women's health issues and functional medicine

5 Common Women's Health Problems That Can be Treated with Functional Medicine and Nutrition

Here at Root, we treat a variety of women’s health conditions with functional medicine and nutrition.  Here is a list of 5 conditions we commonly work with:

#1 Hashimoto’s (and other thyroid conditions)

Approximately 10% of women suffer from hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid.  The Autoimmune form of hypothyroid disease is known as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.  It is estimated that around 90% of cases of hypothyroidism are actually Hashimoto’s. With Hashimoto’s, there is an autoimmune attack on the thyroid taking place and antibodies are present in blood work. 

We also work to prevent thyroid issues from occurring by assessing full thyroid panels from a functional medicine perspective. Thyroid issues don’t happen overnight and there are many lifestyle and nutrition changes you can make to optimize thyroid levels before a problem occurs.  For a variety of reasons, including issues with insurance billing, full thyroid panels often aren’t even offered in traditional medicine.  At Root, we have access to affordable thyroid testing and we assess more than just thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). We also look at free T3 and T4, and thyroid antibodies. We value looking at the full picture, and looking at just the TSH often doesn’t cut it.  If you were told your TSH was normal in the past, but still feel like something is off, we would suggest getting a full panel done.  

#2: Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

PCOS is the most common metabolic and hormonal disorder in women, and is estimated to effect between 6-13% of women.  To be diagnosed with PCOS, women must meet at least 2 of the following 3 criteria:

– Absent or irregular menstrual cycles (Oligo- or amenorrhea).
– Clinical or biochemical signs of hyperandrogenism
– Polycystic ovaries

The vast majority of women with PCOS suffer from insulin resistance, and therefore have difficulty losing weight.  Other symptoms associated with PCOS include skin problems (acne), hair loss, unwanted hair growth (hirsutism), irregular or heavy periods, and mood disturbances.

#3 Irregular Periods/Hypothalamic Amenorrhea 

Getting a regular period isn't just important when you are trying to get pregnant.  Think of your menstrual cycle as a monthly report card that hints at how balanced your hormones are.  If you are experiencing extremely heavy periods, tender breasts, mood swings, and skin problems around your cycle time, this could indicate that you have a hormonal imbalance.  

Missing or irregular periods could be for a variety of reasons, including past history of disordered eating, PCOS (as mentioned above), poorly planned diets (vegan diets are often most at risk), under-eating, over-exercising, or sometimes a combination of these things.

Hypothalamic Amenorrhea, AKA Functional Hypothalamic Amenorrhea (FHA), in simple terms is the absence of a period due to low body weight (or extreme weight loss), over-exercising, stress, or a combination of the 3.  We frequently see this in athletes who are under stress and are not eating enough to compensate for their level of exercise.  You can read more here.   Treatment for FHA is highly individualized and it sometimes takes months to years to restore a regular menstrual cycle, but it is possible.  

At Root, we are able to test hormones, micronutrient levels, and assess dietary patterns and mind/body rituals to create a targeted treatment plan to try to restore regular periods in women.  We also refer out for treatment of eating disorders when we feel it's appropriate.   

#4: Irritable Bowel Syndrome 

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is characterized by cramping, bloating, abdominal pain, and diarrhea and/or constipation that occurs for at least 3 months.  IBS is often accompanied by anxiety and is more common in women than men.  The exact reason IBS is more common in women is unknown, but it is hypothesized that this is due to women being more hormonally complex than men.  

At Root, we work with people who have IBS and have access to stool/microbiome testing.  Our dietitians are trained in using elimination diets and a food as medicine approach.  Our MRT/LEAP program is also great for IBS and often reduces symptoms of IBS by 50-75% in just 10-14 days.  You can read more about that here.

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#5: Migraines

It is estimated that almost 30 million Americans experience migraine headaches and that 3 out of 4 sufferers are women.  Migraine treatment is highly personal and can be approached in a variety of ways. We often look at diet, genomics, micronutrient levels, hormones, stress levels, and sleep, to name a few things.
There are also several herbal remedies for migraine prevention and treatment. Here’s a study comparing taking daily riboflavin (vitamin b2) 100mg to one of the most common migraine prevention medications, propranolol at 80 mg/day. They were equally efficacious at that dose, but the patients who took riboflavin had significantly less side effects. At Root, we are well versed in herbal medications, have access to high quality third party tested supplements, and review potential interactions between herbs and medications through a subscription database.
Though we can use functional medicine for most health conditions, the above are some of our special interest areas. We work with people one on one to improve all of these issues in our Root membership. 

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