When most types of medicine look at stopping the symptoms of a hormonal imbalance (which often has great benefits), natural medicine goes one step further. It looks for why it happened in the first place. A good naturopathic practitioner will ask the right questions.
Yes, sometimes things ‘just happen” and no cause is evident, but more often than not, lifestyle, diet, genetics or medications can play a part and even be the cause of a hormonal imbalance.
And if we know what’s causing the imbalance, we can use herbal and nutritional medicine to assist the body in healing. This means that you don’t need to be taking medicines or even natural supplements long term. Fix the cause and you fix the problem!
So let’s look at 5 possible causes of a hormonal imbalance.
Long term stress can increase a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is directly related to progesterone so if there is a demand for cortisol, then often progesterone will decrease. This is called the “Pregnenolone Steal Pathway”. When progesterone lowers, symptoms such as PMS, anxiety (especially just before your period) and period pain may occur.
2). Overloaded Liver
Estrogen needs to be broken down by liver enzymes – called the “sulfation pathway”. The Sulphation pathway can be affected by an increase in toxins. To help improve this pathway, eating vegetables from the brassica family (cabbage, cauliflower and Brussel sprouts) can help to improve it. However if your estrogen is very high, seeing a naturopath to help with specific detoxification methods can be most beneficial.
3). MTHFR gene mutation
Estrogen’s (we have 3 of them!) need B6, B12 and activated folate to metabolise (break down). For some people having a the MTHFR (methyltetrahydrofolate reducatase) gene means that they don’t convert folate to its most active form, therefore there is a reduction in the amount of activated folate and this can have an impact on estrogen breakdown. Remember that even if you do have the gene, it doesn’t mean that it is “switched on”. Symptoms that you might experience with having the MTHFR mutation can (but not always) include depression, anxiety, digestive and hormonal issues. (Please note that these symptoms can have multiple causes, not just your genetics).
4). Medications – The Oral Contraceptive Pill
Post pill polycystic ovarian syndrome is common in women coming off the pill. The Oral Contraceptive Pill essentially shuts down your body’s production of its own natural hormones, so when you come off the pill, it can take some time to re-establish your cycle again. Seeing a naturopath can help support this process and may be able to minimise side effects while coming off it.
5). Lack of sleep.
If you’re not sleeping well or at the right times, your melatonin (sleep hormone) may be affected. Melatonin has a balancing affect on estrogen, so if your melatonin is out of balance, your estrogen may be as well.
Knowing that your hormonal imbalance may be from one or multiple of the above can give you some insight as to why you might be feeling crappy, angry, anxious or teary before your period. It might also help to explain some other PMS symptoms such as headaches or fluid retention. The good news is that if your hormonal imbalance is caused by one of the above, your naturopath may be able to help your body to turn things around and bring your hormones back into alignment so you can live life the whole month through!