Hormonal Balancing & Fem21 for women
The main active hormones throughout a woman’s life are estrogen (both good & bad), progesterone, and testosterone (plus the signaling hormones LH & FSH). The balance & metabolism of these hormones contributes to many physical symptoms & conditions.
One of the telltale signs to monitor for hormonal issues is menstruation & patters of symptoms in each cycle. Heaviness, irregularity, pain & clotting are signs of imbalances, which can be addressed with appropriate support.
Our other endocrine glands including Thyroid (metabolism & weight control), Adrenals (energy & stress response) & Pancreas (sugar control & insulin resistance) also play a big part in our overall hormonal balance & general health.
Fem21 addresses multiple endocrine systems in the one formula for support, balancing & healing.
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 a multitude of symptoms 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 (me included). At the beginning of 2014 I started work on Fem21, a product specifically for women to help support their hormone balance and other health factors which contributed to issues in the endocrine system. I'm so happy with the results of the formula 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.
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):
Black cohosh is the herb used to increase levels of good estrogen (improving egg quality, cervical mucus, regulates flow of blood in a period). Broccoli & kale are superfoods which contain Indol-3-Carbynol (I-3-C) 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. An imbalance in good to bad oestrogen is very common. Women can produce & store too much toxic, potent, bad oestrogen metabolites and have difficulties eliminating them. This can also throw out the balance of the many different types of oestrogen, imagine a seesaw with good oestrogen down the bottom and bad oestrogen at the top. Often termed oestrogen dominance this can lead to a multitude of issues like endometriosis, infertility, ovarian cysts, fibroids, fibrocystic breasts, swollen painful breasts and oestrogen dependent cancers – eek. Also when the body has an excess of bad oestrogen it will convert it to testosterone which can lead to PCOS, acne, pigmentation, strong dark hairs sprouting, hair loss and sometimes hair growth in areas we don’t want (back, chest, face). Unfortunately there is a little enzyme called aromatase which is involved in the hormone balance between testosterone and oestrogen, which is sensitive to stress, thyroid function and nutrients (like zinc & B6). When bad oestrogen is detoxified effectively (via the liver & digestive tract) and good oestrogen is restored, this process allows our menstrual cycles to become regular and balanced. This improves health in the eggs, the symptoms around ovulation and leads to a healthier, stronger endometrial lining - this is certainly important with fertility. Chaste tree is the herb that works to regulate ovulation & cycle length as well as increasing progesterone which plays a big part in PMS. It is extremely important to have a good balance between oestrogen and progesterone. Progesterone comes in after ovulation and peaks in the middle of the luteal phase, when there is not enough progesterone to balance oestrogen problems can certainly occur. A lack of progesterone also heightens the symptoms associated with bad oestrogen or oestrogen dominance, making the pre-menstrual period a nightmare. A lack of progesterone also makes the symptoms of menopause a lot worse. 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. Understandably it’s important to get the hormone balance right and maintain it through our beautiful lives as women.
A healthy adrenal system is vital for our stress response, energy levels, emotional state 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 function plays a big part in healthy metabolism throughout our body not only in weight loss but also in hormonal metabolism (estrogen & testosterone). When this system is sluggish it can feel like our whole body is slowing down and not working very efficiently. 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, loose weight, lift mood, reduce headaches, improve dry skin, reduce the thinning of hair and lift vitality.
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. The liver is know as the "brain of the gut" 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.
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.
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 digestive enzymes to break down foods.
When not supported adequately or too much pressure is placed on these systems our quality of life can be influenced dramatically. Thank goodness for a daily, long term solution like Fem21.
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.