work?” In this article, I’ll explain five ways that essential oils work to powerfully affect your hormones in a positive way!

  1. Lower Stress and Benefit Sleep

There are several essential oils that have been shown in studies to reduce the stress hormone cortisol. (1) The speed of this reduction is what impresses me! You can feel calmer within seconds of inhaling a cortisol-reducing oil.

While you need cortisol for energy, immunity, and inflammation, you don’t need too much cortisol! Your cortisol tends to get high thanks to chronic stress.

Symptoms of high cortisol include:

  • Stubborn belly fat

  • Feeling high-strung

  • Trouble falling asleep

  • Being too keyed up to enjoy sex

  • High blood pressure

  • Increasing wrinkles and fatigue

Lowering excess cortisol with essential oils can help relieve the above symptoms. If stress and insomnia are chronic issues, I suggest using cortisol-reducing oils a few times a day, and especially in the evening as you wind down for bed.

Good sleep is important for another hormone, human growth hormone. This hormone helps you repair and rejuvenate at night; it’s how you get ‘beauty sleep.’ So lowering cortisol so you can sleep is key.

Common essential oils that lower cortisol are: lavender, basil, rosemary, orange and ylang ylang. The oil blend we use nightly in a diffuser is Serenity by doTERRA.

In a 2007 study, lavender and rosemary were both found to lower cortisol and prevent the free radical damage (hello, early aging) associated chronic high cortisol. (2)

       2. Reduce Appetite & Improve Metabolism

Having excess fat tissue contributes excess estrogen levels. Your fat tissue is an estrogen factory so, like cortisol, you don’t want an excess of body fat.

Avoiding processed foods and losing weight is challenging in our busy, toxic world! Luckily essential oils can give you a helping hand to make better food choices and to process calories efficiently.

Grapefruit oil is a cravings-buster when you place a drop on your tongue, as is peppermint oil. Grapefruit oil contains D-limonene, a compound that boosts metabolism and drains lymph (bye, bye puffy eyes and water weight). It can also be used externally along with a dry brushing technique to reduce cellulite. 
 
Cinnamon oil is a blood sugar balancer, and having balanced blood sugar will mean less cravings and better food choices. (3)

The cravings and metabolism blend I use regularly is Slim and Sassy by doTERRA. It has a dorky name but it works really well! It contains ginger, grapefruit, cinnamon, lemon and peppermint.

      3. Calm Emotions

Inhalation of essential oils directly affects limbic system, where you store emotions and memories. Taming negative emotions and painful memories can get you out of the sympathetic dominant mode that inhibits optimal hormone production.

According to the author of Healing with Essential Oils, Jodi Sternoff Cohen, the most powerful use of essential oils may be their value in emotional recovery and management:

“Fragrant substances pass on to the limbic system without being registered by the cerebral cortex. This powerful emotional reaction in the limbic system is triggered by nerve impulses which, in turn, trigger other areas of the brain that are responsible for secreting hormones and neurotransmitters and for regulating body functions.”

“This makes essential oils especially powerful tools for dealing with emotional challenges, like anxiety, depression, fear, worry, grief, trauma, anger and self-abuse.”

Some essential oils help you feel more grounded and others give you a sense of peace. The essential oil cedarwood helps me feel secure and confident, while essential oil of neroli makes me feel euphoric!


      4. Improve Digestion

Strong digestion is critical for healthy hormones. Within the digestive tract:

  • Nutrients needed to make hormones are absorbed

  • Neurotransmitters are produced

  • Hormone metabolites (used hormones) are cleared from the system

If the digestive tract is inflamed, these important processes won’t happen. Some symptoms of digestive distress include:

  • Constipation

  • Diarrhea

  • Bloating

  • Multiple food sensitivities

  • Skin eruptions

  • An autoimmune diagnosis

There are many essential oils that can support proper digestion and help detoxify the gut. I’ll highlight three here:

Lemon oil has been shown to inhibit candida albicans infection. Excess candida yeast can cause sugar cravings and foggy thinking. (4)

Peppermint oil relaxes smooth muscles in cases of IBS, and it also helps break down the biofilms that protect chronic bacterial infections in your gut. ( 5, 6)

Essential oil of ginger promotes digestion, reduces nausea, and has been shown to help prevent and treat stomach ulcers. (7)

A product I love that combines several oils in one formula for both acute and chronic indigestion is DigestZen by doTERRA. I try to use in on my abdomen with a carrier oil at least twice a day, and I also inhale it and sometimes use a drop on my tongue.

I find the warming and bitter nature of the oils in this formula help me digest a meal and have healthy bowel movements.

      5. Lower Inflammation

Inflammation is a process in the body that is helpful and necessary at times. It gathers to do its job when you are injured, when you’re fighting an infection and more.

But chronic inflammation presents various problems, one is which is preventing proper hormone production and signaling.

Inflammation allows less hormone to attach to receptor sites on a cell’s membrane. This means that hormones may be knocking at the door, but they can’t get inside. With an inflamed cell wall, also toxins can’t get out and nutrients can’t get in.

Inflammation also dysregulates the immune system, which can lead to autoimmunity, in which the body is attacking its own tissue. You can use essential oils to lower inflammation, thus allowing your hormones to signal correctly.

Frankincense is an oil derived from a tree resin that contain a high percentage of boswellic acid. Boswellic acid is able to lower inflammation and modulate immunity. It has become a popular oil in autoimmune thyroid conditions for this reason. (8, 9)

Lavender reduces the inflammation of a bug bite or a sunburn but also the systemic inflammation that interferes with your hormones.

Conclusion

Many oils overlap in their functions; many simultaneously lower cortisol, prevent bacterial growth and lower inflammation. This is because the ‘essential oil’ of a plant protects it and keeps it healthy. Essential oils can provide some of the same protection to you as you endeavor to stay healthy through the changing seasons of life.

What I love about essential oils is that they are easy and enjoyable to use. There are some cautions to take, for instance some oils need to be diluted or they will feel hot or burning on your skin. A few oils can make you sunburn easier, so you need to avoid applying them on an exposed area before a day in the sun.

With a little education, essential oils are fun and creative to use, and you can reap benefits immediately in reduced stress or a calmer stomach, and you can enjoy long-term benefits in better periods, less hot flashes, thicker hair and more.


Learn More!

Balance Your Hormones with Essential Oils

 Join me for this webinar recording, where I explain my favorite ways to balance hormones with essential oils.

 

My Five Top Essential Oils for Thyroid Support

Free guide: You want help for your thyroid symptoms ASAP! Cut to the chase with this straight-forward guide, outlining the exact techniques I use to help keep my Hashimoto’s in remission.

Let me help you start addressing your symptoms now!

Questions? Please post below.

 


Bridgit.jpg

Bridgit Danner, LAc, FDNP, is trained in functional health coaching and has worked with thousands of women over her career since 2004. She is the founder of Women’s Wellness Collaborative llc and HormoneDetoxShop.com.

Case Study: A Functional Approach to Hormones and Gut

EL's Case Study.png

How Functional Health Coaching Treats Mood, Gut and Hormones in an Integrated Way

The Symptoms

When Emily joined our coaching program, she was struggling with depression, anxiety, fatigue, and brain fog. She said that she did not have the energy to improve her diet or exercise regimen to support her health. She feared that trying to make major changes could have the potential to elicit panic attacks that would prevent her from moving forward.

Photo by Jason Briscoe

Photo by Jason Briscoe

Emily felt “tired almost all of the time.” Up until a few years before joining our functional coaching program, she had lived an active life. She had spent years gaining her education and working as a public health professional. And, at 38-years-old, she found herself barely making it through the day.

Emily had resorted to some of the most common coping mechanisms available: coffee in the morning to give her enough energy to get going, and alcohol at night to help her sleep.

Emily had resorted to some of the most common coping mechanisms available: coffee in the morning to give her enough energy to get going, and alcohol at night to help her sleep.

She suffered from symptoms of gas, bloating and indigestion. Her symptoms eased when she was strict about her diet but returned whenever she wavered slightly. 

The First Steps

The first thing we advised Emily to do was to take the huge step of removing coffee and alcohol from her diet. Within a matter of a couple of weeks, she was amazed at how much better she felt, just from those small changes. While this is not always as impactful for everybody as it was for Emily, it does show that sometimes a couple of small tweaks can have big effects.

The Labs

As Emily made those early changes to diet, we ran a handful of functional labs, including:

  • DUTCH Complete hormone panel

  • Comprehensive thyroid panel

  • GI-Map stool pathogen test

  • Micronutrient (vitamin and mineral) test.

The Test Results

The test results showed that Emily was quite deficient in the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol is the primary stress hormone but it is also responsible for providing a sense of energy and plays an important role in regulating the circadian rhythms controlling sleep/wake cycles.

Emily was also very low in all of her female sex hormones (the estrogens and progesterone) and she was also very low in melatonin, a hormone that helps promote restful sleep.

Emily's thyroid appeared to be slightly sluggish and she was deficient in seven different important micronutrients.

Her stool test detected two different parasites, an overgrowth of two different opportunistic yeast species, suppressed immune response in the small intestines, and a very strong sensitivity to gluten-containing foods.

Part of the Hormone Report

Case stury - EL's hormones.png
Melatonin.png

Stool Test Results

EL's test.jpg

The Protocol

Emily remained free from coffee and alcohol and began to adopt a gluten-free diet.

She started doing moderate exercise, managing her stress levels, eradicating gut pathogens through an herbal protocol, and supporting her healthy hormone balance through diet, herbs, and lifestyle changes.

She introduced some herbal tinctures such as black cohosh, red clover, vitex, and motherwort to support her female hormone levels. She used a product called Adrenotone from Designs for Health to support the adrenal glands and the balance of stress hormone production through the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis.

Emily supported her micronutrient balance through the introduction of a complete mineral support formula and used the Designs for Health GI Microb-X product as one of the antimicrobial blends for eradicating infectious microorganisms. She also introduced Megaspore probiotic to rebuild beneficial gut flora and to support the immune system. 

For dietary support, Emily began seed cycling and introduced more healthy fats into her diet. She also incorporated detoxification strategies such as dry brushing and rebounding into her daily routine to help her move toxins out of the body in a natural way.

The Transformation

Photo by Patrick Hendry

Photo by Patrick Hendry

As Emily gained energy, she was able to reintegrate exercise into her life and she enjoys mountain biking and outdoor sports of many kinds.

After six months on the coaching program, Emily reported feeling better than she had in years despite experiencing some extreme stress, including the sudden death of her partner’s mother.

Over the course of her six months on the program, Emily gained enough energy and mental clarity to make big decisions about her life, including the purchase of a new home and a desire to have a baby.

Emily is now thriving, pregnant, happy in her life, and excited about her future.

 

 

Are You Ready for Your Transformation?

Work With Us!

We would be honored to work with you as a private client. We provide testing and coaching options to women in most every state and country. Come check out our coaching options to see if it’s a fit.


Bridgit.jpg

Bridgit Danner, LAc, FDNP, is trained in functional health coaching and has worked with thousands of women over her career since 2004. She is the founder of Women’s Wellness Collaborative llc and HormoneDetoxShop.com.

A Functional Approach to Weight Loss with Tara Thorne

Tara Thorne is a clinical nutritionist living in Canada & in this episode she is going to talk about functional medicine approach to weight loss. We'll also talk about intermittent fasting and supplements.

Click here to download an mp3 of "A Functional Approach to Weight Loss with Tara Thorne."

Here's what you'll hear: 

Min 02:30 Introduction to Tara Thorne

Min 04:00 Health effects of extra fat tissue

Min 07:00 Loving your body

Min 07:55 Mindset for health

Min 09:25 Adiponectin Hormone

Min 12:30 Stress, cortisol, insulin & weight connection

Min 16:35 Why cortisol increases with age

Min 19:20 Gut health & weight management

Min 24:40 Nutrition for weight loss

Min 28:30 Protein and weight loss

Min 31:00 Intermittent fasting

Min 36:40 Supplements for weight loss, sugar cravings & boosting Adiponectin

Min 45:15 Tara's coaching program & resources

Purchase the Supplements from the Episode:

We carry many of the supplements mentioned in this great interview on our online supplement store.  Currently we can mainly ship only in the U.S., but we are working to change that. We can send Megaspore probiotic to many international destinations outside the U.S.

Link to our Supplement Shop

Products to look for:

Berberine-  "Berb-Evail" SKU# BEV060  (CAUTION- Can react poorly with medications. Ask your doctor before using.)

Alpha Lipoic Acid- "Lipoic Acid Supreme" SKU# LAS060

Chromium Synergy SKU# CHR090

Turmeric- "C3 Curcumin Complex" SKU# C3C060

Magnesium Chelate powder 150 gm  SKU# MCP150

Zinc Supreme™ 90 vegetarian capsules SKU# ZNP090

Saccharomyces Boulardii-  "FloraMyces" SKU# FLM060

Fish Oil - "OmegAvail™ TG1000" SKU# OV100 (this is a very high quality absorbable fish oil)

Metabolic Synergy SKU# MSC180  (combination of nutrients and herbs for blood sugar metabolism)

L-Glutamine Powder 250 g SKU# LGL250

Tara Thorne's Resources: 

To learn more about Tara Thorne, visit her website here and follow her on social media:

Facebook

Instagram

Pinterest

Consultations

Sign Up For Our Newsletter

If you have not yet joined our community, be sure to grab our hidden Hormone stressors quiz here, and come on board!

Restore Your Radiance Program

Click here to learn about our Restore Your Radiance Program.

Thanks for listening,

Bridgit Danner, Founder of Women's Wellness Collaborative

Is Your Blood Sugar Taking Your Hormones for a Ride?

Come to me, my sweets!

Come to me, my sweets!

If you're like me, you have a sweet tooth. And if not a sweet tooth, a love of starches, like pasta or chips. And even if you're trying really hard to avoid carbs, you might still be taking your blood sugar for a ride with stress, coffee or lack of sleep.

When I first started to learn about functional medicine, I didn't get how shifts in blood sugar levels were a stress on my hormones. Sure, I knew devouring a giant cookie wasn't a good choice, but I didn't get how it was a bad choice.

For me, knowing how and why are important. This knowledge helps me say no to giant cookies. And when I make healthy choices, my skin is clear and not greasy, my period is not painful, my mood is more even, and my weight is easy to manage.

I'm going to give you a quick summary of the blood sugar roller coaster, and then give you a helpful eBook so you can take action to manage your blood sugar, and tame your hormonal symptoms.

Your body likes a steady supply of glucose (sugar). It uses this glucose as energy for thinking, walking, breathing...pretty important stuff. If you don't have a steady supply of glucose, you can develop symptoms. Some of these can be immediate, like a headache or feeling irritable. Some of these are more long-term, like a lack of hormone production.

So why would you not have a steady supply of glucose? There are two main reasons: low blood sugar and high blood sugar. These two reasons may appear to be opposites, but they are more often connected.

When you raise your blood sugar by having alcohol, a cupcake, a nice chunk of bread, etc., you often take your blood sugar too high, and your cells block any more sugar from coming inside. That sugar that got shut out will usually be stored as fat, and extra fat makes excess estrogen. Meanwhile your cells, which have blocked sugar, won't have their fuel, and you'll feel fatigued, brain dead, etc.

So now you are gaining weight and dragging ass, and you just want a cookie to pick yourself up...but then the cycle starts all over. And your hormonal system, once again, is getting an unsteady fuel supply for its functioning.

Ok, but what if you have good eating habits? Well coffee and stress spike your blood sugar, and excess protein will turn to glucose too. Chronic stress can lead to a long-term state of low blood sugar, as the adrenal glands (your stress/energy glands) also regulate blood sugar and turned stored energy into real-time energy.

In summary, all this blood sugar wonkiness can prevent your body from making hormones, or can produce excess estrogen, leading to symptoms like heavy periods, acne, low sex drive or brain fog.

Does this issue affect you if you're menopausal? Yes! Steady blood sugar is especially important for you as you weather hormonal changes.

Here's that resource I mentioned, my How To Balance Your Blood Sugar eBook:

Have you noticed the connection between your blood sugar and your hormones? Feel free to share below!

Bridgit Danner, LAc, FDNP

You Don't Have Adrenal Fatigue by Maria Claps

AdrenalFatigue

There are too many people walking around thinking that they have adrenal fatigue. This diagnosis was handed to them after a saliva test and a visit to a holistic clinician. I admit, I used to use this method of testing. I’ve ordered saliva tests on my clients and have coached them in recovering from the maladies of modern day lifestyles, and at that time I too called it adrenal fatigue. It was a good way to learn and it had some value, but the science of lab work is changing.

Many of my clients got better, because when we get adequate rest, deal with our stressors, eat nutrient dense food and take high quality supplements, our bodies usually respond well. But this didn’t mean that they had adrenal fatigue.

So if you don’t have adrenal fatigue, what do you have?

Most likely, you are experiencing a mismatch between your biology and your lifestyle. This shows up in two main ways. The first is nutrition. For the vast majority of our time on earth, we’ve consumed wild game, fish, vegetables, starchy tubers, nuts, seeds and fruit in season. Nowadays, the 6 most common foods in the modern diet are pizza, sugar sweetened beverages, beer, bread, grain based desserts, and fried chicken. This type of diet is inflammatory and is a factor in our modern day chronic unwellness.

The second, lesser known, mismatch between our bodies and our lifestyle is the activation of our stress response system. Our stress response system has two components, the sympathoadrenomedulary system (SAS) which is responsible for our immediate or short term stress response and the HPA axis, which is responsible for our intermediate or long term stress response. The HPA axis consists of the hypothalamus and pituitary glands (in the brain) and the adrenal glands (in the mid back). It helps us process threats to the body (whether those threats are a car accident or refined, nutrient poor food.)

Both of these stress response systems exist for our good. But the protective mechanisms they produce can become harmful over the long term if continually called upon.

Here’s the perfect scenario for understanding this: Imagine you're a hunter gatherer out for a walk on the savannah and all of a sudden a wild boar charges you. It's a good thing that your heart rate, blood pressure increase. It’s a crucial part of your physiology meant to ensure your escape and this your survival. But at the same time these survival mechanisms activate, your digestion and sex hormone production plummet. This is how it’s supposed to be, but it’s a problem when it rarely or never calms down.

Enter the modern lifestyle….traffic, work deadlines, inflammatory food, over-exercise, or its opposite, couch potato syndrome, smoking, OTC drug abuse, lack of rejuvenating activities. The list goes on…I’m sure you get it.

The constant activation of the stress response via the SAS and HPA pathways erodes resilience and paves the way for metabolic breakdown.

The loss of resilience is associated with the modern day disease epidemic and is why stress contributes to so many conditions.

SOME CONDITIONS ASSOCIATED WITH CHRONIC HPA AXIS STIMULATION:

  • Depression
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Excessive exercise
  • Diabetes
  • Central obesity
  • Asthma
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Eczema
  • PMS
  • Thyroid disease

If you’ve gone to a holistically minded doctor and you’ve got any number of these problems and a saliva test, you’ve probably been handed an adrenal fatigue diagnosis.

The adrenal fatigue model is loosely based on the work of Hans Selye and his general adaptation syndrome theory. Selye explained the progression of stress over time in 3 stages: alarm, resistance and exhaustion.

THE ADRENAL FATIGUE MODEL WITH THE THREE STAGES OF ADRENAL BURNOUT IS LOOSELY BASED ON THIS MODEL:

  • Stage 1 of adrenal fatigue is high cortisol with DHEA on its way down.
  • Stage 2 of adrenal fatigue is falling cortisol (which is sometimes in the normal range) and decreasing levels of DHEA
  • Stage 3 is even lower cortisol and lower DHEA.
But is the adrenal fatigue concept really accurate?
— Maria Claps, HHC, FDNP

Not really. Consider two problems with the “adrenal fatigue” diagnosis:

Most people with “adrenal fatigue” don’t have low cortisol levels. The assessment of adrenal fatigue has depended on saliva measurement of cortisol taken at 4 distinct points throughout the day. Cortisol measured in saliva is only 2-5% of our total cortisol production. The vast majority (around 70%) of our cortisol is excreted in urine. This measurement is called metabolized cortisol. Free (salivary) cortisol is NOT the best marker for cortisol production. Metabolized cortisol, however, is a good marker for overall cortisol production.

This would not matter if free and metabolized cortisol was the same. But often, they are quite different.

It’s possible to have low free cortisol and high metabolized cortisol.

Some conditions with associated with low free cortisol and high total (aka metabolized) cortisol:

  • Obesity
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Insulin resistance
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Active stress response
  • Long term glucocorticoid use

Also, it is possible to have high free cortisol and low metabolized cortisol. This is commonly seen in liver damage and hypothyroidism.

***Special note for hypothyroid sufferers: If you get a DUTCH test and it shows up as high free cortisol and low total (aka metabolized) cortisol, you might be getting overdosed on your thyroid medication***

Therefore, a saliva test is an incomplete picture of true cortisol production.

Even when total cortisol is low, it's rarely because the adrenals are tired and unable to produce it. The control mechanisms for cortisol production reside in the brain and central nervous system, not the adrenal glands themselves. The adrenals produce cortisol but the regulatory mechanisms are primarily outside the adrenal glands. Therefore we should not be calling the problem of low cortisol adrenal fatigue, but instead it should simply be called “low cortisol mechanisms”.

Here are two reasons why cortisol production can drop:

1) Down regulation of the HPA axis – when we are exposed to stress for a long time, there can be a down regulation in cortisol receptor sensitivity. This is the body’s attempt to protect itself from the damaging effects of chronically high cortisol levels. The problem with this is that it actually ends up hampering the body’s ability to produce cortisol. This is an adaptive short term mechanism that becomes harmful in the long-term.

 

2) Impaired cortisol signaling – High cortisol levels will lead to cortisol resistance. This can be caused by a decrease in cortisol receptor sensitivity and/or a decrease in cortisol receptor expression.

With the DUTCH (Dried Urine Test for Comprehensive Hormones) method of testing, which tests both free and metabolized cortisol, we have a greater understanding of the health of the adrenal glands. (We also get to look at sex hormone production and estrogen metabolite breakdown.)

True adrenal fatigue, if the term is to be used at all, should be reserved for those who have Addison’s disease, an autoimmune inability to produce cortisol.

But for the vast majority of us, our “adrenal fatigue” is simply a miscommunication between the brain/adrenals exacerbated by how we were designed to live (nutrient dense food, infrequent activation of the stress response, plenty of exposure to sunlight, connection with nature) and how many of us actually live (too much exposure to electronic screens, nutrient poor food and go-go-go lifestyles).

So what’s a woman to do?

You can get your adrenal hormones accurately (key word here!) and this is called the DUTCH test. This test uses dried urine to measure hormone levels. Precision Analytical laboratory in Oregon is the maker of this test.

Maria Claps, HHC, FDNP

Maria Claps, HHC, FDNP

Found This Interesting? Want To See More?

Sign up to get my guide on fixing your perimenopause hormones because knowledge is power.

This guide has everything I wish I knew when I went into perimenopause. Stuff even your holistic and integrative doctor may not be telling you.

You can get it at www.mariascopes.com.

Follow Maria:

Instagram

Facebook

Twitter

Periscope: search Maria Claps