Holistic Hormone Support
Throughout the life stages of a woman, our bodies change and evolve and the levels of hormones we produce changes with them. When a woman approaches menopause, the production of estrogen and progesterone in the ovaries begins to slow and eventually stop. This same effect can occur, although much faster, when a woman has a hysterectomy. The body continues to produce some estrogens and sex hormones from the fatty tissues and the adrenal glands. However, the amount of estrogen we receive from these sources is quite small in comparison. This drop in estrogen and related hormones can cause discomfort for many women and manifest as the symptoms of menopause. There are many ways you can support yourself holistically to prevent or lessen the effects of these dramatic hormone shifts.
Some common symptoms of menopause and hormone imbalance are:
- hot flashes
- night sweats
- vaginal dryness
- mood swings
- urinary tract infections
- weight gain
- dry skin
- reduced sex drive
Types of Hormone Therapy
Traditional Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
Traditional hormone replacement therapies typically involve synthetic forms of estrogen or progesterone which mimic the natural hormones the body produces prior to menopause. These therapies provide relief for many of the symptoms of menopause indicated above. Despite widespread use in our grandmother’s era, awareness has increased in the last two decades, and many of these HRT therapies have been linked to a variety of health issues such as increased risk of heart disease, stroke, breast cancer and even dementia.
Women are seeking alternative therapy, and fortunately there are many dietary and herbal actions which are gentle and safe for the body which can help to regulate hormones, naturally boost sex hormones and pose minimal risk.
Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT)
Bioidentical hormones are manufactured hormones that are made from the phytoestrogens found in plants. Through processing, these hormones are able to perfectly mimic estrogen and progesterone as it would naturally occur in the body. BHRT touts the same benefits as traditional synthetic hormone replacement therapy, reducing various symptoms of menopause.
Wild Yam Natural Progesterone Cream – a form of Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT), wild yams contain a phytoestrogen called diosgenin which can be converted to progesterone through chemical processes. This cream is applied to the skin, where the body readily absorbs the progesterone, countering the effects of menopause and hormonal changes. This cream may be a safer alternative for those who wish to avoid synthetic hormone replacement therapy.
Try: a good quality natural progesterone cream from your local natural health store. Follow product indications.
Psyllium Fiber – a great sources of fiber, adding bulk to stool and encouraging elimination of wastes from the body.
Try: taking 1 tbsp. daily mixed with water. Ensure you drink plenty of water afterwards.
Flaxseeds – a great source of phytoestrogens, soothing to the digestive system and high in essential fatty acids.
Try: adding ground flaxseed to oatmeal or smoothies, or brew flaxseeds into a soothing and demulcent tea
Fish Oil – source of essential fatty acids, necessary building blocks for hormones. Fatty acids also help to improve skin quality, bringing moisture to the skin and soothing inflammation.
Try: supplementing with at least 1200mg of EPA/DHA daily.
Calcium and Magnesium (+Vitamin D) – supports and maintains healthy bones, joints, nails, skin and hair.
Try: supplementing daily with calcium, magnesium and vitamin D to assist in absorption of calcium.
Chaste Tree (aka Vitex) – an herb that is excellent for women’s conditions. Acting to reduce symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes, mood swings and migraines.
Try: a vitex supplement and follow indications on the package.
Ashwagandha – ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb that is excellent for helping the body adapt to stress, reduces anxiety and promotes restfulness.
Try: a daily supplement to support a graceful transition through hormonal changes.
Red Clover – is a nutritive herb that contains phytoestrogens and acts on the female reproductive system. It can be effective in treating and preventing symptoms of menopause.
Try: brewing a relaxing red clover tea.
Dong Quai – a herb used extensively in traditional Chinese medicine, dong quai is helpful at reducing symptoms of menopause, improving bone health, reducing inflammation and improving mood.
Try: supplementing with dong quai capsules, liquid extract or making a decoction of the root. *Avoid if you are on blood thinning medication as it may increase this effect in the body.
Black Cohosh – helpful for relief of hot flashes and other menopause symptoms as it contains phytoestrogens and anti-inflammatory properties.
Try: taking a daily black cohosh supplement.
Plant Phytoestrogens – phytoestrogens are plant compounds which mimic the effects of estrogen in the body but to a much lower effect. They can be helpful in treating menopause symptoms as they attach to estrogen receptors in the body.
Try: organic soy products such as tempeh and miso (which have been fermented and is easier to digest), edamame, flaxseeds, whole grains, nuts, celery, apples, and alfalfa.
Organic Fruit & Vegetables– high in antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals, let fruits and vegetables make up a large part of your diet.
Try: to eat the rainbow! Enjoy a wide variety of fruits and vegetables such as apples, cherries, berries, mango, pineapple, broccoli, cabbage, swiss chard, sweet potatoes, beets, and cauliflower. The options are endless
Wild Caught Salmon – high in essential fatty acids which are excellent for maintaining skin condition, improving cognition and memory, and help the body perform optimally.
Try: baking salmon with your favorite spices. Lemon and dill make for a light summery taste, and in winter a maple and miso glaze can be very enjoyable.
Foods high in Calcium and Magnesium – with a decrease in estrogen and progesterone, bone loss begins to occur in the body. A diet full of healthy sources of dietary calcium and magnesium can be helpful in supporting bone health.
Try: brussel sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, kale, and collard greens.
Exercise Daily – Being active daily improves circulation, aids in the detoxification process, promotes better sleep, assists in weight control and supports healthy bone and joint function.
Try: 30-60 minutes of exercise daily in the form of walking, jogging, swimming, yoga, resistance training or group fitness.
Reduce stress – stress leads to premature aging, inflammation, and overtaxed adrenals. If your adrenals are exhausted, they won’t do a good job of producing the small amount of estrogen that they do post-menopause.
Try: beginning a meditation practice. Even as little as 10 minutes each day can begin to have profound effects on stress levels and mood.
Ensure Adequate Sleep – sleep is essential in the growth and repair of our bodies tissues. Sufficient sleep will help to reduce stress, keep the adrenals healthy and improve mood.
Try: to aim for 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. Creating a nighttime routine of reading, listening to music or having a bath can help you unwind and prepare for a restful sleep.
Increase Water Intake – When estrogen and progesterone levels in the body drop, a general experience of dryness of skin, mucous membranes and hair can take place.
Try: to aim for at least 8 glasses of water each day.
Be Gentle with Yourself – menopause is a major life stage which brings a unique set of challenges for each woman. Your journey is unique to you and these big changes take time to adapt to. Be kind and gentle to yourself as you journey through this period and trust that you will find balance with time.
Try: positive affirmations, self-care routines such as massage therapy, spending time in nature, enjoying a bubble bath or taking yourself on a walk.