Functional endocrinology is different from allopathic or Western Medicine endocrinology primarily in the way it assesses and evaluates endocrinological dysfunction of the body related to hormones. The focus in functional endocrinology is on assessing the hormonal changes that are occurring at the time of symptom onset rather than waiting for the organs to be in a diseased state. It is proactive rather than reactive.
What are Hormones?
Hormones are messenger molecules carrying communication target cells thereby controlling and coordinating multiple functions such as sleeping, breathing, your metabolic rate, temperature, heart rhythm, stress coping, sexual development, growth, sensory perception, movement, etc.
Such hormones are commonly known, and others aren’t such as thyrotropin, thyroid-stimulating hormone, cortisol, adrenaline, insulin, glucagon, growth hormone, prolactin, estrogen, and testosterone, to name a few.
Hormones are secreted by endocrine glands such as the thyroid, pancreas, adrenals, reproductive organs, pineal, hypothalamus, and parathyroid glands. A complete list of hormones may be found online at https://www.yourhormones.info/hormones/.
Diseases of the Endocrine System
Hormones that are either too high or too low can signal a problem. So, too, can an endocrine gland that is not responding to stimuli as it should. This can mean receptors are not responsive to the hormone such as in insulin resistance in type 2 diabetic or it can mean absolute lack of insulin, such as in the type 1 diabetic.
In the type 1 diabetic, a lack of insulin in the body causes unacceptably high levels of glucose in the body which can become lethal. A lack of insulin in the body for a type I diabetic means starving cells that cannot use the blood glucose because insulin isn’t present to let the glucose into the cells begin to metabolize their fat for energy and accumulate acids called ketone bodies that build up and can cause coma or death.
An FH endocrinologist looks at the diseases of the endocrine system in a proactive light such as why are the receptors resistant to insulin in the type 2 diabetic? Is a pharmacological drug the only answer or are there therapies that might rehabilitate that receptor to be sensitive to insulin again? Are there therapies for receptor rejuvenation? Well, sure there are!
Instead of depending on Metformin 500 mg 3x/ day(a glucose-lowering pharmaceutical commonly given to newly diagnosed diabetics), one could lose weight if overweight, start an afternoon exercise program, eat a high-water soluble fiber diet, or take the herbal supplement berberine to make those receptors sensitive to insulin again. Studies show these to be effective techniques and the ones FN practitioners are more apt to treat their patients with.
Another common FN approach to a common endocrine malady is hypothyroidism. Conventional medicine generally tests only the basic labs (TSH, free T4), but FN practitioners will get the entire thyroid panel (TSH, T4, T3, TPO), and measure selenium and iodine. The two approaches are completely different. One approach emphasizes replacement hormone therapy and the FN approach tries to answer the question of why the thyroid gland is not producing effective thyroid hormones. And, in some cases such as selenium and/or iodine deficiency, hormone replacement is not needed once the deficiency is corrected since the gland begins secreting adequate hormones again.
Again, the difference between the functional health approach and western medicine is the fervent attempt to get at the root cause of disease and treat without the use of medications if possible.
- T4: inactive thyroid hormone
- T3: active thyroid hormone
- TPO: Thyroid autoantibodies
- TSH: a hormone secreted by the pituitary gland with the thyroid as its target. Stimulates the production of T4 which when combined with selenium forms the active hormone T3.
- Insulin resistance: the receptor doesn’t fit the hormone and won’t bind so there is no action of the hormone at the receptor level. The receptor is like a lock on a door and the hormone the key. If the lock doesn’t fit, the key won’t open the door and in a diabetic case, the receptor doesn’t allow glucose in because the insulin is either defective or insufficient.
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