Through taking care of children, I have really gotten the opportunity to talk to lots of moms and the struggles that they face. One struggle that I hear about is hormone imbalances. Often times, these hormone imbalances are blamed for secondary infertility (the inability to have a baby after previously giving birth). But is infertility truly just a "hormone problem"? If the hormone imbalance is the whole story, why can't women just receive hormone therapy and get pregnant?
This blog is going to shed some light on these questions. Fertility challenges may include hormone problems, but that school of thought is incomplete. When we talk about hormones, we're really talking about the endocrine system. What you're likely not hearing about or reading about elsewhere is the neuro-endocrine system. You are probably aware that your brain and nervous system is what controls every feeling and function in your body: including the--yup, you guessed it! -- hormones! The nervous system is the boss of every other system in our body and is intricately woven into the balance of all systems.
Many people have heard the saying "don't kill the messenger." This is essentially what hormones are! They are chemical messengers between the brain and other cells in the body, so we cannot just say that the imbalanced hormones/endocrine system is the problem. We must take a step back at what's controlling the endocrine system and see how it's balanced.
The nervous system can be further broken down into different categories, or sub-parts if you will. One of these sub-parts is the autonomic nervous system, which is comprised of the sympathetic nervous system and parasympathetic nervous system. I always describe the sympathetic nervous system as the "gas pedal" mode. This is how our bodies react when perceiving danger: such as cavemen running from saber-toothed tigers or modern-day humans seeing red and blue lights in the rear view mirror. This is also known as the "fight, flight or freeze" mechanism and is very helpful if our life is truly on the line. The "brake pedal" mode is our "rest and digest" mechanism and is also where immunity and growth/development happen.
Most people easily understand this idea of needing a balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. What they don't realize, however, is the vast number of things that can cause our nervous system to tip towards the stressed-out, gas pedal side. To demonstrate what I mean, let's talk more about the idea of stress. Your nervous system responds the exact same way to a saber-toothed tiger coming at you as it does to a couple donuts and a coke or as it does to a day of being slouched at the computer screen. No matter physical, chemical, or mental in nature; they're all stressful to our nervous system and it perceives danger! Pregnancy is the most crucial time for woman’s body to be in GROWTH mode or parasympathetic mode, because development cannot happen if your body is protecting itself from something.
The #1 parasympathetic-inducing nerve in the body is something known as the vagus nerve. The gas pedal mode shuts this down and causes low vagal tone. This mostly shows up as STRESS STUCK in the neck, shoulders and upper back.
I often get the question of why am I as a chiropractor talking about this. Chiropractors mostly work with the joints of the spine and therefore influence nervous system function because the spinal cord resides within. There are three main areas of stress patterns often found in women’s spines:
1. Upper neck. Women with stress here frequently complain of tension, headaches, and/or migraines. The vagus nerve isn't activated and function as it should, leaving the gas pedal large and in charge. When your upper neck is “jammed,” stressed, tense; you can’t meditate, stretch, massage, acupuncture, fish oil or herb it, or IVF it away! Only specific chiropractic adjustments can restore the function in that area.
-> We’re seeing in research that subluxation (a fancy chiropractic-specific word for areas of the spine that are restricted) actually causes more stress in your brain that is only amplifying the issue!
2. Base of neck and traps. I often joke with people that they have to stop wearing their shoulders as earrings because you can literally see the tension they hold! This is one of the reasons these struggles often show up after the first child as the mother is nursing, carrying, changing diapers, etc. The nerves leaving this area of the spinal cord go directly to the thyroid which is huge in the conversation of hormones and the endocrine system.
->This is why many female challenges such as irregular periods, cramping, etc. are starting earlier and earlier! Think about the younger children who are in a texting posture snap chatting, Instagramming and even doing homework since most schools are moving to iPad usage---it's definitely not good for the nervous system development and its ties to the hormone system!
3. Lower in the thoracic area. This area is where the nerves that supply the adrenal glands come from. These glands are also highly involved in the neuro-chemical processes of the body, especially when the person is chronically stuck in stress mode. I'm seeing more and more people with adrenal fatigue because their body can no longer sustain the stress response!
You can now see how infertility is not just a hormone, or chemical, imbalance. Rather, it is a neuro-chemical imbalance. If you have only chased chemicals (hormones, household cleaners, make-up, foods, supplements, etc.) you can see why you have felt like you were missing something! Now it is time to address the base system. If you’re thinking “man I have struggled with tension and anxiety and I wonder if this could be part of my problem,” let me know! You deserve to know if neurological tension is the missing link in your body to help your endocrine system work for you to get your family growing.
Watch the whole webinar here: https://www.facebook.com/brightfuturesmaryville/videos/408564689712221/
At the end of the webinar, I share how technology shows us if your nervous system is out of balance. At Bright Futures, we don't guess-we test! This also helps to customize care for YOUR needs, which are surely different than my needs, your other child(ren)'s needs, and your husband's needs! We can't wait to serve your growing family, just like the families mentioned at the end of the webinar <3