Hormonal imbalances are very common – why is this?
The post war baby boomers are arriving at menopause in unprecedented numbers and the average human life span has increased dramatically in this century. It is not really a natural thing for a woman to spend over one third of her life without sex hormones in her body!
Artificial chemicals which resemble estrogen (known as xeno-estrogens) are present in our environment from pesticides, insecticides, solvents and plastics. These xeno-estrogens can damage the ovaries and testicles leading to hormonal imbalances such as infertility and premature menopause. It is only the liver that can break down these toxic chemicals so that they can be eliminated from the body. It is always important to improve the liver function in cases of hormonal imbalances.
How do hormones get into our body?
From our diet – plant foods contain phyto-sterols, which have a balancing effect upon our cell receptors. Animal sourced foods such as land based meats (red meat, chicken and dairy products) contain animal hormones, which have a more masculine effect upon our cell receptors. We need to increase the consumption of plant based foods in our diet such as legumes (beans, peas and lentils), nuts, seeds, grains, cereals, fruits and vegetables.
Hormones are manufactured in our fatty tissues – excessive amounts of upper level body fat produce more male hormones, which can increase insulin resistance and the risk of type 2 diabetes and cause androgenisation (excess facial and body hair, acne and menstrual irregularity).
Lower body fat produces female hormones, which if excessive can cause cellulite in the thighs and buttocks. Hormones are manufactured in our glands – such as the pituitary, thyroid, adrenals, testicles and ovaries.
What can we do about hormonal imbalances?
- Balance our diet – eat more plant based foods and reduce animal based foods. Follow the principles of eating in "The Liver Cleansing Diet" book for premenstrual syndrome and menstrual irregularity.
- Use Hormonal Replacement Therapy that is more natural and does not overwork the liver – creams containing mixtures of natural hormones (estradiol, progesterone, testosterone, and DHEA) and hormone patches bypass the liver. Every woman is an individual and blood tests are required to determine tailor made HRT. See "Hormone Replacement - The Real Truth" book for more information.
- Adrenal gland exhaustion can be helped with antioxidants, essential fatty acids and natural hormones such as DHEA and pregnenolone.
- Use herbal formulas which contain mixtures of red clover, liquorice root, wild yam, horsetail, soy beans, alfalfa and bladderwrack.
- Lose weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise program.
- Use more feminine oral contraceptive pills such as Marvelon, Femoden, Yasmin and Diane. The anti-male hormone called Androcur can reduce the effect of excessive male hormones.
- Use natural hormone replacement therapy.
Are your hormones making you fat?
Years ago doctors, family members and friends would often advise women who battled with a weight problem that it was due to “hormonal problems or their glands”. In those days there was very little understanding about the ways that hormones affected the body, and so no real help was available and the patient just accepted that this was the way she had to remain. Today, things have improved greatly and we now know that specific hormones can affect metabolism and also the areas where excessive fat will be deposited. We are able to measure accurately the blood levels of all the body’s hormones and can pinpoint the significant hormonal imbalances that will trigger weight gain.
Thyroid hormones have a profound affect upon metabolism and energy levels. The thyroid gland can be considered as the body’s throttle or accelerator, and the thyroid hormone that it produces speeds up metabolism and so helps to burn unwanted fat and keep weight gain under control. The thyroid hormone produced by the thyroid gland is known as thyroxine or T4 and circulates around the body in the blood stream where it is carried to the cells to stimulate their metabolic activity. If the thyroid gland becomes underactive it will not produce adequate thyroxine (T4) and metabolism will slow down. This condition is called hypothyroidism and leads to weight gain all over the body, creating a puffy and swollen appearance. This is accompanied by fluid retention, muscular weakness, dry skin, scalp hair loss and constipation, which causes a bloated abdomen. In this case the replacement of thyroid hormone in the form of Oroxine tablets (T4) will restore the body’s levels of thyroid hormone which stimulates metabolism and weight loss as well as correcting all the other problems.
In the majority of women this replacement with T4 works very well and after 3 to 4 months they no longer have a weight problem. However, in some women treatment with T4 does not work and the body is resistant to its effects. This is because the body cannot convert T4 to its active form, which is known as T3. The active form of thyroid hormone T3, also known as triiodothyronine is very powerful and directly stimulates the energy factories inside every cell to produce more energy. If T3 levels are too low it is necessary to take T3 tablets (Tertroxin) to restore normal levels of T3. Only small amounts of T3 need to be given along with the T4 tablets, because T3 is so powerful. For example, only 5 micrograms of T3 tablets given twice daily will often be sufficient to overcome thyroid resistance. The T3 will rapidly restore efficient metabolism leading to weight loss over a period of several months. It is vital to monitor the effects of any thyroid hormone replacement with blood tests to make sure that excessive levels do not occur. I have found that many women with thyroid resistance are unaware that this problem is preventing their T4 tablets from working effectively and will often continue on for years with fatigue, poor health and excessive weight. If this is your situation, it is important to ask your doctor to do a blood test to measure the levels of the two thyroid hormones T4 and T3 so that both hormones can be replaced if needed. The addition of some T3 to your T4 tablets can produce a dramatic improvement in energy, appearance and weight.
The same result can be achieved with natural thyroid hormone cream, which contains both T4 & T3 hormone. Nutritional medicine can help those with an underactive thyroid gland and in the early stages can often restore the gland to normal function. The most important nutrient to support the thyroid gland’s production of thyroid hormone is the essential mineral selenium.
What are plant hormones and can they help me?
Plants such as legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, some herbs, fruits and vegetables contain sex hormones and we call these phyto-sterols. If they have an estrogenic or female effect we call them “phyto-estrogens”. We know that populations who consume abundant and regular amounts of dietary phyto-estrogens daily have a lower incidence of breast cancer and other hormonally sensitive cancers. This is because phyto-estrogens have a balancing or modulating effect upon cellular hormone receptors, which means they can protect the cell against over-stimulation from sex hormones that are produced in the body or consumed in the diet or in medications. All women, and indeed men as well, should regularly consume plenty of plant hormones from the above foods to promote hormonal balance, a healthy immune system and to reduce the risk of cancer. Herbs containing beneficial plant hormones are black cohosh, dong quai, liquorice, red clover, sage, sarsparilla. Foods that are high in beneficial plant hormones are soybeans and their products, flax seeds (linseeds) and alfalfa. Supplements and/or foods containing phyto-estrogens can help with premenstrual syndrome, breast tenderness, endometriosis, heavy bleeding, menopausal symptoms and hair loss. You can obtain these herbs individually or combined together in capsule form. Dosage is 2 capsules twice daily before meals.
What are the latest ways of taking hormones?
Hormones have been available in the USA in the form of tablets, implants, injections, patches and pessaries for over a decade now. Indeed, natural progesterone and estrogens have been available since the 1940s and were first isolated by German scientists.
The beauty of creams is that, because small doses can be used to bypass the liver, doctors are able to fine tune hormones with more sophistication and grace. Thankfully, the use of hormone replacement therapy is no longer like “a bull in a china shop”!
What can natural progesterone be used for?
Natural progesterone is sometimes called the “happy hormone” because it promotes relaxation and calmness. It is secreted in the last 14 days of the normal menstrual cycle and is vital for fertility. It also reduces the amount of menstrual bleeding as well as breast tenderness and lumpiness. It can help those with endometriosis and premenstrual syndrome where it helps to balance the hormonal swings that cause these problems. It is taken in the form of creams. Dosages range from 35 to 70 mg daily. It is generally taken for the latter 14 days of the menstrual cycle and is ceased when menstrual bleeding commences. In those with endometriosis or menopausal problems natural progesterone can be taken every day.
Conditions that may be associated with progesterone deficiency include:
- Excess body fat (percentage over 28%) especially in the hips and thighs
- Infrequent menstruation
- Polycystic ovaries
- Enlarged uterus and/or fibroids
- Heavy and/or painful periods
- Large lumpy tender breasts
- After hysterectomy
- After tubal ligation
- Hair loss
- Depression and anxiety
Natural progesterone is best taken in the form of creams. In mild cases 35 mg daily can be sufficient, whereas in severe cases as much as 70 to 100 mg daily may be required. Natural progesterone cream is massaged into the thinner skin of the inner upper arms and thighs, lower abdomen or buttocks, twice daily after showering.
Can hormones boost my libido?
Yes without doubt, they can restore a healthy libido. The hormones that have the greatest effect upon sex drive are androstenedione, estrogen and testosterone. In women troubled by a low libido it is important to do a blood test to check for the levels of these hormones, because if they are found to be at the lower limit of, or indeed below the normal range, replacement with the deficient hormone can be very effective. In women with an early menopause, or after hysterectomy, or after tubal ligation, problems with low libido are common complaints and hormonal therapy is worth considering. Natural androstenedione can be given in small doses and gradually increased, until sex drive and sexual enjoyment are restored.
Androstenedione increases sex drive and the sensitivity of the clitoris, which will often help those women who have lost the ability to orgasm. Oestrogen makes the breasts fuller and rounder, increases nipple sensitivity and vaginal secretions. The most effective way to take libido-enhancing hormones is in the form of creams.
Is postnatal depression a hormonal imbalance?
Postnatal depression can be worsened by hormonal imbalances and can be helped with natural progesterone, estrogen and testosterone. This aspect of treatment is often neglected. Adrenal gland exhaustion is often present in women with protracted postnatal depression, and this may be helped greatly with nutritional supplements and natural DHEA and pregnenolone.
During the forties there is a big variation in the hormonal production amongst different women. This is a time where the ovaries often start to slow down and generally produce less sex hormones. In particular, ovulation may start to become irregular and less frequent, which reduces fertility and leads to progesterone deficiency. This may result in irregular and/or heavy menstrual bleeding and increasingly severe premenstrual syndrome. Thankfully, this is easily treated with natural progesterone and phyto-estrogenic herbs and foods.
The best way to assess the relative benefits of HRT, is to look at the profile of a high risk menopausal woman who would generally do better with HRT, and a low risk menopausal woman in whom HRT is optional.
Profile of a low-risk menopausal woman
- Menopause at age 50, plus or minus 5 years
- No family history of cardiovascular disease before the age of 65
- No family history of osteoporosis
- Good bone density as determined from a bone scan
- Medium to heavy bone (skeletal) structure
- No history of depression
- A healthy nutrient-rich diet
- Regular weight bearing exercise and aerobic exercise
- No long term use of drugs that would increase bone loss (eg. steroids, high doses of thyroid medication, some diuretics)
- A healthy cardiovascular system
Most women begin the peri-menopause at some time during their 40s, which is really the beginning of ovarian failure. The peri-menopause consists of the period of time, before, during and after menopause where the ovarian output of sex hormones becomes erratic and eventually fails completely. Menopause occurs because the ovaries run out of eggs (follicles), and the average age is 50 years with a normal range from 45 to 55.
A small percentage of women (around one in a hundred), have a premature menopause in their thirties or early forties, and rarely I have seen women in their early twenties go through menopause. The causes of premature menopause vary from chronic stress, autoimmune diseases, smoking, genetic factors, hysterectomy, removal of the ovaries, chemotherapy and in some cases are unknown. Other women continue to produce good levels of estrogen and progesterone right through their forties, and well into their fifties, before the ovaries eventually fail. No matter what age a woman goes through menopause, the question of whether to take hormone replacement therapy remains.
Profile of a high-risk menopausal woman
- Premature menopause (age 40 or earlier)
- Artificial menopause before the age of 45, caused by surgery, drugs, radiation or chemotherapy
- Cardiovascular disease and clots
- Strong family history of cardiovascular disease
- Strong family history of Alzheimer’s dementia
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Poor nutrient deficient diet
- Sexual dysfunction and poor relationships
- Depression and lack of enjoyment in life
- Fine bone structure
- Low bone density as determined from a bone scan
The art and science of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has blossomed in the last 5 years, because we can now tailor make combinations of natural hormones to suit every individual woman. Thankfully the old fashioned style of “super-market” HRT where menopause was treated with stock-standard doses and brands of hormones is no longer considered acceptable by women. During the first few years of menopause, prescriptions for HRT must be continually fine-tuned with regular adjustments in the doses of the various hormones. This is because a woman’s body, life expectations, symptoms and sexuality is continually evolving as she ages. The goal of natural HRT is to restore hormones to around the normal body levels that were present during a woman’s thirties or forties. An integrative balanced or holistic approach, which caters for the individual is important. In some cases, the three classes of body hormones (estrogen, progesterone, and androgen) is required, even in women who have had a hysterectomy. Currently most women who have had a hysterectomy are offered only estrogens, without consideration of the need for progesterone or androgens. Many different combinations of hormones, including estrogens, progesterone, testosterone, and DHEA, can be administered in different ways, such as patches, tablets, injections, creams, implants and lozenges (troches). Because there are so many choices, I recommend beginning with a blood test to evaluate your own hormonal profile before starting any HRT. Such a baseline hormonal profile is ideally done in the early to mid-forties before you begin to notice symptoms of menopause.
This will show your ideal hormonal levels before menopause begins, making it much easier to create a tailor made program of HRT when your ovaries finally fail. Many women will need progesterone only as their HRT, especially those who are estrogen dominant. Possible symptoms of estrogen dominance are tender breasts, fluid retention, headaches, anxiety, weight gain BELOW the waist, and heavy bleeding.
No matter what age you go through menopause, you will have fewer symptoms and feel healthier if you have a good diet, a regular exercise program, a positive state of mind and a healthy liver and adrenal glands. The liver breaks down (metabolizes) all the body’s hormones, as well as any HRT that is being prescribed, and if it is sluggish or dysfunctional, hormonal imbalances can arise. Peri-menopausal women with sluggish liver function are more likely to have a weight problem, because the liver is the major fat burning organ in the body. Liver tonics can be of great benefit here.
The adrenal glands are very important during the peri-menopausal years because they take over the role of the failed ovaries to a significant degree and continue to produce significant amounts of the sex hormones, including androgens.
Women in their fifties and sixties will often want to continue with some form of nutritional and/or hormonal support for the peri-menopausal and post-menopausal years with the aim of reducing osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. During these two decades the body produces less and less sex hormones and this can cause continuing bone loss, increased cholesterol levels and sexual dysfunction. In these age groups, lower doses of hormone replacement are required and this is ideally given in the form of creams. If older women are troubled by sexual dysfunction, creams containing progesterone and androstenedione work extremely well. A local estrogen cream for the vagina may also be required. These types of hormones, combined with pelvic floor exercises, can help to reduce common bladder problems such as cystitis, urinary frequency and incontinence.
The major health problems for women over 50 are osteoporosis, a higher risk of cancer and cardiovascular diseases. It is important that women utilize preventative strategies to reduce the occurrence of these common diseases.
To keep these diseases in check some simple yet powerful dietary strategies can be followed such as :
- Drinking at least 8 glasses of filtered water daily.
- Buy a juice-extracting machine and drink fresh juices made from raw vegetables and fruits to increase your intake of antioxidants. See "Raw Juices Can Save Your Life" book for more information on juicing for various conditions and ailments.
- Buy a grinder to grind fresh raw nuts and seeds such as linseeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds to provide essential fatty acids and minerals.
- Diversify your sources of protein from fish, eggs, free range chicken, lean red meats, legumes, whole grains.
Juices made freshly from raw fruits and or vegetables have unique healing and rejuvenating properties. I have seen them work many miracles in people with the following problems –
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Liver diseases
- Fatty liver
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Blood clots
- Cardiovascular diseases
For those who feel they need an extra boost there is nothing better than having a raw juice every day. It will brighten up the day by providing extra energy and endurance.
Juices are unique because they allow the gut to receive very concentrated amounts of phyto-nutrients that could not be obtained by eating a normal amount of raw vegetables and fruits. Juices are high in: vitamin C, bioflavonoids, carotenoids, living plant enzymes to aid digestion and vitamin K in green leafy vegetables.
Ideally, you should have a diet that consists of raw fruits and vegetables, cooked fruits and vegetables and raw juices. If you find the juices too strong, simply dilute them with water according to your taste. If you are sensitive to fruit sugar (fructose) or are diabetic, then it is better to avoid fruit juices and use only vegetable juices.
Here are some rejuvenating juice recipes
- Carrot, fresh ginger and apple
- Carrot, celery, parsley, mint, tomato, apple
- Beetroot, apple, pear, ginger, parsley
- Orange, lemon (whole), carrot, fresh ginger, parsley
Here is a chlorophyll hit – for super energy
- 2 carrots, tops removed
- 3 beetroot tops
- 1 cup parsley tops, chopped
- 3 spinach leaves
- 1 small apple, seeded
Pass all through the juicer and serve with crushed ice.
Here is a liver purifier
- 2 large spinach leaves
- 3 broccoli florets
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 green pepper
- 1 cup parsley tops, chopped
- 1 red apple, seeded
Pass all through a juicer. This is high in vitamin C and sulfur compounds to cleanse the liver. Add your liver tonic powder to this juice for extra effect.
Recommended supplements for hormonal imbalances
Take 2 capsules twice daily - These are a combination of several different phyto-estrogenic herbs along with phyto-estrogenic nutrients. These supplements help to reduce the symptoms of menopause and reduce hair loss and aging of the skin.
Take 1-2 capsules daily with food - to help support the thyroid gland’s production of thyroid hormones.
- Fem Pro - Natural Progesterone Cream
One dose = 1/2 turn of the self-dispensing lid - 1/4 teaspoon of the cream = 35 mg of progesterone.
Immediately after ovulation the ovary starts to manufacture progesterone which tones down your up-beat estrogen and makes the next 10 days pass at a slower pace. Progesterone will make you feel more relaxed and self-contented so this is a good time to meditate, think things through and pamper yourself.
The above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.