Possible Causes Of Abnormally Low Cortisol Levels
Also called primary adrenal insufficiency, this is a condition that occurs when the adrenal glands are damaged and become unable to produce enough cortisol and/or other stress hormones. This is most often caused by auto-immune activity, where the immune system attacks the bodys own tissues. Other potential causes include long-term use of steroid medications, certain blood thinners, tumors and infections.
Problems with the pituitary gland
Low cortisol levels can be caused by the pituitary gland failing to release enough ACTH. This latter is important to trigger adequate amounts of cortisol to be released from the adrenal glands. This is typically referred to as secondary adrenal insufficiency, or hypopituitarism and, can be caused by trauma to the pituitary gland, brain tumors, pituitary gland tumors, stroke, autoimmune diseases and tuberculosis, among many other possible causes.
Androgen Excess And Hormone Imbalance
There are other forms of hormone imbalance too like those that arises from excess androgens in PCOS. Usually you can check these hormones when you check the others. You would not want to check when you are menstruating because the production of these hormones is going to be lowest at this time. These hormone levels may be much higher later on in the cycle. Specifically the hormones that are important to look at and understand how they are funneling through the body are dhea, dhea sulfate, total and free testosterone, sometimes dihydrotestosterone and definitely hydroxy-progesterone.
Keep in mind not all insurances are going to pay for all these lab tests. In this case it may make more sense to do a urine test. These test provide a full hormone profile of all these hormones plus others. By looking at all these you can see which enzymes are up regulated and turned on and which ones are turned off based on the relative levels of the different hormones.
For example, you may do a dhea level and it looks really low but your dhea sulfate is really high. This suggests the enzyme between dhea and dhea sulfate is working relatively good and the the enzyme that breaks dhea sulfate into androstenedione is moving much slower. This is where you get the clues to understand what you need to do to fix the imbalance or create balance.
If you want a customized plan on checking and treating your hormone imbalance, click in the link below to get started.
You’re Tired All The Time Or You Can’t Sleep
Insomnia can have many causes. But if you’re having a hard time sleeping, it could be hyperthyroidism, according to the Mayo Clinic. In addition, Dr. Block said, “I also find racing thoughts before bedtime often accompany hyperthyroidism.” That is something that we might think is psychological, but it can have a physical cause.
Another symptom to watch out for is fatigue, which can be a symptom of both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. Dr. Ehsan Ali, the physician known as the Beverly Hills Concierge Doctor, told me that fatigue is a big sign you should get your thyroid checked.
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Understanding How Hormones Should Work
Its a little bit like a symphony. Most of us have all the notes, they are just not playing in key. The ovaries produce three different estrogens estradiol, estrone, and estriol, progesterone, and about half of the bodys testosterone production. The other half of testosterone production is produced in the adrenal glands.
Each month during a womans menstrual cycle, the ovary has a list of things to do, and the endometrium, or lining of the uterus, has a list of things to do. In the role of the egg development and lining development, there are four different hormones . Note, your body requires a pretty big jump of progesterone in the luteal phase, and when the body doesnt produce that, it is pretty noticeable . Hence the symphony analogy, you probably have all the right hormones, but if you dont have the spikes of them during this cycle, then the notes are not playing in tune. Dont worry, it is fixable.
Why Take A Womens Hormone Test
A hormone level test can tell you a lot about your bodyâs well-being. The test results can point you to a hormone imbalance, which can affect your health. This is because hormones regulate many vital functions in the body by acting as âchemical messengers.â So out-of-balance hormones can disrupt your bodyâs normal, healthy functioningâand result in a variety of symptoms.
For example, if your thyroid hormones are out of balance, you might experience symptoms like fatigue, cold sensitivity, irregular periods, dry skin, thinning hair, and more.
Or if your steroid hormones are imbalanced, you could have symptoms like increased body fat, lowered sex drive, loss of strength, and so on.
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How To Test Cortisol Levels
Cortisol levels are measured with lab tests. These may be blood tests, which measure levels of the hormone in the bloodstream, or saliva tests, which measure cortisol levels in a saliva sample. Cortisol testing is typically done early in the morning, when levels are normally highest. Often, to produce the most accurate results, testing is repeated in the afternoon of the same day. Cortisol testing is often done in conjunction with ACTH level tests, since this pituitary gland hormone works to regulate cortisone levels. ACTH tests measure levels of the hormone in the bloodstream.
Getting tested can be done through your health care provider, who can order your tests for you, take your blood or saliva samples or send you to a lab to have them done. Then, your provider will let you know your results once they are delivered to his or her office.
You can also order these lab tests yourself online or over the phone from independent testing services, like Health Testing Centers. Ordering your own tests is generally less expensive, since you skip the cost of an office visit, and more efficient, since the results are delivered directly to you.
However, it is important to note that if your tests show that your cortisol and/or ACTH levels are abnormal too high or too low following up on those results with a visit to your healthcare provider is essential. Abnormal levels of these important hormones require further examination and testing.
Blood Tests For Hormone Levels Q& a
Here at the Marion Gluck Clinic, we place a focus on giving you the very best experience and precise, personalised care. We are often asked questions about the blood tests that are required for treatment at the clinic. We sat down with Dr Ghazala Aziz-Scott, one of our hormone doctors, to help answer your most frequently asked questions about blood tests for hormone levels and hormone balancing therapy.
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Discover What Your Body’s Hormone Levels Are Like
This easy-to-use female hormone panel will provide you with your levels of each of the 11 biomarkers measured in our Womenâs Health test and whether your levels fall within established normal ranges for your age.
As with all of our tests, we encourage you to share your results with your doctor as he/she can best offer guidance in your health and hormonal questions.
Your Heart Rate Is Changing Or You’re Feeling Heart Palpitations
If you are feeling weird sensations around your chest, neck, or throat, it could be heart palpitations, and they may be caused by your thyroid, not your heart itself. The Mayo Clinic describes a number of things connected with your heart rate that can really indicate hyperthyroidism, including “rapid heartbeat commonly more than 100 beats a minute,” as well as “irregular heartbeat or pounding of your heart .” Dr. Goldfarb explained: “When your thyroid is making too much hormone , you can experience racing heart” as well as “palpitations.” On the other hand, a slower heart rate can indicate hypothyroidism, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Dr. Cohen said that “when thyroid levels are low, we are low” and “our hearts might beat slower.” He added, “If thyroid levels are high, a person will show signs of overactivity,” including a “racing heart.”
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Symptoms And Potential Complications
Imbalances in female hormones can have far-ranging effects on the body, producing a variety of physical, emotional and cognitive changes. These changes can cause symptoms that may include:
- Menstrual cycle changes, including shorter or longer times between periods, and periods that are longer, shorter, heavier or lighter than normal.
- Hot flashes and night sweats.
- Insomnia and other sleep disturbances
- Diminished sex drive
- Unexplained weight gain, especially in the abdominal area, hips and thighs
- Skin changes, such as thinning, dryness and wrinkling
- Dry, brittle hair
Female hormone imbalance can increase a woman’s risk of a number of diseases and health problems. Among the most serious of these is heart disease, with risk increasing as estrogen levels decrease. Women with hormonal imbalances are also at greater risk for osteoporosis, since low levels of estrogens can interfere with the absorption of calcium and other nutrients essential to the maintenance of bone health and density.
Why Are Blood Tests So Important For Hormone Treatment
Dr Aziz-Scott: Although we can get an idea of where the problem lies by assessing history and symptoms specific to hormone health, blood tests give us more information about exactly whats going on with each patient we see.
At a glance, blood tests:
- Give an in-depth analysis of specific hormones.
- Ensure an accurate diagnosis.
- Allow your doctor to ensure the amount of hormones in your body are not higher than what is physiologically appropriate, and to know that the prescribed treatment is working effectively.
- Help your doctor understand if any changes to your medication are required.
- Are essential for monitoring your safety.
- Ensure you are getting the very best care from the Marion Gluck Clinic.
In the initial appointment, we need to understand whether a patient is perimenopausal, menopausal, or whether they could have premature menopause or some other hormonal condition. The initial blood tests allow us to evaluate which hormone levels are raised or lower than expected to aid with an accurate diagnosis.
Estrogen and progesterone
For women who are menstruating monthly, we check the blood hormone levels on day 21 of their cycle and analyse the estrogen-to-progesterone ratio, which should ideally be 10:1. Day 21 progesterone is indicative of whether a woman is ovulating. If your progesterone is low and estrogen is relatively high, then it is likely to cause symptoms of estrogen dominance, which is common in perimenopause and in women who present with PMDD or PMS.
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What Are The Signs Of Hormone Imbalance In Men
Many concerns surrounding a mans bodily changes can be answered by fluctuations in the male hormonal makeup. If changes are being identified, it may be a good idea to see whether there are any deficiencies or overabundance in the bodys chemistry.
1- Low Testosterone: This is also known as Low-T and is defined by the American Urology Association as testosterone in the blood accounting for less than 300ng/dL .
Signs of Low-T include:
- Hot Flashes
- Trouble Concentrating
2- Increased Estrogen: An increase in estrogen production in a mans body can cause a condition called gynecomastia. This is where you begin to develop breasts. Increased estrogen levels can also cause problems with your prostate organ that is in charge of producing one of the fluids that make up semen. Obesity can increase the production of estrogen in a mans body.
3- Low Cortisol/Adrenal Fatigue: Men suffering adrenal fatigue often have difficulty focusing mentally and are excessively tired.
4- Hyperthyroidism/Overactive Thyroid: Signs of high levels of thyroid hormone in your body include:
- Rapid Heart Rate
- Increased Sensitivity to cold
Understanding Results Of Your Sex Hormone Test
When it comes to interpreting the results of your sex hormones, its better to consult a doctor and eliminate any guess work.
The results may vary depending on different factors. For instance, normal estradiol levels are 30 to 400 pg/ml, however, the normal levels may be different for premenopausal and postmenopausal women.
Testosterone levels change throughout life and it is natural for testosterone levels to decline as you age.
Normal progesterone levels are also different for postmenopausal women and women at the beginning and in the middle of the menstrual cycle.
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How Do I Know If I Have A Hormone Imbalance
The following list of common complaints can often be helped or eliminated by improving hormone health. The challenge is often finding out the starting place of your hormone imbalance to ensure you are treating the root of the problem rather than just the symptoms. And thats where hormone testing comes in.
- Menstrual irregularities
- Poor immune function
When assessing a hormone imbalance, its important to evaluate the endocrine system as a whole. This is because the endocrine system is complex and hormones and their actions are intricately linked this means that hormone imbalances originating from different areas can cause the same symptom.
Hormonal Imbalance And Men
You may think that women are the ones facing hormonal imbalances. But this is not the case. Men, as well as womens bodies, produce several hormones that are essential for wellbeing. One very well-known male hormone is testosterone. But, did you know that men, also, produce estrogen? Testosterone is mainly produced in the testicles and, a small amount is produced in the adrenal glands. It is responsible for ones manly characteristics, such as:
- Facial and Body Hair
- Muscle and Bone Density
- Deeper Voice
It also stimulates the production of sperm and affects your desire for sex. It also plays a major role in the way one gains weight and, how and where the body will end up accumulating these fat cells. Finally, red blood cells production is linked to testosterone levels.
Estrogen is made from testosterone with the help of an enzyme known as aromatase. As you age, not only do your testosterone levels naturally drop, but your estrogen levels go up simultaneously. The loss of testosterone with age is referred to by some professionals as andropause male menopause.
However, testosterone levels can drop, even in young men, from several causes, such as:
- Injuries to Scrotum or Testicles
- Testicular Cancer
- Liver Disease
But, testosterone and estrogen arent the only hormones that can get out of balance in men. You can suffer a decrease in cortisol levels if you are under a lot of stress, or even an imbalance in the thyroid hormones.
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What Should I Do If I Have A Hormonal Imbalance
The testing is complete, the results are in, and it appears as though you may be experiencing some kind of hormone imbalance or age-related hormone change. While this may be frightening, its important to remember that hormone imbalances are often easily resolved.
Depending on the severity and the cause of your hormone issue, you may be able to resolve the issue naturally via careful lifestyle adjustments. In other cases, you may consider replacing the hormones your body is lacking in order to restore balance. This treatment option is called hormone replacement therapy, and its a very common first line of defense against hormone problems of all kinds.
A good hormone health practitioner will help you understand your treatment options and create a comprehensive plan that makes sense for you. With their support, you can find the best path toward symptom relief and optimal health.
If you are interested in hormone testing, BodyLogicMD can help. The practitioners in the BodyLogicMD network are experts in hormone replacement therapy and dedicated to helping patients achieve hormonal balance. Using a functional approach to medicine, each patient is treated as a whole individual, receiving nutrition and lifestyle counseling in addition to any necessary medications. If you need a hormone balance test or are looking for a specialist to interpret the results, contact a local practitioner today. Or take the BodyLogicMD Hormone Balance Quiz to better understand the impact of hormones.
Your Muscles Or Joints Feel Weak
Muscle weakness is another sign that could show that your thyroid is not working correctly. It can be a symptom of both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. The Mayo Clinic also says that “muscle aches, tenderness, and stiffness” and “pain, stiffness, or swelling in your joints” may be signs of hypothyroidism.
If your muscles feel sluggish, Melanie Goldfarb, MD, MS, FACS, a California-based endocrine surgeon, told me that this could be a sign of hypothyroidism. She explained that “sluggishness ” could be a sign that “your thyroid isn’t producing enough hormone.”
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What Are Female Hormones
Estrogen and progesterone are the primary sex hormones in females. Most of the body’s supply of these hormones is produced by the ovaries, although small amounts are supplied by other tissues in the body. While best known for their primary function of regulating the reproductive system, female hormones also play a role in other aspects of women’s health, including cardiac function, metabolism, bone health, skin thickness and elasticity, urinary tract health, emotional health and brain function, among others.
Cortisol and the thyroid hormone can become imbalanced for various reasons and affect both men and women. Ensuring a healthy profile means keeping abreast of your body’s levels. A comprehensive hormone test can provide much needed insight.
The three primary sex hormones in women are estrogen, progesterone and testosterone.
When To Test Progesterone
Progesterone levels are highest 5-7 days following ovulation, which is within our luteal phase . This is why testing is recommended days 19-22 of a 28 day cycle.
Even though were commonly told that women ovulate like clockwork on day 14 of their cycle, unfortunately, this isnt always the case. Its a great idea to track your basal body temperature and evaluate your cervical mucus to get an idea of when and if you are ovulating. Or you can use over-the-counter LH strips which can help you dial in the day you ovulate.
Ive got a whole article devoted to this practice, but the general idea is pretty simple, but can take some time. When you ovulate, your body temperature rises and your vaginal discharge becomes the consistency of stretchy egg whites. If you keep an eye on these changes to your body, theres a pretty good chance you can approximate when youre ovulating.
For a lot of women, this will mean that testing for progesterone should happen on roughly day 19-22 of their cycle. Again, this recommendation could change if youre not ovulating day 14 of your cycle which is actually pretty common, or if your typical cycle is shorter or longer than 28 days. Track your cycle for a few months before and talk to your doctor so that they can tell you the best day to test progesterone.
If you feel confused, talk to the provider ordering your test.