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My Top 3 Ways Hormones Affect Mental Health

by Jun 4, 2018Men's Health, Women's Health

My Top 3 Ways Hormones Affect Mental Health

When you think about mental health, your first inclination is not to think about your hormones.  But did you know that your hormones control many functions of the body, including our mood?  Hormones are chemical agents that cause a specific action on target tissues outside the initial place they are produced.[i]  Hormones can control basic functions such as hunger, as well as complex systems like reproduction, emotions, and our mood.[ii]

Let’s talk about my top 3 hormone causes of mental health.

  1. Thyroid Hormone

The brain sends Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH), to signal the thyroid to produce thyroid hormone. TSH instructs the thyroid to produce more or less of the hormone depending on what the brain senses in the body. When the thyroid receives the message to make thyroid hormone, it will produce thyroxine (T4). T4 is not the active form of thyroid hormone.  It must be converted by the cells of the body (mainly the liver and kidneys) into the active form of thyroid hormone, triiodothyronine (T3).
What allows for the conversion of the inactive T4 to the active T3 is determined by many factors.  The conversion is adversely impacted by nutrient deficiencies such as; Selenium, Iron, Zinc, Iodine and Vitamin A.  Also, environmental toxins like Bromine (found in salt water pools, crystal light drinks, etc.) can all impact our thyroid and its ability to receive and process the message it receives and negatively affect our overall thyroid health and hormone production making us feel tired, fatigued, depressed, anxious or just not well.

  1. Low Serotonin and Poor Digestive Health

Digestive health and mental health go hand in hand. Why? Neurotransmitters like serotonin are actually produced in your small intestines, not the brain.  Up to 70% of serotonin production occurs in the gut, which is why there is growing research to show poor gut health relates to depression.  Low serotonin can be associated with anxiety, depression, fatigue and other mental health concerns.
Nutrition and dietary changes, adequate soluble fibre, supporting your gut with healthy fermented foods, and taking a good quality probiotics can all support healthy gut flora.

  1. Chronic Stress and Elevated Cortisol

Cortisol is the hormone produced by our adrenal glands and it is an important hormone for energy, immune function, and mood just to name a few. Excess cortisol production is seen in patients with anxiety, depression and PTSD. Patients under chronic long-term stress or hormone dysfunction can develop elevated cortisol levels causing:

  • Changes in the size, structure & functioning of the brain
  • Memory loss and premature aging of the brain
  • Inflammation in the brain
  • Increase activity in the amygdala (the fear center of the brain) – creating a vicious cycle of constant “fight or flight” that our brain and body is stuck in

If any of these things sound like you, or you have any mental health concerns specifically related to your hormones, speak to your Naturopathic Doctor to properly assess and treat your concerns. I recommend a whole body approach to assess and treat my patients, and this encompasses testing as well as dietary/nutrition, lifestyle and supplement interventions. Interested to find out if Naturopathic Medicine is right for you?  I offer free 15 minute consultations, so please contact the clinic and reach out for help if you are experiencing changes in your mood, you’re not alone.

By: Dr. Amy Tung, ND

[i] Fundamentals of Naturopathic Endocrinology, Freidman, CCNM Press
[ii] www.hormone.org

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