Many of my patients are women who come to see me for their struggles with hormone balance. Sometimes it’s unbearable premenstrual syndrome (PMS), irregular cycles, intense menstrual cramping, or difficulty conceiving. Other times it’s unrelenting hot flashes, weight that won’t budge, or insomnia because of stress and anxiety. All these symptoms have a common thread; they can all be affected by fluctuating hormones, whether estrogen and progesterone, cortisol, or thyroid hormones.
Although women need estrogen for numerous body functions, excess estrogen can lead to estrogen dominance, increasing the risk of PMS, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, and even some cancers. It is disconcerting to think that forms of a natural hormone circulating through women’s bodies may act as a carcinogen, but the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) recently added it to its list of known cancer-causing agents. Certain phytonutrients found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, and brussels sprouts have been shown to help break down the estrogen that contributes to estrogen dominance and support the formation of the protective form of estrogen. These nutrients include indole-3-carbinol, calcium D-glucarate, and sulforaphane.
Adrenal and stress balance
Whether your stressors are biochemical, physical, or emotional in nature, the hormone cortisol is involved in the stress response. Short-term stress leading to high cortisol can give rise to anxiety and insomnia, while chronic stress can lead to lowered cortisol and adrenal fatigue. In both scenarios, adaptogens can be used for symptoms of adrenal imbalance. Adaptogens are safe, natural, herbal metabolic regulators that help stabilize stress and cortisol. Two that I often recommend are rhodiola and ashwagandha. Not only does rhodiola support the stress response in the body, but it also lifts mood. Ashwagandha is one of the most studied adaptogens; it balances cortisol and restores the function of the adrenal glands, preventing burnout.
The thyroid gland is most known for its effect on metabolism. Most imbalances in thyroid health are related to poor thyroid function leading to hypothyroidism. Symptoms include low energy, weight gain, depression, anxiety, and hair loss. Before boosting thyroid health, it is important to determine the extent of the thyroid imbalance by getting a full thyroid panel done. If your levels of T3 and T4 appear suboptimal, consider taking natural compounds to support your thyroid, including iodine, L-tyrosine, selenium, and guggul extract.
Perimenopausal symptom relief
Two herbs that provide symptomatic relief for women entering perimenopause are black cohosh and dong quai. Black cohosh is an extensively studied herb that inhibits the release of luteinizing hormone (LH) by the pituitary gland to reduce hot flashes, night sweats, heart palpitations, and vaginal wall thinning. It is also useful in osteoporosis for its bone remodeling activity. Also known as the “female ginseng,” dong quai is a herb used extensively in traditional Chinese medicine for its adaptogenic effects on the female hormone system. It has been used for thousands of years to treat many gynecological complaints and promote overall vitality.
There are many natural solutions for hormonal imbalance. Choosing safe, natural, and effective supplements like the ones discussed above can provide you with the relief you need while supporting happier, healthier, and more balanced hormones. If you aren’t sure where to start, consider testing your hormones with your health care practitioner.
WomenSense® products provide natural solutions for women with hormonal imbalances, while also supporting the Canadian Women’s Foundation (CWF), Canada’s public foundation for gender equality. The CWF supports and empowers women and girls to move out of violence and poverty, and into confidence and leadership.
Jennifer Brix is a practicing naturopathic doctor, health educator, and public speaker with a passion for empowering her patients to achieve optimal health. As an expert in treating digestive complaints, hormone imbalances, and brain-related health conditions, Dr. Jen shares her knowledge by training health industry retailers and educating the public on these topics and other areas of interest.
The information in this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your health care practitioner before starting supplements or making lifestyle changes.