Hall Natural Therapies

Hormone Hell

June, 2015

Did you know that women’s monthly cycles are supposed to be symptom free? Symptoms indicate that something is out of balance. They are a warning sign that, if heeded, can prevent the progression to worsening of symptoms or developing more serious reproductive concerns, including cancer. If you are symptom free then you can be fairly confident that your overall health is pretty good.

Many women suffer with annoying or debilitating symptoms every month. Bloating, digestive changes, food cravings, acne, headaches, fatigue, mood swings, anxiety, depression, insomnia, joint pains, backache or cramps are common in the days surrounding the onset of the period. Some women experience one to two symptoms, others endure many. We commonly refer to these symptoms as premenstrual syndrome (PMS), which affects about 40% of women. Severe forms of PMS are called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), which thankfully affects fewer women (3-8%).

There are many factors that may contribute to PMS. Hormone and neurotransmitter imbalances often play a part, as can stress, nutrient deficiencies, a poor diet, and even cultural factors. There are many theories about the causes but so far a definitive cause hasn’t been identified. Perhaps this reflects the diversity of factors than can combine in an individual to produce the symptoms, pointing towards the need for a multi-pronged approach to treating PMS?

The medical approach is to treat with the contraceptive pill, pain relievers, antidepressants, diuretics, or even to resort to surgery. Unfortunately these medications can have quite a list of possible adverse side effects, including life-threatening blood clots. Diet and lifestyle changes may also be recommended, especially to encourage weight loss.

Other hormonal/reproductive conditions may also develop, such as endometriosis, fibroids, irregular periods, PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), abnormal bleeding and infertility. Again medications or surgery are often prescribed to treat these conditions.

The naturopathic approach to treating hormone related conditions is to identify and treat any of the following factors that may be contributing to the symptoms: hormone imbalances (including thyroid and stress hormones), neurotransmitter imbalances, lifestyle and exercise, digestive and diet issues, nutrient deficiencies, stress; emotional/cultural factors, environmental toxins, and any other individual factors impacting on general health.

Naturopathic treatments include a range of medicinal herbs, which have a long history of success in treating hormonal issues with few, if any, side effects. Treatment for 3 to 6 months with the appropriate herbs will usually produce significant symptom improvement. When combined with a clean up of the diet, reduction of toxin exposure, stress reduction, etc., long term improvements are to be expected.

An excellent and really affordable book, Period Repair Manual by Sydney naturopath Lara Briden, was released early this year (available in paperback or on Kindle). Lara views menstruation symptoms as a monthly report card on a woman’s overall health. I highly recommend this book as a guide to understanding your symptoms and finding the best natural treatment for specific conditions. You can get a taste of Lara’s approach from her blog. Another of my favourite authors is Dr Aviva Romm, an integrative doctor in the US. She has a wealth of information on women’s and children’s health on her blog.