How To Talk To Your Doctor About Hormonal Imbalance
You’ve decided that something is going on with your hormones. Whether it’s a daily afternoon slump, debilitating cramps, weeks of PMS or any plethora of symptoms – you’ve done enough research to suspect your hormones are to blame. But what next?
How do you go about diagnosing and then treating your problems? This can be a complicated and confusing subject, but it doesn’t have to be! With a little guidance and direction, you will be on your way to happy hormones and better health.
The first stop for most of us is our primary doctor or OB/GYN. And my first recommendation is to make sure that this is someone you have seen before, that you feel you can talk to and trust. If you don’t have any primary care, try to get a recommendation from a friend.
Unfortunately, hormone health is not something that most doctors receive extensive training in. Women’s diseases and vague symptoms are also much more likely to be ignored. The implicit bias of the entire healthcare system against women is starting to be a big conversation.
Traditionally, medical research has focused on men, and female-specific conditions have been ignored and underfunded. Conditions such as multiple sclerosis and endometriosis were attributed to women’s “hysteria” for decades – until scientific, diagnostic proof was found. So keep this in mind and make sure the doctor you see is someone who will listen to you. It is your body after all!
It will help your doctor if you can be as clear and concrete with your symptoms as possible. I recommend picking one or two things related to your imbalance and tracking them for a few weeks.
If you are already using an app to track your period, most of them have the option to track or log other symptoms, or even just write it down in a notebook. What time is your afternoon crash every day? What exactly do your PMS symptoms consist of and for how many days prior to your period? If you are concerned about your thyroid or fertility-what is your daily morning temperature?
The more data you have, the easier it will be to find a pattern. Data is also much harder to ignore. Vague symptoms of “I don’t feel well” can be dismissed, but an app that shows your irregular periods and inappropriate temperature spikes for your cycle cannot. This can help you get to a diagnosis more quickly and accurately, since it helps to narrow down what testing you actually need.
Since you have some data, feel free to do your own research with it. Do you think you have PCOS? Thyroid disease? Adrenal problems? This is the information age and educating yourself can help you to have a better discussion with your doctor.
The caveat to this is to make sure you trust the source of your information. Sometimes it can be really hard on the internet to figure out who to trust. There are tons of people, both qualified and unqualified who are giving health advice. What kind of training does that person have? Have they worked with people that have that problem or is it just a personal account of their own experience?
One hormone resource that I recommend on a regular basis is the book Woman Code. It’s a great breakdown of hormones for the layperson, as well as a lot of diet and lifestyle recommendations to help bring things back into balance.
A baseline knowledge will help you be able to advocate for yourself better. To be able to ask if they think specific testing or a certain treatment is warranted. Or to explain the disease process a little better if there is something that is still unclear to you.
And finally, if you aren’t happy with the answer that you get, then look elsewhere. Hormonal problems can be incredibly frustrating. Don’t be afraid to get a second opinion from another doctor.
A great thing to consider is finding someone who does functional medicine. The entire goal of functional medicine is to get to the root cause of the problem, so that type of provider will not dismiss you or refuse to get testing. Many people who feel that the medical system has failed them end up in functional medicine practice with great results.
Even if you can’t find anyone in your area, there are plenty of functional medicine providers that practice virtually. Consider adding an acupuncturist, naturopath, or nutritionist for further adjunctive support. Trust yourself and your body. If you know that something is wrong, do not let anyone convince you otherwise.
Overall I would say, don’t get discouraged in this process. Hormones can be very complicated to diagnose and treat. It may take a little time to find your support team for healing, but you will find them. Trusting yourself and putting in the effort to support your health is one of the best gifts you can give yourself!