Most women in their 20s and 30s suffer much differently than those in perimenopausal or menopausal stages of life. Though many of the symptoms are the same, some symptoms can worsen or vary as we age. Some symptoms that we may have in our later years may include insomnia, hot flashes, irritability, anxiety, palpitations, weight gain, irregular cycles and increased periods. These symptoms may be signs of lower progesterone or estrogen in the body which leads into menopause.
There are many reasons why women suffer from hormonal imbalances in their lives. Our bodies contain many different types of hormones that interact with each other constantly, and are supposed to play together like a symphony. But your hormones can sometimes go out of balance, especially during stress, or after your period, pregnancy, or phases of menopause (perimenopause to the final stages of menopause), causing the entire orchestra to play out of tune!
Hormone imbalances can often affect our mood, emotions, how we handle stress, our metabolism. The fluctuation of these hormones can cause dysfunction in organs including the kidneys, liver, heart and even the muscles. We often see fluctuations in weight, emotions, and anxiety and depression. Here are some signs and symptoms of hormonal imbalance:
2. Menstrual symptoms
3. Menopausal symptoms
5. Mood disorders
7. Digestive disorders
9. Weight gain
10. Low sex drive
11. Hair loss
Conventional treatments for hormonal imbalance are synthetic hormone replacement therapies, injections, medications for endocrine dysfunction and birth control pills. Hormones are secreted from glands in the endocrine system such as the pituitary gland, the adrenals, and thyroid; and from organs such as the pancreas and sex organ. Some synthetic hormone replacement therapies are linked to high risks of getting breast cancer and heart attacks. Other side effects include: weight gain, vaginal bleeding, skin rashes and acne, high blood pressure and osteoporosis.
Synthetic Medications and Their Side Effects
What many people don’t realize is that synthetic medications are very powerful and can adversely affect our organs over the years, and they can mask other symptoms and prevent the body from being able to fight for itself.
The pituitary gland is considered the master gland, sending information from the brain to many other glands in your body. This is how most endocrine glands receive their signals to work in the body.
When hormones are released into the blood, receptors pick up the signals and transmit them to various important organs of the body, telling them to get to work!
Because we live in such a toxic world, the environment is often loaded with unwanted chemicals that can hamper the body’s organs. It’s very important to understand and know the causes of hormonal imbalances, which include:
- Food allergies
- Leaky gut (caused by allergies, viruses, bacteria, toxins or stress)
- Environmental toxins
Functional medicine is a great way to analyze all symptoms in the body, and begin to heal with optimal, natural results by getting to the root of the problem. Talk to your doctor about functional medicine, or see a professional that really works to bring about a positive immune system response by addressing the root cause of your health issues.
Here are 4 Natural, Holistic Approaches to Hormonal Imbalances
1. Foods are the first and best way to improve your hormonal imbalances. It’s always important to focus on foods that reduce inflammation in the body. Anti-inflammatory foods are needed to keep your organs functioning at an optimal level, increase your metabolism for weight loss, and provide a daily intake of fiber to remove many of the toxic wastes accumulating in your body that can eventually cause hormonal dysfunction. Such foods include fatty acids like Omega-3s, and healthy fats like avocados, coconut oil, flax seeds, and nuts (walnuts and almonds, especially).
2. Homeopathic remedies are gentle and effective natural medicines that strengthen the immune system without compromising the important organs of the body. Homeopathy works wonderfully for acute and chronic conditions but must be provided by a professional homeopath (like me!) that knows how to prescribe these kinds of medications. It’s a holistic therapy that is highly individualized, because one remedy may work beautifully for one woman, but not for another. Homeopathy is a very specialized type of holistic medicine where one size does not fit all, so you need to find a homeopath with many years of experience.
3. Meditation and deep breathing exercises: Spending time relaxing can positively affect the mitochondria in your body. These power plants in each of our body’s cells can become even more powerful, through meditation to effectively balance hormones. We can use various meditative practices to lower our stress levels, anxiety, fears, loneliness, anger and irritability.
4. Herbal medicine is another form of holistic medicine that can work to improve many hormonal imbalances in the body. If you don’t know much about herbal medicines, there are different than homeopathic medications. Homeopathy focuses on dilutions, connections and potencies. Herbal medicines use ground, dried herbs within a capsule, tea or a dilution of alcohol.
Some excellent herbal medicines that work very well for women’s hormonal imbalances like menopause include licorice root, alfalfa, and Black Cohosh. Also, Ashwagandha is an excellent herbal adaptogen that can be used for adrenal fatigue, chronic fatigue and other stress-related hormonal imbalances.
It’s best that homeopathy and herbal medicine be taken on an individualized basis and through consultation from an experienced natural health practitioner, however here are a few general over the counter herbs that can relieve generalized symptoms related to your thyroid condition.
1. Ashwagandha: small studies have shown promising results regarding hypothyroidism taking ashwagandha. Due to chronic stress and an increase in cortisol levels, Ashwagandha can lower T3 and T4 levels. Ashwagandha may stimulate the endocrine system to increase levels of the thyroid hormone by reducing cortisol levels. It contains steroidal alkaloids and stop cooning which are chemicals that are involved in the production of converting T4 to T3.
2. Kelp: this vital seaweed can be taken a form of dried herbs which are recommended for daily doses of iodine if it is needed. It is a large brown seaweed that is found on the coastal areas in shallow waters. As a supplement to achieve the correct dose for your health problem it’s essential and it must also be provided by a knowledgeable practitioner.
3. Gotu Kola: This flowering plants which is a member of the parsley family has shown positive effects for thyroid conditions. The property located in this plants may stimulate the production of T4. It’s been used by Ayurveda medicine for centuries to improve memory and circulation.
4. Red clover: This gentle classic herb is known to provide support or woman suffering with various types of reproductive condition as well as a sluggish thyroid. This flowering herb blooms in summer. It is very useful for supporting the liver and cleansing and purifying the blood. The liver can become congested overtime. This herb may prevent conversion of T4 to T3 which causes an underactive thyroid.
5. Licorice root: can help strengthen weakened adrenal glands. Again, it is always recommended that you see a health professional when trying to use certain herbs to support your thyroid. Licorice root can provide support for someone with an underactive thyroid. Red Clover can help decrease the cortisol levels by inhibiting 11 beta- dehydrogenase 2. This enzyme may disrupt cortisol metabolism. It can also help with gastrointestinal problems, inflammatory conditions and support the female reproductive system.
I hope you now have a better understanding of hormonal imbalances and how they are caused, why they happen, and what you can do holistically improve your hormonal symptoms whether you are in premenstrual cycle, perimenopause, or menopausal.
Foods are also an excellent way to start fighting back many of your symptoms, and a healthy diet is what we begin with. Other approaches such as homeopathy, herbal medicine, and natural supplements are recommended as necessary to suit your individual needs.
Camille McClellan, MD, DNM, MBS
McClellan Natural Health, Wellness & Nutrition
Free Naturopathic/Homeopathic Consults Available