Hormones and you Part 1

Hormone's and YOU - Part 1

Our lives are speeding up. The Internet has made communication very instant and the demands on us are now incessant. Many of us are constantly on the go and eating on the run. Toxic overload, stress and poor nutrition is a lethal combination causing hormonal imbalance and heart disease.

Here's what we know:

  • Heart disease is an epidemic in the western world. It kills 1 in every 2.4 women. So, if not you, it may be your mother, sister, aunt, daughter or friend.

  • 3 out of 10 people will not survive their first heart attack.

  • Heart disease increases for women after menopause and at this time, women become 6% more likely than men to die of heart disease.

  • 1 in 3 women are clinically obese in the UK.

  • ¼ children between 11-16 yrs are clinically obese – the majority of these are girls, which has serious implications for their hormonal health.

  • Girls are starting their periods much younger – as young as 9 and 10 yrs old. Many of those girls are overweight and this is bringing on puberty much earlier.

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What does a normal hormone cycle look like?

  • Ideally progesterone and oestrogen rise together in the teenage years to bring on puberty. They should stay stable (with natural daily fluctuations depending on the stage of the menstrual cycle) and then drop off gradually at the same rate in our 40s and 5os

  • Menopause refers to the last period you ever have.

  • Peri-menopause is the time before that, which usually starts around 35-37 years. This is why fertility treatments tend to start around this age because the egg quality goes into sharp decline after 35 years of age.

What does a healthy menstrual period look like?

  • Flow lasts 3-5 days.

  • Two days of moderate flow is normal. It should not be too heavy or too light Changing a tampon/pad/mooncup every 1-3 hours is normal.

  • You should not have flooding or leaking, this is abnormally heavy. If you don’t have to change your tampon all day, this is abnormally light.

  • The blood should be bright red, not pink, brown or dark and thick.

  • The consistency should be fluid – not stringy or watery.

  • You should have little or no clots. A few are normal.  5p sized clots are considered small, 50p sized are considered large.

  • You should have mild/no cramps, PMS or low back ache.  

The Menopause

We know that women produce far less oestrogen after menopause, so it would be logical to assume that oestrogen steadily declines until women reach menopause. In fact for many years, that’s exactly what Doctors did assume, but in the last 25 years research has shown that this isn’t the case. In reality, during the peri-menopause, it is often levels of progesterone that decline, while oestrogen levels remain stable or even increase. This leads to a situation where oestrogen is relatively high in relation to progesterone, known as ‘oestrogen dominance’.

Women who have excess levels of oestrogen in the run up to menopause can have an increased risk of breast, uterine and ovarian cancers, as well as of cervical dysplasia (a precancerous change in the cells that line the cervix).

Women who are ‘oestrogen dominant’ are more likely to have intense and unpleasant peri-menopausal symptoms including but not limited to:

  • Breast swelling and tenderness

    1. Anxiety and mood swings

    2. ‘Fuzzy’ thinking

    3. Irritability

    4. Fatigue

    5. Loss of ambition and confidence

    6. Slow metabolism

    7. Water retention

    8. Loss of libido

    9. PMS

    10. Weight gain

    11. Insomnia

    12. Thickening of the endometrial lining, clots in the menstrual blood

    13. Increased risk of uterine fibroids

    14. Increased incidence of uterine cysts

 

How can we help prevent or reduce the symptoms of hormonal imbalance?

Detoxification and the Liver

For centuries, Chinese doctors have identified the liver as playing a pivotal role in hormonal balance (alongside the kidney). From a biomedical point of view, stress can cause people to produce excess cortisol, insulin, and norepinephrine which play a role in the kind of hormonal imbalance often seen in my women with compromised livers. (In Chinese medicine this is called ‘Liver Qi Stagnation’).

One of the liver’s functions is to filter out excess oestrogen. Anything that impairs this function can result in oestrogen not being broken down adequately. This is true for both men and women. Alcoholic men for example, can develop a condition called ‘gynomastia’, where excess oestrogen leads to enlarged breasts (Moobs!) and loss of pubic hair.

In women, alcohol, environmental toxins, stress and unresolved emotional issues can limit the liver’s ability to cleanse the blood of oestrogen resulting in all the symptoms of oestrogen dominance listed above.

We need to help our livers detoxify from all of the toxins we’re exposed to as women in the 21st century, specifically XENOESTROGENS.

 Examples of these hormone disruptors

Examples of these hormone disruptors

Xenoestrogens are ‘false’ oestrogens which mimic oestrogen and are in our food, water, personal care products, household products and the general environment. They make oestrogen stay high when actually at menopause it should start to drop off naturally at the same rate as progesterone. The DIFFERENCE between the progesterone & oestrogen levels is what causes endometriosis, PCOS, fibroids, autoimmune disease, migraines, PMS, joint pain, stiffness, feeling you can’t cope, lack of self esteem, lack of confidence etc. Over time it leads onto all the other symptoms associated with menopause such as dry skin and hair, brittle nails, hot flushes, insomnia, low mood and low libido.

In Chinese Medicine, when people have Liver Qi Stagnation (irritability etc from overworked Liver) this gives rise to heat and inflammation. Heat can cause constipation and acupuncture treatments often focus on making sure the intestines are functioning properly. Physiologically this makes sense because excess oestrogen is excreted through the bowel. When a patient is constipated and the stool remains in the intestines for a longer time, oestrogen is reabsorbed.  Studies have shown that women with a high fibre diet have lower levels of circulating estrogen than women with a low fibre diet.

What can you do today to balance your hormones?

  • Take care of your liver. It’s your best defence against oestrogen dominance because it’s job is to eliminate excess oestrogen. Minimise your alcohol intake and to stimulate your liver, drink hot water with lemon juice first thing every morning. You can also promote healthy liver function by adding bitter greens such as dandelion greens, endive and raddichio to your food.

  • Follow a hormone balancing diet (covered in part 2) by eating plenty of vegetables, adequate protein and healthy fats.

  • Make sure you eat enough fibre so your bowels are able to eliminate excess oestrogen.

  • Eat cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbages, cauliflower, kale and Brussel sprouts. These contain a phytonutrient which supports oestrogen metabolism.

  • Research endocrine-disrupting chemicals in cosmetics, processed foods, cookware (non stick pans) and cleaning products. Cut your exposure to xenoestrogens as much as you can.

  • Get yourself a ‘BPA free’ water bottle and a water filter at home. Tap water contains lots of xenoestrogens and actual oestrogen due to all the contraceptives and anti depressants that are peed out and get into our water.

  • Lose excess weight and get regular exercise. Research shows that physical activity curtails the overproduction of oestrogen.

  • Help the liver detoxify for a healthy body and mind with our 21 day PURIFY programme

  • Use natural hormone balancing supplements - watch this show for more information on my favourite