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Life Cycle Balance
Many women have a story to tell when it comes to their menstrual cycles. As a naturopath, my goal is to balance out female hormones during the menstrual years through to the menopausal years; so the female cycle can be smooth sailing.
When discussing PMS we often think of the liver organ. When we have stagnation of the liver we can experience symptoms such as; irritability, cramping, breast tenderness and clotting. Some simple ideas to support the liver are drinking a glass of lemon water first thing in the morning, adding dark green vegetables to your diet daily and avoiding alcohol, caffeine, deep fried foods and sugar.
Including herbs such as milk thistle and dandelion root will help promote liver health. A-B-complex, with a good dose of B6 helps manage stress levels, and supports the liver and hormonal regulation. Vitex, also known as chastetree berry is often called a “women’s herb” as it supports progesterone, making it beneficial for PMS.
Menstrual cramps are another common complaint. This occurs when there is an increase in inflammation. Begin by reducing inflammatory foods such as red meat, dairy and shellfish and increase healthy fats with olive, flax or hemp seed oil. Tumeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory and assists in liver detoxification. Add 1-2 teaspoons to your diet daily by mixing it into oatmeal, cereal, rice or salads. Increase your fruit and vegetable consumption, eat more whole grains and decrease overall sugar intake. As for supplements a calcium/magnesium helps to reduce cramping and vitamin E decreases inflammation.
Low Energy May Indicate Low Iron
Many women experience low iron in their menstrual years. Iron is crucial for making healthy red blood cells. Symptoms of iron deficiency can be: low energy, low mood, difficulty concentrating, a weakened immune system, and body pains. Have blood work to ensure you do have low iron before supplementing. Remember to take your iron away from calcium and with your vitamin C to aid its absorption. Nettle tea is another option as this herb is high in minerals, specifically iron.
If you find your mood is low or irritable consider getting your thyroid assessed and you may need to support your serotonin levels. 5-HTP and St. John’s Wort are great mood stabilizers. Nervine teas such as lemon balm and chamomile can help during anxious moments. Check with your health care provider before starting anything new.
Natural Support for Menopause
The menopausal years can be very difficult for some. The most common complaint that peri-menopausal women experience is hot flashes. This is due to an imbalance in the hypothalamus that creates a LH (luteinizing hormone) surge. Each hot flash is a LH level spike. Black cohosh supports the estrogen phase and is able to decrease hot flashes, heart palpitations, sleep disturbances and mood swings, while chaste tree berry supports the progesterone deficiency.
Balancing out hormones is the goal and this will vary for each woman. There are many treatment options available to help get you on your path to health and wellness.
Rachel Schwartzman is a board certified naturopathic doctor, licensed acupuncturist and birth doula. She maintains a general family practice in Toronto, with a special interest
in family medicine, women’s health, pregnancy and pediatrics. Visit: rachelschwartzman.com.