There are many factors that affect your health. Our Women’s Health Glossary helps you understand the many factors that influence your personal hormone balance.
adrenal imbalance: also known as low adrenal reserve or adrenal insufficiency, leading to adrenal fatigue. This condition occurs when the adrenals no longer produce enough hormone to meet bodily demand and is a result of prolonged stress (emotional, viral, physical). Adrenal support includes adequate rest, exercise, nutrition, and supplementation with physician guidance.
androgens: testosterone and DHEA (anabolic hormones) that build and maintain skin, bone, and muscle. DHEA, the principal androgen in both men and women, is linked to energy, immune function, mood, and mental function. Testosterone is necessary to maintain muscle mass, bone density, skin elasticity, sex drive, and cardiovascular health in both sexes.
cortisol: produced by the adrenal glands, this hormone regulates the stress response, glucose metabolism, and immune function. Cortisol has a catabolic (breaking down) action on tissue when levels are too high or out of balance, leading to low immunities, allergies, and stress-related illness.
estrogens: a family of hormones (estradiol, estrone, estriol) that is necessary for cellular growth, differentiation of secondary sexual characteristics, and maintaining the health of the reproductive tissues, breasts, bones, skin, and the brain.
estrogen dominance: an excess of estrogen in the absence of adequate levels of progesterone in women (or testosterone in men). It can result from estrogen replacement therapy, menopause, hysterectomy, birth control pills, and/or a decline in ovarian progesterone production. In men, it can result from reduced testosterone production by the testes. In either gender, it can result from exposure to pollutants and toxins (xenoestrogens). The constellation of symptoms ranges from breast tenderness and bloating, to mood swings and depression. Excess estrogens are a risk factor for the development of breast and prostate cancers.
hypothyroidism: low thyroid function, often associated with hormonal imbalance (particularly estrogen dominance) and linked with cold body temperature (feeling cold all the time), weight gain, inability to lose weight, thinning hair, low libido, and depression. Women are at greatest risk, developing thyroid problems seven times more often than men, particularly during years prior to menopause.
hysterectomy: surgical removal of the uterus, which often includes the ovaries (oophorectomy). The resulting total depletion of reproductive hormones causes women to go into “surgical menopause” overnight.
insulin resistance: a term used to describe the failure of the tissues to respond (resistance) to insulin and absorb glucose for energy production; associated with hormonal imbalance (particularly high triglycerides, polycystic ovaries, and excess androgens). Insulin resistance leads to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.
parabens: Parabens are chemicals with estrogen-like properties, and estrogen is one of the hormones involved in the development of breast cancer. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has linked methyl parabens in particular to metabolic, developmental, hormonal, and neurological disorders, as well as various cancers.
polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS): a condition whereby undeveloped follicles (cysts) form within the ovaries. It is seen in women with high estrogen and low progesterone levels, and/or high androgen (testosterone) and insulin levels.
progestins: synthetic hormones structurally similar to progesterone (e.g. Provera) but not naturally occurring in the body; they suppress normal ovarian production of progesterone and have been shown in studies to have negative side effects.
progesterone: a hormone produced by the ovaries after ovulation and in lesser amounts by the adrenal glands. A precursor to most of the steroid hormones, it has many vital functions, from maintaining pregnancy to regulating menstrual cycles. It has calming and diuretic properties, and enhances the beneficial effects of estrogens while balancing estrogen and preventing problems linked to estrogen excess. Progesterone also facilitates balance of other steroid hormones.
sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG): a protein that binds to specific hormones in the bloodstream (e.g., testosterone and estrogen), limiting their availability to bodily tissues. It increases with age and excess estrogens.
vitamin D: a group of fat-soluble prohormones (hormone precursors), the two major forms of which include vitamin D2 and vitamin D3. Vitamin D2 is not found in animals, but is manufactured commercially and is the predominant form for prescription use in the US. Vitamin D3 is the natural-occurring form of vitamin D produced from the reaction of ultraviolet light on the skin. It has been found to be important in protecting the body from a wide range of diseases including breast cancers, cardiovascular disease, stroke, osteoporosis, osteomalacia, autoimmune diseases (such as multiple sclerosis), rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and schizophrenia.