By Dr. Hyla Cass and Kathleen Barnes, authors of 8 Weeks to Vibrant Health: A Take Charge Plan for Women
Are hormone swings making your life, and your family’s, a living hell?
PMS is a real medical condition, as are perimenopause and menopause, low thyroid function and adrenal fatigue. These conditions can sap your energy and cause wide-ranging symptoms that quite literally create havoc with your overall health.
The good news is that these problems are caused by hormonal imbalances that are easily correctible with a regimen of proper diet, exercise, supplements and, in some cases, bioidentical hormone replacement. Yes, you can re-gain your mental stability, and get your energy and your life back.
Complex hormonal structure
Women’s hormonal structure, indeed our very DNA structure, makes us the more complex sex. There’s no question: throughout our lives, we labor harder in the physical, emotional and mental sense. Our reward is that we are susceptible to far fewer genetic diseases and we live an average of seven years longer than men.
Hormones are chemical messengers secreted by the body’s endocrine glands: ovaries, thyroid, parathyroid, adrenals and pancreas. Hormones travel through the bloodstream, telling various systems what to do. In addition to reproductive functions, hormones affect virtually every body function from digestion and metabolism to hair growth.
The endocrine glands are closely linked to each other, especially the ovaries, thyroid and adrenals. Symptoms of imbalances in these three glands are remarkably similar, so it may be difficult to tell if one, two, or all three are out of whack.
Symptoms of sex hormone imbalances
Here are some common symptoms of sex hormone imbalance, thyroid malfunction and adrenal fatigue:
• Weight gain, difficulty losing weight
• Moodiness, depression
• Aching joints
• Brain fog
• Low sex drive
• Dry skin
• And many more.
You’ll need to test levels of the female sex hormones: estrogen, progesterone, testosterone (yes, that’s right, women have testosterone, too!), DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), pregnenelone and SHBG (sex hormone binding globulin).
You’ll also need to test thyroid function, including free T3 and free T4. A TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) test may not be a reliable measure of your thyroid function, especially if you have symptoms of hypothyroidism. A saliva test of cortisol levels may help determine if your adrenal glands are handling stress efficiently.
By getting the whole picture, you’ll know if your hormones are unbalanced, and you can take measures to remedy the situation.
If you have a sex hormone imbalance and you’re not yet perimenopausal, magnesium, GLA (gamma-linoleic acid) and chasteberry may help relieve symptoms and re-balance your hormones.
If you are perimenopausal or menopausal, adding black cohosh, dong quai, chasteberry, red cover, and licorice root may help restore balance.
Prescription bioidentical hormones can bring you back into balance and they don’t have the dangers of the synthetic hormones, though they still require a prescription and monitoring by a physician. On the other hand, synthetic hormone replacement therapy, especially progestin which is modified progesterone, can be harmful.
At any age, natural progesterone cream can help with a wide range of symptoms caused by progesterone deficiency, especially those of PMS and perimenopause.
A combination of indole-3-carbinol or DIM (di-indole-methane)from brassica vegetables, plus calcium-d-glucarate (this is not just calcium) can help protect against breast cancer, by metabolizing the bad or cancer- producing form of estrogen.
Thyroid imbalances are best addressed with tyrosine, iodine, selenium, and if needed, prescription animal-based desiccated thyroid hormones like Armour thyroid and Naturethroid. There are also compounded thyroid formulas.
Finally, adrenal fatigue can be resolved with stress management techniques, a low glycemic, high protein diet and avoiding stimulants such as caffeine and sugars, including alcohol. Small doses of the hormones hydrocortisone and DHEA plus vitamin C, licorice root and vitamin B6 can be very helpful, as are adaptogenic herbs such rhodiola and eleutherococcus (Siberian ginseng).