“It’s JUST Your Hormones”: Why JUST is no longer good enough!

Does the phrase “It’s just your hormones” make your blood boil? Have you ever been dismissed, belittled or misunderstood when describing your symptoms of period pain, heavy bleeding, premenstrual problems, hot flushes, irregular periods or the like?

If so, you are not alone!

Take endometriosis for example. Endometriosis is the most common reason for painful periods caused by a disease (aka secondary dysmenorrhoea)effecting up to 10% of women.2  But on average, endometriosis takes 7 years before a diagnosis is reached.3  Commonly women have suffered the symptoms of endometriosis for 8 – 10 years and have only been extensively investigated once they have had trouble trying to conceive a baby.4  The delay in the diagnosis means that, by this time, the extent of the disease can be very advanced and difficult to manage.5

From woman to woman, the number, frequency and intensity of ‘hormonal’ symptoms experienced can vary so widely. Couple this with the high incidence of female hormonal conditions across the Australian population :

  • Between 50-80% of women report having premenstrual syndrome (PMS) 6
  • 30-40% of women have PMS symptoms that require treatment6
  • Up to 15% of women have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)8 , some experts estimating up to 25% prevalence .
  • 40% of women who suffer from PCOS also suffer depression.10
  • Endometriosis is diagnosed in 50% of women that are considered ‘infertile’.11
  • 50% of women have developed fibroids by the age of 50.12
  • 40-50% of women suffer from menopausal symptoms (25% say ‘severely’), 80% of which have hot flushes.13

This amounts to a massive number of women who regularly suffer from real and diagnosable hormonal conditions. They are such huge numbers that it is easy to see why many people deem these symptoms ‘JUST part of being born a woman’. There is that ‘JUST’ word again! We are lead to believe that this is to be expected, so we put up with the symptoms and the decreased quality of life that goes along with them.

I am here to tell you, this is not what should be considered normal and it is time to say, enough is enough!

So what should a normal period be like then?

You may think that no such thing exists and that I am living in a land of make believe, BUT……           a ‘normal’ period for a menstruating woman should go something like this:

  • 26-32 day cycles (Day 1 is counted as the first day of established menstrual bleeding)
  • 3-5 day menstrual flow with no stopping and starting, minimal clotting and relatively no pain,
  • A mild feeling of bloating in the belly and a sense that your period is about to start is normal, but actual pain is not. 14

So…. if you are reaching for pain killers, anti-inflammatories and a hot water bottle when you get your period, this is not normal and not OK! If you are getting very heavy periods, large clots, flooding, unpredictable cycles or life disturbing premenstrual syndrome, then this warrants further attention. These could be signs of hormonal dysregulation and you may possibly have a diagnosable female hormonal condition.

What can be done about this?

Firstly – Ladies, acknowledge if you suspect hormonal issues are negatively impacting your life. If you are not sure, a good place to start is to ask yourself how you measure up to the ideal outlined above.

Secondly – I strongly encourage you to recognise the importance of seeking out qualified advice until you feel that your issue has been addressed to your satisfaction. Unfortunately, over my 20 odd years of practice as a Naturopath, I have heard too many stories of women being dismissed with their female hormonal issues. Never stop trusting your gut instinct about your own body and always feel justified in pursuing answers, no matter how many knock downs you might get.

If you have a hormone imbalance, can’t you just take the hormone you need to fix it?

Well…yes and no! The standard approach is to try to rebalance the female hormones, especially Oestrogens and Progesterone.

However, nature dictates that women are complicated. The female hormone system could be humourously likened to a network of switches and dials, each needing to be at the exact level to fine tune each one of us precisely, producing the perfect balance (apologies to the men for oversimplifying them!)

Aside from the humour, when tackling the issues of female hormone imbalance, it is important to consider how complex each dial and switch is. While “Oestrogen” might be one dial and “Progesterone” another, recent research does suggest that there are so many more factors at play than simply the hormones themselves.  Just giving medicines (herbal or otherwise) to tweak or change blood hormone levels may help with some symptoms, but may not be the ultimate solution.15,16  Some of these other factors that influence hormonal balance are:

1) Genetics

2) Inflammation

3) Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs)

4) The adrenal gland-brain stress response

5) The microbiome

6) Body fat stores

7) Other hormone systems including the pancreas and thyroid gland

8) Dietary and lifestyle factors.17

Each factor listed could ignite a lengthy conversation on its own. Imagine every one of these eight factors also being a dial or switch, that can be turned up or down to exaggerate or diminish their influence on the whole function of the female hormonal system. The solutions to multiple imbalances then need to become much more diverse and individualised. These many factors deserve a multifactorial approach to treatment, requiring a trained technician, even a team of technicians, to understand, assess and encourage all the dials to be turned in the direction.

Who can help?

The practitioners at Des Lardner’s Organic are experienced in putting all these factors together to develop a management plan specific for your condition and circumstances. They may use a combination of testing and a thorough consultation to gather all the details of your history. If a diagnosis has not been made, your Naturopath or Herbalist will suggest consulting a doctor or specialist for these purposes and for any medical management necessary. Your Naturopath or Herbalist can then support you appropriately, taking this diagnosis into consideration, along with any prescribed medicines you may be taking. Your management may include the responsible prescription of supplementation along with dietary and lifestyle advice, backed with sound reasoning and research.

In clinical practice as Healthcare Practitioners, we notice that women benefit greatly from nutritional support and usually respond very well to Herbal Medicine. Herbal Medicines are whole plant compounds, their complexity of actions suiting the complex nature of hormonal conditions perfectly.

We welcome you to make an appointment with a Des Lardner’s Organic practitioner to help you negotiate this convoluted path with our exemplary education and advice. We pride ourselves on honouring the female hormonal system with the respect that it commands and we hope to inspire you to do the same.

References

  1. Osayande AS, Mehulic S. Diagnosis and initial management of dysmenorrhoea. Am Fam Physician. 2014 Mar 1;89(5): 341-6. PMID: 24695505.
  2. Eisenberg VH, Weil C, Chodik G, Shalev V. Epidemiology of endometriosis: a large population-based study from a healthcare provider with 2 million members. BJOG. 2018 Jan;125(1):55-62. doi: 10.1111/1471-0528.14711.
  3. Black K, Fraser IS. Medical management of endometriosis. Aust Prescr. 2012 Aug 1;35(4):114-7. doi: 10.18773/austprescr.2012.050.
  4. Black K, Fraser IS Medical management of endometriosis. Aust Prescr. 2012 Aug 1;35(4):114-7. doi: 10.18773/austprescr.2012.050.
  5. Cregger MA, Lenz K, Leary E, Leach R, Fazleabas A, White B. Reproductive microbiomes: using the microbiome as a novel diagnostic tool for endometriosis. Reproductive Immunology: Open Access. 2017 Sep 25;2(3). doi: 10.21767/2476-1974.100036.
  6. Bertone-Johnson ER. Chronic inflammation and premenstrual syndrome: a missing link found? J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2016 Sep;25(9):857-8. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2016.5937.
  7. Bertone-Johnson ER. Chronic inflammation and premenstrual syndrome: a missing link found? J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2016 Sep;25(9):857-8. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2016.5937.
  8. Rosenfield RL,, Ehrmann DA. The pathogenesis of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): the hypothesis of PCOS as functional ovarian hyperandrogenism revisited. Endocr Rev. 2016 Oct;37(5):467-520. Doi: 10.1210/er.2015-1104.
  9. Dempsey, T. Mast Cells and Hormones: The Intersection of MCAS and PCOS. The 2018 International Congress on Natural Medicine Day Three 2018 Jun; 68. Metagenics Australia, Northgate, Queensland.
  10. Kerchner A, Lester W, Stuart SP, Dokras A. Risk of depression and other mental health disorders in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: a longitudinal study. Fertil Steril. 2009 Jan;91(1):207-12. Doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2007.11.022.
  11. Hummelshoj L. Endometriosis: an old problem without a current solution. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 2017 Jun;96(6):779-782 doi: 10.1111/aogs.13075.
  12. Women’s Health Queensland. Fibroids: Fast facts. [Internet]. Fortitude Valley, QLD: Women’s Health Queensland Wide Inc. Joanna Egan. [updated 2012 December. Cited 2018 April 23]. Available from: https://womhealth.org.au/conditions-and-treatments/fibroids-fast-facts.
  13. Women’s Health Queensland . Fibroids: Fast facts. [Internet]. Fortitude Valley, QLD: Women’s Health Queensland Wide Inc. Joanna Egan. [updated 2012 December. Cited 2018 April 23]. Available from: https://womhealth.org.au/conditions-and-treatments/fibroids-fast-facts.
  14. Orr A. Why am I getting bleeding between my periods? [Internet] Dr.Andrew Orr-No Stone Left Unturned. Spring Hill, QLD. Posted 2018 May 24 [Cited 2018 July 30]]. Available from: https://drandreworr.com.au/blog/.
  15. Brown J, Kives S, Akhtar M. Progestagens and anti-progestagens for pain associated with endometriosis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev.2012 Mar 14;3. Doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD0021220pub2.
  16. Abou-Setta AM, Houston B, Al-Inany HG, Farquhar C. Levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine device (LNG-IUD) for symptomatic endometriosis following surgery. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 Jan 31;(1). Doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD005072.pub3.
  17. Metagenics Australia. Restore Harmony in Female Hormonal Conditions: PMS, PCOS, Endometriosis, Fibroids, Menopause. Metagenics Clinical Seminar. June-July 2018;8. Metagenics Australia, Northgate, Queensland.

 

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All content found on the deslardnerorganic.com.au website, including: text, images, audio, or other formats were created for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

 

 

 


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