Whenever I approach the topic of general wellness with patients, I stress the importance of being proactive and preventative. In my past life as a traditional general practitioner, I felt suffocated and restricted with insurance and standard healthcare. That type of medicine waits for the person to fall ill, then scrambles to treat the symptom, condition, or disease. That’s a temporary fix, similar to just placing a Band-Aid over a gaping wound, when clearly more in-depth analysis and care is necessary. So how does one learn to be proactive and preventative in their health?
A great example is how we take care of our cars. We don’t want our cars to break down, so we don’t question the recommended preventative maintenance, which can add up to several hundreds or thousands of dollars a year. However, we don’t show the same care for our own health as do we for our cars, even though we can’t get replacements for our bodies. Being proactive and preventative involves recognizing the synergy and harmony between the mind, body, and spirit. The triad of proper nutrition, adequate exercise, and hormone balance are the keys to total emotional, mental, and physical well-being. When they are all balanced, wellness thrives.
Related: Should You Try the Hormone Diet?
Make sure you are armed with knowledge when seeing your physician. While traditional physicians are knowledgeable, integrative physicians can offer a different bank of knowledge. Given my experience, I can speak from both sides. The reason I left the traditional side and hopped the fence to become an integrative practitioner is because I felt I wasn’t helping my patients get better by prescribing pharmaceuticals and not spending enough time counseling them on lifestyle modifications—largely due to time limits imposed from insurance. Now I see one to five patients a day instead of the twenty to twenty-five, and I know I am making a difference.
In order to develop a preventative care regimen, ask your integrative practitioner to run in-depth tests looking at genetic and inflammatory markers, micronutrients, hormones, lipoproteins, neurotransmitters, glucose, insulin, and food intolerance. I cannot stress enough the importance of hormonal balance.
Of course, there are many more hormones than those I am discussing here, but I wanted to touch upon a few vital ones so you can be aware of getting these tested by an integrative practitioner. Before starting any hormonal therapies, such as bioidentical hormones, sermorelin, or thyroid supplements, always consult a physician to be properly tested and monitored. Even seemingly benign therapies can be dangerous if not managed by a physician.
Additionally proper nutrition and exercise is necessary for hormonal balance and total overall health. Make sure you have your micronutrients tested as well, because vitamins and minerals such as vitamin D and zinc are extremely crucial for proper functioning of all the pathways. Think about all of these aspects of your health as puzzle pieces fitting together—that’s the way to approach your body like an integrative physician.
Secreted by adipocyes, or fat cells, that are involved in the regulation of cholesterol and sugar, adiponectin has anti-inflammatory effects and influences the body’s insulin response. Low levels are not good, as they are indicative of future risks of heart disease and diabetes, and are suggestive of obesity. High levels are protective.
Known as the “satiety hormone,” it regulates energy balance and inhibits hunger. Leptin is secreted by adipocytes and influences metabolism in the body. High levels of leptin are found in obese people, and is known as leptin resistance because the brain is not recognizing there is an overabundance of leptin in the body, so increased food intake occurs.
This is a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands. It is known as the “stress hormone,” preparing the body for “fight-or-flight.” Chronically elevated cortisol has implications in weight gain, heart disease, diabetes, lowered immunity, gastrointestinal distress, and more.
While we equate this hormone with men, it is important in women as well. It is a sex steroid hormone. Besides being important for sexual health, it is crucial for energy, bone health, lean muscle, red blood cell production, protection against heart disease, and mental wellness.
There are three types of estrogen (estriol, estradiol, and estrone), and while these are primarily female hormones, men do have some as well. Similar to sexual health like testosterone, estrogen is also important for emotional balance, skin health, bone health, and heart health.
Human growth hormone /Insulin Growth factor (IGF)
I like to call this the “fountain of youth” hormone. Like most hormones, aging precipitates decline in all the good stuff. Human growth hormone helps maintain lean muscle mass, restful sleep, good energy levels, healthy sex drive, and mental well-being, just to name a few youthful benefits.
This is a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands, and is the precursor to testosterone and estrogen and the hormonal cascade. Similar to human growth hormone, it is responsible for youthfulness, so healthy levels are necessary to combat the biologic aging process, mentally and physically.
Hormones from this gland in the neck are critical for maintaining metabolism, which really means it influences how fast or slow your heart and brain and other vital organs function. If there is an imbalance either way, too low or too high, then symptoms are manifested from irregular heartbeat to weigh issues, mood swings, changes in skin and hair and nails, temperature regulation issues, gastrointestinal disturbances, and much more.
Deepa B. Verma, MD, ABIHM, is double board certified in family medicine and integrative holistic medicine. Her practice, Syngeristiq Integrative Health, is located in Clearwater, Florida. Dr. Verma believes that healthy and holistic living is the key to happiness and aging gracefully. Follow her on Twitter @DrDeepaVerma and subscribe to her Youtube Channel.
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