Hormone Health - Are You Balanced?

I have had the pleasure of practicing naturopathic medicine in Victoria for the past 13 years.  During that time there have been many trends in healthcare.  When I first graduated there was thought to be an infectious cause to many illnesses - Epstein Barr Virus or Cytomegalovirus for example; this was followed by antioxidants, such as vitamin C and E, being the cure for most illnesses; inflammation then became the culprit behind disease and we focussed on reducing that.  Right now we are in the era of hormones and vitamin D3.  I say this to point out that opinions change, research continues and I like to think we are slowly unravelling the mystery that is both health and illness in the body.  As we move on to the next concept in health and disease we cannot forget the past tools we developed and the valuable research that was done.  
The current wave of research and study of hormonal health is fascinating.  It is a massive jigsaw puzzle slowly being put together.  Hormones make each of us completely unique - the issues of obesity, unexplained fatigue, low grade depression and anxiety, insomnia, and the vague feeling that you could feel better, are wrapped up in the mystery of hormonal balance. For me solving this mystery is the most challenging and rewarding part of clinical practice. 
We are lucky now in that we have tools to evaluate hormones - blood tests, saliva and urine tests; and many signs and symptoms that provide valuable clues.  Certainly no single test or symptom tells the full story, we need to gather as much evidence as we can.  
My current focus of study is thyroid health and it’s relationship with the adrenal gland.  It has always been my assumption that stress, which stimulates the adrenal gland, eventually causes the thyroid gland to take up the full burden of energy production and this leads to hypo(low functioning)thyroidism.  The opposite is also true.  Hypothyroidism can also lead to initial overstimulation of the adrenal gland and eventual depletion when it has gone undiagnosed for some time.  Clinically this means I always support both glands - I do this with lifestyle changes, nutrients, herbs and hormone replacement when necessary.  
Many people have a poorly functioning thyroid gland. I see so many people on Synthroid, the mainstream treatment for hypothyroidism, it feels like an epidemic.  Some of these individuals feel stable taking Synthroid, many have never felt fully well since the diagnosis.  Synthroid is a synthetic form of T4, it is given under the assumption that the body will convert it to T3, the active form of thyroid hormone, in the body.  Often this does happen efficiently but equally as often the conversion is impacted by other hormonal and nutritional imbalances in the body.  
It is, in my opinion, critical that before providing any thyroid hormone replacement the levels of both T3 and T4 are tested in the body.  This gives the appropriate information to guide us in whether to prescribe T4 or T3 or both.  We are very fortunate to have compounding pharmacies that will individualize the treatment for patients once these results are known. Unfortunately, despite pressures from Endocrinologists and other medical professionals, at this time the government is not allowing T3 and T4 to be tested unless the TSH (the traditional test) is out of range.  Often the TSH is “normal” when the T3 and T4 are not.  This means that if a person has symptoms of thyroid disease it is essential to test for T3 and T4 as well.  Fortunately you can order these privately at a fairly reasonable cost.  
Symptoms of hypothyroidism include fatigue, weight gain, coldness, constipation, depression, and hair loss.  Symptoms of hyper(over active)thyroidism include a racing heartbeat, sweats, anxiety, diarrhea and potentially weight loss.  When you combine adrenal issues with thyroid issues you often get fluctuating body temperature, night waking or the inability to fall asleep despite exhaustion, loss of memory, and the feeling of being constantly overwhelmed.  
If you would like to unravel the mystery of your hormonal health visiting a Naturopathic Physician is a good place to start.  We can do extensive hormonal testing and most of us can now prescribe all necessary hormone replacement.  I see wonderful results and learn so much from my patients everyday.