Hormonal imbalances can impact women at many stages throughout their life. Certainly through the menopausal transition 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 at this time in their life. With symptoms such as hot flushes, excessive sweating, anxiety, irritability, sleep disruptions, fatigue, weight problems, irregular periods, heavy periods, painful periods, sore breasts, low libido – and the list goes on. However in saying this it is not the fate for everyone, some women only have a mild presentation of symptoms prior to their periods stopping and for the lucky ones they have a very smooth transition. Diet, lifestyle, activity levels, stress levels, weight and nutritional status can play a big part in the severity and longevity of menopausal symptoms. In an ideal world we’d all be happy, healthy and completely in balance prior to entering into the peri-menopausal phase and therefore not have any issues. However this is not a reality for many busy women, stressed, working and juggling family, plus other commitments. This is why I wanted to create a herbal formula specifically for women to help support their hormone balance and adrenal health along with other health factors that contribute to issues in the endocrine system. A combination of a healthy diet, balanced lifestyle and appropriate nutritional regime is important to lay a strong foundation. Then herbal support can be effective that ensures healthy liver, digestion, adrenals, good bacteria in the gut, detoxification, hormonal metabolism, thyroid function, reduces oxidative stress and alkalizes the body. When it comes to menopause it seems simple, our ovaries just stop releasing eggs (ovulation) and therefore our output of estrogen & progesterone from the ovaries stop. The tricky part is the fluctuations before hand and the making of good estrogen & progesterone from our other endocrine systems afterwards.
See below as I’ve broken it down into the systems that require support through menopause and how we can do this naturally:
-Hormones: Black cohosh is the herb used to increase levels of good estrogen, reduce hot flushes and excessive sweating. Broccoli & kale are superfoods which contain Indol-3-Carbynol which works on estrogen metabolism and helps to lower testosterone/androgens. When our body is holding on to too much potent (or toxic) estrogen it can be very difficult to lose weight and we are more prone to cellulite and fluid retention. Chaste tree is the herb that works to regulate ovulation & cycle length as well as increasing progesterone which plays a big part in menopausal symptoms. After the ovaries stop ovulating post-menopause then the 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 & 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. After we stop producing progesterone from our corpus luteum after ovulation then our adrenals help to make progesterone. 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 and 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, minimizing 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 in menopause. This can be due to a lack of energy, 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 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 faecal material in the colon. Multi-Strain Lactobacillus, Bifidiobacterium & Saccharomyces all work to re-inoculate the bowel with good bacteria, reduce inflammation and improve 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 & Barley Grass 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 sweetener and contains licorice & raspberry which improves the flavour against the 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 HRT and the known side effects of this medication, and can also be used alongside HRT if necessary to help support women through this menopausal transition.
If you have any further questions please feel free to get in touch, contact.
BHSc. (Nat), Adv. Dip. (Nat)
Naturopath / Nutrition / Herbal Medicine
Registration #: ANTA 5549