Early in my career I realised that the responsibility for maintaining and managing good health cannot solely be borne on the shoulders of a competent practitioner. Patients also needed to be held accountable for their lifestyle choices, and thus their treatment outcomes. Unfortunately, without knowledge and direction most patients were running around like headless chickens, hiding in ignorance. This ignited my on-going passion to assist and educate those that I treated, in matters of nutrition, corrective supplementation, lifestyle modification and disease prevention, thereby empowering them to change the course of their health and personal wellness.
I have a keen interest in the role of the gastrointestinal tract in disease causation and the dietary interventions required to alter these outcomes. Yet my other passion is in educating women in matters regarding hormonal health. From young girls navigating puberty, the roller coaster of pregnancy and motherhood and finally to the ultimate frenzy of Menopause. The dance of the hormones, and how it affects each woman uniquely, is a constantly evolving and unpredictable piece of choreography only capable by the female body.
At puberty each one of us begins to produce all of the ingredients necessary to make us look and function like woman. We then start producing eggs, so that we are ultimately able to bear children should we see fit to. But those same ingredients also have the ability to dictate how we react in certain circumstances, how we respond to others, and whether or not you will rip that chocolate bar out of your own child’s hand, the day before your period. We all know those hidden monsters we deal with them monthly… our Hormones!
Yes these ingredients or Hormones are technically the same in all woman, but it is the delicate amounts that nature chooses to bestow on each of us that causes the chaos that I lovingly refer to as your unique ‘’Dance of the hormones”.
Some of us are blessed with a perfectly synchronised and reliable Waltz, beginning at around the age of thirteen; it starts out slowly and smoothly, and continues at a regular rhythm until the music comes to a faded end. Others however are not so lucky, what starts out as the funky chicken (manic and all over the place), ends up as an ungraceful swan dive into the depths of despair. The symptoms and emotions we will experience in our monthly cycle are as a direct result of our own, very unique balance between the levels of Oestrogen and Progesterone being produced by our body.
Oestrogen, is produced primarily by the ovaries, but is also produced by the adrenal glands, and fat cells to a lesser degree. At puberty it controls the development of secondary sexual characteristics, such as breast development, hip shape, and the growth of pubic hair. Later it regulates the menstrual cycle, by controlling the growth of the uterine lining in the first part of the cycle. Oestrogen drops sharply at the end of the cycle resulting in the onset of menstruation.
Progesterone, our second most important hormone, is also primarily produced in the ovaries. It plays an important role in the menstrual cycle and in maintaining the early phases of pregnancy. Progesterone is responsible for the stabilization of the endometrial lining in preparation for the implantation of an egg. If the egg is not fertilized the lining is no longer supported by Progesterone and comes away as we menstruate.
Let’s review the menstrual cycle briefly.
The female cycle is divided into 3 phases, the follicular phase, ovulation and the luteal phase. In the first or follicular phase, low levels trigger the pituitary gland to produce Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) which stimulates our ovaries to produces follicles that contain an immature egg. Theses follicles begin to produce Oestrogen which increases as the follicles grow and mature. At around Day 14, Luteinising Hormone (LH) surges and forces one mature egg to rupture from its follicle in the ovary and enter the Fallopian Tube; this is the process of ovulation.
After ovulation, in the Luteal phase, the egg begins to make its way to the uterus. As it does so, it begins to produce Progesterone, which will start preparing the uterine lining to possibly support a fertilized egg… or not. The empty follicle or corpus luteum in the ovary, continues to produce Progesterone and Oestrogen, but if no fertilization has occurred theses hormones decrease and once low enough, result in yet another menstruation.
So where does it all go horribly wrong?
Text books and doctors can tell us exactly what should happen at any given time in the cycle. Oestrogen should go up here and drop there, Luteinising hormone should surge on Day 14, but does it? Well…. As unpredictable as a woman is, so is her cycle.
Each one of us is an individual, yes we have inherited a set of genes from our mothers that serves as the blueprint for what should happen, but it rarely follows the expected path. Our hormones and the cycle they regulate are strongly influenced by our lifestyles, stresses, responsibilities, environment and nutrition. With so many different influences playing into an already delicate and fluctuating system, there are bound to be glitches.
As you now know Oestrogen is necessary in all phases of the female cycle, but when it goes unchecked and dominates the levels of Progesterone, a cascade of symptoms ensues.
The potential symptoms of Oestrogen dominance include:
- Breast swelling and tenderness
- Low sex drive
- Irregular periods
- Weight gain
- Water retention
- Mood swings
- Fibrocystic breasts
Oestrogen dominance can be due to exposure of oestrogenic compounds in the environment or due to a lack of progesterone, or a combination of both. Oestrogenic compounds can be found in animal meats, dairy products, soft plastic, water bottles and more. These are absorbed by the body and act as hormone disruptors that often cause imbalances.
Keeping the Progesterone level healthy is a vital counterbalance, to this imbalance. Progesterone enhancing herbs such as Chaste berry (also known as Vitex Agnus Castus), is known to improve Progesterone levels in the body. Agnus Castus enhances the Production of Luteinising Hormone in the middle of the cycle, and thus promotes a more beneficial Oestrogen to Progesterone balance, by decreasing Prolactin levels in the brain. I have been thanked by many an appreciative husband for banishing the irritable, psycho woman that resided in their home the week before a menstruation was due, by suggesting this herb.
VitaSoul suggested product: Sfera Agnus Castus
Sfera Agnus Castus (VitaSoul suggested product) is highly recommended for menstrual complaints. Although it contains no hormones or hormone-like substances, the herb influences hormonal activity by stimulating the pituitary gland at the base of the brain to produce more luteinising hormone (LH). This, in turn, signals the ovaries to produce more of the hormone progesterone. Chaste berry also acts to lower elevated levels of a second pituitary hormone, prolactin, which is involved in breast-milk production. It reduces PMS symptoms, minimizes fibrocystic breast symptoms, regulates ovulation and promotes fertility, treats menopausal difficulties, relieves the pain of endometriosis and controls menstrual related acne.
VitaSoul suggested product: Sfera Agnus Castus
With Progesterone being lower and Oestrogen being dominant, what can we do to assist the removal of the metabolites of Oestrogen and thus lowering its toxic effects. These metabolites need to be processed by the liver in order to be removed from the body. If these toxic metabolites can’t be removed they build up in the liver and adipose tissue and thus result in the symptoms of dominance. This has been associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. Recent studies have shown Sulforaphane, to be supportive in the removal of these toxic metabolites through the liver, thus lowering their negative oestrogenic effects and risks. Sulforaphane is fast proving to be a very powerful weapon in breast cancer prevention, hormone regulation and overall anti-oxidant activity.
VitaSoul suggested product: Coyne Bio-Sulforaphane
Coyne Bio-Sulforaphane (VitaSoul suggested product) is a next-generation, highly bioavailable, concentrated source of broccoli phytonutrients. Rich in sulforaphane to support the activation of the Nrf2 genetic pathway (a powerful detoxifying cascade), this product is a 100% whole broccoli sprout concentrate yielding cell-protective compounds. Its potent formulation has been produced using technology that optimises the sulforaphane yield. This ability to produce high levels of sulforaphane when ingested is what makes Bio-Sulforaphane Advanced® capable of reducing inflammation, enhancing detoxification and stimulating the body’s antioxidant defenses at a cellular level.
Sometimes Oestrogen has nothing to do with it, very rarely but sometimes. From the age of 28, our Progesterone levels begin to decline. This causes lower levels of fertility and an increased risk of miscarriage. As Progesterone is responsible for regulation for the cycle as a whole, the most common symptoms are:
- PMS- irritability, short tempered, intolerance
- Irregular and heavy bleeding
- Low libido
- Weight gain
- Gall bladder issues
- Thyroid issues
As mentioned before, Progesterone regulates the Luteal Phase of the cycle, so the cracks usually begin to show between ovulation and menstruation. Only once you know the level of irritability, rattiness and irrational behaviour we as women are capable of in those few days, will you understand the urgent need to get your Progesterone within acceptable limits. Low levels usually result in intense PMS symptoms, heightened irritability, lack of tolerance, sugar cravings, breast fibroids, water retention to name a few.
Agnus Castus is invaluable in the treatment of PMS, but sometimes it just isn’t enough. Evening primrose oil, Vitamin B6, Vitamin E and Magnesium are very helpful to pick up the short fall. Evening primrose oil and Vitamin E are effective in easing breast symptoms and inflammation. Vitamin B6 relieves bloating and water retention and helps with mood and nerve support. Magnesium is often indicated if you are devouring chocolate and stealing it from your children’s party packs. It is also a muscle relaxant and assists with restful sleep.
VitaSoul suggested product: Metagenics Estrofactors
Metagenics Estrofactors (VitaSoul suggested product) is used to promote estrogen balance and reduce menopausal symptoms. It contains the ingredients Vitamin A, D, E, K, B6, B12, folate, red clover, turmeric, rosemary, resveratrol, trimethylglycine, and chrysin. Metagenics Estrofactors is a unique formula featuring phytonutrients that provide targeted support for healthy estrogen metabolism.
Sometimes what we experience is a little bit of everything, we can’t pinpoint what is wrong but it just isn’t right or regular. Coming off an oral contraceptive, increased bouts of stress, sudden weight loss or gain, or exposure to environmental estrogens, can result in a change in our hormones. This can manifest in any of the symptoms listed above, but not one symptom picture in particular. In these cases I usually recommend a synergistic combination of herbs specific to women’s hormonal health. Herbs like Don Quai, Wild Yam, Black Cohosh, Maca, Motherwort and Dandelion are usually formulated together to provide a balancing effect on the hormonal system. But being natural does not mean that they are to be taken lightly. These formulations often are quite powerful in their effects.
VitaSoul suggested product: Moonshine Hormonal Blend
Moonshine Hormonal Blend balances hormones, assists with PMS, relieves menstrual cramps, acts as a diuretic, helps regulate periods.
Nobody knows your body better than you do, but the female body is both awe inspiring and confusing even for those that reside in it. Get to know your rhythm, add some music, and embrace the craziness……… and tango to the beat of your own heart.
One needs to remember, the essence of who we are as a woman is contained in the delicate balance of our hormones. Messing with that balance can have disastrous consequences and not treating them when they are out of balance can be just as uncomfortable. It is thus so important that you know your body, understand the subtle changes that are occurring; acknowledge that something may not be aligned.
VitaSoul suggested product: Pure Herbal Ladies Support
Pure Herbal Ladies Support (VitaSoul suggested product) is for younger women who suffer from any type of hormonal imbalance causing symptoms such as irregular menstrual cycle, painful menstruation, facial hair, mood swings, adult hormone related acne, etc. This formula is for restoring hormonal imbalances in women, pre-menstrual tension and irregular menstrual cycle.
No two woman are the same, how one will experience PMS can be vastly different to another. Some feel weepy and sad, whilst others are ratty and irritable. Some will get terrible headaches the day before their period, and another may have night sweats. The joy of being a woman is in the subtle differences we all experience. We all have the same hormones and yet we all possess a unique level of dancing hormones. The nature of our dance may be due to our genetic blue print or our unique set of circumstances in life, but it is in constant motion and ever changing.
‘’ Sometimes an angel, sometimes a hell raiser, always a strong woman’’
Yours in health,
Doc Bron (Homeopath)
Disclaimer: Each person’s physical, emotional, and spiritual condition is unique. The information in this article is intended for your educational use only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please consult your doctor for matters pertaining to your specific health and diet. The author of this article is not held responsible for any adverse effects or consequences resulting from the use or misuse of any information, suggestions or procedures described herein. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.