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For many years I’ve suspected my hormones were off. Right before I got pregnant with my third son in 2011, I remember having unusually painful cramps, headaches, hormonal acne, low energy and mood swings. I chalked it up to PMS. My OB/GYN suggested birth control, which I tried and BAM! I got pregnant. So much for that.
Much of those symptoms went away because I was pregnant, but after I started weaning my third son from breastfeeding I noticed the symptoms returned and with a vengeance. In particular, I felt moody (especially in the mornings – and I am a self-proclaimed night owl but even for me I could tell I was particularly cranky in the mornings), irritable, fatigued and had horrible hormonal breakouts again all around my chin.
Well, all of those symptoms are signs of a hormonal imbalance. And that’s not all. Signs of a hormonal imbalance can include things you would NEVER associate with hormones such as foggy thinking, forgetfulness, insomnia, anxiety, difficulty sleeping and much more (read the 21 signs of a hormonal imbalance).
I wanted to get tested, but wanted a more holistic approach to dealing with my hormonal imbalance. Then I learned about hormone testing at home.
Unlike what many of us think, it’s not just about estrogen and progesterone when it comes to hormone balancing in women. It’s about balancing the key hormones in the body to maintain optimal wellness.
Below are the key hormones in the body (according to Pure Prescriptions1):
1. Estrogen - there are three forms made by the body: estrone, estradiol and estriol. The form used in past hormone replacement therapies is estradiol, often in the form of concentrated pregnant mare’s urine (Premarin). It is a proliferative (causes growth) hormone that grows the lining of the uterus. It is also a known cancer-causing hormone: breast and endometrial (uterine) in women and prostate gland in men. It will treat menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, insomnia and memory-loss. With the bio-identical formulas estriol is matched with estradiol to provide protective effects and additional estrogenic benefits. The other major protector in keeping estradiol from running amok is progesterone.
2. Progesterone is called the anti-estrogen because it balances estradiol’s proliferative effects. It is considered preventive for breast and prostate cancers as well as osteoporosis. In addition too little progesterone promotes depression, irritability, increased inflammation, irregular menses, breast tenderness, urinary frequency and prostate gland enlargement (BPH).
3. Testosterone is an anabolic hormone (builds tissue) that is essential for men and women. The proper level of testosterone is necessary for bone health, muscle strength, stamina, sex drive and performance, heart function and mental focus.
4. DHEA is an important adrenal gland hormone, which is essential for energy production and blood sugar balance. DHEA is a precursor to other hormones, mainly testosterone.
5. Cortisol is your waking day hormone (highest in the morning and lowest at night). It is necessary for energy production, blood sugar metabolism, anti-inflammatory effects and stress response. Estrogen and progesterone are the most common treatments used in hormone therapy (HT), hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or bio-identical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) for women.
But these types of treatment is a one-size-fits-all approach that doesn’t even take adrenal hormones into consideration. The key here is to find out how ALL of our hormones are interacting together to get the full picture.
At-Home Hormone Testing
When it comes to hormones, one size does not fit all. Our hormones are like fingerprints – we all have different levels and a one-size-fits-all treatment or solution will not work. For optimal wellness, we need to find out our specific imbalances for all key hormones in the body.
Lab tests are the key in hormone testing. There are several ways to test hormones, including saliva, serum and urine – but I’ve found that accurate testing can be done easily at home through saliva.
I got this at-home 8-panel hormone lab test from Pure Prescriptions. It’s suitable for men or women. The kit came with instructions and 4 vials for me to collect saliva samples (morning, noon, dinner and right before bed) – and the collection had to happen at a certain point in my menstrual cycle (day 19) to get the most accurate reading. This test provides an assessment for estradiol (E2), progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, and cortisol (am, noon, dinner and before bed).
Consider how many hormone tests just measure at one point in the day. How accurate is that really? That’s why I loved this 8-panel hormone lab test - my hormones were tested throughout the day provide a more accurate picture of my hormonal status – not just my estrogen levels but my progesterone, testosterone and adrenal hormones too.
And the best part? There’s no need to schedule a doctor visits. There’s no need to pay a co-pay (or out of pocket). There’s no need to drive to your appointment. The test even includes a follow-up phone consultation and action plan with a health care professional to provide recommendations on supplements, diet and lifestyle changes to help to correct hormonal imbalance. The entire process took about 2-3 weeks from the time I received the kit, sent in my samples, waited for the results, and had my consultation.
Pure Prescriptions is an online retailer of doctor-grade vitamins, health supplements, green drinks, sports nutrition and at-home lab tests – in fact, they have a full suite of at-home lab tests, including hormones, gluten and food intolerances (I’ve done this test too and it’s amazing), bone health, blood typing and much more. The company has been around for over 10 years and prides itself on personalized customer service (the customer service reps will ACTUALLY do phone or chat consults with you for FREE).
The Lab Results
I was so excited when I had my follow-up phone consultation with Dr. Chad Larson, director of nutrition at Pure Prescriptions. He went over my concerns (I noted that I had hormonal acne, moodiness, and low energy in the mornings on my assessment form) and talked in depth about my results (which he also email me a copy to keep for my health records).
My Hormone Lab Test Results
I want to share with you in the hopes that it may help you to address hormone issues and imbalances too:
- My progesterone levels are very low – to the point that Dr. Larson asked if I was on birth control. I’m not so this is something for me to address.
- The number of days in my menstrual cycle are unpredictable – which could play a role in my progesterone levels and moodiness.
- Because my progesterone levels are so low, I have estrogen dominance (though my estrogen is at normal levels). Estrogen dominance is measured by the ratio of progesterone to estrogen levels in the body.
- My testosterone levels are within normal ranges.
- My DHEA and cortisol levels are high – and in particular my cortisol levels are lower than normal at night, which may be why I wake up in the mornings so tired and cranky. It also suggests that my adrenal health is not balanced – not quite adrenal fatigue (which is what I suspected) but still not within normal ranges.
- My diet and lifestyle assessment was normal – though as a working mom with three kids, stress does play a role.
My Hormone Action Plan
1. I need to address my low progesterone levels. I talked to Dr. Larson about using essential oils as part of my treatment plan, and he was completely supportive of it. I use a natural progesterone serum called Progessence Plus from Young Living, made with wild yam and vitamin E, as well as Frankincense, Bergamot and Peppermint essential oils. I dab Progessence Plus (find out where to buy here) on my wrists and rub on my neck 2-3 times a day. It’s been over a month and so far I’ve definitely noticed my irritability has improved.
2. I need to address my unpredictable menstrual cycle. Dr. Larson recommended Chaste Tree (Vitex). Chaste tree is a natural supplement associated with promoting healthy menstrual luteal phase length and menstrual regularity. I’ve been taking it for a month, so it’s too early to tell if my cycle has regulated but I’ll report back soon.
3. I need to address my adrenal health. I’m using an essential oil blend called En-R-Gee (made with Rosemary, Juniper, Clove, Black Pepper, Lemongrass, Nutmeg and Idaho Balsam Fir to support my adrenal glands, to help to reduce cortisol levels, and to boost mental alertness and energy. I apply En-R-Gee (find out where to buy here) over my adrenal glands (about the middle of the back) in the morning and around 9 pm at night to help regulate my energy level. After a month, I noticed my energy levels have been more balanced. I don’t have get a mid-afternoon crash, and I wake up feeling more refreshed. I still need a couple of minutes to wake up but I don’t feel moody and fatigued anymore.
4. I need to address my moods. I’ve been using the essential oil blend Joy (made with Rose, Bergamot, Ylang Ylang, Roman Chamomile and other essential oils to help relieve stress, combat irritability, relieve nervous tension, and provide balance and harmony) to help with my moods too. I dab both Progessence Plus and Joy (find out where to buy here) on my wrists and rub on my neck 2-3 times a day. If I feel extra crabby, I inhale Joy for a couple of minutes in the morning or diffuse it in my car while running errands.
I’m excited to have the answers to my hormonal imbalance, and happy to have a roadmap for recovery.
Do you think your hormones are out of whack? You can do something about it. Get your hormones tested with the at-home lab test from Pure Prescriptions. It’s great for both men and women. Don’t Mess with Mama readers get 25% off any lab test with coupon code TBBLOG.
Photo credit: DepositPhotos.com / wavebreakmedia
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