Hormone Imbalance – Getting to the Root of it

Maca 2 FinOptimal health and wellbeing are directly linked to a careful balancing act between hormones.  Powerful in just micrograms, hormones are chemical messengers secreted into our blood stream that regulate everything from metabolism to mood. The steroid sex hormones include oestrogens, progesterones and testosterone and are found in both genders but in different proportions and with unique functions. The balance of these hormones promotes not only secondary sexual characteristics in puberty but also ensure good health and promote vitality and fertility.

Thought by most as “female” hormones, oestrogens (oestrone, oestradiol, and oestreiol) are needed by both genders.  In females, they are synthesized and secreted by the ovaries, adrenal glands, liver, breast tissue and fat cells.  Oestrogens promote the growth of the uterine lining during the first half of the menstrual cycle, ensure a healthy libido, increase fat stores, prevent bone loss, maintain good cholesterol levels and are crucial to fertility, amongst a long list of metabolic and physiological activities.  Too high levels of oestrogens is referred to as ‘oestrogen dominance’ which poses vast health and fertility implications to a woman’s health including heavy periods, PMS and uterine fibroid.  In males, oestrogens are a byproduct of testosterone conversion and are found in lower levels than in females, but play an important role in male physiology including a healthy libido and regulating the whole of the reproductive system. In males it’s important that oestrogen levels remain in low levels as too high levels cause a sluggish metabolism, a loss of body hair, changes in body odour, fat stored in breast tissue, urination difficulties, erectile dysfunction, prostate issues and infertility amongst many other health concerns.

Progesterones are a class of steroid sex hormones and are produced in the ovaries and adrenal glands in females. Progesterones promote fat metabolism, calm the body and mind, protect against breast and uterine cancer amongst many other activities.  In women, a balance between oestrogens and progesterones is of vital importance.  With adequate progesterone levels PMS is prevented, mood swings no more, weight gain halted, irregular cycles (dysmenorrhea) regulated and hot flashes go.  Low levels of progesterones are linked to polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, breast tenderness, infertility and a host of other health complaints. Progesterones are key to regulating blood sugar levels, preventing depression including postpartum, and have powerful anti-inflammatory properties.  Progesterones in males are made in the adrenal glands and testes and help balance the effects of oestrogen just like in women, its calming effects lift the mood and encourages restful sleep. Progesterone promotes fat metabolism and in men prevents fat storage in breast tissue and protects against prostate enlargement, helps to regulate libido and the whole sexual reproductive system. Progesterone in adequate levels also helps to keep testosterone levels balanced, boosts energy levels, increases muscle mass and strength.

Testosterone is a part of the androgen group of hormones and is an anabolic steroid sex hormone.  Like all steroid hormones testosterone synthesis uses cholesterol as a main building block.  In males testosterone is secreted by the testes and adrenal glands and it’s responsible for male secondary sexual characteristics and is essential for spermatogenesis, libido and overall health and well-being.  High levels of testosterone cause aggressive behavior, risk taking, male pattern baldness, high cholesterol levels and increases the risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease.  In males, low testosterone levels can cause depression, slow recovery time after exertion, lower semen volume, poor concentration, weight gain, reduced sexual desire and erectile dysfunction and has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease.  Testosterone in females is made by the ovaries, adrenal glands and fat cells and is vital for regulating dozens of biological and metabolic actions in the body including sexual appetite and fertility.  Low levels of testosterone in females is linked to low libido, vaginal dryness, inability to orgasm, muscle weakness and a significant risk of developing osteoporosis.  An imbalance of testosterone to “female hormones” causes similar issues as in men but includes PCOS, poor blood sugar management, acne, excess body hair, balding, high cholesterol levels and infertility in women.

As we’ve seen too much or too little (micrograms only) of any particular hormone will have a significant effect on health and wellbeing.  The homeostatic balancing act between hormones can be disrupted by many factors including diet and lifestyle choices, prolonged stress, surgery, oral contraceptives, ageing and environmental pollutants, termed endocrine disrupters that mimic or block the actions of hormones like oestrogens and testosterone in the body.  These disrupter compounds are readily found in some foods, shampoos, perfumes, sunscreens, deodorants, plastics, household cleaners, PVC, carpets, makeup, food additives, herbicides, pesticides, solvents and many more. Daily exposure to these compounds can tip the balance so that health and fertility are compromised.  With an estimated one in five New Zealander’s affected by infertility and one in five women diagnosed with PCOS, one in ten women diagnosed with endometriosis and uterine fibroids effecting half of all women, it is clear to see that sex hormone imbalance is truly prevalent.  So apart from becoming aware of our individual exposure to these compounds and making different consumer choices, what can help return the balance of our sex hormones that will redress the signs and symptoms of too little or too much of any given hormone?

Try Maca… a Peruvian root vegetable of the Brassicaceae family.  Growing at altitudes of over 4000 metres in a hostile environment that has intense cold, sunlight and winds, Maca has a reputation for nutrient density, energizing abilities, memory boosting, fertility enhancing and adaptogenic properties.  In Peru it has been cultivated for over 2000 years and is taken by the locals for fertility issues, sexual dysfunction, peri-menopause symptoms, osteoporosis, prostate enlargement and for boosting energy levels.  Clinical trials highlight that Peruvian Ginseng or Maca increases seminal volume, sperm counts and motility, increases zinc levels in the prostate an reduces prostatic enlargement, increases libido and reduces vaginal dryness, hot flushes, boosts metabolism and regulates mood.  Clinical researchers have identified novel lipid compounds, macaenes and macamides found only in maca that maybe responsible for these health benefits but other key ingredients that could be responsible include the high levels of protein (20+amino acids), essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, trace elements and/or the plant sterols beta-sitosterol, campesterol and stigmasterol.  Maca is rich in iron, calcium, zinc, copper, potassium, iodine, magnesium, Vitamins B1, B2, C and C and has been classed in herbal medicine as adaptogenic.  This means that if there is too little or too much of a particular hormone Maca funds and supports the body to bring hormone levels back to par.  As a "non-oestrogenic herb" Maca does not introduce external hormone-like substances to the body, but instead nourishes and stimulates the Ovaries, Testes, Adrenal Glands and other glands of the Endocrine system to produce balanced levels of the hormones oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone naturally.  Maca is truly a functional food that helps the body adapt to stress, normalize hormone levels and metabolism, provides a ‘feel good’ factor and increases stamina.

O2B Organic Maca is high in protein (20+amino acids), essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, trace elements and plant sterols that readily boost energy and stamina.

Written by O2B Healthy Nutritional Therapist, Ali Maskell B.Sc. (Hons)