Here’s the truth about what’s happening to our bodies, ladies.
Women’s hormones are often misunderstood and loaded with negative connotations, such as physical and emotional instability. The truth is that hormones don’t make women incompetent or irrational, but the struggle for understanding is real.
It’s time to dispel damaging myths surrounding hormone-influenced conditions and states like premenstrual syndrome, postpartum depression, and menopause.
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
Myth: PMS is a mental disorder that causes irrational, overemotional behavior.
Fact: According to hormone expert Dr. Cobi Slater,
who holds a doctorate in natural medicine, a person’s emotional state and ability to make sound decisions are more strongly determined by individual stress factors than by PMS.
While PMS is prevalent (up to 90 percent of women suffer from one or more of its 150-plus symptoms), it’s usually tolerable. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), a severe form of the syndrome affecting 3 to
8 percent of women, can significantly affect a woman’s life in the days before menstruation. PMDD treatments are available to minimize long-term physical and emotional effects.
Myth: If you have PMS or PMDD, you’ll just have to live with it.
Fact: Suffering with symptoms is often unnecessary. To keep hormones balanced and reduce symptoms, consider natural supports.
- Vitamin B6 and magnesium may reverse the effects of excess estrogen and increase concentrations of serotonin, dopamine, and progesterone.
- Evening primrose oil and vitamin E may alleviate breast tenderness.
- Magnesium may help with stress reduction and fluid retention.
- Calcium may help relieve general symptoms.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) states that premenstrual dysphoric disorder has 11 symptoms. You must experience one
of the first four symptoms regularly, and at least five of the 11, to be diagnosed
with PMDD. They include
- markedly depressed mood and feelings of hopelessness, or self-deprecating thoughts
- marked anxiety; tension; feelings of being “keyed up” or “on edge”
- marked affective lability (suddenly sad or tearful)
- persistent or marked anger or irritability, or increased interpersonal conflicts
Postpartum depression (PPD)
Myth: PPD is your fault.
Fact: If you are one of the 13 percent of moms suffering from PPD, it can feel emotionally devastating, but it’s not your fault. PPD is not a result of something you did wrong. Psychosocial and biological factors put a woman at risk, and studies show that PPD may be related to a particular sensitivity to hormone fluctuations. Asking for help with PPD can be difficult, and according to Slater, it’s the least talked-about hormonal imbalance. But seeking treatment early is recommended for a healthy,
Myth: PPD will go away on its own.
Fact: Once PPD is identified and under medical supervision, nutrition and lifestyle modifications can play a significant role in your journey to wellness, says Slater. However, PPD will not disappear on its own or with a few positive changes. PPD is a serious disorder requiring the assistance of a health-care professional.
You can discuss these possible aids with your health-care professional as part of your PPD management plan.
- Omega-3 fatty acids may help with symptoms of depression.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy is often an effective tool in dealing with depression.
- Peer and partner support play an important role in prevention and recovery.
- Acupuncture and massage may help relieve stress, pain, and symptoms of depression.
Myth: Menopause is a disruptive, unpleasant medical condition.
Fact: Menopause develops gradually and is the official end of menstruation, characterized by 12 consecutive months or more without a period. As we age, our ovaries produce less of the menstruating hormones estrogen and progesterone until eventually, usually by our mid-fifties, our periods stop altogether.
Menopause is not a medical condition. It’s a natural phase of a woman’s life. It doesn’t need to be cured; however, risk for certain medical concerns, such as heart disease and osteoporosis, increase after its onset. Dr. Sarah Nyrose, ND, says menopause is not to be feared; rather, it’s the perfect time to update your preventive health-care plan.
Myth: Most symptoms of menopause aren’t treatable.
Fact: Sleep disturbances, hot flashes, weight gain, and libido changes are just some of the symptoms women may experience during menopause. However, Slater reminds us that “suffering from these symptoms is often unnecessary, as there are many effective, natural treatments available.”
- Reduce exposure to xenoestrogens, aka chemicals that mimic estrogen, such as bisphenol A (BPA), polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), and butyl benzyl phthalate (BBP). (Avoiding xenoestrogens may also help with PMS symptoms, FYI!)
- Chasteberry, passionflower, and black cohosh may improve mood and increase progesterone levels.
- Vitamin D with calcium may help guard against the onset of osteoporosis.
- Adrenal supports like ashwagandha, maca, and rhodiola may help the adrenal glands increase hormone production and balance.
According to Dr. Cobi Slater, the most important step in balancing hormones is stress management. Create a stress inventory: Identify stressors that can be changed, and write down how and when they can be changed.
This article was originally published in the May 2020 issue of delicious living, under the title “Breaking Hormone Myths.”