Are you at the mercy of your hormones?
Our hormones have a major influence of our lives and as women we know too well how our hormones can affect our mood and energy…..but how many of us really understand how important hormones are for health and wellbeing?
Although many of us have been told otherwise, premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is NOT a natural part of being a woman and something we have to put up with every month for 40 years of our life!
In Australia, it is estimated that up to 70% of women experience PMS at some point in their life, with 17% of women suffering the most severe form of PMS known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). PMS encompasses a broad range of symptoms commonly experienced in the last week or two of the menstrual cycle.
Common symptoms include – mood swings, bloating, breast tenderness, headaches, cravings, fatigue, skin breakouts, increased appetite, painful periods and so on. These symptoms can be worse if you are already under stress and can easily affect the quality of your already very busy life. This collection of physical and emotional symptoms is not a disease as such but a sign that your reproductive system is out of balance.
More serious signs of imbalance are endometriosis, fibroids, polycystic ovarian syndrome and irregular or no cycle at all. These imbalances can also involve the thyroid gland and the adrenals. Although synthetic hormones such as those in the oral contraceptive pill may offer some relief in a percentage of patients, these drugs provide only a bandaid approach as they do not correct the underlying imbalance which is likely to return when you eventually go off the Pill. Creating a balanced monthly cycle can be achieved with simple diet and lifestyle changes and by using the right natural medicines which don’t suppress, stimulate of manipulating your system but instead strengthen, tonify and balance, promoting normal function.
Herbal Medicines for hormones
There are many herbs that have been used traditionally for PMS and been shown to be effective in clinical trials. One of these is Vitex agnus-castus, also known as chaste tree. Vitex can help with many of the common symptoms of PMS such as breast tenderness, bloating, irritability and depression and can also regulate irregular periods. Dosage is important however and it is best prescribed by a practitioner so the appropriate dose for your condition can be ascertained.
Herbalists will often use hormone balancing herbs in conjunction with herbs to support the liver, nervous system and possibly the thyroid as these are all involved in hormone balance. A herbal formulation that has been prescribed specifically for you will always be more effective.
There are many vitamins, minerals and trace elements that play an essential role in hormone balance. Vitamin B6 is important for progesterone production and the nervous system and Vitamin E is important for regulation of estrogen levels.
Women are commonly low in the water soluble B-vitamin group which can impair our tolerance to stress. Zinc is key for both male and female fertility and is also a common deficiency today. Chronic period pain and cramping can be an indication of low magnesium which relaxes nerve and muscle tissue. A tablet combining calcium and magnesium taken in appropriate doses will often significantly improve period pain. Evening primrose oil capsules have also known to assist with PMS symptoms and period pain.
Lifestyle factors for hormone balance
- Avoid caffeine, salt, alcohol, chocolate, saturated fats and sugar (especially in the days leading up to your period) as these foods will worsen PMS symptoms.
- Consume a diet high in fiber, fruits and vegetables, essential fatty acids (omega 3) and lean protein sources.
- Drink at least 1-2 litres of purified water a day.
- Keep active.
- Maintain a healthy weight (fat tissue produces more oestrogen which can upset balance if in excess).
- Don’t smoke.
- Eliminate food that can contribute to hormone imbalance such as non-organic chicken, sugar and white flour and refined carbohydrates.
- Manage stress levels with exercise, relaxation etc.
Finally, if hormonal imbalance is affecting your quality of life or that of your relationship or family, make sure you get some help…most symptoms can be effectively reduced or eliminated in 1-3 months.