Glossary of Terms

Androgen

A steroid hormone, such as testosterone or androsterone, that is produced primarily in the testes in men and ovaries in women. Androgen is also produced secondarily in the adrenal glands. It controls the maintenance of masculine characteristics, such as muscle and bone strength. Men produce more androgen than women, but it is necessary for both sexes to produce adequate amounts to maintain hormonal balance and physical strength in their bodies. It is also called androgenic hormone.

Cortisol

Also known as “hydrocortisone,” cortisol is a steroid hormone or glucocorticoid produced by the adrenal gland. It is released in response to physical and psychological stress as well as low levels of blood glucocorticoids. Its primary functions are to increase blood sugar through gluconeogenesis, to suppress the immune system, and to aid in metabolizing fat, protein, and carbohydrate. It also decreases bone formation. When we experience periods of stress, our bodies excrete cortisol to help us work through whatever the stressful situation may be. The short-term results may not be noticeable, but in the long run too much stress can lead to adrenal fatigue, which makes a perfect setting for increased inflammation and lowered immunity, which creates numerous disease states.

Estrogen

Estrogens are the primary sex hormones in females, and they help promote the development of female secondary sexual characteristics, such as breasts, hips, and a wider pelvic region. They are also involved in the thickening of the endometrium and other aspects of regulating the menstrual cycle as well as preparing the body for pregnancy. Estrogen is produced in the ovaries and gradually begins to decline as a woman approaches menopause. Symptoms of estrogen imbalance can include depression, vaginal dryness, brain fog, memory loss, cognitive dysfunctions, hot flashes, night sweats, decreased bone density, fatigue, and irritability. Additional symptoms that are visible can include skin laxity, poor skin tone, dry skin, weight gain, and decreased muscle mass.

Although estrogens are present in men and women, they are present at significantly higher levels in women of reproductive age. Numerous types of estrogen-replacement therapies are available. I would recommend that you supplement your estrogen with bio-identical estrogen, as it is derived from natural sources and is biologically identical to what your body produces and has receptors for. It is important to do your research regarding complete hormone balancing, because many women who have estrogen imbalances also have other hormone imbalances. Estrogen should not be used without progesterone, even if you’ve had a hysterectomy. It is very crucial to balance the two sex hormones. Be your own advocate by doing research pertaining to your symptoms and seek opinions from physicians you trust prior to treating estrogen imbalances.

Progesterone

This hormone, which is produced in the ovaries and placenta from pregnenolone, is a steroid hormone involved in the female menstrual cycle, pregnancy (supports gestation), and embryogenesis. Progesterone belongs to a class of hormones called “progestogens” and is the primary naturally occurring human progestogen. The main purpose of progesterone is to prepare the body for pregnancy and provide the necessary support during pregnancy to ensure the fetus is carried to term. This, however, is not the only role that progesterone plays in our bodies.

Progesterone (natural progesterone) increases libido, protects against fibrocystic breast disease, maintains the uterine lining, hydrates and oxygenates the skin, decreases hair thinning, acts as a natural diuretic, helps eliminate depression and increases a sense of well-being, encourages fat burning and the use of stored energy, and is a precursor to other important stress and sex hormones. Progesterone can also counteract symptoms in estrogen-dominant women by restoring a state of hormonal balance, happiness, and clarity as well as promoting excellent sleep. The majority of my pre- and perimenopausal patients receive bio-identical progesterone therapy as part of their hormone treatment to regulate their periods and to help with issues concerning moods, depression, weight gain, and sleep. My menopausal patients are usually on a combination of bio-identical estrogen and progesterone (and sometimes testosterone, DHEA-S, and more) to reduce all the menopausal symptoms mentioned earlier. For a lot of women, their hormones are their life line.

Testosterone

This is a steroid hormone from the androgen group that is primarily secreted in the testes of males and the ovaries of females. It is an anabolic steroid that is responsible for the development of testes, bone mass, muscle mass, and facial and body hair, and its presence is imperative to ensure a state of health and well-being in men and women. Increasing testosterone levels can be beneficial to women, because it can help increase libido and muscle mass while assisting with the treatment and prevention of depression and osteoporosis. In women, testosterone-replacement therapy is typically used in conjunction with estrogen and/or progesterone treatment. To ensure successful treatment, it is necessary to establish a baseline, to treat with bio-identical testosterone in customized doses, and to retest on an annual basis at a minimum. I do not recommend oral testosterone treatment. My method of choice is either cream or sublingual for women, and cream, sublingual, or weekly intramuscular injections for men.

Thyroid

This is one of the largest endocrine glands in the body and is not to be confused with the “parathyroid glands,” which is an entirely different set of glands. The thyroid gland is found in the neck, inferior to the thyroid cartilage that is also known as the “Adam’s Apple.” The thyroid controls how quickly the body uses energy, makes proteins, and reacts to other hormones.

The thyroid gland produces thyroid hormones, principally triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). These hormones regulate the rate of metabolism and affect the growth and rate of function of many other systems in the body. Typical symptoms related to thyroid disorder include unusual changes in weight, cold body temperature, swelling in the face, dry and/or brittle hair and nails, and moodiness. Countless people suffer from these and many other symptoms, and I have found that they often are not being properly diagnosed with thyroid conditions. It is essential to your health to have a physician/health-care provider who will listen to your symptoms and take them into as much consideration as your lab results, thus assisting you in achieving optimal health.

…Keep checking back for more additions to our glossary!