Many women tend to be overwhelmed these days. Their role has gone from single-status motherhood to multiple responsibilities: caring for kids, working outside the home, managing the household and the finances . . . .
No wonder women say stress -and its related symptoms – has increasingly taken over their lives.
The syndrome often begins with the birth of a child. In the postpartum state, after giving birth, hormones drop from sky-high to below ground level. When that happens, women who are hormone-sensitive really feel the blues. In postpartum moods, they experience a preview of how they will feel some years later when menopause arrives.
If a woman decides to visit a medical doctor, she is often prescribed an antidepressant. This treatment– rather than restoring her vitality and appetite for life– has the opposite effect. It makes her feel even more like a zombie.
However, this is not inevitable. Today’s woman has ways to combat stress. In fact, it is much easier to re-balance your hormones than to live with the misery of hormone imbalance.
Hormones and Women Health
First, what do we mean by ‘hormone imbalance’?
Hormonal imbalances are based on the following essential hormones:
These three vital hormones need to be present in the proper ratio in order for women to feel their best. If the three are out of sync, we feel depressed, stressed, or have low energy levels and no interest in sex. When the balance is restored, women report that they finally feel ‘normal’ again.
For example, one client, Kate, is the mother of three children. When she first sought help about a year ago, she described herself as feeling depleted. She had no desire for sex (although she said she loved her husband and was physically able). She said she felt ‘slow’ and unproductive. Kate had lost that sense of herself as a vibrant, interesting person.
I discovered that her thyroid gland was producing at a very low level. And although some doctors would say that low levels are normal for a person her age, I believe in keeping hormones at the optimal levels. Based on her self-described condition, it was obvious Kate needed some thyroid supplementation.
With three children (one with disabilities), Kate also had problems with the so-called stress hormone, cortisol. Kate’s adrenal glands were pumping way too much cortisol, which made her feel ‘wired but tired’ (sound familiar?), and chronically overwhelmed.
When we corrected her cortisol level (I’ll explain how), Kate felt herself returning to her old, energized self.
When I last saw her, Kate told me, “Yes, I still have a busy life with three kids, but I can easily manage it now. Thanks to you, I’ve learned how to balance my needs and let go more easily. I don’t take things so hard any more.”
Bottom line: balancing hormones is critical.
There are some tricks to managing stress and balancing cortisol levels. One of the first things to remember is to make some time for yourself. Women are providers– some would say over-providers. For much of their time, women tend to forget about themselves. Women need to build 10-30 minutes of me-time into their daily regimen. It’s as important as good nutrition. Find a way to be alone for a brief spell, maybe sitting quietly, heeding the rhythm of your heartbeat and your breathing. Or indulge in a walk or a bath, light a candle, meditate, do some yoga, or call a friend to chat. It’s very important to have de-stressors in a busy life. These habits help you manage your cortisol levels.
Another important tool is supplements:
Clinical trials have shown that supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish oil) may help to maintain normal levels of triglycerides and cholesterol, support healthy blood pressure and promote normal platelet activity.
It works specifically to promote healthy adrenal gland function, cortisol levels and thyroid function to help control stress levels and minimize weight gain that is associated with increased stress.
It is necessary to know the biochemistry of the body in order to meet your needs with supplements. Allowing your body to regain its naturally healthy state, taking the time for yourself and using appropriate supplements will work magic on even the most stressed-out person.
Remember, aging is a choice. You can choose to allow advancing age to slow you down, or you can choose to be proactive and slow the aging process.
Hormones for a lifetime
I can’t tell you how many times women have said to me: “I am 32 [or 36, or 44, or 49] and I am sure I will need to do something about my hormones in ten years.”
The truth is that hormone instability doesn’t just happen on the day you turn 40 or 50, just as menopause doesn’t happen overnight. You don’t wake up one day at age 52 and find yourself suddenly in menopause. Estrogen and progesterone production start to slow in your 20’s. By the age of 35 or 40, you already have different levels of hormones than when you are 24– when your hormones were at optimal levels.
So it is important to shape your lifestyle to keep your hormones in balance, to skillfully manage your stress load so you are not highjacked by it; to have your energy levels at peak performance so you can draw from the overflow and not be running around on an empty tank and expending that final drop of energy.
The two hormones, estrogen and progesterone, work together throughout life, and especially when it comes to menopause.
- Estrogen is a flirty hormone, making you feel frisky and sexy.
- Progesterone calms you down.
When these two are not in balance, you can have PMS, anxiety, and difficulty in sleeping. This can begin as early as the age of 35.
There are actions you can take yourself to manage and balance hormones. You don’t have to turn your body over to the local physician. In fact, 90% of physicians have no clue how to manage and balance hormones. It is not something that is studied at medical school. Mastering hormones requires continuing education, staying up to date on the latest scientific and medical innovations (which many doctors do not follow after they leave medical school). This is not so very difficult; we can guide you. But it is not necessarily included in a physician’s set of skills.
One misconception is that the sex drive will diminish with age. The truth is that you can counter that trend by balancing your hormones– or you can chose to stick your head in the sand and watch yourself grow older and feel less vital. We all have the choice: to be stronger and sexier as we age, or to simply age. Most women who successfully manage their hormone levels feel sexier at 45 than they felt in their 20’s.
Most of the time, low levels of progesterone are a direct effect of high cortisol. When cortisol blocks progesterone receptors, you won’t get that lovely soothing effect that progesterone has on the body.
Again, the solution is to have “me” times. In addition, it is recommended that you take vitamin c supplements. Because often the problem stems less from progesterone deficiency than from progesterone resistance– which is similar to insulin resistance. In this case, vitamin C and chaise berry are very good antidotes.
- Chaise berry – 100 mg per day
- Vitamin C – 1000 mg/day
Again, antidepressants are not the solution. Our culture has been conditioned to mask the symptoms of the problem, which is not the way to a healthier you.
Foods and hormone balance
Premenstrual syndrome is the ultimate hormone imbalance. What do we know about premenstrual syndrome (PMS)? Well, we know that women with PMS eat 280% more refined carbohydrates in the two weeks before their period than women without PMS.
This is due to sugar cravings that result from high levels of cortisol.
You can stabilize your blood sugar levels by consuming enough protein and healthy fats.
Alcohol is another factor that elevates cortisol, and should be avoided. Not only does alcohol elevate the risk for breast cancer and promote overly high levels of estrogen, it also causes other internal damage.
Women’s body has a natural stress release mechanism. It’s called orgasm. Three times per week is optimal for this healthy outlet.
One or two squares of dark chocolate per day can also help keep cortisol under control.
Your physician can do a blood test to see if you need progesterone, estrogen, or testosterone.
1) Hormone imbalance doesn’t just happen in one day. Your hormones begin to change in your 20’s. The decisions you make today– to be proactive and manage your lifestyle– will affect the way your body handles the aging process.
2) As we get older, sex drive can diminish. However, it’s not inevitable. If you want to harness this natural stress-reliever, if you want to stay sexually active and maintain hormone balance, it comes down to the choices you make.
3) You won’t find longevity in a pill bottle. Longevity– or our ability to reverse or slow the aging process– is a combination of the state of your body, good bio-available supplements, and hormones working together.
So let’s get started– on the road to a healthier you!