Rarely have I encountered a female patient who does not present with some sort of hormonal imbalance. Young women complain of PMS signs such as menstrual cramps, mood swings or breast tenderness. Middle-aged women complain of foggy brain, sluggishness, depression and weight gain around the middle. Fortunately, the majority of my patients are wonderfully observant regarding their symptoms, yet all seem to lack a basic gynecological/hormone education. I include myself in this observation, at least when I was a teenager.
I was given that standard 7th Grade talk and short film but beyond that, I was on my own. There was no owner's manual on what my body or hormones were up to each month. Whatever was going on we didn't talk about, but honestly my mother didn't have a clue, either. It didn't help that I was the lone daughter in my family. But we've come a long way since the '70s, haven't we? I'm not so sure about that.
From what I see in my Alternative Medicine practice, not much has changed in 40 years. Teens and many of my female friends bemoan their monthly cycle month after month because they lack an education on hormone health. Their standard answer for their monthly menstrual pain is the same bottle of pain killers that I once used or the birth control pill. I know too many women who are menopausal, suffering with hot flashes and have reached adulthood with sex education under their belts, but without a firm grasp on their our own gynecological and hormone health.
Although every woman knows about birth control pills, they don't seem to have a concept of how these artificial hormones upset their natural hormonal balance. We have been raised ignorant and left with limited resources to solve our female issues. Most women do not know what to do for their difficulties except mask them with some form of a pill or a heating pad. Effective as these means are, I believe it is high time we treat the root and not just the symptoms. To do so we will need to change some bad habits and give our daughters (and ourselves) some 21st century sex education. Not on sex, but on all that occurs between our reproductive cycles.
What I share and emphasize with my own clients is hormones are messengers in the body and when they are not in balance, messages get confused. The confusion begins with ingesting toxins, sugar and yes, artificial hormones which are found everywhere these days.
What follows is a condition I have found most women are almost completely ignorant of, called Estrogen Dominance. We are beginning to see the effects of chemicals in our environment causing estrogen dominance in both men and women. The late Dr. John Lee coined the term "Estrogen Dominance" and he described it as having deficient, normal or excessive estrogen in relation to progesterone. This means even if you have just a small amount of estrogen throughout your monthly cycle, but you have little to no progesterone, you can still be estrogen dominant. You may also hear this term referred to as unopposed estrogen. Today, nearly every patient I see has signs of estrogen dominance and I believe this a factor of the environment in which we are living.
It has become clear to scientists that pesticides in our food and products we use on our skin daily behave as estrogens in our bodies. What is also clear is that we are exposed to these all our lives, including in the womb. This group of chemicals has been given the name Xeno-estrogens. (Xeno is the Greek word for stranger.) Xeno-estrogens occur in many sources, such as BPA's, which are commonly in plastic water bottles and cash register receipts and now on paper money everywhere. Another source is pharmaceutical estrogen's, like oral contraceptives or the hormones given to livestock which we then consume on our dinner tables. Estrogen-like chemicals are found in our food from pesticides, the lining of canned food and many food colorings and preservatives. They latch onto estrogen receptors and act like estrogen in our body.
Signs of Estrogen Dominance range from dry eyes, mood swings, thyroid dysfunction, insomnia, low sex drive, weight gain and can even be as severe as memory loss and cancer. All of these sneaky xeno-estrogens can show up in half the contents of my own purse without me knowing it. Where are women supposed to learn this?
It is important to expand on a basic gynecological education, as it is highly unlikely any woman will magically know how to make minor life adjustments to improve her health. Changing your lifestyle is one of the hardest things to do, but it can really make a difference. I typically pick one thing at a time to work on. I started with drinking filtered water from home not from plastic water bottles. Then I threw out a lot of old creams and lotions and started buying only natural cosmetics and body products without parabens. Parabens are one of the many chemicals that act like xeno-estrogens in our bodies. I wash my hands after handling paper money and thermal receipts and always before eating. Big changes can seem overwhelming and almost against your will. Little changes are much more empowering. It's as easy as making a decision at the grocery store. I wholeheartedly believe that with time it is possible to clean up the way you live your life and reduce the chemicals causing menstrual cycle disruptions and hormonal imbalances.
I have done my best to educate my clients. Take one step at a time to educate yourself on hormonal imbalances and begin eliminating toxic products from your life that upset this natural balance. Small steps can make a big difference in your health. Because the longer you use toxic products and the longer we eat xeno-estrogens, the more toxic our bodies become. The accumulation of these products may be what leads to so many diseases today.
Remember, a healthy hormone balance leads to a healthy menstrual cycle and eventually an easy transition into menopause. If you are female, you owe it to yourself to understand basic hormone health, this knowledge will serve you well your entire life.
Now I'd like to hear from you: Do you suffer from PMS, mood swings, hot flashes and/or foggy brain? If so, for how long? Months? Years?
What is your most common remedy? Do you take the birth control pills for menstrual cramps?
How do you deal with irritability, moodiness and other psychological symptoms?
Please leave your thoughts by adding a comment below.
Follow Cathy Margolin, L.Ac. Dipl. OM on Twitter: www.twitter.com/PacHerbs