Balancing Hormones the Natural Way
Hormonal imbalance is a very real problem for many people, women and men alike, but for women in particular it can show up in a variety of ways. Such issues as bloating, swelling, sluggishness, moodiness, anxiety, depression and high blood pressure often can be caused by hormonal imbalance, along with the more familiar “female issues” of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and discomfort from menopause.
In general, women who have had PMS throughout their younger years will experience more difficulty with menopause than women who have had easier menstrual periods. Why? PMS is a symptom of hormonal imbalance, which means insufficient levels of progesterone, in the second part of the menstrual cycle. Therefore, when a woman whose hormone levels already are out of balance reaches menopause, the symptoms usually grow worse.
Perimenopause symptoms are very similar to PMS symptoms, because during both the level of progesterone becomes very low. After menopause, the estrogen level goes down as well, causing additional problems, such as weight gain, osteoporosis and high blood pressure, as well as an increased risk of stroke and cardiovascular diseases.
Menopause signifies “a change” within a woman’s life. This change occurs because a woman’s body chemistry is shifting. Chinese medicine recognizes this chemistry change as a natural process.
Estrogen is similar to what Chinese medicine doctors call Jing Qi. Jing Qi is the battery that provides us with the basic energy to power all our life functions. When Jing Qi is abundant, our ability to adapt to disease, illness and stress is optimal. As we age, our supply of Jing Qi energy is slowly drained, and begins to decline between the ages of 35 to 60. When Jing Qi declines, the organ system within our body become unbalanced. Yin can be thought of as the cooling system of the body, and when it declines, heat symptoms will naturally arise, leading to night sweats, restlessness, hot flashes, mood swings, heart palpitations and insomnia. The decline of Yang energy can also lead to imbalance. Yang represents the warming and metabolizing functions of the body.
Various natural approaches, including acupuncture and Chinese medicine, can be used to help correct imbalance.
According to Chinese medicine, the liver is responsible for metabolism and emotions, and when the liver doesn’t function properly, it causes many problems. People with decreased liver function can feel several things, such as heat when raising the neck and head. This heat is a sign that the blood vessels are dilated, also indicated by redness on the neck and face, which can lead to high blood pressure.
That’s why it’s important to cleanse the liver every three to six months, depending on one’s symptoms. The liver is designed to detoxify the body. It also metabolizes female hormones. When the bloodstream contains too many toxins, the liver concentrates on eliminating them, which can lead to hormonal imbalance—a high level of estrogen and a low level of progesterone.
The diet is very important for balancing hormones. A healthful diet rich in fresh vegetables and fruit and whole grains helps with many issues. Increasing fiber can help to cleanse the body of high levels of estrogen as well. In particular, organic dandelion leaves can help cleanse the liver and balance female hormones. Used fresh in salads or soups, sipped in teas or taken by capsule, dandelion helps to cleanse the liver and balance female hormones. It is also important to reduce the consumption of sugar, salt, fat and processed foods. Coffee, too, should be monitored. Heavy consumption of coffee can increase the level of metyloxanthines, which can cause or aggravate water retention, bloating, and breast swelling and tenderness.
Exercise is also very important. There are many kinds of physical activity that can help with hormonal imbalance. Some of the gentler exercise programs, such as Tai chi and yoga, are especially beneficial; they tone, strengthen and balance the body while also calming the emotions and lowering the blood pressure. Daily meditation is also recommended, to balance the emotions and restore inner peace.
Several elements of Chinese medicine can help balance hormones. Acupuncture is one of them. It stimulates the nervous system through releasing the right neuromodulators and hormones into the bloodstream. Herbal Chinese formulas are helpful as well. They can be individually composed for every patient by Chinese medicine practitioners, based on the existing symptoms, and drawing from dozens of powerful, natural ingredients and centuries of knowledge. Ready-made formulas and teas are also available at natural health stores.
Research has shown that Dong Quai (also known as women’s ginseng) is a phytoestrogen-rich root that aids in hormone imbalance. Another herb, Vitex, aids in progesterone balance by stimulating the release of hormones from the pituitary gland. Other herbs used to aid hormonal imbalance include black cohosh, red clover, wild yam and rehmannia. While these herbs are readily available in various forms, it is best to work with a trained herbalist or Chinese medicine practitioner who can make a proper diagnosis and recommend the best herbs and dosages for each woman’s individual needs.
When treating menopausal symptoms, a doctor must first determine where the energy has changed, and which organ systems have become unbalanced. Once this is known, various natural therapies such as acupuncture, herbs, meditation, Qi Gong and diet can be used to correct the imbalances. All are natural, safe, non-invasive and effective ways to balance hormones, which, when properly administered, can lead to a healthier, happier, and balanced, life.
Dr. Violette Kolcan graduated from the Midwest College of Oriental Medicine, and holds a master’s degree in nutrition and Chinese herbology. She is a European medical doctor (Medical University of Wroclaw, Poland) specializing in OB/GYN, a member of the International Society for Gynecologic Endoscopy and a NCCAOM Board Certified Acupuncturist. Kolcan has offices in Arlington Heights, Lake Forest and Old Orchard (Skokie) as well as at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. For more information, call 773-562-0734 or visit OrientalDoc.com.