A Balancing Act
It happens every month- or at least you hope it does. At times there are anticipation or outward distractions that lead to a surprise. And upon its arrival, there can be an array of emotions, cravings, and sensations. If you are a woman like me, you will very well know what I’m describing. It’s your monthly menstrual cycle.
For many women, a period is easy to overcome. Sure, you may get some reoccurring symptoms such as mood swings, cravings, or brain fog- but nothing new that’s worrisome. On the flip side, it can be the most painful thing for women with disorders such as PCOS or endometriosis, causing them to halt their weekly routine. No matter where you are on the spectrum of symptoms, it is possible to improve your condition.
Here is a quick overview of some main hormones that create our cycle:
Estrogen: There are three main types of estrogen; estriol, estradiol, and estrone. Estrone is converted from estradiol in the liver from precursors androstenedione, progesterone, and DHEA. Which converts to estrone sulfate (stored form), then back to estrone when the body needs it. Unfortunately, it can also convert to 4-hydroxyestrone, a dangerous metabolite that can play a role in breast cancer initiation.
Estradiol: Produced directly in the ovaries from cholesterol and in the adrenal glands from androstenedione. Like estrone, it converts from estradiol to estrone and vice versa. Estradiol is involved in building the uterine lining and has a powerful effect on estrogen receptors.
Estriol: A weaker estrogen form, it is primarily converted in the liver from estradiol and estrone. It also can be directly excreted by the adrenals and ovaries by converting androstenedione to estriol. It is known to be high during pregnancy to protect the fetus from estradiol and does not cause abnormal cell growth in the breasts and endowed lining. Here is a look into some fantastic herbs and superfoods that can not only bring us back to balance but help us flourish.
Progesterone: As a precursor hormone created in the ovaries, this hormone converts into estrogen. Progesterone receptors are all over the body and compete with cortisol (our stress hormone) and are highly affected in chronic bouts of stress.
And now onto some herbs and superfoods to restore balance:
Blue Cohosh: A North American native, the roots and rhizomes of this delicate plant are a favourite for women with menstrual troubles. Whether it be cramps, spasms, or irregularities with the flow, this is something you will want to consider keeping on hand.
*Avoid pregnancy since it may provoke strong uterine contractions.
Raspberry Leaf: In tea form, this delicious drink is excellent in treating PMS, bloating, and uterine inflammation. This astringent is exceptional during pregnancy by firming the tissues to cause fewer hemorrhages post-delivery. High in nutrients such as vitamin C and magnesium, which relax and pH balance the uterus.
Blessed Thistle: Also known as Holy Thistle, a cold infusion of the leaves is most desirable for those breastfeeding mothers to allow a free flow of the milk supply. The gentle effect improves circulation and bile flow to support liver detoxification to remove excess and harmful estrogens.
True Unicorn Root: Yes, you heard that right. And no, it is not a mythical plant. This tonic is supportive of irregular and heavy periods and easing all uterine pain. Even safe during pregnancy to reduce stomach pain!
Broccoli Sprouts: As an excellent topper for salads or garnish for rice bowls, these crunchy sprouts are boasting with antioxidants. Its main antioxidant, sulforaphane glucosinolate, aids in liver detoxification. The sulforaphane is necessary to remove excess and harmful estrogens from the body. One ounce of sprouts provides 20 x more than 1.25 lb of cooked broccoli.
Cranberries: For anyone who has had a UTI - which is common in North American women, from my experience- I’m sure you’ve all had someone recommend this crimson cocktail before. And they are not wrong! Having unsweetened cranberry juice is beneficial in keeping the uterine lining protected from this bacterial infection. Essentially the proanthocyanins and anthocyanins (antioxidants creating that vibrant red pigment) make the lining very sleek, making it difficult for the problematic bacteria to latch onto the uterine lining and make things very uncomfortable.
Chaste Tree: Also known as vitex, this miracle balancer has been growing in popularity for its effect on progesterone. I’ve seen it myself with my clients that come in with tender breasts, extreme cramping, and unexplained weeping. They pick up a bottle of chaste tree capsules, come back in a month, and rave about how much more in control they feel. Chaste tree berry stimulates the pituitary gland, which promotes the production of luteinizing hormone to create progesterone.
Maca root: Known as a staple in Peruvian culture and cooking, this powerhouse of nutrients contains many essential nutrients for daily hormone balancing. Specifically for women, the magnesium content reduces the increase of pain receptors that cause inflammation during our cycles. The amino acids, iodine, and iron helps create hormones and energy production, which is excellent in pregnancy and menopause!
While the hormonal cycles may be difficult to navigate, there are solutions to add to your daily routine to make it a little easier. If you would like to delve deeper into it, there are some fantastic books from women to help you at any stage in your life.
And if you need a guide, feel free to get in touch to help you find your way!