Hormonal imbalances can impact women at many stages throughout their life. Certainly the effects of hormones fluctuating can play a big part on a woman’s quality of life & overall health. Throughout my experience as a Naturopath, Herbalist & Nutritionist specializing in women’s health, I’ve seen many women with health issues related to hormonal imbalances. With symptoms such associated with menopause, anxiety, irritability, sleep disruptions, fatigue, weight problems, irregular periods, heavy periods, painful periods, PMS, low libido, fertility issues – and the list goes on. However in saying this it is not the fate for every woman to have hormonal issues, for the lucky ones they have no issues and sail through life and their hormonal changes with ease. Diet, lifestyle, activity levels, stress levels, weight and nutritional status can play a big part in the severity and longevity of hormonal symptoms. In an ideal world we’d all be happy, healthy and completely in balance and therefore not have any issues. However this is not a reality for many busy working women juggling family, work, study and other commitments. At the beginning of 2014 I started work on a product, specifically for women to help support their hormone balance and other health factors which contributed to issues in the endocrine system. The result is Fem21 which supports liver, digestion, adrenals, good bacteria in the gut, detoxification, hormonal metabolism, thyroid function, reduces oxidative stress and alkalizes the body. When it comes to hormones it seems simple, our ovaries just release eggs (ovulation) and therefore our output of estrogen & progesterone from the ovaries happens cyclically and we get a period 2 weeks after ovulation. The tricky part is the fluctuations and the making of good estrogen & progesterone.
See below as I’ve broken it down into the systems that require support in women and how we can do this naturally (the items in bold are included in Fem21):
-Hormones: Black cohosh is the herb used to increase levels of good estrogen (improving egg quality, cervical mucus, regulates flow of blood in a period heavy – light). Broccoli & kale are superfoods which contain Indol-3-Carbynol which works on estrogen metabolism and helps to lower testosterone (also improving symptoms of PCOS). When our body is holding on to too much potent (or toxic) estrogen it can be very difficult to lose weight. Chaste tree is the herb that works to regulate ovulation & cycle length as well as increasing progesterone which plays a big part in PMS. Chaste tree has the action of regulating dopamine and thereby reducing hormonally fuelled emotional states like irritability. Chaste tree can also work on increasing melatonin secretion in the pineal gland & help with quality of sleep.
-Adrenals: a healthy adrenal system is vital for our stress response, energy levels and quality of sleep. Cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands in response to stress and lowers progesterone levels. Cortisol is made from progesterone, our adrenals help to make progesterone along with the progesterone released from the corpus luteum. If we are stressed, “running on adrenaline”, “always on the go” or our adrenals are burnt out then our progesterone is converted to Cortisol. Lifestyle adjustments to maintain a healthy emotional balance, low stress levels and reduced stimulants like caffeine & alcohol are vital for our adrenals. Nutrients and herbs can also help our adrenals immensely especially B-vitamins, vitamin C, zinc, Licorice, Siberian Ginseng & Withania.
-Thyroid: thyroid function plays a big part in healthy metabolism throughout our body not only in weight loss but also in hormonal metabolism (estrogen & testosterone). Bladderwrack & Withania are herbs that help to balance and support the thyroid gland to produce more thyroid hormones. This also helps to improve energy levels, clear brain fog, lose weight, lift mood, reduce headaches, improve dry skin, reduce the thinning of hair and lift vitality.
-Liver: our liver is where the majority of our hormonal metabolism is taking place and is one of the vital organs which keeps us healthy & filters out toxins. When it comes to hormonal metabolism of toxic estrogen the liver filters these hormones out and dumps them into the bowel to detoxify them out of our body. Supporting liver function through diet & lifestyle choices includes reducing chemical exposure, eating organic when possible, minimising processed foods, reducing the intake of alcohol, caffeine and medication (where possible). Herbs that help to support liver function include Milk Thistle, Dandelion, Kale & Rosemary. These herbs/foods also work well to decrease oxidative stress in the liver (antioxidants) as well as throughout the body.
-Digestion: digestive function is crucial to nutrient absorption & elimination of toxins. A sluggish bowel or build up of bad bacteria is very common. This can be due to a lack of energy, nutrients (like zinc & magnesium) low activity levels, dietary choices and medication. Fibre both soluble & insoluble leads to a clearing in the bowels of the metabolites from the liver detoxification processes and prevents recycling of hormones. Slippery Elm reduces inflammation along the digestive track as seen in IBS, women with food sensitivities and can improve “leaky gut syndrome” which creates systemic inflammation & puts more pressure on the liver. Psyllium husks is a wonderful fibre which regulates bowel motions and clears out any built up fecal material in the colon. Multi-Strain Lactobacillus, Bifidiobacterium & Saccharomyces all work to re-inoculate the bowel with good bacteria, reduce inflammation and improves signaling to the immune system.
-Antioxidants/alkalizing: this is very important to sustain health, antioxidants repair damage to the body ensuring that everything functions & is well maintained. Pomegranate, Ginger & Raspberry are very high in antioxidants especially associated with women’s health. Wheatgrass & Barleygrass are deep greens high in chlorophyll which alkalize the blood and reduce oxidative stress. They also provide a rich source of phyto-nutrients and contain no gluten which can be irritating for some people. Due to the bitter constituents of wheatgrass & barley grass they can also benefit the digestive system by increasing the release of enzymes to break down foods.
The taste of Fem21 is quite palatable as it includes stevia as a natural plant sweetener and contains licorice & raspberry which improves the flavour against the more bitter herbs. Licorice has been shown in some people to increase blood pressure, this can be of benefit for women who are experiencing dizziness or vertigo but should be monitored in women that have issues with high blood pressure. Fem21 is a wonderful alternative to the OCP and the known side effects of this medication, to help support women’s general health & hormone balance.
BHSc. (Nat), Adv. Dip. (Nat)
Naturopath / Nutrition / Herbal Medicine
If you’d like more information on Fem21 or to try a container please visit www.fem21.com.au