Restoring Hormonal Balance
Treating hormonal problems is one of the biggest areas of my practice. For such little chemical compounds they pack a big punch. Oestrogen of various kinds, progesterone, luteinising hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, testosterone, DHEA, adrenalin, cortisol, insulin, thyroid stimulating hormone, etc. – our bodies miraculously synthesise a cocktail of these little biochemical messengers. When they are in balance they make our lives hum. When they are out of balance it can be harrowing.
Different issues arise at different stages of life and all can be treated with appropriate herbal medicines and nutritional supplements. And let us not forget the huge role that diet plays. When blood sugar is elevated we release insulin. When insulin levels in the blood are consistently elevated it affects the pathways down which oestrogen is synthesised. Oestrogen is a cell proliferative hormone. It stimulates tissue growth to line the uterus with a spongey layer to make a comfortable bed should a foetus want to settle in.
In the presence of consistently elevated sugar and insulin levels the kind of oestrogen we produce is the more lumpy, gunky type which can cause a lot of grief – painful periods, heavy periods, irregular cycles, ovulatory pain, mid-cycle bleeding. These symptoms are telling us that our biochemical pathways need a bit of redirecting.
Although it is not essential, we can confirm exactly what’s happening with Salivary Hormone Testing which will tell us what ratio of the different oestrogens we are producing, whether or not we are ovulating, how many androgens we are producing. Sometimes just seeing in black and white what is happening can be a comfort in explaining what you have been experiencing. And the information can help refine the choice of remedies.
The onset of puberty comes with a lot of hormonal flux and can be a trying time until the cycles settle down to a regular pattern. Painful heavy periods, mood swings and hormonal acne can often manifest during this time and can be relatively easily fixed with a little patient education, some dietary tweaking, and a few herbal remedies.
It takes several years for a woman’s cycle to become properly established. Intervening too early with heavy medications like the oral contraceptive pill just masks problems without allowing them to be sorted out, only for these symptoms to manifest later on when the woman wants to conceive and comes off the Pill.
The Reproductive Years
When these issues remain untreated they may progress to the development of endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, uterine fibroids and, of course, infertility. We have an epidemic of these diseases of oestrogen malfunction that is largely due to the increasing consumption of sugar in our diet these days and also the increasingly racy pace of life. Stress puts us into “fight and flight” so we release more adrenalin and cortisol which in turn elevates our insulin and so on. We also release more androgens, more masculine precursor hormones.
The kindest answer for our body isn’t to override our hormone production with heavy synthetic hormonal medicines, and possibly antidepressants, but to manage our stress, adjust our diet, and take some time-honoured hormonally-supportive plant medicines that can re-establish balance in three to four months of treatment. For more information on improving fertility see separate page.
It can be challenging to make diet and lifestyle changes (like reducing our alcohol and caffeine consumption) but there is nothing more affirming than knowing you are taking responsibility for your body and back in the driver’s seat of your life.
The Post-natal Period
Baby has arrived! Wonderful as that may be you may also be absolutely wiped out with sleep deprivation and another major hormonal reset. Breast-feeding, irregular menses, postnatal depression, thyroid issues, adrenal exhaustion can all be addressed.
Our endocrine organs all do a little dance together – our pituitary and adrenal glands, ovaries/testes and thyroid are in sync together. Or at least they should be. If one gets out of step it can derail another. So, if we have been really stressed, with our adrenals pumping madly, or we have just had a baby, with all the hormonal flux that brings, it is possible that our thyroid function may be affected.
Thyroid activity may become hyperactive (as in Graves Disease) where the metabolism speeds up resulting in weight loss, palpitations, sweating, diarrhoea and a feeling of always being overheated.
Alternatively, the thyroid may become hypoactive (as in Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis) resulting in weight gain, sluggishness, fatigue, constipation and cold intolerance.
There are herbal medicines and naturopathic treatments to address any of these concerns. Taking the appropriate remedies may reduce the amount of pharmaceutical drugs you may need to fix the problem or, in some cases, eliminate the need for them.
I am very thankful to Cath for all the help she has given me. I have lost a lot of weight and feel so much better in myself. she has also helped my daughter. It has been a very positive experience.
After weeks of weird and wonderful potions I now feel well and happy. i have regained the vitality i had lost. Thank-you, Cath, for all your advice and assistance.