Are you struggling with hot flushes, night sweats, mood swings, waking up in the early hours of the morning and not able to get back to sleep? Is the amount of hair you find on your pillow each morning that’s a cause for concern? In some cases it might be hair growing in the wrong place (chin) that’s a cause of embarrassment. The most likely explanation for any of these issues is a hormone imbalance. Women going through the menopause may unwillingly recognise some of these issues and in some cases find the symptoms intolerable. Pre-menstrual tension can be equally tough due to bloating, painful periods and mood disturbances. In both cases, your family and friends may be aware of you are not your usual, happy self. You don’t have to continue to suffer. The good news is that hormones can be balanced naturally with some simple solutions.
Most women are aware that there are two main hormones involved with their monthly cycle, oestrogen and progesterone. Some of the indicators of when there is too much of one and not enough of the other are provided below:-
Too much oestrogen
Not enough progesterone
Increased body fat
Thin bones, osteoporosis
Heart and circulatory issues
Quite often nutritional deficiencies can contribute to some of these problems. Do you crave chocolate or experience muscle cramps? Amongst other things, this is a key indicator of magnesium deficiency. Magnesium is an amazing supplement and a natural relaxant (including tense muscles). Magnesium suppresses the parathyroid hormone and stimulates calcitonin, it helps put calcium into our bones, preventing osteoporosis and helps remove calcium from our soft tissues thus eliminating some forms of arthritis. When low in magnesium the body will rob calcium from the bones. Believe it or not, taking a calcium supplement to alleviate a calcium deficiency is pointless if there are insufficient levels of magnesium. The body requires a ratio of 2:1 calcium to magnesium. Good sources of magnesium are spinach, swiss chard, broccoli, kale, avocado, brazil nuts.
During the perimenopause, the adrenal glands start to take over the production of oestrogen from the ovaries which explains why at this point in their life some women start to feel unusually anxious. Understanding what our bodies are doing and the reasons why we are experiencing such symptoms can help. Another reason why magnesium is such a useful supplement is that it is a natural body calmer. Some might even go as far as calling it a natural tranquiliser. This would be one of the first supplements that I would consider for a client suffering from panic attacks or sleep issues.
Holistic therapists sometimes call the thyroid “the emotional gland”. When we suffer a major upset or are continually stressed the production and conversion of thyroid hormones are disrupted. In particular, when we are stressed, the adrenal glands work overtime, cortisol levels increase (think of the fight or flight response. The body is focussing on adrenal production to ensure there are adequate resources to run away or fight a threat, it is not directing energy balancing hormones.
There are now 34 symptoms officially associated with menopause which are shown below, plus a few others that should also be recognised:
We are all individuals and the menopause/PMT symptoms experienced are specific to you and can affect us all differently. It might be that you have consulted with your GP who has suggested HRT or the contraceptive pill to reduce the symptoms and this may not be the route for you. Alternatively, having been prescribed either HRT or the pill the side effects are beginning to outweigh the benefits.
Looking back to school biology lessons you may recall that glands, including the ovaries, are the main producers of hormones. The fact that the liver regulates the sex hormones, thyroid, cortisone and other adrenal hormones, is often forgotten. The liver transforms or removes excess hormones from the body but when the liver is unable to do this properly there is a risk of emotional imbalances.
The liver is one of the largest organs in the body. It is known to have at least 500 functions and it seems quite topical to mention that the liver is also an important organ when it comes to immunity. Our bodies are bombarded daily with multiple toxins, whether environmental or dietary, unintentional from too many treats. This is something for consideration when hormone imbalances are apparent.
The increase of industrial farming and the significant use of artificial hormones has meant that traces of these hormones are found in the drinking water supply. The popularity of water filters does show that we are opting to make sensible choices about our drinking water but the court is out as to whether all filters can effectively remove hormones. It might also be worth investigating whether your local authority adds fluoride to the water supply as this can have a negative effect on hormone function, particularly the thyroid.
Once through the menopause, in theory, the symptoms should stop but it seems that all too frequently they continue. It is possible for all the symptoms of the menopause to disappear but only to reappear some years later. New research from the University of Queensland has found that women who have hot flushes and night sweats after menopause are 70 per cent more likely to have heart attacks, angina and strokes.
Facts and figures can be a little depressing so we mustn’t forget how amazing our bodies are. They do need a little help so in addition to taking a magnesium supplement there are three things that I would recommend:
Essential fatty acids - It might be that even mentioning the words essential fatty acid has caused you to stop reading. These are simply the omega 3, 6 and 9 oils. Fresh foods are the best sources, but we cook and process our foods which reduces the nutritional content. Avocados, coconut oil, grass-fed butter, cold-pressed seed oils are good sources. Take care with fish: go for sustainable, shiny, silver, small, shellfish.
Essential fatty acid supplements are best in liquid form – hemp seed oil and evening primrose oil are particularly good for menstrual issues.
Fermented foods - Eating fermented foods help us to absorb nutrients efficiently. Fermented food contain live cultures that increase the bio availability of nutrients. They release minerals from the food we eat. Every culture is made up of a host of different cultures.
Sadly, YOGHURT IS NOT ENOUGH – yoghurt production is very controlled, there’s little diversity and with intensive farming too many artificial hormones are introduced. Diversity is the key – kefir for instance has more diverse cultures. Both yoghurt and kefir provide plenty of protein, calcium and B vitamins. Kambucha is another good way of widening your intake of cultures but try not to be drawn into the overly sugary offerings.
Enhance your gut health - Women’s gut flora decreases sharply form mid 30’s, in particular Bifidobacterium. Bifidos help absorb B vitamins and protect against anxiety and low mood. The latest studies show that the right gut flora protect against depression. A good probiotic with a wide range of bifidos is recommended and my top tip is to change brands periodically as different brands contain different cultures.
Remember – our bodies are amazing!
We have incredible powers of resilience
The body knows how to heal itself
We are born with a strong or weak constitution
But we can strengthen or weaken what we were born with
Hormone imbalance is a vast subject and I could probably write a book rather than a blog on the subject.
Please get in touch by completing the contact form or giving me a call on 07709 227779 if you would like more information or to be gently guided through the hormone minefield.
Finding Balance, Feeling Better, Living More.