When our hormones are not quite in balance, we feel it. Many inconspicuous signs or symptoms can be directly linked to hormonal imbalances. A few of the more common symptoms some of us experience include breast tenderness, mood swings, mild depression, irregular menstruation, weight gain, low stress tolerance, fatigue and many more.
Testing may still come back within the normal ranges but this does not mean all is good. For instance, many women will feel the common symptoms of thyroid imbalances although the TSH is normal. Fatigue, weight gain, fluid retention, hair loss and cold intolerance can be related to low thyroid levels. Many people can not efficiently convert T4 to T3 which is the more active form of thyroid hormone. T3 has 3 attached iodine molecules. An iodine deficiency may contribute to the low levels, making it good sense to be sure our iodine intake is adequate. Add some sea vegetables (seaweeds), such as kelp, dulse, kombu, nori or wakame, to your diet; these are all good food source for iodine. If you prefer to supplement, using a Detoxified Iodine would be a good option. Precautions are warranted when supplementing with iodine as some individuals may be sensitive to it.
Some very good herbal preparations are used for a variety of hormonal imbalance symptoms. Chasteberry from the Chaste tree is one such preparation, used in the management of premenstrual stress syndrome (PMS), cyclical breast pain and regulation of menstruation. The Chaste tree (vitex agnus-castus) is native of the Mediterranean region. Chasteberry is a recommended treatment for these symptoms in Germany. Chasteberry does need to be avoided in pregnancy and lactation.
There are multiple symptoms associated with perimenopause and menopause. Some of these are hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, emotional upsets, and mild depression for a few of us. Others suffer from weight gain, fatigue, low libido, vaginal dryness and foggy memory. As we age, our hormone production begins to decline. Progesterone declines faster than estrogen causing an imbalance, making women estrogen dominant. Too much estrogen is thought to contribute to a higher instance of fibrocystic breasts and uterine fibroids. A progesterone cream is often used to offset this imbalance.
Red Clover is an herb that has helped some of us with the anxiety and emotional upsets, sleeplessness and night sweats associated with estrogen imbalance. Red Clover is rich in estrogen-like substance known as isoflavones that change in the body to phytoestrogens.
Shatavari is another plant-based phytoestrogen that supports hormonal functions. Ayurveda recommends Shatavari at every stage of a female’s life, gently tones and strengthens the reproductive system. Shatavari has helped women during lactation; also has been know to help with vaginal dryness.
Another good option is Maca root (commonly referred to as Peruvian ginseng). In addition to it’s positive affects on perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms; it has been used to improve sexual function and mood. There is promising research of it’s use as a fertility enhancer also. Adding Maca root powder to your daily diet by incorporating it in smoothies, baked goods and soups can have an enhancing affect on your energy, libido and generalized mood.
Adrenal fatigue often occurs in perimenopausal and menopausal women who may be doing too much. Raising children, while trying to also take care of aging parents, all while working fulltime outside of the home can wear out the most energetic of us. The adrenal glands control your body’s stress response by releasing hormones like cortisol, DHEA and epinephrine. Prolonged stress over time can over-stimulate the adrenals, causing high levels of cortisol in the system. Ashwagandha is commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine to combat stress for it’s ability to lower cortisol levels.
Hormonal support can be attained naturally with many herbal and diet sources. My consumption of these supplements has had a positive effect on my daily living. Although I don’t use all of these everyday, I have definitely noticed the difference in how I handle stress when I have run out of my ashwagandha.
As always, be sure to consult with your primary healthcare provider before starting any new supplements. Although he/she may not be familiar with many of the herbs noted, that does not mean that they are ineffective. It just means he/she has not read the many research studies that have been done, many of these in Germany.