The endocrine system consists of glands that produce hormones. Hormones are chemical messengers that send instructions to the various organ systems in order to regulate vital bodily functions. A high stress lifestyle combined with poor eating habits can wreak havoc on a women’s delicately balanced hormonal function. Even healthy women with a good diet can end up with hormones unbalanced.
Symptoms of hormonal imbalance may include PMS, uterine fibroids, osteoporosis, reduced sex drive, allergies,weight gain, changes in the skin, fatigue, water retention, hair loss, facial hair growth and sometimes anxiety and depression.
A naturopath takes time to review a patient’s medical history in detail and tailor a herbal mix and provide dietary and lifestyle advice specific to the patient. Below are some suggested tips and a selection of herbs for treating hormonal imbalances.
Top Five Tips for Rebalancing Hormones
Maintain a healthy diet. Incorporate fresh, organic fruits and vegetables, plus raw nuts and seeds into your diet. Avoid high fatty foods, processed carbohydrates, fried foods, soft drinks, enriched flour, and processed vegetable oil. Avoid non-organic dairy products, which may contain harmful bovine growth hormones, steroids and antibiotics.
Add more Omega-3 fatty acids to your diet. These fats create healthy cell membranes, allowing hormones to bind to the cell more easily. Omega-3 fatty acids also repair receptor sites (where hormones bind) and keep it in optimal condition. Consider eating more foods with omega-3s (fish, chia seeds, nuts) or taking a high quality organic oil, such as hempseed or flaxseed.
Keep stress levels down. Studies show that women who mediate daily or practice yoga experience less hormonal swings than those who don’t. Rest is important. Many women lead such hectic lives with many demands placed on them that they have little time to let their bodies re-adjust. Find small ways and time to relax. A massage can be a wonderful way to relax and remove the aches and pains caused by a busy lifestyle.
Get enough good quality sleep. Try to get at least 8 hours every night. During sleep the body recuperates and restores. Insufficient sleep is now recognised as a major cause heart disease, stroke, metabolic dysfunction and impaired mental health.
Start the day with some exercise. A workout can be anything from a brisk walk, a swim, and a visit to the gym or some exercises at home. Exercise improves your circulation, raises your heartbeat, and brings oxygen and vital nutrients to your organs.If you do this for at least 20 minutes first thing in the morning you will feel that you have more energy to carry on with your day and it will help stabalise your hormones.
Herbs for Rebalancing Hormones
There are many herbs for balancing the hormonal system, below is a short list of herbs a naturopath might use:
- Ashwagandha: an Ayurvedic herb used in western herbal medicine. It’s an extremely useful tonic to the hormonal system and building energy reserves.
- Black Cohosh: reducespainful menstruation and menopausal symptoms.
- Chaste Tree Berry/Vitex agnus castus: shown to balance the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus. Aids the relief of PMS symptoms, especially nervous tension and insomnia. It’s useful for treating absent or irregular menstruation and aids menopausal symptoms.
- Dandelion: aids liver metabolism and reduces water retention.
- Dong Quai: a Chinese herb used a lot in western herbal medicine. It’s commonly used to balance hormone excesses and deficits. It’s excellent for treating absent or painful menstruation and menopausal symptoms.
- Kelp: a rich source of iodine. Iodine is required for optimum thyroid function.
- Ladies Mantle: reduces heavy periods and is particularly useful around the menopause.
- Motherwort: excellent for treating menopausal hot flushes, absent or painful menstruation and PMS. It’s also useful herb for the treatment of fibroids.
- Saw Palmetto: primarily used as a tonic herb for men but it has a nourishing effect on the female reproductive system – helps regulate the menstrual cycle, relieve painful periods and improve sexual energy.
- Valerian: helpful for reducing anxiety associated with PMS and menopause. Improves the quality of sleep.
- Wild Yam: reduces hormone imbalance associated with the menopause.
- Supplements: a high quality vitamin and mineral, Evening Primrose oil (helpful in the treatment of PMS, breast, menopausal symptoms), Omega-3 oil
By keeping hormones in balance, women can enjoy a full life, vitality and well being.
Andrea McIntyre, Naturopath.