In my aromatherapy practice I focus on women’s health and that means a lot of time talking to women about the importance of maintaining healthy hormones. Most of the women with whom I work, experience some or all of following:
- A Rollercoaster of up or down moods
- Hormonal challenges whether during menopause or at particular times during their monthly cycle
- Issues maintaining a healthy weight.
A co-worker of mine, Pamela Lund is a Life Coach for women and she likens healthy hormonal balance to the four legs of a table. If just one of the legs is wonky then the table is unbalanced and could topple over. The four legs are:
- Stress – The female endocrine system (hormonal system) is very sensitive to stress. This could be from too much work and not enough sleep. The modern day pressures women experience trying to juggle everything that is expected of them, without adopting good stress management techniques, puts a strain on their sympathetic nervous system. Under chronic stress cortisol levels rise and this can cause a reduction in other hormones being produced.
- Diet and Exercise – eating the wrong foods for your body, or too many processed foods, not getting enough good fats to make hormones, not drinking enough water and not exercising regularly all impact on being able to maintain healthy hormones.
- Emotional stress from past traumas that have been stored away because they weren’t fully dealt with at the time all impact on hormone production. Emotional toxins can be just a harmful on our wellbeing as environmental and chemical ones.
- Physical hormones such as progesterone and oestrogen. Progesterone is a hormone found in both men and women that is generally associated with women’s health. It plays an important role in influencing menstrual cycles, pregnancy, and menopause. Genetic makeup, environmental influences, and other factors can negatively impact progesterone levels, which may lead to other imbalances in the body.
It is therefore essential that women work on balancing all these four areas.
Feminine health hassles cause physical pain and can play havoc with your self esteem and sex life.
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) – what is it?
Premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, refers to the range of physical and emotional symptoms that many women experience in the lead up to a period (menstruation). Symptoms resolve once the woman s period begins and there is usually at least one symptom-free week before the symptoms return.
It is thought that most menstruating women have premenstrual symptoms, ranging from relatively mild (in 75% of women) to severe (in 20-30% of women). In 8% of women with severe symptoms, PMS is associated with reduced quality of life.
PMS is a complex condition that includes physical and emotional symptoms. The latest research points to changes in brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) in the time after ovulation and before menstruation. Life stressors and a genetic link may also play a role. Although the cause isn’t conclusively known, PMS can be managed with various medications and other strategies.
PMS differs from one woman to the next. The wide range of PMS symptoms can include:
- abdominal bloating, fluid retention
- anxiety, confusion
- depression and lowered mood, which may include suicidal thoughts
- difficulties in concentration, memory lapses
- digestive upsets, including constipation and diarrhoea
- drop in self-esteem and confidence
- drop in sexual desire, or (occasionally) an increase
- feelings of loneliness and paranoia
- food cravings
- headache and migraine
- hot flushes or sweats
- increased appetite
- increased sensitivity to sounds, light and touch
- irritability, including angry outbursts
- mood swings, weepiness
- sleep changes, including insomnia or excessive sleepiness
- swollen and tender breasts.
Exercise regularly, at least three times a week. Try to exercise daily, especially in the premenstrual period (the increased endorphins will help).
Cut back on caffeine and alcohol in the two weeks before menstruation.
Make sure you get enough sleep.
Manage your stress in whatever way works for you for example, counselling, tai chi or meditation, walking, gardening or using essential oils.
Menopause – what is it?
Menopause, also known as the change of life , marks the end of the monthly cycle of menstruation in a woman’s life. It is a natural occurrence and marks the end of the reproductive years, just as the first menstrual period during puberty marked the start. You will know that the menopause has taken place if you have not had any bleeding for 12 months. Most women reach menopause between the ages of 45 and 55, the average being around 51. Menopause before the age of 40 is called premature menopause and before the age of 45 it is called early menopause .
As you approach menopause, the production of female hormones (oestrogen and progesterone) by the ovaries starts to slow down. Hormone levels tend to fluctuate and you may notice changes in your menstrual cycle such as:
cycles may become longer, shorter or totally irregular bleeding may become lighter bleeding may become unpredictable and heavy (seek advice from your doctor).
Eventually, your hormone levels will fall to a point where menstruation (periods) will cease altogether and the menopause is reached.
Although fertility after the age of 45 is low, you still need to use contraception to prevent pregnancy (even if only barrier contraception such as male condoms), until you have had one year without a natural period if you re over 50 years old, or two years without a natural period if you re under 50.
Some of the symptoms that women may experience include:
- hot flushes, night sweats
- aches and pains
- crawling or itching sensations under the skin
- lack of self-esteem
- reduced sex drive (libido)
- tiredness, difficulty sleeping wakefulness or waking hot and sweaty
- urinary frequency
- vaginal dryness
- discomfort with sexual intercourse
If you would like to learn more about maintaining healthy hormones come along to one of my Healthy Hormones workshops listed on the events page or contact me to make an appointment. I offer Skype appointments for those who are not local to me.