You may have a dozen or more chronic hormonal symptoms, but “crazy” isn’t one of them.
Maybe your doctors, friends and even your Google-symptom-searching family have told you that your hormonal symptoms couldn’t possibly be related to your concussion—but you know you’re not crazy (and we know you’re not too).
Are you taking medications and/or supplements to alleviate your hormone-related symptoms such as depression, anxiety and infertility, but you aren’t getting any better?
Maybe you’re also doing everything right; you even turned down the refined sugar and flour, trans fat, processed chocolate cake your friends made you for your birthday because you’re on a strict autoimmune diet. But nothing seems to help (and you’re missing out on cake, too).
Doctor after doctor, diet after diet—this vicious cycle of hope and disappointment can make it difficult to keep believing for an answer.
We get it.
Here’s the thing: you are not a difficult case and you are not too far from recovery. You just need real answers!
In this article, we will take a look at how concussions may be a contributing factor to your hormonal imbalances and how this can affect your symptoms and the overall quality of your life.
The Surprising Connection Between Concussions and Hormone Dysregulation
It’s unlikely that concussions and hormones have graced the topic of conversation at your friendly dinner parties. That’s because most people don’t realize the connection. Yet, concussions can drastically affect our stress, sex, steroid, appetite, peptide, neurotransmitter and other hormones, creating imbalance and a host of unpleasant symptoms.
Concussions affect the two main glands of the body which are responsible for regulating all of our hormones—the pituitary and the hypothalamus. These master glands are located in your brain (hint, hint) and they regulate everything from water / mineral absorption and stress, to sugar and stomach acid release and more.
Hormone imbalances from concussions can cause a myriad of symptoms:
- chronic muscle pain
- fatigue / reduced energy
- gut/digestive issues
- weight loss / weight gain
- sexual dysfunction
- fertility issues
In this article, we’ll take a deeper look into the top three hormone-related symptoms connected to concussions and how they manifest in the body.
Before we go further, it’s important to consider any hit to the head as a potential injury.
Sub-concussive blows to the head (mild traumatic brain injury like whiplash or a football tackle) may not be as severe as a concussion but they are often more dangerous.
Even though the hit to your head may not have been severe enough to immediately trigger concussion symptoms, you still could have disrupted network communication in your brain.
Small hits that accumulate over time can result in symptom development immediately or years to even decades later. The real danger is that people with sub-concussions don’t typically seek help because they do not consider the injury serious enough to treat. This could lead to problems down the road.
3 “Weird” Hormone-Related Symptoms Tied to Concussions
Let’s take a look at the top three symptoms connected to hormone imbalance due to concussions
#1: Not Getting Better? Adrenal Fatigue May NOT be the Issue
Are you getting treatment for adrenal fatigue but not recovering? It could be a brain-related problem—not an issue with your adrenals.
With concussion-related symptoms, the brain is not correctly communicating with your adrenals, resulting in adrenal-related symptoms. But, treating your adrenals without treating your brain will not help you if your symptoms are related to a concussion.
This is also why it’s important to work with a functional medicine practitioner who looks at your levels with a careful eye. Your doctor may not be concerned with imbalanced hormone levels unless they are severe enough to warrant a diagnosis.
For example, one of the most common side effects of concussive blows to the head is hypocortisolism. Hypocortisolism occurs when our adrenal hormones (specifically cortisol) are imbalanced due to a disruption in the hormone ACTH (Adrenocorticotropic hormone). You may be experiencing symptoms such as fatigue, irritability, and fertility issues, but if your levels are not low enough for a diagnosis of Addison’s disease or other serious conditions, your symptoms may go untreated.
#2 Anxiety, Depression and Memory: Problems with Emotional Regulation
When concussions affect your estrogen and progesterone levels, anxiety and memory problems are an unwanted byproduct.
This is because proper serotonin function is dependent on progesterone.
You know that feeling when your new puppy curls up on your lap after a grueling day at work? That’s how you can think of serotonin. It’s your happy neurotransmitter!
But, serotonin is not just focused on making you “happy.” It is also important for:
- social interaction
- proper sleep
- regulating mood
Low progesterone means low serotonin actyivity, which can result in one or all of these symptoms. Aside from serotonin imbalance, low progesterone can also cause headaches, reproductive and fertility issues.
Add to this, improper estrogen metabolism can cause focus, memory and motivation issues as the neurotransmitters dopamine and acetylcholine are dependent on estrogen as well. Estrogen metabolites can also build up (instead of being utilized) and cause inflammation which can set off another cascade of events.
#3 Gut Issues and Inflammation: A Duet of Complications
Heartburn? Starting with the top of the gut here, concussions can cause dysregulation of gastrin, the hormone that tells the stomach how much acid to release. But, heartburn is just one of the symptoms of concussion-related gut issues…
The Vagus Nerve
The vagus nerve, which can be affected by concussions, also plays a role in gut health. The vagus nerve is a cranial nerve that communicates with the liver, pancreas and gallbladder to keep things moving through the gut.
If the vagus nerve is not doing its job, the following symptoms can occur
- weight gain (due to malabsorption from above issues)
- weight loss (due to malabsorption from above issues)
These symptoms can then lead to overgrowth of non-beneficial bacteria.
Your gut contains three types of microbes:
- Beneficial microbes (probiotics)
- Commensal organisms (common, but need to keep them in check)
- Pathogens (unwelcome visitors, kind of like when your mother-in-law comes over unannounced)
Hormonal issues from concussions can lead to overgrowth of pathogens. Now, eating a clean diet can help to alleviate some of the symptoms of pathogen overgrowth but it won’t clear them out. This is why you still may feel unwell after eating healthy and cutting out inflammatory foods.
When you are dealing with pathogens you need to get on a protocol that will help you kill the pathogens and release them from your body. We have seen amazing results from patients who have been through these types of protocols, many with a complete elimination of symptoms.
Leaky Gut and VIP
Your body produces two hormones to help regulate your immune system and inflammation—VIP (Vasoactive intestinal peptide) and alpha-MSH (Melanocyte stimulating hormone). Both of these hormones are produced by the hypothalamus and pituitary glands of the brain. It’s no surprise that these can be disrupted after a head injury.
Specifically, VIP seals up the gut, so VIP dysregulation can lead to increased gut permeability (stuff passes through the gut into your bloodstream), resulting in overstimulation of your immune system, which can eventually affect the brain. Gut inflammation directly affects the brain and can cause psychological symptoms (anxiety, depression, memory issues)
In addition to sealing up the gut, VIP has another important job—to seal up the blood brain barrier, otherwise known as BBB (not to be confused with the Better Business Bureau). The blood brain barrier keeps unwanted materials out of the brain, but if this barrier is compromised, inflammation will be present.
When this occurs, doctors may offer treatment options such as hyperbaric oxygen or chiropractic manipulation, but if you do not address the root cause (VIP imbalance), the problem will not go away.
MSH and Excess Inflammation
Let’s talk about this important peptide hormone called MSH (melanocyte stimulating hormone). This guy will be accompanying you to all of your fun-in-the-sun excursions, since MSH is the hormone that allows you to tan. Now, before you go looking to market the next MSH tanning cream, it doesn’t exactly work that way.
Low MSH levels result in excess inflammation and can lead to autoimmune issues—essentially the immune system works opposite to how it should and can cause muscle and joint pain, even to the point of arthritis. Even dormant viral infections can activate (Epstein-Barr virus, Lyme disease) with improper MSH balance.
MSH also allows for proper mucosal immunity – preventing overgrowth of bad microbes in the gut, eyes, sinus cavity, urinary tracts, and other mucosal tracts. This peptide hormone is also responsible for regulating all steroid hormones (including cortisol and all the sex hormones), dopamine, serotonin, melatonin (sleep), and endorphins (pain control). It’s no surprise that MSH dysregulation can lead to widespread symptoms and problems.
How to Get Your Hormones—And Your Life—Back
You may feel like a one-in-a-million case that doctors can’t seem to help (your symptoms are real and we understand). You may just have never associated brain trauma with your current symptoms.
You may not have all of these symptoms or you may only have one (or none). Every person is unique in the way they respond to concussions. This is why it’s important to connect with a health practitioner who is skilled in getting to the root causes of symptoms and who also understands how hormones work and function in the body.
Addressing these hormonal and gut problems can be life-changing, and help you recover from your concussion-related symptoms. But, knowing whether or not these symptoms hail from a brain injury and what brain networks are malfunctioning is KEY to recovery.
Wondering if your symptoms are related to a concussion? Here at Neurvana Health, we offer qEEG (quantitative electro-encephalography) brain mapping, which measures your brain’s electrical patterns. This technology can assess how your brain networks are functioning and what areas may be contributing to your symptoms. If we find areas that need treatment, neurofeedback and other neuromodulation techniques can help in symptom relief.
Please know that you CAN regain your life back and reclaim what was lost. We are here for you and we’ve witnessed so many beautiful success stories. If you want to learn more about our clinic and talk to someone, contact us.