Updated: Aug 27, 2022
As more and more people become interested in functional medicine, we are starting to see a change in the way we view hormones. Rather than looking at them as something to be artificially supplemented, we are now beginning to understand their importance in maintaining optimal health. In this post, we will explore some of the ways functional medicine can help support hormone health. We will also discuss how functional medicine can be used to address hormone-related conditions. Thanks for reading!
Martha Minnich, one of the nurse practitioners in our Powell office, specializes in hormone optimization. In a zoom interview, she tells me a little bit about what brought her into loving hormones, her kind of your journey into healthcare and why she specializes in it. Here are the key points I would like to share with you.
Being a Hormone Specialist
Martha shares: “I brought a lot of experience to the table mostly in cardiovascular surgery and emergency medicine. Then when I went back to NP school, I did some of my clinical with functional medicine physicians. Basically, I just fell in love with hormones. I loved how intricate they were, how delicate they were. I loved balancing them on each individual person trying to figure out what's going to make them feel optimal.
I didn't start out right in hormones. I went and did some walk-in health therapy and wellness training. I became a health coach. I spent a good portion of time back in the emergency room, taking care of patients as a provider. That was a really good experience for me because even when we specialize in hormones, people come infrequently with episodic ailments, rashes, and infections.”
She adds not discrediting how important that was for her career. In fact, about three years ago, she got into the world of hormones and went through really exclusive training. She was privileged to have gone through WorldLink training and took about two years to take all of their courses. She says she really learned more about sex hormones, thyroid and adrenal health and gut health.
She continues: “It has really afforded me an opportunity to meet great people who are invested in their care. We pay good money for this type of care. I feel like when you have some skin in the game, it really makes you invested in what your provider is educating you on. It helps you to really be more of a participant than in Western medicine.
I love that aspect of functional medicine where we are participating together. I like to tell my patients that they are in the driver's seat. I'm going to be their copilot and kind of educate along the way, but they’re in the driver's seat and the outcome is really on them. I'm just here to supplement and help.”
According to Martha, the symptoms that bring people into the world of bio-identical hormone therapy are different. Women who are young moms are going to present with different symptoms than women who are going through menopause. Some of the most typical symptoms that will bring a patient to see us are overwhelming fatigue or feeling like they need caffeine frequently throughout the day to stay stimulated. This goes all the way to brain fog.
When they get closer to menopause, they can have vasomotor symptoms, like hot flashes and night sweats. They can have vaginal dryness and painful intercourse. Their libido goes down and this can even start in your mid-thirties up to your late forties. Any age group can go through this where your hormone levels drop and the interest in sex goes down.”
Joint pain, Martha says, will be a frequent one, too. People just feel stiff all over. A lot of times, any age group will have weight problems where they've gained weight. They're not where they used to be when they were younger. They feel thick in the middle and bloated. They get like that overhang on their pants and obviously, they just don't like it.
Men have similar symptoms. With her experience, she met men who don't realize how crummy they feel until they get on testosterone. They realize how amazing they feel when treatment starts. Then they will look back realizing how horrible they felt before.
“Whether it be job stress, family, or finances, men’s stressors are just a little bit different than women. They present sometimes with similar symptoms, but I see more of them having lost their sense of well-being or confidence. They will also have some fatigue”, Martha adds.
Certainly erectile quality comes into play. Men may not like the quality of their erections, or they just don't feel like they're in the mood or can perform the way that they once did. The same brain fog happens to them too.
The Functional Medicine Approach
Martha then further explains about how she finds functional medicine to be great. She states that each person is really different what their presenting symptoms. However, it doesn't mean that the underlying cause is all that different. A lot of times it's from lack of hormones or an imbalance of hormones.
I expressed how I feel like functional medicine is becoming more popular these days. We've been doing this for a while for a long time at Vitality and more people are becoming aware of it. It seems like it's becoming more popular of a topic to discuss. I asked her if there is a reason why it's becoming so necessary and prevalent.
She says, “The most obvious reason why it's becoming more popular is that I think we're seeing a lot more information coming out in social media and out in the public eye. More research is being done. A lot of the world's opinions about hormones came from the women's health initiative from decades ago. It was really a kind of a bogus study because bioidenticals and synthetics were in the same study.
Obviously, some really adverse reactions happen in blood clots and cancer. Therefore, the whole study had to be aborted. When they really peeled away that the different parts of the study, the bioidenticals were the people that were on, those were protected and it was really the conjugate estrogens that caused a lot of the problems.
Education, good research and evidence-based medicine has come forward with good information that has proven that these are very efficacious. They're very safe when prescribed appropriately. Heightening our social awareness of the topic is one reason functional medicine is becoming more popular.”
The other reason, according to Martha is, when you optimize someone's hormones and they feel results, we as well feel the relief. I agree with that.
This can be anything from adrenal health to gut health, the sex hormones and thyroid. When people start feeling amazing, they tell someone else about it. “It feels just like when you get a great pair of shoes, you tell people where you got them”, Martha remarks.
When you start feeling amazing, when you get optimized and balanced out in your hormones, I think you tell people. That just spreads. It's almost like the best medicine you don't have to advertise. We are focused on disease prevention and it felt so good to get out of that world of disease management, where you're just giving people a pill for everything.
With functional medicine, we are actually preventing them from needing those medications. It's better to really look down deeper at the root cause. I like looking more at what's going on in the inside and fix the problem. The functional medicine approach, we're going to find that root cause and not just add some kind of band-aids in there.
Overall, when we're talking about optimizing hormones, whether that's improving them or balancing them for overall health, I asked Martha why is that really important. Here is what she said:
“From the day we're born, we're in a constant state of decomposition. We're born with the cells that you're going to have. As we age, as our hormones levels fluctuate and our adrenals get tired. Our ovaries are going through periods of menopause where they're not working well. All these changes are happening in our bodies. The receptor sites to receive these hormones start to downregulate and that's when your body starts to break down. You start feeling the dysfunction of not having those circulating hormones. Hence, if you combine that with the fact that the typical standard American diet, which is filled with a lot of processed foods, fillers, sugar and additives, it's gotten so much worse.”
Furthermore, she mentions that we don't manage our stress properly. We might drink more alcohol or eat more. The way to do things to compensate for stress has significantly changed over the years. This really has a lot to do with how well our adrenals are going to function.
Managing stress comes from doing it better and doing it differently. To name a few, you can focus on hydration, sleep, intentional breathing, stretching, yoga, prayer, and meditation. Some people do need medication to help with some of their psychiatric and psychological issues. A lot of times, instead of running to a pill necessarily, we don't do enough self-care. I think it's important because our body will break down and then we will end up in Western medicine.
“ We don't want to end up with hip replacement or with glaucoma, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, or even insulin resistance. A lot of the metabolic dysfunction comes from a lack of hormones, diet, and not managing stress. It is really important because we want to live optimally. Our goal in functional medicine is to add life to your years.
Martha’s interview was an enlightening look at the role of hormones in our health and how we can partner with functional medicine to optimize them. Her wealth of knowledge and passion for helping people shines through, and I think it’s safe to say that many of us are eager to learn more about how we can take control of our own health. If you feel inspired by what you read (or even if you just have a few questions), please don’t hesitate to reach out for a free discovery call. During this call, we can discuss your specific situation and see if working together is the right step for you. Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful day!
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DISCLAIMER: The information in this email is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content is for general informational purposes only and does not replace a consultation with your own doctor/health professional