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Herbals that Nurture the Many Phases of the Female Journey
PMS and Period Anomalies
Q. Quick question from a busy mom with two kids. How can I help lessen monthly PMS symptoms and feel hormonally balanced?
A. Thanks for the honest question. You actually shared a clue as to why your body is talking to you with these symptoms. Living a “busy mom” life contributes to adrenal strain and can ultimately lower your relative progesterone levels. The stress hormones cortisol/cortisone are actually made via the progesterone pathway. I routinely find that women who are stressed over a period of time become relatively progesterone insufficient. This is called estrogen dominance. At the end of the female cycle each month, progesterone levels drop naturally if pregnancy does not occur. Yet, if you start with already suboptimal level of progesterone levels, then the last seven days of your cycle can be pretty challenging.
My favorite three go-to herbals that I recommend for my patients to support their adrenals include Ashwagandha, Rhodiola and Maca. Specific to women's health, I often recommend Chaste Tree (Vitex), which I have found helps to to harmonize the female cycle. I also routinely have my patients decrease their caffeine intake and incorporate an ultra-pure Evening Primrose oil (EPO) to help support relaxation and comfort in the female organs.
Over the years, I have learned from working with my patients that being busy is fine, however, it is important to have some of that energy be focused on replenishing the body commensurate with life’s expenditures so one does not deplete their vitality.
Peri-Menopause and Menopausal Symptoms
Q. What should I do to help my body cope with symptoms of menopause? I’m fine one moment, then the next second, I am having a hot flash or get brain fog.
A. I see this all the time in amongst my female patients. And, I have also seen men going through male menopause (low testosterone) complain of similar symptoms.
I have some simple guidelines and recommendations for my peri-menopausal and menopausal patients. First, this is a normal transitional phase that has occurred over the millennia with women around the world. However, westernized living seems to exacerbate and amplify the symptoms. I have patients that are new immigrants from around the globe and when asked if they recall their mother or grandmother complaining of menopause symptoms in the villages of Greece, Ethiopia or Panama they often say, “no, she had no symptoms.”
These women in more rural areas of years gone by had plenty of stress, but more often than not, it came in seasons. We live in a constant state of excess “connectivity” due to technology, the constant stream of newsfeeds, and a physically and emotionally toxic state.
Here are my three herbal considerations and three pieces of advice that I share with my patients:
- Adrenal support! During menopause your ovaries are declaring their intent to retire. They gradually quit making hormones such estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and less DHEA. That means your adrenals need to help buffer some of that hormonal loss. This is where a combination of an herbal formula like Stress Guard comes into play, or a selection of single herbs such as Ashwagandha, Rhodiola and/or Maca. This adrenal support will help buffer the transition and nurture your body.
- Black Cohosh is without question my patients favorite “menopause herb.” They report back that it helps support hot flashes associated with menopause
- Although it takes a month or two, Chaste Tree can also help with peri-menopausal symptoms, and help women feel more hormonally balanced throughout all cycles of their life
Three clinical pearls:
- Your body is changing. It is shifting gears. As menopause proceeds, you will retrace your hormonal journey from having had your first period all the back to having no periods. I often liken this to time travel. You are now older and wiser, yet you are now in a hormonally minimal body of an 11-year female. Since we are all hormonal entities, and since the hormones that were surging in your 20s and 30s aren’t there as drivers, take time to reconnect with your body.
- Time to de-stress to avoid feeling distressed. Inventory what is important to you. That means taking care of your mind and body by becoming introspective and prioritizing what and how you wish to allocate your vitality. In short, be aware and take care.
- Focus on eating fresh veggies and produce that are full of living enzymes. Take time to rest and restore your body. Listen to what your body is communicating. It can be a liberating time as the menstrual cycle winds down and the monthly ebb and flow of hormonal cycles harmonize to a new and renewed daily constant.
Dr. Chris Meletis, N.D., has 24-years of experience practicing as a Naturopathic Doctor in Portland, Oregon. He is dedicated to using his vast knowledge about alternative medicine to help his patients and generously give to those in need. He has written over a dozen books and 100's of national articles, and was named Naturopathic Physician of the Year in 2003 by the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. Read more about Dr. Meletis here. Or, visit our "Ask Dr. Meletis, N.D." page for additional articles.
*Statements herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, and are not intended to treat or diagnose any disease or health condition. The information on this website, and provided by Dr. Chris Meletis, N.D., is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It is recommended that patients check with their doctors before taking herbs, to ensure that there are no contraindications with prescription medications. There is additional information linked within this site to HealthNotes®, a third party educational source, containing the latest research on health and supplements. Oregon's Wild Harvest will not be held accountable for this information and consider it an education reference only.