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We as human beings were designed as magnificent, functionally perfect entities, with wonderfully complex bodies capable of sustaining life and balance. However, with the current state of the worlds’ consciousness, where money and materialism has replaced our respect for nature and ourselves, mankind no longer exists in harmony with nature. This imbalance with nature has led to hormonal imbalances of epic proportions. Our bodies are bombarded by disruptive influences from a myriad of sources on a daily basis. There are pesticides, hormones, antibiotics and chemical additives in our food and water supply, our bodies are bombarded with electromagnetic radiation, medication that is supposed to heal lead to further imbalance, and we face stress and toxic emotions every day. Heavy metals like mercury and lead, food additives like MSG and aspartame, and xenoestrogens from plastics are all powerful disruptors of our natural state of balance. These disruptive influences affect our health in a number of ways, one of the most important of these, is by causing hormonal imbalances.
The endocrine system
Our endocrine (hormone) system is a vastly complex system of glands which secrete chemical messengers known as hormones, each with their own specific function/s. The main glands of the endocrine system include the hypothalamus, pineal, pituitary, thyroid, parathyroid, adrenal, pancreas, ovaries, and testes. There are also other organs which secrete hormones like the
liver, kidneys, stomach, striated muscle, the heart, skin, adipose tissue, ovaries and the uterus. Hormones play a vital role in the regulation of metabolism, growth, development, puberty,
tissue function and mood, to name but a few. To describe all the processes that are regulated by the endocrine system would fill an entire book, and is beyond the scope of this article.
Instead I will focus on some examples of hormone imbalance, and how they can be treated by supplementation with bio-identical hormone replacement therapy, herbs, and nutraceuticals.
As we age, there is a natural decline in hormone levels produced by the body. Menopause is probably the best known example of such a decline in hormone levels. There is a marked
decrease in the production of oestrogen, progesterone, and testosterone as we get older. This decline in hormone levels is considered normal, but may lead to uncomfortable symptoms.
Symptoms of hormone decline or imbalance include hot flushes, mood changes, insomnia, fatigue, and memory problems. The decrease of hormone levels also puts women at a higher
risk for developing osteoporosis and heart disease after menopause. Hormone imbalances can also affect younger women due to a variety of reasons, such as the use of oral or injectable
contraception, the presence of synthetic oestrogen in dairy products, exposure to xenoestrogens from plastics etc. All of these influences can cause disruption of the hormone
system and produce a myriad of symptoms. The symptoms and risk factors of hormone imbalance can be managed by correcting the deficiencies of the various hormones. It may be
necessary to replace one or more of the hormones, depending on what symptoms are present. Some women have an oestrogen deficiency, and others may have oestrogen dominance,
Oestrogen dominance occurs when the body is producing too much oestrogen in relation to progesterone, which is often the case with use of the oral contraceptive pill and with advacing age. Levels of progesterone in these cases are far too low compared to oestrogen levels, and may lead to the following symptoms:
• Breast tenderness
• Fibrocystic breasts
• Uterine fibroids
• Increased risk of breast and uterine cancers
• Mood swings and depression
• Irritability, nervousness and anxiety
• Poor concentration
• Weight gain around the hips
• Water retention
• Sugar cravings
• Severe PMS
• Heavy, irregular periods
There are herbs which can help increase progesterone levels in the body such as Vitex Agnus Castus and Mexican Wild Yam. Bio-identical progesterone is available in transdermal cream,
which is applied and absorbed through the skin. Progesterone cream is a very effective way of supplementing progesterone, and has numerous health benefits for women as well as for men.
The opposite situation can also occur, where there is insufficient oestrogen compared to progesterone. Typical symptoms of oestrogen deficiency include:
• Hot flushes
• Night sweats
• Poor memory, forgetfulness and foggy thinking
• Tearfulness and/or depression
• Mood swings
• Vaginal dryness
• Painful intercourse
• Low libido
• Heart palpitations
• Urinary incontinence
• Bone loss
• Dry skin
• Sleep disturbances
There are many natural oestrogen supplements, including bio-identical transdermal creams, which are much safer to use than their conventional oral counterparts. The synthetic oral
oestrogen replacement medications are associated with an increased risk of developing certain cancers in susceptible individuals. The natural alternatives have a much lower risk; however
care should still be taken by women who have a history or family history of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, or endometrial cancer. Oestrogen deficiency can be corrected using certain
herbs which can increase oestrogen levels known as phytoestrogens, such as Black Cohosh, Red Clover, Dong Quai and Soya extracts. Another option that has proven to be very effective
is the use of bio-identical (same as produced in the body) oestrogen in the form of creams that are absorbed through the skin. Progesterone cream is also effective as it regulates the
production of oestrogen and enhances the effectiveness of oestrogen in the body. DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone) is a bio-identical sex hormone precursor in both men and women,
and converts into testosterone and oestrogen. Both oestrogen cream and DHEA is available on prescription only. Pregnenolone, a precursor to DHEA and all the sex hormones, is available
over the counter and may be used as part of a bio-identical hormone replacement program. A lesser known fact is that women also produce, and need testosterone. This hormone is
produced in much smaller quantities in women as compared with men, but nonetheless has important functions. A testosterone deficiency in women can lead to: