Hormone Imbalance or Hormone Allergy
Hormone imbalance is a type of allergic reaction experienced by women from before puberty to old age. It is a heightened reaction to the normal function of hormones. It occurs in almost all women during the premenstrual part of their cycle. In some women it gets so pronounced that there is an actual hormone allergy to their own hormones which heightens their reactions.
The most common disorders associated with ordinary hormone imbalance reactions are:
- Weight Problems
- Loss of Short Term Memory
- Skin Problems
- Mood Swings
- Diminished Sex Drive
If the reactions become more severe then we run into actual hormone allergy where we find a group of more serious disorders:
- Anxiety and Panic Attacks
- Premenstrual Asthma
- Menstrual Migraine
- Interstitial Cystitis
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
This phenomenon seems clear to the women who experience it, but it is not widely recognized by their physicians. And while there are many journal references to the connection between hormones and symptoms, we have only just published our research that demonstrates, for the first time, the presence of IgE antibodies to hormones in our patients. This is the first scientific evidence of hormone allergy
. This also explains why your doctor isn’t aware of it. I am aware of only one recent textbook that actually suggests a hormone allergy
. That book is Endometrium & Endometriosis
(1997). In the final chapters, Drs. Mabry, Konetzki and Mary Lou Balweg (President of the American Endometriosis Association) discuss their research and experience treating endometriosis as though it were in some part a result of a hormone allergy
. In the final chapter, Mary Lou Balweg discusses the effectiveness of treating the allergic factors. Dr. Kresch, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Stanford Medical School in Palo Alto, California, has suggested that addressing the hormone allergy
of his patients has allowed him to deal with their endometriosis problems without surgery in a majority of patients.
And there are several recent papers describing "Premenstrual Asthma."
A significant recent acknowledgement of hormone allergy
is found in the January, 1998 article in the New England Journal of Medicine. This article is titled "Differential Behavior Effects of Gonadal Steroids in Women And In Those Without Premenstrual Syndrome."
It is well known that as we age our skin changes. Older women experience bruising on their arms, dryness from the neck down, oiliness from the neck up, wrinkles and ‘age’ spots.
Younger women may experience "acne" or red spots on their face, scalp, bosom and upper back. Often I see unusual hair growth called "hirsutism." In one case a twenty year-old woman was shaving twice a day and the hair on her head was so thin you could see her scalp in all areas. She also had coarse, long hair on her arms and legs and a thick thatch of hair on her bosom. Her doctor had found all of her hormones to be "within normal limits."
The typical post-menopausal little old lady is bald headed with chin whiskers, a mustache, thin, dry skin and a cranky personality. (I know this isn’t always true and it certainly doesn’t describe my dear, sweet, old mom or yours; but, I need to make a point...).
Menopause is defined as the end of ovulation: no more eggs. Fairly profound changes begin to take place and they accelerate as the years go by. Primarily you are no longer fertile. You are out of warranty, and Nature is going to get rid of you. Menopause is characterized by low levels of estrogen. Low levels of estrogen are not found in teenage girls.
- Reduce “hot flashes”
- Prevent and reverse osteoporosis
- Soften your skin and reduce wrinkles and bruising
- Reduce depression (Harvard Women’s Health letter, Sept. 1998)
- Prevent or reverse Alzheimer’s Disease
- Improve memory
- Improve driving skills and motor tasks
I see hormone allergy
causing skin problems in little girls of eight or nine and most commonly in early teens and ladies from about thirty-five to forty-five. Each new generation seems to begin menstruation a little earlier than the last. I think I see a much larger percentage of female allergy patients than men because their hormone cycles are much more pronounced from puberty through menopause.
I suspect this has always been true, but I believe the reason for the increasing magnitude of the problem goes once again to the increase in hypersensitivity (hormone allergy
included) that we are seeing in this country. If we accept the possibility that our increasing population of hypersensitivity "boomers" can react to anything, then it is easy to see where hormone allergy
could lead us.
If a perfectly balanced hormone factory is humming along smoothly, then we don’t have any problems. (Those students may leave the room, you are dismissed from class.) But what might we see if there is a problem with the hormone factory? What if the girl is born with slightly less estrogen
Mona Lisa is the classic female. She has a big, pear-shaped bottom (facilitates easy vaginal deliveries). She has large, pendulous breasts (provides ready nourishment for offspring). She has perfect skin and complexion, a full head of hair and a serene and placid smile on her face. None
of my patients look like this.
I see more of the hunter-killer
type. The women I see don’t look like Mona Lisa and wouldn’t want to if they could, thank you very much. They are heavy or thin. They are intense.
Lightning frequently flashes from their eyes. They are sick unto death of hearing that "it’s just stress" and "it’s all in your head." They frequently have thin, fine hair. Many have increased facial hair on their upper lip and chin (especially in the 35 and over group). There is often a full, thick patch of pubic hair (Mona Lisa had a delicate little patch of soft pubic hair that grew in tiny little triangle that was not visible when she wore a bikini bottom…she never got "waxed").
Women with a hormone imbalance may see a few pubic hairs growing up in a diamond pattern along the midline toward the naval. Some see a few long, dark, curly hairs growing around the edge of the nipple tissue. Do NOT shave these. They just grow back faster. They can be plucked, removed by laser, or ignored.) These are fairly common signs of the imbalance in the hormone factory and probably occur in these proportions:
|Thinning scalp hair
|Increased facial hair
|Bosom or breast hair
|Thick pubic hair
The most common sign of the hormone allergy
is skin problems
. We can only make a certain amount of hormones. This amount varies from birth (highest hormone) to old age (lowest hormones). In my Hormone Factory
illustration, I am trying to show the relative priority Mother Nature places on our different hormones.
Obviously some hormones are of greater consequence than others. Of these six hormones, adrenalin
is the top priority in the eyes of nature. Anybody who didn’t make enough adrenalin (in the last 2 million years) was eaten by the bears. They certainly didn’t live long enough to grow to child-bearing age so; of course, the deficiency could never be passed on. Not enough adrenalin? You’re out of here. This is what is known as a lethal gene
. If you are so unlucky as to be born with this genetic material you don’t have to worry about skin problems.
On the other hand, enough adrenalin
and more, much more, is one of the more common traits I see in my female patients. Excess adrenalin is often the case. These are intense
, type A personalities. They are often professional women who frequently raise children (and husbands). They have one or two jobs and they seem to have the sole responsibility for the house, the yard and the dog and the cat. They are tired.
They are overweight.
They don’t feel attractive and they don’t feel like having sex. If that weren’t enough, they complain to their doctor who examines them carefully and does a few tests and explains to them that they “are just fine”. "There is nothing wrong with you.'
So what are your choices? Either you are imagining things…or you have indeed lost your mind (along with your car keys).
Nature's next most important hormone for women is estrogen
. Reproduction of the species is Mother Nature’s second highest priority for us. Right after surviving long enough to do it using our abundant supply of adrenalin.
If there is a hormone imbalance, then the person would be unable to reproduce. Mother Nature works very hard to correct such imbalances. The imbalance can obviously involve any of the many reproductive hormones (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, L.H., F.S.H., etc.), but for this discussion, I’m going to concentrate on low estrogen relative to progesterone.
If Mother Nature sees you are too low in estrogen she will begin to divert assets to try to increase estrogen production.
for all of our hormones. Think of it as the most basic building unit, like a brick. Since we can only make a limited amount of DHEA “bricks” with which we construct our brick hormone houses, then any shortage of DHEA bricks from the factory must result in a lower supply of some hormones.
can indicate hormone imbalance and hormone allergy
. How can we be sure it’s hormonal? I find that the earlier periods begin, the greater the hormone imbalance or hormone allergy
. The younger they are when they begin the more pronounced the problem. It invariably gets worse each month when the estrogen drops, about a week before the period begins.
Hormone imbalance often disappears during pregnancy when all the hormones are high, especially estrogen. It increases (or begins) after childbirth, or almost invariably by mid to late thirties. Okay, now we know what it looks like. So, what do you do about it?
Correct the Imbalance!
I begin with a laboratory panel
This is almost always low in women over twenty five. This is one of the most frequent things we want to supplement. (See Suzanne Summer’s The Sexy Years
). Many young women want to try a "natural" approach first. Almost any woman over thirty is going to be lower in estrogen than she was at eighteen. If we find her in the low levels of “normal” or even “out-of-range” low in estrogen I suggest a sixty day trial course of bioidentical estrogens. We see if these improve her symptoms and re-check them at the end of sixty days to make sure we are still in the “normal” range.
Unopposed estrogen is a treatment option in women with a uterus provided an annual endometrial biopsy is obtained (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 1986, No. 93; Also in JAMA, May 21, 1997, p 1516).
Of all the symptoms I see that are associated with hormone imbalance
, the most common are weight increase, fatigue and loss of short-term memory, pain and anxiety
ANXIETY AND PANIC ATTACKS
In instances of major fatigue and anxiety
the patients have reached a state of adrenal exhaustion which results in low cortisol. When this occurs there is no choice but to use our backup emergency hormone, adrenalin, for all the things are regulated by cortisol: energy, allergy and stress
. Whenever your body calls on your adrenal gland and says, "we need some energy, send us some cortisol," your adrenal gland replies, "sorry girl, you’ve been out of cortisol these last few months; but we'll send you what we've got plenty of…adrenalin
Adrenalin is design for life-threatening
EMERGENCIES. In previous ages it was only needed when you were attacked by raging wolves or tigers. It allows us to perform superhuman tasks required for survival. It's like rocket fuel. Now, if you are low on estrogen and your body makes less cortisol as a result, then you will have no reserve for use in all your daily needs forenergy
or to deal with allergy
or to deal with stress
So, you end up with the effect of progesterone out of balance with estrogen... hair loss, etc., the typical perimenopausal or menopausal
Furthermore, you use adrenalin for all the things for which you usually use cortisol. Adrenalin will
get it done, but it is a very uncomfortable form of energy. Hard, brittle energy. Very tense for an hour and a half or two, then the bottom drops out as your sugar drops precipitously.
So, then, we "drug" ourselves with some food or drink so we can feel better again. This is how we get into food allergy and addiction. If we drink something we are mildly allergic to (like a Coke or a cup of coffee) our body has a mild allergic reaction and releases a dose of adrenalin
. In moments we begin to feel better
. More energy. More alert. Less shaky. This gives us a couple of hours of energy. Then the bottom falls out all over again. This means we will have seven or eight of these two hour excursions each day. Each adrenalin excursion is a little lower than the previous one. By the end of the day we are absolutely exhausted
. Out of gas. It's over.
Now your husband says, "Honey, let's go out and get a bite to eat and maybe take in a movie." You give him a withering look, plop down on the couch, put your feet up, click on the TV and reply, "Are you nuts? I'm beat! Let's order Chinese..”.. and you collapse in a heap. Or, you get home after work and you need a further jolt of adrenalin to deal with questions from the kids (and Dad) like “What’s for dinner? I’m hungry. Why can’t I have my own cell phone? …and so forth.
Eventually you fall asleep in absolute exhaustion, but... you don't rest! You will sleep fitfully
, perhaps awaken with any "click" or "pop" in the house. Most will awaken between 2 and 3 AM because mold sporulates
(reproduces) at about 2 AM and, as it pours out of AC systems, our bodies react with yet another burst of adrenalin which wakes us up and often “scares the pee” out us as many will feel an urgent need to urinate. We fall back asleep, in continuing exhaustion, and awaken in the morning feeling like we haven't had enough "rest" and this is indeed the case.
If we are using adrenalin to run our daily lives, we are like someone who has had way too much coffee. They will eventually fall asleep, but they cannot sink deeply enough asleep to get REM (rapid eye movement) sleep or fourth level, restorative sleep. If we are over-adrenalized we cannot seem to catch up on our rest. In fact, the longer we sleep, the worse we feel.
Now we have a new problem... chronic sleep deprivation
. And you thought you were "jittery
" before. So you get up feeling like you haven't had enough rest (and indeed you haven't) and what do you have to do? Put out a squirt of adrenalin to begin your day... And the pattern begins to repeat itself, day after day. Now we begin to feel frequent chest tightness, shortness of breath, tingling and numbness, difficulty swallowing, gastric acid reflux, stomach aches, joint pain and severeirritability
The only way to get rid of this adrenalin is through long, slow, distance. Walking or easy cycling is the best way. If a person like this could find the time and motivation to walk six or seven hours a day the pattern would begin to reverse and the adrenalin would be used up and they would get restful sleep.
Unfortunately, most folks don't have the time (nor the inclination) for this, and everybody wants relief now
. This is how people get addicted to valium, alcohol, and other serious drugs.
What's the best solution? Address the stress factors. Block the hormone allergy
. Adjust the hormone imbalance. This usually means boosting the estrogen, testosterone, thyroid, and DHEA. We block hormone allergy
using weak dilutions of progesterone in the form of sublingual drops (see the section on my new publication on Hormone Allergy
, on the home page). Very rarely it is necessary to adjust cortisol levels. We also urge dietary changes (low fat, low carb diets are good, like theSouth Beach Diet
). Try to remember…sugar is not your friend
. Get lots of movement (walking as opposed to running, for example). I suggest at least one hour daily of slow walking, within the proper heart rate range for fat burning, to get rid of adrenalin. We suggest appropriate nutritional supplements for adrenal and metabolic support (I highly recommend Mannatech
products, and vitamins.) We urge stress reduction in any form available to you. Personally, I am particularly fond of prayer. Spirituality has been a powerful health force for far longer than medicine has been in existence. I urge all my patients to use it.