Hormones are very powerful substances, this is especially true for women. A woman’s psyche is intimately connected to her monthly flow of hormones and this time of the month can cause some very uncomfortable moments which we dread. Hormones not only direct and determine female physiological processes, but also influence the emotional and psychological stage.
COMMON SYMPTOMS OF HORMONAL IMBALANCES
- Tenderness and fibrocystic breasts
- Tendency for increased body fat
- Increased blood pressure, salt and fluid retention
- Thyroid hormone problems
- Decreased sex drive
- Zinc depletion and Copper retention which can result in mood swings, depression and violent outbursts
- Impaired liver and gall bladder function
- Increased incidence of growth of fibroids and cysts
- Pre-menstrual symptoms, migraines and impaired immunity
Many female health problems and symptoms occur due to hormonal imbalance, typically Oestrogen dominance. Oestrogen dominance or Progesterone deficiency occurs in a woman where there is a high Oestrogen to Progesterone ratio. Alterations or imbalances of the circulating ratios of Oestrogen and Progesterone based on the time of the month can aggravate the target tissues of these hormones (ovaries). Poly Cystic Ovaries and emotional PMT are generally the direct cause of this Oestrogen dominance phenomena. The role of Oestrogen in the female body is predominant in the weeks prior to menstruation and its influence of the female menstrual cycle is strong.
The following are some causative factors:
- An overproduction of Oestrogen within the body in the ovaries or adrenals
- A relative increase of Oestrogen due to low Progesterone secretion
- A decreased Oestrogen clearance from the body (liver and bowel detoxification function)
- An increased sensitivity to hormones due to increased inflammation (Prostaglandins)
WHAT IS PMT? WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS
Pre-Menstrual Symptoms (PMS) is the cyclic recurrence of a group of symptoms that appear during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle (1 to 2 weeks prior to menses) and diminish significantly after the onset of menstruation. PMS encompasses a wide variety of symptoms and over 150 different symptoms are associated with PMS, ranging from psychological symptoms to physiological symptoms which can range from being mild to severe.
Psychological Symptoms (mental & emotional)
- Irritability & Depression
- Mental confusion & fatigue
- Mood swings
- Loss of concentration & forgetfulness
- Changes in libido
- Crying spells
Physiological Symptoms (physical)
- Bloating, weight gain (fluid)
- Breast tenderness
- Pelvic discomfort & pain
- Change in bowel habits
- Increased appetite & Sugar cravings
- Generalised aches & pains
- Physical tiredness & weakness
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF PMT?
The definitive cause of PMS in individuals in unclear, however the predisposing influences are linked to ovarian hormones, endogenous opioid peptides, neurotransmitters, prostaglandins (inflammation) and the circadian (body rhythms) and endocrine systems (hormonal glands). The following are possible causes to consider for further investigation:
- Excess Oestrogen or Progesterone deficiency
- Fluid retention
- Vitamin B6 deficiency
- Progstaglandin deficiency or excess
- Endogenous hormone allergy
- Exogenous hormone toxicity
- Endogenous opiates
- Thyroid abnormality
- Serotonin deficiency (happy hormones)
NATUROPATHIC TREATMENT OF PMT
- Balance Oestrogen and Progesterone
- Improve liver and bowel elimination
- Improve circulation
- Balance Dopamine & Serotonin
- Decrease inflammation
- Evaluate long term diet and lifestyle improvements for long term health benefits
A general recommendation is to address the health of the reproductive system over a 3-6 month time frame. This is because the hormonal cycles have a natural rhythm of their own, each month may vary in the frequency, severity and duration of complaints. Addressing hormonal imbalances requires at least 6 months prior to preconception to ensure that the body is primed for the task of creating and sustaining life. Natural remedies are usually taken for at least a 6 month time frame to ensure that their effects are reinforced long term and not a short term result.
DIET TIPS FOR PMT
- Reduce Oestrogen rich foods such as saturated animal fats (a source of Arachidonic Acid) can result in reducing inflammatory Prostaglandins
- Increase Phytoestrogens in the diet as the weak Oestrogen effect of these foods compete for receptor sites with the hormone Oestrogen, this has a positive feedback response to the body to reduce the amount of Oestrogen actually produced in the body. Foods which are Phytoestrogens are soy beans, tofu, tempeh, soy milk and the herb Red Clover.
- Consume more vegetables from the Cruciferous family (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli) as these improve Oestrogen metabolism and clearance from the body while promoting liver detoxification
- Ensure adequate water consumption to promote healthy liver, kidney and bowel elimination of fluids and toxins
LIFESTYLE TIPS FOR PMT
- Consider a thorough detoxification program to ensure a healthy hormone cycle, clearance of excess Oestrogen, optimal nutrition prior to conception and less toxins influencing happy hormones in the brain
- Reduce exposure to environmental exogeneous Oestrogens from plastics, pesticides, solvents (nail polish, glue and cleaning supplies), car exhausts, emulsifiers (soaps, cosmetics), dioxins, chemicals and the oral contraceptive pill. These synthetic Oestrogens have the ability to disrupt our hormones and create hormonal imbalances.
- Manage stress especially during the 6 months prior to conception. Chronic stress exacerbates premenstrual complaints by affecting hormone production and stimulating stress hormones such as Adrenalin Cortisol which create tension of the reproductive organs. This is also true in the reverse and we feel more stress prior to menstruation due to the nerve irritating and tensing effects of Oestrogen
- Ensure a healthy exercise regime to melt stress, improve circulation, improve bowel elimination, improve thyroid function and wellbeing
- Avoid smoking, alcohol, recreational drugs, pharmaceutical medications, tea, coffee, sugar, processed foods as these all dramatically reduce the power of the liver in its detoxification processes
- Noting your monthly symptoms may be beneficial for you to give you a clear view of improvements or setbacks. There are some good apps available, such as Clue, which may help you to become more aware of your cycle and habits
NATURAL REMEDIES FOR PMT
- Magnesium deficiency may account for a wide range of PMS symptoms due to its effect on production of brain hormones (neurotransmitters Dopamine & Seratonin – happy hormones), Oestrogen clearance, a positive co-factor to B Vitamins, energy production, reduced inflammation and improving hormonal balance
- B Vitamins are integral for hormonal balancing, liver detoxification, nervous system relaxation, neurotransmitter production
- ZInc deficiency is a common problem with reproductive symptoms such as PMT. Zinc helps to regulate hormones, reduce inflammation, promote immune health and fertility
- Essential Fatty acids (EFA’s) help to decrease inflammatory Prostaglandins which irritate the ovaries and cause an increase in Oestrogen production, reduce general inflammation, balance hormones, improve wellbeing and have a beneficial effect on balancing neurotransmitters. Consuming more oily fish, avocados, nuts, seeds and flaxseeds.
- Vitex Agnus-Castus is the first herb of choice when it comes to PMS symptoms associated with mental and emotional instability such as mood swings, irritability, anxiety and depression. This herb has a regulatory effect on the reproductive system for long term physiological changes
- Consider a liver formulation of herbs to improve the clearance of Oestrogen from the body, clear wastes, improve circulation and optimise nutrient absorption prior to conception. A combination of the following herbs is a general recommendation – Dandelion, St Marys Thistle, Bupleurum
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