Perimenopause. Menopause. Premenstrual syndrome. Estrogen dominance. Osteoporosis.
When watching the media these days, there is a good chance you are going to encounter a discussion about one or more of the above women's health issues. Although these discussions offer much advice, it is often contradictory and debatable. In the following paragraphs, one will discover what really is happening in a woman's body as she travels through her lifestages and why these changes are occurring.
No matter what our age, life's plans, personal desires, or professional goals, being a female means that our organs and hormones will cause us to experience physical changes in fairly specific intervals. Within each of these stages, normal fluctuations in our reproductive hormones occur, with high levels in puberty, and ceasing levels later in life. Since our reproductive hormones are responsible for other important functions in our bodies, completely unrelated to pregnancy and babies, these changing levels greatly affect women's health as a whole, resulting in a variety of normal and natural, but uncomfortable, symptoms. Healthcare practitioners have come to view these symptoms as problems to fix because they do cause discomfort. As for most diseases, healthcare practitioners prescribe synthetic hormones to treat these symptoms, but recent research has determined that these HRT's (hormone replacement therapies) cause far more risks than benefits. The simple fact to this research is that you don't need more hormones to treat hormonal imbalance. Instead, you need specific nutrients that restore hormonal balance and reduce symptoms, being vitamins, minerals, and good nutrition.
Estrogen, which is made up of estrone, estradiol, and estriol, is produced mainly in the ovaries, but small amounts are also produced in the adrenal glands, liver, kidneys, and a woman's body fat. It is necessary for normal development of the breasts and childbearing organs and helps to control a woman's menstrual cycle. Estrogen also is essential in reproduction and helps to maintain a healthy heart and bones. Progesterone, which is also produced in the ovaries, is the reproductive organ associated with pregnancy, as it guides the egg to leave one of the ovaries and travel to the uterus through the fallopian tubes. Progesterone is also responsible for building up a thick cushiony lining on the wall of the uterus for the fertilized egg to attach to.
A healthy woman relies on her ability to maintain hormonal balance. If her hormonal balance is disrupted, numerous health problems will follow. These imbalances can occur by exposure to xenoestrogens (chemicals used in pesticides, plastics, and fuels), as they can mimic estrogen and interfere with the body's estrogen metabolism. After estrogen completes its required activity, it returns to the liver to be metabolized, where it is broken down into different enzymatic pathways. The first of these pathways, the 2-hydroxy pathway, results in "good" estrogen metabolites, which account for many of the benefits of estrogen such as prevention of heart disease, and strong, healthy bones. The second pathway, the 16-hydroxy pathway, produces "bad" estrogen metabolites, which result in hormonal metabolism imbalances. These bad estrogen metabolites can: accelerate the aging process; worsen autoimmune disorders; and cause anxiety, breast cancer, breast tenderness, cervical dysplasia, cold hands and feet, decreased sex drive, depression, dry eyes, fatigue, foggy thinking, hair loss, headaches, infertility, irregular menstrual periods, irritability, insomnia, magnesium deficiency, memory loss, mood swings, osteoporosis, premenstrual syndrome, a sluggish metabolism, uterine cancer, water retention, weight gain, and zinc deficiency.
Estrogen dominance can occur through exposure to synthetic estrogens (such as chemicals that are used in pesticides, plastics, and fuels, and also through exposure to animal products. A treatment that is currently popular for hormonal imbalance is progesterone cream. Although some women report relief of milder hormonal imbalance symptoms, the additional progesterone delivered inside the body can be metabolized into estrogen, resulting in an even greater hormonal imbalance and estrogen dominance. In most cases, women don't need more hormones, but rather help in metabolizing estrogen and keeping their hormones balanced. The answer to this is found in a natural plant compound called diindolylmethane (DIM), which is found in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables. Scientists have recently discovered that DIM improves hormonal balance by shifting the way that estrogen is metabolized in our bodies to the 2-hydroxy pathway, which is responsible for "good" estrogen metabolites. This increase in "good" estrogen metabolites has a simultaneous reduction on the number of "bad" estrogen metabolites produced. Most women should take 120 mg of DIM complex that is standardized to 25% DIM per dose, once daily. However, women suffering with many estrogen imbalance symptoms may find even more relief by doubling the dose and taking DIM twice daily. The complex needs to me specialized to improve bioavailability so it is better able to absorb into the body.
In the early/fertile/high estrogen years, which occurs until women reach their late 30's and early 40's, estrogen levels are high and progesterone levels rise and fall appropriately. However, because women in their 20's and 30's have also been exposed to a great amount of environmental and synthetic estrogen, there is a predominance of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) in this age group. This frustrating and painful cluster of symptoms, which occurs just before the onset of PMS each month, ranges from mild to disabling and tends to run in the family. Physical symptoms of PMS include: breast tenderness, bloating, fluid retention, headaches, backaches, and cramping, as well as extreme food cravings and feelings of panic, anxiety, irritability, and depression. These symptoms often affect relationships with people women hold near including, children, husbands, families, and friends, causing significant distress. Researchers are not exactly sure why PMS occurs, however they do know that it is associated with estrogen and progesterone levels and their balance. DIM can reduce the symptoms of PMS by restoring estrogen metabolism to the 2-hydroxy pathway, which relieves the pain and discomfort from PMS symptoms. At this stage, women also need a superior multivitamin containing vitamins A, D, E, B, and C as well as cranberry, chaste berry, iron, and calcium. They must also consume an adequate amount of folic acid, as it has a powerful ability to prevent spinal bifida, a serious birth defect.
The peri-menopause years, which takes place in women between the ages of 35 and 45, is the time period when women are not in menopause but something is definitely going on hormonally. Many women in this age group experience: unexplained weight gain, sore, lumpy breast, changing body temperatures, heavier or longer menstrual periods, increased menstrual cramps, loss of sex drive, irritability and shifting moods, foggy thinking, and insomnia or poor sleep quality. The conventional treatment for this stage of life is often progesterone in cycled doses, but the integrative answer to these symptoms is a collection of natural herbs and nutrients including Black Cohosh, Green Tea, Chaste Berry, Rhodiola, Valerian and Hops, and L-Theanine. Black Cohosh relieves hot flashes and reduces mood swings, as well as keeps night sweats from occurring. Green Tea adds energy, maintains breast cell growth, and helps to keep weight under control, while Chaste Berry provides a natural balance of progesterone. Rhodiola enhances concentration, energy, alertness, and endurance, as Valerian and Hops promotes relaxation and deeper sleep. L-Theanine alleviates nighttime muscle tension and promotes restful sleep. Along with these herbs and nutrients, a multivitamin is a must, containing iron if you are still menstruating. A woman in this stage also needs more advanced bone nutrition, with a critical need for calcium, you must look for a calcium based formula that is enriched with vitamins and minerals that make sure your bones remain active and healthy.
The last stage, the menopause years, is an opportunity for a woman to become anything she wants. And in order to make sure this opportunity isn't lost, a variety of dietary supplements are needed to maintain health and vigor. Menopausal women require optimal levels of vitamins, minerals, and herbs, which only a superior daily multivitamin can provide. This multivitamin should exclude iron, as women at this age do not need it, but include calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, zinc, and other minerals. Since menopause signals the end of a woman's fertility, her ovaries slowly stop producing estrogen and progesterone, causing her to possibly experience hot flashes, mood wings, joint pain, vaginal dryness, and making her more vulnerable to heart disease, osteoporosis, and other health problems. Until recently HRT was the treatment of choice for women in menopause, but in July 2002, researchers discovered that HRT causes breast cancer and heart disease. The new solution was the safe, effective, and natural way to treat the symptoms of menopause. The above Black Cohosh, Green Tea, Valerian and Hops, and L-Theanine, along with Ginseng which increases energy, reduces stress, and helps Black Cohosh work better are a great, natural way to relieve menopausal symptoms. Because women in menopause still produce small amounts of estrogen and progesterone for fate cells and adrenal glands, DIM may be beneficial to prevent any symptoms of hormonal imbalance as well as their risk of breast, cervical, and uterine cancers, and osteoporosis. DIM, Black Cohosh and other great supplements can be found at your local health food store or internet health food store.
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