Hormones and Holistic Practices
As a naturopathic doctor and acupuncturist specializing in women’s health for the past fourteen years, I began to see similar patterns of hormonal imbalance symptoms in my female patients. Weight gain, irritability, insomnia, fatigue, foggy brain, sugar cravings, irregular periods, menstrual cramps, hot flashes and night sweats are some of the many symptoms that patients struggled with. Laboratory testing to check the levels of female hormones, thyroid and adrenal function, and neurotransmitter balance are generally ordered to assess the severity of the hormone imbalances. Hormone balance is then reset and supported with diet, lifestyle changes, nutrient and herbal supplementation and if needed bio-identical hormones. Although our patients experienced significant improvement with their symptoms such as deeper sleep, improved energy, better metabolism, regular cycles, and calmer mood, I recognized that I was compartmentalizing my patient’s health concerns and treating different organ systems that were out of balance individually. I wanted to dig deeper and see how female hormones were affected by the adrenal and thyroid glands and vice versa. What I learned was eye-opening and has created a dramatic shift in the lens of my practice and my patients’ healing process.
Ovarian-Adrenal-Thyroid Axis (OAT)
The ovaries, adrenals and thyroid glands form an interdependent relationship like an equilateral triangle that must be in a harmonious balance in order for the body to function properly and optimally. Any change in one organ system will affect the other two. This relationship is called the ovarian-adrenal-thyroid axis (OAT) and when out of balance can lead to adrenal fatigue, hypothyroidism and estrogen dominance.
When the adrenal glands are stressed and depleted, hormones DHEA, estrogens, testosterone and progesterone decline. This decline in hormones generally worsens premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and peri-menopausal symptoms. In addition when the adrenals are stressed, rising cortisol levels dampen thyroid hormone production leading to hypothyroidism. Healthy adrenal function is essential for female hormone balance and optimal thyroid function.
What about the relationship between the thyroid gland and the ovaries? Estrogen excess or dominance increases thyroid binding protein, a protein that binds to thyroid hormones and inactivates thyroid hormones. Bisphenol A, a chemical found in plastic is an endocrine disruptor and xenoestrogen that contributes to estrogen dominance. One important way to reduce estrogen dominance is to reduce plastic use. The thyroid gland plays an important role in influencing the production of hormones, progesterone, estrogen and testosterone. Hypothyroidism can cause menstrual irregularities, fertility issues and like adrenal fatigue can also aggravate PMS and peri-menopausal symptoms.
What Can We Do?
When addressing female hormone imbalance it is necessary to identify which parts of the OAT axis is out of balance, how these parts are disrupting the balance and harmony of the other organ systems and restore the function of the adrenal, thyroid and ovaries as a whole.
To learn more about ovarian-adrenal-thyroid axis and the treatment recommendations for restoring hormonal balance join Dr. Tang and Tina Yang for their workshop, “Balancing Female Hormones with Adrenal and Thyroid Support and Essential Oil Acu-Therapy” on Sunday, January 20th from 12:00 – 2:00 pm.
Dr. Suzanne Tang, N.D., L.Ac.
Dr. Suzanne Tang is a Licensed Naturopathic Doctor and California Board Certified Acupuncturist and Herbalist.
Dr. Tang graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Psychobiology at the University of California at Los Angeles in 1997, where she was inspired to learn a natural, safe, and science-based approach to wellness and health. This inspiration led her to the leading, accredited academic and research center for natural medicine, Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. Here she earned a Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine and a Master of Science in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine in 2003.
Since 2004, Dr. Tang has gained many years of extensive clinical experience in private practice at several integrative health clinics in Orange County, CA. She is a well-known community speaker of natural medicine for the American Heart Association and corporations in Orange County, CA. Dr. Tang has been a contributing writer to many health magazines and newsletters and has been featured on the ABC Channel 7 News for her expertise on natural medicine and health. She taught and practiced at the UC Irvine School of Medicine and UC Irvine Susan Samueli Center for Integrative Medicine. She co-founded Coastal Acupuncture & Natural Health Center (CANH) in 2009. Dr. Tang creates balance in her life by spending quality time with her husband and two children, dancing, hiking outdoors, reading, meditating and practicing yoga.