How to fix sex hormones?

My periods have been extremely heavy and irregular since my teens. I've also been trying to build muscle through weight training in the last 6 months and lose body fat but despite a strict diet which is gluten and dairy free I'm seeing virtually no progress. I store a lot of fat on my upper legs which could be oestrogen dominance. Fat on my tummy has appeared in the last few years which could be due to high cortisol. I have no libido. I've yet to start taking T3 but I believe I also have a problem with my sex hormones. I'm not sure T3 is going to fix all this.

The only testing I've had done was the Adrenal Stress Profile which showed very low DHEA. I've been recommended to take DHEA by an Endo based on this result but I'm reluctant to do so. Dr P suggested progesterone cream for the heavy periods and but I'm reluctant to try that too due to the side effects people have been talking about.

What tests can I have done to see my exact sex hormone status? I know Genova have some hormone tests. Has anybody had these done? Can anybody recommend perhaps a functional medicine practitioner in or around London that can help with this? Thanks.

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33 Replies

  • Serendipitious I have had the Menopause Plus test done through Genova. Mine showed extremely low DHEA but my practioner didn't suggest supplementing with DHEA.

    What side effects of progesterone cream have you heard about? imhave been using it for almost 12 months and I've had no side effects whatsoever.

  • People here were saying their periods were occurring after a week's gap, migraines and it affected their vision.

    Would that test be suitable for somebody who isn't going through menopause?

  • Ah, well periods are past history for me :) but I have never experienced migraines or vision problems because of using progesterone cream. We're all different though and react in different ways to things.

    I did the Menopause Plus test because I am post menopause. You'd need to check the others they offer to see which would be suitable for whatever stage you're at.

  • Have you had your ferritin tested? Low iron can cause heavy periods.

  • Yes my Ferritin was 19 before November and after an iron infusion later that month it has now risen nicely to 150.

    Unfortunately periods are slightly less heavy now but for some reason very painful. I also get horrible PMS symptoms well before they start.

  • OK. And are you periods still heavy? Or have they improved somewhat? You'll need to keep an eye on your levels, anyway.

    Just being hypo can cause problems with periods, too.

  • Yes still heavy. I'm trying to supplement with gentle iron as and when I can to keep my levels topped up.

  • May be worth asking GP to test for PCOS which can also cause these kinds of symptoms.

  • I get hormone bloods done every year (but I'm on bio hrt). DHEA might make you grow a tache if you take too much, but if the endo suggested it, I'd go for it. I've taken it for over a decade (and I have less of a tache than my gran did).

    Over training will give you high cortisol (to start with) which encourages fat and blocks thyroid hormone - dieting tends to do the same. So don't over do it.

  • Angel_of_the_North your post really made me laugh. I'm not very hairy at the moment which I'm quite happy with. Do you think if you stopped taking DHEA you'd lose the tache? I'm just wondering if that did happen could I reverse it? Is it due to increased testosterone? What are your hormone levels like?

    I can't say I over train. I can only manage two 1 hour sessions each week. I'm definitely not dieting. My personal trainer has banned me from any calorie reduction diets but that doesn't mean a free for all. It does mean I'm eating no gluten, dairy or refined sugar. Initially it was also no lentils or nuts. I have 3 meals a day consisting of protein, vegetables, a small amount of fat and steamed rice. However, I've gained 5kgs in the last 6 months because I'm gaining muscle and not burning much fat.

  • I should think you would. In some people, DHEA is very androgenic in a bad way, in others not. It eventually metabolises into both testosterone and oestrogen (and a few other things). I can't take testosterone directly, which is why I have DHEA, but only 12.5 mg a day. I get tired and apathetic very quickly if I reduce my dose, so I know it does something. My DHEA S level is mid range.

    It sounds as though you are doing really well. If only your legs are fat, it could be something like lipodema, or just mucin from being hypo.

    DHEA is also a preventative against osteoporosis. is interesting

  • If it helps (if only in a misery-loves-company way) I also had trouble gaining muscle (definition and mass) when I used to work out before I was diagnosed. It is a symptom of uat.

    I took dhea for some time and didn't have any side effects (no 'tache!) so if that is being suggested you might want to give it a go. I didn't notice any positive effects either tbh so didn't continue to take it after the bottle was finished. I also tried progesterone and testosterone creams with no side effects. Always worth a try I think, just to see if it helps.

  • I've been working with my personal trainer for months but I've really not made much progress in terms of fat loss. I only do strength training but with real difficulty and no cardio as that raises cortisol apparently. I used to be a spinning class junkie years ago and I'd get such a rush from it but it must have made me worse. I don't even have the energy to go near a cardio machine now.

    The endo said you might get greasy skin from the DHEA. I might try it once I get used to T3. puncturedbicycle did you have any tests done to see what your hormone levels were?

  • I don't have greasy skin, but I'm post menpause, so it might be different. Do you have calipers to do body fat % measurements (side of waist, under scapula, tricep, bicep)? If not, your waist measurement should go down and your bicep should go up. Legs are difficult because you'll build muscle on your quads and hamstrings, often before you lose fat there (esp if you are hypo).

  • My personal trainer measures body fat using callipers. When I first started my diet 6 months ago I became slightly leaner on the tops of my legs, back of thighs and close to my belly button.Then I fell off the wagon and ended up eating chocolate which I shouldn't have and lost all those gains. Legs have definitely gained muscle because I can do more squats and lunges with heavier weights but I can't do many repetitions I get so tired. I've always had a lot of fat around my hips/thighs but in the last few years I've acquired a muffin top too. So that must be stress related. My arms have never been fat but they have become bigger probably due to muscle mass and the inflammation so they seem fatter. Most recently I've only lost something around my stomach. It's probably just a few millimetres. My personal trainer says I'm inflamed so that could be the mucin you're referring to.

  • Women's legs are very strong and generally have good endurance, so just do what you can. Squats are good for the whole body, but lunges can be more of a problem because of balance issues. If you are getting too tired, you are overtraining. Feeling liek you want to throw up is OK (if you are dedicated!), but you should feel Ok again and ready for a night out after a couple of hours.

    When was a trainer I knew nothing about the thyroid and I cringe to think of the rubblish I told people (like inflammation or water retention) when they had things like mucin or even pre-tibial myxoedema.

    Chocolate is good. Lots of magnesium, zinc from cocoa and generally good fat. Often your body tells you to binge on something that contains vits and minerals you are missing - so go for dark chocolate with not much sugar. Easy for me to say as I don't like chocolate (but I'm addicted to cashew nuts).

    If you're going to eat carbs, eat them after your workout when they are more likely to be used as glycogen for the muscles.

  • Good to speak to another trainer. Well I've never felt like I'm going to throw up but I get very tired and feel like my head's spinning. However, after a few minutes rest I'm generally okay. I have a small vegan protein shake afterwards by Sunwarrior. After a workout I feel sore for a good few days and I get lots of aches, pains and tightness in my muscles which eventually goes. PT is also good at fixing any tightness with on the spot massage - effective but excruciating! He got me to try a chin up yesterday but although my arms are stronger my lats are weak despite doing lots of ring rows. I only managed one chin up and dropped to the ground haha. Like you say the chocolate cravings must have been Magnesium related. Initially, I couldn't tolerate too much Magnesium so he ended up giving me a topical cream. I'm now able to 300mg of elemental Magnesium a day. I also take 60mg of elemental Zinc. I'm reluctant to eat cashew nuts although I love nuts and used to make a lot of nut butters. My PT has told me to avoid nuts due to Phytic Acid and plus doctors keep going on about how they affect cholesterol. My total cholesterol is 6.1.

    My "inflammation" like you say is probably all thyroid related. I've also tried Berberine HCI and I've recently started these because I was also very bloated:

    I'm hoping T3 will help me. Does it help with mucin or even pre-tibial myxoedema?

  • Chins are hard for women as we are bottom heavy. Get someone to hold your feet and press down to start with until you get stronger - your PT should know what I mean. You need cholesterol to make hormones and eating fat doesn't raise it anyway. High cholesterol is a symptom of hypothyroidism. Tricylgerides are what you want to reduce and those are cause by sugar (eg carbs - rice, potatoes etc) Cashew nuts are mostly monunsaturated fat. Nuts in general are protective against heart disease:

    "Nuts' high antioxidant content helps explain results seen in the Iowa Women's Health Study in which risk of death from cardiovascular and coronary heart diseases showed strong and consistent reductions with increasing nut/peanut butter consumption. Total death rates decreased 11% and 19% for nut/peanut butter intake once per week and 1-4 times per week, respectively."

    Go and read dr malcolm kendrick's blog on cholesterol and heart disease and don't listen to those who are 20 years out of date.

    Training uses up all your T3, so be careful not to overdo it. Post your bloods in another thread and ask for comments before taking T3.

    I'm just a sedentary old wifey now, BTW

  • I'm very far away from doing any chin ups I've got a lot of work to do with my back first. He did hold me up but it still wasn't much use 😂 I managed to do some deadlifts in November and then I got so sick with a throat infection (pharyngitis) and vertigo like symptoms after taking amoxycilllin that it took me forever to get back into training again. Speaking of white rice that's all I seem to eat these days since going gluten free. I really hope it's not a bad thing. I'll have a read of Dr Kendrick's blog. Also thanks for telling me about training using up T3. I'm going to be more careful in future.

  • Sounds like you could be overdoing it a bit. Getting dizzy is not a good sign. I got a lot of that just before my adrenals packed up and I had an abnormal synacthen test.

    Deadlifts are great, but low reps and bent legged ones with 10k or 20k plates, not tiny plates so you have to go down too far. Hooks or straps can help. There's knack to being helped with chins. Bend legs at knee, and cross your ankles. Get partner to put hands under the middle of your feet (it's not eh sole as your feet are the other way up). Your partner should just brace your feet and you press down as much as you need to help push yourself up. If your partner tries to lift you, it just doesn't work.

  • Serendipitious yes, I was seeing a doctor w an interest in thyroid/adrenals who did testing but it was maybe five or six years ago and I don't remember much about what tests were done.

    I don't remember any skin trouble w the dhea. I think I may have had a mildly racing heart but the doc seemed to think that was unrelated and I think I reduced my levo a bit.

    If you're retaining fluid you may find t3 helpful. Maybe three-five days after starting a 10mcg dose the fluid I'd been retaining just fell off more or less overnight. Are you constipated despite being on a good dose of thyroid hormone (sorry, I may have missed some details re treatment, are you on levo?)? That also went away w the addition of a little t3.

    I wonder about your spinning addiction. I had an odd episode after running where I just bottomed out and was so weak I didn't know if I'd be able to drive home, and I never really recovered. I was diagnosed maybe a year later. I never found out what that was. Always interested to hear if anyone else has had a similar experience.

    I know you're working hard and want to see results but this may be one of those times when it would help to accept that you're not 100% so won't see the kind of progress you'd see if you were. Same for the chocolate, you may just have to chalk that up to a mental health supplement and enjoy it.

    Tbh I've never heard of a short-term chocolate binge doing any harm anyway; it's when you're eating it regularly instead of good food that it's bad for your health. I did a whole restricted (but not calorie controlled) diet w a trainer and I think it was largely a load of b******s. Some competitive folk feel better on restricted diets but some of that (imo) is psychological, feeling like you're giving yourself an edge etc. And although you're not meant to be limiting calories it does sound like your diet is quite spartan. Have you tried eating a bit more? More protein and a bit more fat might give you a boost.

    Women have drilled into them that sacrifice and hardship are productive and indulgence and enjoyment are not (esp when it comes to food/weight but not limited to those), but that just is not the whole truth. When you work you need to rest. When you use energy you need to replenish it. When you drive yourself you need to reward yourself. When you're ill you need to make allowances. Be good to yourself. <3

    Sorry for writing a tome. :-)

  • Well its my personal trainer that thinks I'm retaining fluid. He pinched my arms and said he can see water moving about. I'm not so sure but I know I feel bloated a lot so maybe it means that water retention occurs elsewhere too. I've been constipated for years and I never even used to realise it. I probably didn't have enough awareness until I learnt how dangerous it is. I once ended up in hospital because I lost so much blood after visiting the loo. I eat a lot of vegetables now which helps.

    For some reason I used to love any form of extreme exercise. Sometimes I'd do two spin classes in a day. It must have been an adrenaline rush that I was chasing and I think as time went on I stopped losing weight (not that I lost much) and just crashing with exhaustion. It must have been adrenal related but when I had the Genova Adrenal Stress Profile in December 2016 cortisol was slightly above range for all four readings. You must have had an adrenal related issue by the sounds of it.

    You're right I'm really not making much progress but then I think if I'd just carried on without seeing my personal trainer I would never had started this diet of more protein and balanced substantial meals and I would never have known about the thyroid issue as he was the one who ordered my Genova thyroid test. Maybe I need to reduce the amount of exercise I'm doing. To be honest I'm not limiting my calories in fact I'm eating more than I ever have. I used to survive on chicken and salad which would leave me feeling miserable and hungry.

    I'm hoping I will feel better once my thyroid medication has been improved. Yes I'm only on 75mcg of Levo at the moment. I think that is what's lacking. Thanks for the advice puncturedbicycle.

  • Hi

    I had the same issues. It went back to normal after I started on NDT, had " female profile I " done by Biolab and tested my DHEA, progesterone, estradiol, testosterone, cortisol. It showed low progesterone and testosterone. Went on bioidentical progesterone torches and testosterone cream. Amazing. Periods back to light, good mood etc... No side effects. I'm 34.

  • Katka where did you have this Biolab test? Also, what do you mean by Progesterone torches? Was this under the supervision of a specialist? I wouldn't know where to start even if I did have a test.

  • Hiya,

    Yes it was under surprivision of my private GP. He suggested to test. It changed my life. Biolab is a lab in London. You can order the test but they don't send the results to you. Always to the doctor. Ans he then prescribes what is needed. Torches are small mint progesterone "sweets" that you put under your lip overnight and they melt and absorb into blood stream. I know there are people who feel confident to go it alone but im scared to self medicate with hormones. My body was messed up enough so no way I were risking it making worse. The prescription Is for 3 months supply for torches and a bit less for testosterone cream. Not unmanageable. But yes. Private consultation is 150 quid. But.... At least to start you off I'd go for it. Once you know what works and how you can perhaps self medicate with progesterone cream? Up to you. All the best

  • Progesterone cream has been amazing for me. I use Ona's 10% progesterone cream. In the past I was using too low a dose which apparently one of the things that can cause problems. It has relieved my chronic pms reduced my heavy bleeding to the point I can leave the house! The pain is reduced and maybe due to this and a paleo- ish anti inflammatory diet I have had several scans that have showed no sign of polycystic ovaries which I had for 17 years. I use inositol powder and spatone sachets for gentle iron increase. I have used pro cream on and off for years. But only recently started using ona's was using progest e before as I follow Dr Raymond Peat's work. I haven't tested my hormones for quite some time due to being more concerned with treating chronic adrenal fatigue and hypothyroidism if any problems are left after sorting these out I may consider it. 😊

  • Ebs73 what hormone tests did you have and what did they reveal? Given that you've mentioned polycystic ovaries and heavy periods. Did you have high oestrogen compared to progesterone? What about testosterone?

    Did you try everything under supervision from a specialist or was it just reading Dr Peat's work? What does Inositol do with iron?

    Well done and thanks for sharing your experience.

  • Hi it's quite a long time ago. I was probably tested for various things linked to hormones. I saw a private Dr called Dr Marion Gluck. She was ridiculously expensive and she put me on pro cream. Spatone and iodine drops but didn't like the iodine. The other two things I have used on and off. I'm an avid health researcher because I've always been poor and no gp hasbeen able to help me much and actually I've had many bad experiences with surgery, pharmaceuticals and unnecessary and dangerous treatments. I avoid them all now opting for research and then self treating. I can't afford to keep testing and I can't afford to keep seeing private drs at £180 a pop! I am symptomatic of high estrogen and therefore will treat that accordingly. Progesterone cream is a bio identical hormone and for most is considerably safer than synthetic progestin etc.... I did have a high estrogen diet as a former low fat vegetarian. I try to avoid estrogenic chemicals and plastics but it's hard. Inositil is good for PCOS infertility, liver health etc...

    Spatone is good for anaemia. Or lactoferrin.

  • There is a chance it's PCOS (insulin resistance/low progesterone), in which case you might benefit from a very low sugar diet plus inositol powder. You could try this to see if symptoms improve, if this helps it may give you some clues.

  • Josiesmum if I had PCOS wouldn't I have greasy skin and a hairy face? I'm not hairy at all all and my skin is very dry. I'm not eating much sugar either. In fact I'm not even eating fruit apart from the occasional banana with a meal.

  • Not necessarily, it can cause very dry skin. Worth asking GP to investigate along with testing adrenals/cortisol (NHS blood test should be done at 9am). Might be worth cutting back a bit on training in the short term as hard exercising places additional stress on the body. Also taking time for relaxation activities such as meditation, yoga, walking in nature, lavender baths etc may help. Good luck.

  • Come to think of it, I had a pelvic scan about 5 years but there were no signs of any cysts, fibroids or polyps etc. I had the synacthen test about 3 years ago that was apparently "normal". I wish I could find the actual result but after 5 minutes I almost passed out on the floor. I did an Adrenal Stress Profile in December and all 4 values were elevated. I need to fix my high-ish cortisol I think. However it's not an easy thing to do. What does inositol powder do?

  • Apparently it helps with insulin resistance by making your cells more receptive to insulin and thereby letting glucose into the cells, which in turn may give you more energy. If it can't get into cells to be used for energy your liver will convert it to belly fat, which itself produces hormones and worsens hormone imbalances. That's my understanding anyway :-)

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