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Holy Hormones! 5 Common Health Questions, Answered By Local Professionals

Estrogen, testosterone, serotonin, progesterone, insulin—there are a number of hormones we’ve all heard of and whose purpose we understand. But do you really know the impact hormones have on your day-to-day life and health?

“Hormones are the body’s chemical messengers that are released into the bloodstream and then transported to various tissues and body organs. They control and coordinate the body’s functions,” says Anna Rashidi, PharmD, a clinical pharmacy specialist at Innovative Compounding Pharmacy. “They’re vital to our well-being and health; and, when out of balance, can lead to multiple health problems, such as diabetes, thyroid issues, weight loss or gain, infertility, and myriad other issues.” But hormones aren’t always the cause, either. If you’re wondering whether yours are out of whack and the culprit behind your health concerns, read on.

I’m having night sweats but not of menopausal age. What could it be?
There’s more than one cause for night sweats, aka hot flashes that happen at night. The major contributors are being overweight, especially in the belly, hormonal fluctuations due to excess belly fat and/or entering perimenopause, and a spike in stress. Perimenopause begins several years before menopause (usually in a woman’s 40s) and is the time when the ovaries gradually begin to make less estrogen.
—Pamela Connor, Functional Nutritionist, Connor Wellness Clinic, Roseville,

I have low energy and trouble concentrating. I’ve heard of adrenal stress but don’t know much about it. Is this what I’m experiencing?
According to Chinese medicine, the adrenal glands are related to the kidneys. Long-term stress and/or extreme trauma can cause the kidneys to weaken and become depleted. Low energy, lack of focus, and poor concentration are symptoms that may arise when the energy of the kidneys [is weak, since one of the organ's roles is] supporting healthy brain function.
—Bradley Cimino, LAc, DNBAO, ProActive Acupuncture, locations in Roseville and Sacramento,

I have insomnia, no matter how hard I try to sleep or how tired I feel. Are my sleep troubles hormone-related? Should I try melatonin to help?
Insomnia—the inability to sleep at night or during the day—is not caused by a hormone imbalance. With that said, a hormone imbalance can cause disrupted sleep. If your poor sleep is caused by a hormone imbalance, melatonin will not work.
—Pamela Connor, Functional Nutritionist, Connor Wellness Clinic, Roseville,

I'm often tired, and my sex drive is non-existent. Is low libido and fatigue common in both men and women as they age?
Energy and sex drive can definitely be intertwined. Unfortunately, there is the inaccurate thought that [aging causes] fatigue and/or low libido. The best treatment is to meet with your health care provider to determine the underlying cause, which may not be related to sex hormones at all. For example, fatigue can be connected to many issues, ranging from inadequate sleep to thyroid disorders (hormone levels) or heart disease, and may also play a role in the libido concern. Certain medications and stress can cause both of these problems, too. [Finding the] source of the fatigue and low libido will open the avenue for the best treatment and provide the most successful long-term solution.
—Joshua Wormley, FNP-C, Marshall Family Medicine, El Dorado Hills,

I’ve been breaking out and haven’t changed my skin care routine. Could it be related to a change in my hormones?
Adult acne is usually related to hormone fluctuations and is more common in women than men, especially around menopause, because of the changes in hormone production. Botanical medicine is great for balancing hormones, which may be contributing to the acne, [as is] liver support, since our liver helps us detox and [remove] excess toxins and hormones. Optimizing digestion is also important to ensure nutrients are properly absorbed for skin health. Keep in mind that food sensitivities, which can cause maldigestion, can also cause acne at any age. Identifying sensitivities and removing triggers can greatly improve skin health.
—Dawn Alden, ND, Revolutions Naturopathic, locations in Roseville and Folsom,

4 More Hormones, Explained

Our bodies make many different hormones, and Innovative Compounding Pharmacy’s Anna Rashidi, PharmD, shares about four important ones and what they do.

Photo ©polkadot -


Known as the “hunger hormone,” ghrelin is predominantly secreted by the stomach. “It stimulates appetite and growth hormone release,” she says. “Ghrelin signals hunger to the brain, which causes appetite increase and prompts us to eat. It is mainly regulated by food intake. Ghrelin levels increase before eating and when fasting and decrease after eating.

Released by fat cells in adipose tissue, leptin acts as a mediator of long-term regulation of energy balance, suppresses food intake, and can possibly induce weight loss, she says. “During obesity, it is not uncommon to see the decrease of response to leptin, causing leptin resistance. Avoiding processed food, eating healthy fats and fiber, and physical activity can improve leptin resistance,” she says.

Insulin is produced by the pancreas and its main function is to utilize sugar from the carbohydrates we consume to use for energy or store for future use. “It keeps the body’s blood sugar from being too high or too low. Insulin dysregulation can lead to conditions like diabetes, insulin resistance, weight gain, metabolic syndrome, and more. It’s very important to see a health care professional if insulin dysregulation is suspected,” she says.

Cortisol—a glucocorticoid steroid hormone synthesized from cholesterol—is known as a stress, or “fight and flight,” hormone. “It regulates a wide range of functions throughout the body and can affect nearly every organ system,” she says. “Cortisol helps the body respond to stress and can affect metabolism and immune response. It suppresses digestive and reproductive systems along with growth processes and alerts immune system responses. Constant excess of cortisol puts you at risk for multiple health problems, such as weight gain, depression, digestive issues, heart disease, anxiety, sleep problems, and more.

by Kourtney Jason
Header photo ©elnariz -