A Changing Hormonal Landscape
As women age, our hormones shift and we often experience weight gain or weight loss, depression and anxiety, fatigue, insomnia, low libido, irregular periods, along with hair loss or hair thinning. It can be a challenging time. But we can manage symptoms and support hormonal balance using select medicinal herbs and adjusting our lifestyle habits. Whether you are experiencing premenopause, perimenopause, menopause, or post menopause, you can ease the transition and experience more equilibrium using the following tips.
The Four Stages of Menopause
While we may not consider it a stage of menopause, premenopause is the first of four menopause stages. It starts with puberty and stops when we enter into perimenopause, usually when a woman is in her 40s. This is the stage where you can experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms, such as:
- Abdominal cramps
- Headaches, including migraines
- Breast tenderness
With perimenopause, you enter into the second stage of menopause. On average, this stage lasts about four years, but for some it may be just a few months or up to ten years in length. Hormonal fluctuations and imbalance can lead to irregular periods, mood swings, hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, and loss of libido.
Stage three is menopause, defined when you have gone 12 consecutive months without a period. For American women, the average age of menopause is around 51. During this time you may still experience many perimenopausal symptoms. The day after the 12 month mark, you are considered post-menopausal. Symptoms of the previous stages can still persist. Serious health complications can also arise, including:
- Heart disease
- Urinary tract infections
- Dyspareunia (pain with sexual activity)
Outstanding Herbal Support for Hormonal Balance
Needless to say, supporting hormonal equilibrium is an important aspect of maintaining emotional and physical health. Here are a few herbal remedies that may help.
Interested in giving these herbs a try? Find reishi, lion’s mane, turkey tail, and lemon balm tinctures in my apothecary!
Flaxseed — Containing a group of phytochemicals called lignins that have estrogenic and antiestrogenic properties, flax is an excellent food to incorporate into your diet for hormonal health. The high fiber content helps to regulate excess hormones in the system and also offers protection against breast and other hormonally dependent cancers. Just make sure you grind it fresh into a flax meal to enjoy all the healthy benefits.
Black Cohosh — A wonderful herb for balancing the female hormonal system and supporting reproductive health, black cohosh has been traditionally used for menstrual irregularities, PMS, and symptoms of menopause. Personally, I use it to combat hot flashes — and it works!
Reishi, Lion’s Mane, and Turkey Tail Mushrooms — As adaptogens, these medicinal mushrooms help your body to adapt to physical, emotional, and mental stress. When we are under high levels of stress, it can lead to hormonal imbalance and dysregulation. Medicinal mushrooms also assist in alleviating the fatigue associated with hormonal fluctuations. Additionally, these mushrooms are brimming with beneficial compounds like beta glucans, glycoproteins, and triterpenes that support gut health, metabolic health, and much more.
Lemon Balm — A review in the journal Electron Physician found that several medicinal plants rich in phytoestrogens, including lemon balm, helped to calm the hot flashes of menopause. What’s more, lemon balm soothes the nervous system, thereby providing relief from the anxiety and insomnia that is often associated with menopause.
Ashwagandha — An exceptional medicinal herb for balancing hormones, ashwagandha helps to fortify your adrenals so that hormones like progesterone are not disrupted by stress. It also supports a sluggish or overactive thyroid, which can lead to adrenal fatigue. In fact, a 2019 study found that adults who took 125-300 mg of ashwagandha extract twice daily for 8 weeks experienced lowered stress, better sleep, and reduced blood cortisol levels than those in the placebo group. All three aspects are important for balanced hormones and maintaining a healthy weight.
Ashwagandha, lion’s mane and reishi mushrooms, and lemon balm are all found in my convenient Stress & Anxiety tincture blend.
As with any health program, eating a balanced diet is important — especially if you would like to regulate your hormones. Focus on an anti-inflammatory diet that is rich in vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats, and fiber. Avoid processed foods and refined sugar. High levels of inflammation from poor food choices and a sedentary lifestyle create a vicious cycle of hormonal imbalance. Drinking green tea has been shown to help regulate insulin, which can support a healthy weight when you experience hormonal fluctuations. Since being overweight or obese contributes to hormonal issues, it’s important to maintain a healthy weight. Regular exercise, managing stress, and getting enough quality sleep are crucial aspects of healing.
Lastly, limit your exposure to endocrine disruptors. These are compounds that can wreak havoc on your hormonal system and are found in tobacco smoke, plastics, flame retardants, pesticides, herbicides, and artificial fragrances in cleaning supplies and beauty products like lotion, shampoo, and creams.
By using a few select herbs and shifting your lifestyle, you can achieve hormonal equilibrium and lead a healthy and happy life, no matter what your age.