You used to be so fit. You run, bike or climb anything. But these days exercise is a struggle. Instead of making you feel energized, exercise now makes you feel exhausted. You find yourself avoiding the activities you used to love because you just don’t have the energy or the motivation.
I can relate to this. When my hormones crashed a few years ago I went from being super fit and athletic to tired, lazy and exhausted. I desperately wanted to keep doing sports with my friends but I had no juice left. I would often go skiing for a couple of hours and then come home and pass out. It was one of the hardest times in my life.
The good news is, you aren’t lazy. Your body is likely deliberately trying to get you to slow down so that you can heal from whatever is going on inside of you. Having balanced hormones is crucial to healthy energy production and you having enough strength to exercise at the level you want to.
Unbalanced hormones suck. No matter how hard to you try to push through the fatigue, you never seem to feel like you did just a few years ago. Here are three hormone imbalances that can ruin your endurance and crush your stamina.
Testosterone is crucial to energy production and athletic performance. If your testosterone is low you may experience some of the following symptoms;
Testosterone is the reason why men gain muscle more easily than women and have more physical strength. When I raise testosterone production in women, they usually feel fantastic. They feel energized, confident and can easily maintain a healthy weight.
How Can You Boost Testosterone?
Elevated estrogen is a nasty hormone imbalance, especially when you don’t have enough progesterone to balance it out. Elevated estrogen is often the culprit behind painful periods, endometriosis, uterine fibroids and pre-menstrual migraines.
Elevated estrogen can ruin your endurance because it can cause unexplained weight gain, especially in the hips and thighs. As you gain fat and lose muscle, your endurance often goes with it. If you have recently gained weight for no rhyme or reason, you should consider your estrogen levels. If your estrogen is too high it may actually be impossible for you to lose weight even when you are eating healthy and exercising regularly.
The first thing is to consider environmental sources of estrogen. This includes personal care products, household cleaning products, BPA plastic, birth control pills, soy and even flax seed.
If you know you have high estrogen and you have made a solid effort to reduce external estrogen exposure you can try this next:
To learn more about estrogen dominance, click here.
Most know cortisol as a stress hormone but what many don’t know is that one of cortisol’s main roles is to immobilize blood sugar. When you blood sugar is stable, you have good energy production and you feel strong.
Low cortisol often means a person feels fatigued, has difficulty sleeping and struggles with sugar cravings. They have a poor ability to keep their blood sugar stable, even when they eat multiple meals a day. The result is energy is low or fluctuates throughout the day.
When your cortisol is low, exercise is depleting. Since exercise actively pushes out cortisol, it leaves you little cortisol for energy later in the day. People with low cortisol often struggle with motivation to exercise as well.
If you just don’t have the juice for exercise that you used to, there is a probably a hormonal problem driving your fatigue. While the above suggestions can be extremely helpful, what is more helpful is determining what is driving your hormonal chaos. The main culprits are usually poor diet, poor sleep, an overscheduled life and toxicity.
If you are struggling with poor energy and the inability to participate in the activities that drive your passions, then please don’t hesitate to contact me and schedule a free 30 minute call with me. We can discuss your challenges and determine if there is a way I can help you. You can book the appointment here.
Are you struggling with low endurance levels? Please share your exercise below in the comments section and I will do my best to help you!
The past few weeks on the blog, I have been writing about Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, a condition that causes weight gain, infertility, facial hair growth, acne and irregular menstrual cycles.
If you want to learn more about this condition and its risk factors, you can read the full article here. I also recently wrote about the PCOS diet, lifestyle and supplement protocol that can help you reverse this condition and boost your fertility. You can read that article here.
PCOS is generally characterized by elevated testosterone, irregular or absent cycles and cystic ovaries. But there are many women out there who have regular cycles and no ovarian cysts but are struggling with symptoms of high testosterone.
If you know your testosterone is elevated but you don’t have a PCOS diagnosis, you can still benefit from following the PCOS protocol. But what if your testosterone is “normal” and you are still struggling with the typical symptoms of testosterone dominance? These include;
This is an interesting thing. It is possible to have normal or even lower testosterone but also have a testosterone dominance.
Today I want to talk about testosterone metabolism. If your testosterone appears normal on a saliva or blood test but you still have these typical symptoms of too much testosterone than your metabolism may be to blame.
Let’s start at the top. Pregnenolone is your master hormone. It is the building block for all your other steroid sex hormones including progesterone, cortisol, estrogen, DHEA and testosterone.
Pregnenolone is derived primarily from cholesterol. Yep, remember cholesterol? The big bad cholesterol that clogs your arteries and gives you heart disease?
What the government and general public are finally starting to learn is that cholesterol is crucial, not only for hormone production but also for the health of your brain.
Without cholesterol you cannot make sex hormones. And without sex hormones you are in trouble. 75% of your body’s cholesterol is produced in your liver but 25% comes from your diet. Therefore, getting enough cholesterol in your diet is crucial to your hormones. Cholesterol comes from animal products.
Pregnenolone can be converted into progesterone which can then be broken down to produce cortisol, your body’s main stress hormone. Pregnenolone is also a precursor for Dehyroepiandrosterone (DHEA). DHEA can then be broken down into either testosterone or estrone. Estrone can then be converted to estradiol (your body’s most potent estrogen) which can be converted to estriol.
But hormone metabolism doesn’t stop there. Both testosterone and estrogen are broken down further into metabolites. Today we will focus on the main metabolites of testosterone and what this means for you and your hormone health.
After testosterone is formed, it can be broken down via two different pathways; the alpha pathway and the beta pathway. The beta pathway, also called the Etiocholanolone metabolite, is a less androgenic pathway. This means that when you metabolize your testosterone down this pathway, it reduces the effects of testosterone.
In this case, you could have high blood or saliva testosterone but if you push primarily down the beta pathway than you may not exhibit any symptoms of high testosterone.
The alpha pathway, also know as the dehyrotestosterone (DHT) pathway, is a significantly more androgenic pathway. This means that if you tend to metabolize more of your testosterone down the DHT pathway then actions of testosterone become increasingly stronger in your system.
This is because DHT metabolites bind about 3 times more strongly to androgen receptors than Etiocholanolone metabolites. 5 alpha reductase is the enzyme that pushes the conversion of testosterone into DHT. Everyone will push some testosterone down the DHT pathway but some people push significantly more of their testosterone in this direction meaning that their testosterone becomes extra potent.
What this means for you is that you may have “normal” or even lower testosterone that becomes increasingly potent as it is being metabolized. This is why your testosterone may look normal but your symptoms tell you otherwise.
There is usually an insulin issue at play. Insulin, the hormone needed to regulate blood sugar and fat storage, enhances the actions of the DHT pathway. The more insulin you have, the more 5-alpha reductase you have (the enzyme that pushes DHT production). Women with acne, PCOS and obesity have significantly more 5-alpha reductase than women without these issues.
Progesterone, on the other hand, reduces 5 alpha reductase activity, at least in vitro, according to this study. Often times when I see elevated DHT metabolites in a client, I also see depleted progesterone levels.
Being aware of the DHT pathway is especially important for those struggling with infertility (elevated testosterone is a huge cause of infertility in the Western world), acne and obesity.
If this article resonates with you and some of your recent experience, I recommend getting your testosterone metabolism evaluated. You can do this by getting a urine hormone panel. The best hormone panel that I currently run is the Precision Analytical Dried Urine Test for Comprehensive Hormones (DUTCH). This test will not only evaluate your testosterone metabolism but also the metabolism of your other steroid hormones including; progesterone, estrogen and cortisol.
If you are interested in getting a full hormone evaluation to get to the bottom of your ongoing infertility, painful acne breakouts, explainable scalp hair loss or your complete inability to lose weight, please schedule a FREE 30 minute consultation with me. You can do that here and choose the service labeled, “FREE Discovery Session.”
Blood Sugar Management. I feel like a broken record here but having healthy blood sugar levels throughout the day is not only important for your testosterone metabolism but is crucial for your health in every other way.
The Paleo Diet is a fantastic way to manage blood sugar. You should also consider buying a glucometer and actively checking your blood sugar throughout the day.
Before meals, your glucometer should ready 80-90 mg/dl. If it is lower than this, you waited to long to eat that meal or didn’t eat enough at your previous meal. Add more whole foods or include an extra snack.
The post-prandial measurement is a fantastic way to assess your carbohydrate sensitivity. If you are carb sensitive, the more carbs you eat, the more you increase your insulin and make it more likely have a testosterone metabolism issue. 2 hours after a meal, your blood sugar should be under 120 mg/dl (but ideally under 100 mg/dl). If you are above this, you ate way too many carbohydrates or sugar at that previous meal and you need to reduce accordingly.
EPA & DHA. These are fatty acids that come from Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. These come from cold water fatty fish and shellfish. I recommend supplementing with a high quality fish oil supplement derived from mackerel, sardines and/or anchovies. EPA and DHA have a positive effect on insulin and also reduce inflammation which can push up blood sugar levels.
Saw Palmetto. This herb can have potent effects on the DHT pathway. It effectively shifts metabolism from the alpha to beta pathway. Be wary that higher doses of saw palmetto can reduce DHT too much and throw of your testosterone levels. If you are using saw palmetto, you should be monitoring your levels regularly.
Exercise. Exercise is known to increase sensitivity to insulin. When your cells are insulin sensitive, you need less insulin. Less insulin has a positive effect on DHT.
Nettle. Stinging nettle tea increases Sex Hormone Binding Globulin in your blood. This can bind to excess testosterone and decrease the levels of testosterone that need to be metabolized, and thus reducing the effects of DHT.
Zinc. According to this study which was performed on human skin in vitro, zinc can have a reducing effect on 5-alpha reductase when used in combination with Vitamin B6. This is promising but there has been some conflicting research. Clinically, I see Zinc boost testosterone production and improve metabolism.
Looking at single hormone markers can be helpful but never gives you the full picture of what is happening. Just because your testosterone is “normal,” does not mean you are in the clear from the potent side effects of too much testosterone. If you are suffering from the symptoms elevated above but your doctor says your levels are “normal,” consider your metabolism. Click here to schedule a free meeting with me to see if comprehensive hormone testing is a fit for you.
Are you struggling with testosterone dominance or any of the symptoms mentioned above? Please feel free to comment with your experience below.
What is PCOS? PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and to be diagnosed you must have at least two of the following criteria;
• Irregular or absent menstrual periods
• Elevated testosterone or other androgens
• Cystic ovaries
Up to 15% of women suffer from this condition. It is considered the leading cause of infertility in women in the Western world.
This condition is not very fun and I truly feel for every woman who is struggling with it. According to conventional medicine there is no cure for PCOS. Generally a physician will prescribe birth control pills to regulate sex hormone production. Birth control pills can also reduce free testosterone which can alleviate symptoms from increased androgen production.
If the woman is attempting to become pregnant, she may be referred to a fertility specialist.
Some women may undergo surgery to remove ovarian cysts. While this process may reduce testosterone levels and regulate ovulation, it may leave damaging scar tissue and many times the effects of the surgery only last a few months.
Unfortunately, none of these options addresses the root cause of the condition and the progression of the disease will continue if no interventions are made.
While testosterone and other male hormones are a huge driver of PCOS, estrogen and progesterone are important as well. They need to be in proper balance with testosterone in order to effectively regulate the menstrual cycle.
Common symptoms associated with PCOS include;
• Irregular or Absent periods
• Scalp hair loss
• Facial hair growth
• Inability to lose weight
• Oily skin and/or hair
• Irritability and/or anger
In order to understand how this condition affects a woman’s cycle, it is important to understand how a normal, healthy cycle progresses throughout the month.
The first day of the menstrual cycle is the bleeding phase. During a woman’s period, estrogen and progesterone are at their lowest levels. During this time, the lining of the uterus is shed for the first 3-7 days of the first half of the menstrual cycle. The first half of the menstrual cycle, from Day 1-14, is called the Follicular Phase.
After bleeding stops, estrogen begins to rise. Estrogen, which is a growth hormone, begins to build and thicken the uterine lining. During this phase the Pituitary gland secretes the Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) which causes the growth of between 3 and 30 follicles, each of which contains an egg.
Eventually FSH starts to decline and only one of the follicles continues to grow. The other follicles decay and breakdown.
When the Pituitary detects this shift, it secretes Lutenizing Hormone (LH), which causes the follicle to rupture and release the egg inside. This occurs at day 14 and is called Ovulation. During ovulation, testosterone surges and estrogen begins to drop.
If that egg is not fertilized after 24 hours then the egg turns into the corpus luteum and begins to break down. As it breaks down, it secretes progesterone, making it the dominant hormone of the second half of the menstrual cycle. This phase is called the luteal phase. As progesterone levels begin to fall, this triggers the shedding of the lining and the cycle starts over again.
The cycle generally lasts 28 days but can be up to 35 days in some women.
It’s not completely clear how this occurs but there are a few ways depending on the woman in question.
1. Women with PCOS typically have low levels of Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG). SHBG is responsible for binding to hormones and making them inactive. This could result in increased levels of testosterone. Low levels of SHBG decrease the rate of conversion from testosterone to estrogen. Low levels of estrogen may result in poor signalling to the Pituitary gland leading to irregular cycles.
2. High levels of testosterone can also block the effects of progesterone and estrogen, disrupting the cycle.
3. If there is a Pituitary problem present, FSH and LH may not be secreted as they normally should. Typically, the ratio of FSH to LH is 1:2 but in women with PCOS it is 2:1.
The mechanism driving PCOS likely varies for each woman. What we do know is that insulin resistance plays a large role in PCOS. Whether the PCOS causes the insulin resistance or insulin resistance drives PCOS is unclear.
Insulin resistance plays a huge role in androgen metabolism, causing a women to prefer androgen production over estrogen production. Anytime I see elevated DHEA or testosterone in a woman on a hormone panel, I always focus on blood sugar control.
70% of women diagnosed with PCOS are also insulin resistant according to this study. PCOS needs to be taken seriously as it predisposes women for coronary artery disease later in life.
Insulin is a hormone made in the beta cells of the pancreas. Although it has many jobs, it is known for its ability to manage blood sugar levels. When you eat a meal, sugar levels rise in your blood. Insulin is then secreted to usher sugar into the cells where it can be used for energy.
Without insulin, you would die. Insulin is the only way for sugar in your blood to get into the cells where it can be used. Insulin becomes an issue when you continually eat foods that push the blood sugar too high. Refined sugar and processed carbohydrates require little breakdown and go straight into the blood, elevating blood sugar levels higher than what the body likes. The body overcompensates by pushing out extra insulin which can then drop blood sugar levels too low, causing you to crash and crave more sugar and carbs, starting the cycle over again.
If a person continues to consume sugar and carbs, the cells are constantly being bombarded by insulin knocking on the door trying to push sugar in. At some point, the cells stop listening to insulin knocking and become resistant. This means sugar levels rise in the blood and the cells don’t receive it for energy.
So that sugar levels don’t get dangerously high, sugar is then sent to the liver to be converted in triglycerides. That can lead to increased weight gain, especially around the abdomen.
A sign that you might have insulin resistance is getting sleepy after a meal. The conversion of sugar into triglycerides uses a lot of resources and the result is your energy levels crashing.
Any treatment plan for PCOS needs to involve careful attention to blood sugar levels and unwinding insulin resistance. How do you do this?
I plan to discuss solutions for PCOS in next week’s blog post. See you then!