Balance Hormones Naturally
Nisha Jackson PhD, MS, WCHNP, HHP
The Survival Guide for Perimenopause
– How to Balance Your Hormones Naturally and
The Teenage Hormone Takeover
– A Guide for Moms
Women in ever-increasing numbers are seeking alternatives to traditional healthcare—and for good reason. Imagine a woman between thirty-five and sixty. A spare tire is developing around her middle, and bags have made unwelcome appearances beneath her eyes. Hot flashes come and go throughout the day, and night sweats interrupt her sleep. She is exhausted, can’t seem to concentrate, and alternates between depression and flying off the handle. Upset and anxious, she seeks help for the unpleasant physical and emotional changes that are crowding the good times out of her life. After a physical exam and a few questions, to her dismay her medical provider suggests that what she’s going through is perfectly normal: –menopause—and the disagreeable symptoms she is experiencing are part and parcel of getting older, which of course is not what you want to hear.
So…How Do Hormones Tip out of Balance?
Let’s start with the basics. Hormones are essential to life. They are chemical connectors to the brain, muscles, sex organs, and virtually every part of the body. If you were suddenly without the intricate communication conducted via hormones, you would quickly die. As it is, a missed message, a broken connection, or unclear communication from one hormone to another can cause an imbalance, upsetting the whole shebang. As early as a woman’s mid-thirties, a drop in estrogen or progesterone, or a break in the ovulation cycle, can cause the domino effect of mood instability, weight gain, skin problems, and many other changes. Despite the fact that just about every woman knows she will eventually experience menopause, these changes can come as unpleasant surprises. In addition diet, stress, sleep patterns, environmental toxins, and genetics can create a hormone chaos that will leave you feeling terrible for years to come.
Hormonal Highs and Lows
So something happens, whether it’s stress, diet, or medications—or a genetic predisposition—and your hormones either revert to a normal state or they don’t. It depends on how healthy you are to begin with. The key is to take care of yourself so you’re not as susceptible to inevitable hormone fluctuations. Even though much of what happens in life is beyond your power, you can control what you eat, how much you exercise, how many hours you sleep, and whether you use vitamin and herbal supplements. In menopause, (or early menopause) some women adjust to the chronically low levels and some (most) do not. Let’s take a look at the female sex hormones and what they do.
There are hundreds of estrogen receptors throughout the body. This amazing hormone maintains blood-sugar levels and protects against osteoporosis, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, colon cancer, Parkinson’s disease, incontinence, and tooth loss. Estrogen receptors are also plentiful in the brain, where they help the brain cells make connections, allowing our mind to stay sharp, our memory to be sound, and our emotions to remain stable.
One of its most important jobs is to prevent excess estrogen. Progesterone and estrogen give the best effect when they are balanced, which in turn creates fewer bleeding problems and more equilibrium going into menopause. Progesterone, or the lack thereof, begins to wreak havoc for women when the levels in the second half of the cycle are not prominent. Progesterone is the mood hormone, a low progesterone level paves the way for PMS symptoms and emotional imbalance. In menopause, women are chronically progesterone deficient, predisposing them to mood instability and depression.
Testosterone is known as the forgotten hormone, especially in menopause, as many medical providers do not pay attention to the signs of its decline. Menopausal and perimenopausal women who have fatigue, muscle atrophy, weakness, low libido, and low sexual sensation often have low testosterone. Present in both men and women, testosterone is produced in small amounts by the ovaries and the adrenal glands. Although men naturally make 50 percent more testosterone than women, it is a vital hormone that women rely on for energy, vitality, sex drive, and endurance.
Why Test Your Hormones?
Hormone testing is the best way to establish a baseline. Although the “normal” values may change for each patient—and not every woman fits within ranges that are somewhat artificial—testing still provides a guideline from which the treatment plan is created and tested against in the future. Fortunately, information about hormone testing is getting out, and women are asking for it. As a result, more and more medical providers are learning how to test and interpret hormone levels so that women can take control of their symptoms.
Each Woman Is Unique
Individuality is the name of the game with women’s hormone testing and treatment. Even though women may have similar complaints, each has her own hormone profile, unique responses to treatment, and a singular lifestyle to which the program must be adapted. I have learned that the one-size-fits-all approach definitely does not apply, and I frequently remind patients that hormone balancing is a science and an art. Women often come to my office with their lives broken into fragments. We work as partners to fit the pieces back together so that the woman eventually sees her physical and emotional sides merge as a harmonious whole. Many women who have had successful testing and hormonal intervention have been able to stop other medications prescribed to clear up problems stemming from hormonal imbalances. If you have obvious hormone changes and have not been able to find the right solutions, consider visiting my website for more information and details on how to get on the path for excellent hormone balance!