It is thought that more than 300 million women have used the contraceptive pill and that around 100 million women are currently taking it, this may be to control a variety of hormonal issues, not just for birth control.
But how is this hormonal drug affecting our bodies and minds?
The contraceptive pill contains synthetic hormones which
mimic naturally occurring hormones in the body.
This alters the hormonal balance in the body and induces a biochemical
state which temporarily makes you infertile.
The synthetic hormones role is to stop ovulation and make the uterus
unreceptive to the implantation of an embryo.
Our bodies naturally produce hormones as part of the function of the endocrine system, which is made up of various glands in the body. These glands work together to regulate mood, growth, tissue function, metabolism and development. They are also responsible for sexual function and the reproductive process. As you can imagine, the health of our endocrine system is paramount in our bodies ability to function optimally!
Many women note side effects from taking the contraceptive pill:
- Weight gain or loss
- Reduced or increased acne
- Mood swings
- Irregular bleeding
- Breast tenderness
- Lower libido
- Higher blood pressure
- Gallbladder disease
- Decreased bone density
- Yeast overgrowth
- Blood clots
These side effects may be enough to deter some women from taking the pill, but for others the side effects may not be extreme enough to warrant stopping the prescribed medication, but they should still be seen as a side effect or a sign that your body is trying to adjust to the imbalance from the synthetic hormone. In some cases, the side effect can be extreme and a second drug is prescribed to counteract the original side effects. Quite often this is as a result of the pill making women feel depressed, leading to a prescription for anti-depressants being prescribed.
These physical and emotional symptoms are noticeable to most women who are in tune to their bodies, but what is also worth considering is the nutritional deficiencies caused by taking the pill. It is not so well known that the pill affects the mineral, vitamin and fatty acid levels in the body. This balance of minerals etc is vital for good health and normal body functions in our bodies. Alas, many women either currently on the pill or who have previously taken the pill for a number of years are deficient in certain vitamins and minerals.
Some signs of deficiency may be obvious, such as vitamin B1,
which when reduced can lead to fatigue, weakness, insomnia, oversensitivity to
noise, muscle aches, loss of appetite, sugar cravings and circulation
issues. If vitamin B6 is deficient
symptoms will include nausea, feeling easily stressed, anxiety, depression,
skin eruptions and lethargy.
Minerals such as magnesium are also affected, which can cause symptoms of premenstrual cramps, anxiety, insomnia and craving for sugar and chocolate. The pill will also affect the bodies stores of potassium, zinc and selenium, all of which result in additional physical and emotional symptoms.
The contraceptive pill is prescribed for a number of hormonal problems
Doctors prescribe the contraceptive pill for various hormonal problems – polycystic ovaries, endometriosis, acne, period problems, anaemia. All these symptoms are signs that the hormonal system is already out of balance, and many women find that when they stop taking the contraceptive pill, the symptoms then return as the pill has not dealt with the underlying imbalance. In addition to this, the liver and kidneys are put under additional stress to process and eliminate the toxins of drugs in the body. Another organ of elimination is the skin, so many women will experience skin breakouts and acne after they stop taking the contraceptive pill. This is particularly the case if the liver is under strain as when this organ is struggling to process toxins through the natural channels (bowels and kidneys) toxins are released through the skin.
Symptoms are messages and signs that your body isn’t happy
Acne may indicate that your colon, lymph and liver need support and cleansing. It may be as a result of intolerances to food, that your life is stressful or that your thyroid and adrenals are fatigued. Acne is also a sign of the presence of yeast infections such as candida. Long term use of the pill often leads to candida overgrowth, which amongst other things, affects the quality of the cervical mucus.
How can I help support my body?
It is essential to replace the nutrients the pill depletes your body of, either in your diet or by including a supplement in your daily routine.
- Vitamin B6:
Fish, poultry, whole grains, potatoes
- Folic acid: Dark green leafy veg, dried beans
- Riboflavin: meat, poultry, fish, green veg,
grains and cereals
- Vitamin C: Citrus fruits, juices, broccoli,
peppers, spinach, cabbage
- Vitamin A: Green veg, yellow veg and yellow
- Iron: Red meat, poultry, fish, cereal products,
dried beans, green veg, prunes
- Zinc: Seafood, nuts, whole grains
What supplements should I consider taking?
Eating a balanced diet would be the first choice for accessing the essential vitamins and minerals, but sometimes we need additional support from good quality supplements, my preferred range is from Cytoplan, a UK based company which uses mainly organic and vegan products.
The following products are helpful for supporting hormonal
- A multi vitamin: A good all-rounder vitamin will contain all the major vitamins and minerals we require on a daily basis.
- Vitamin B Complex: B vitamins are important for the breakdown of proteins, carbohydrates and fats in the body. They are also important for energy production, digestion and hormone imbalances.
- Omega 3 oils: founds in oily fish and flaxseeds or as a supplement, these oils are helpful for dry skin, fatigue, depression and lack of motivation. They are also helpful for blood sugar imbalances and weight problems.
- Evening Primrose oil: helpful for breast tenderness, dry skin and vaginal dryness.
What can Homeopathy do to help?
The aim of Homeopathy is to address the reason behind why
you became ill in the first place, finding the right remedy to create an
improvement in your health. This may be
with just remedies or with the additional support of herbs, supplements or
small changes to diet. Each person is
seen as an individual, so the remedies and support offered varies for each
Let me know if you’d
like to learn more about how homeopathy could help you.
Menopause is a natural process, which occurs with age as a woman’s body adapts to the changes that result from ovarian decline. The Pituitary gland, found in the brain, attempts to stimulate the ovaries back into function, which in turn results in the symptoms associated with menopause, such as hot flushes. At this time, the adrenal glands are expected to take over the role of the declining ovaries, so if they are exhausted or compromised in any way the process becomes harder work for the hormonal system to process and adapt to. Likewise, if the liver is overburdened with toxicity from diet and lifestyle choices, it is unable to assist in the detoxing of the body and processing of hormones.
The onset of menopause usually occurs between the ages of 50 and 55 and is a gradual cessation of menstruation. Peri-menopause, seen as the transitional period before menopause, can occur anytime between 2 and 20 years before menopause. During this time, women usually see irregularity of their menstrual cycle caused by fluctuations in the levels of oestrogen and progesterone. Scientists believe that the peri-menopausal stage is occurring earlier and earlier due to the number of hormone-like chemicals in today’s environment, which disrupt a woman’s natural cycle.
When patients come to see me for support, I generally offer a combination of Homeopathic remedies, herbal and nutritional supplements, which together alleviate symptoms and support this transition stage.
Diet and lifestyle are important factors for this time of transition. The hormonal changes within the body can put additional stress on women’s body’s, so it’s the ideal time to make yourself a priority.
So how can you help your body through this time of transition?
Adding Calcium and Magnesium to your diet will help alleviate anxiety and protect bone health.
Vitamins B & E can reduce hot flushes and improve circulation, Vitamin B also helps with feelings of stress and anxiety, often felt by menopausal women. I’ve mentioned in other blogs how the adrenal glands are affected by the menopause, so I always recommend my clients consider a good quality adrenal support supplement to help combat anxiety and exhaustion.
Essential Fatty Acids also alleviate hot flushes and act as a diuretic for those who experience fluid retention.
By avoiding foods which stimulate the adrenal glands, which are already under additional demand you will help to lessen symptoms such as hot flushes. For example, caffeinated drinks and alcohol stimulate the adrenals and also over stimulate the nervous system.
Most health food shops also stock a good range of herbal tinctures, such as Hypericum, Agnus Castus and Black Cohosh, all of which help to rebalance the hormonal symptom and relieve symptoms. I’ve had great success supporting women with Homeobotanicals, which combine all of these herbs (and a few more!) to alleviate some of the symptoms experienced at this time.
If supplements are your preference, Evening Primrose Oil is a good source of Omega 6 and fatty acids. Ashwagandha is a well known Ayurverdic herb which supports the symptoms of menopause.
If sleep becomes a problem, I recommend Neals Yard Goodnight Pillow Mist to help calm and relax the body into sleep. They also offer a combination of aromatherapy oils to help bring balance to the female hormonal system.
There are so many ways for us, as women to support our bodies, with around 30 different symptoms now considered to be associated with the menopause, no two women are likely to experience the same.
There’s so much more information I could share with you, drop me a line if you’d like some advice and support.
You’re a busy, efficient person, juggling a daily ‘to do’ list, racing everywhere at 100mph trying to achieve as much as you can every day.
You do so much for everyone around you, the kids, colleagues at work, your friends and partner, the neighbour, the dog the cat. You get the picture!
You are Superhuman! Super-efficient, never complaining, it’s GREAT to be able to do so much.
But you are EXHAUSTED and STRESSED. You’re definitely not FINE!!
Yes, you do perhaps rely too heavily on coffee and sugar to get you through the day. So the weight gain is probably easily sorted by reducing your intake of sweets and cookies, and if you just knocked a few things off your ‘to do’ list, you would probably be less forgetful as you’d have less to remember!
Let’s just check that you’re not TOO stressed. Let’s take a look at your adrenal glands and see if you’re showing signs of adrenal fatigue.
Most of us are so used to having some form of ongoing stress in our lives, that we actually aren’t aware of it.
Our body’s adapt to keep us going and hormones such as Cortisol are produced by the body to ‘keep us going’ Cortisol is also the hormone that gives us that ‘spare tyre’ around our midriff. Its role is to balance blood sugar and regulate inflammation in our cells and muscles, so an imbalance of this not only causes us to crave stimulants, and gain weight, but can also result in muscle pain and other inflammatory processes.
The adrenals produce hormones that affect energy, blood chemistry and are involved in the ‘fight or flight’ process that kicks in when we are in danger or stressed. For many of us, who have been in a chronic state of stress for any period of time, could find that we have been in a state of ‘fight or flight’ for months or even years.
So what happens when our adrenals respond to stress?
Our heart rate speeds up, which raises blood sugar levels and blood pressure. This would be fine if it was a short term thing because we were being chased by a tiger, it’s not a good thing if it’s minute after minute, day after day.
The ‘dangers‘ of today, meeting deadlines, juggling chores, being in the right place at the right time are all dangers that don’t go away like the tiger perhaps would.
Being in this state of constant ‘fear’ sends our adrenals into overdrive and our hormones go into melt down, often leading to adrenal fatigue or burn out.
The thing is, the adrenal glands are just one of the glands in the body, which all work together and help balance each other out. So yes, you guessed it, when one gland is out, they are all out and the entire hormonal system becomes unbalanced.
So although you think you’re OK and can deal with the stressed state you’re in, it may be that your chronic state of stress is actually the reason why your thyroid gland isn’t functioning properly, or your menstrual cycle has gone haywire or why you are constantly suffering with colds and stomach bugs.
How many of these symptoms can you recognise in yourself?
- Constant tiredness, even trying to get out of bed is an effort.
- Low blood pressure.
- Low metabolism and/or low thyroid.
- Muscle weakness/pain.
- Low immune system and catching coughs, colds and ‘flu.
- Irregular periods with sore/lumpy breasts. Also lack of ovulation and difficulty falling pregnant.
- Allergies and/or asthma.
- Trouble handling stress and coping with life.
It’s important to see you Doctor if you’re worried about your health, but what can you do to help yourself?
- Adding more stress!
- Stimulants – yes quit the caffeine…coffee, tea, chocolate, caffeinated drinks, alcohol
- Sugar and refined carbs because they send your blood sugar, energy and moods on a rollercoaster.
- Processed foods, anything with additives in, which puts a stress on the body to break down and process.
WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR YOURSELF
- Try to manage your stress. Get into the habit of asking for help!
- Get enough rest and sleep. ‘Me time’ is important too.
- Eat nutritionally rich foods. Plenty of fruit and veg, good fats – yes some fats are good for you! good quality protein, complex carbs. And try to drink more water!
- Take the best quality multivitamin and mineral complex you can afford. Buying the cheapest in the shop is a false economy. I particularly like those from Cytoplan, a UK based company offering high quality vitamins at an affordable price.
- Magnesium levels are often low in us all nowadays, which can add to muscle soreness and fatigue, consider adding some bath salts to your bath to improve your levels. I like Neal’s Yard bath salts with added Arnica to soothe sore muscles, you can have a browse of their lovely products via this website.
If you’d like some more help and advice on how to tackle your stress levels, drop me a line today!
Is it time to love your hormones?!
As women, many of us have come to believe that hormones are bad, and attach negative emotions and symptoms to them. They are in fact just a sign of transition from one stage of our lives into another. In most women, hormone levels start to decline around their mid-thirties, gradually at first, then accelerating through their forties, before levelling out between 50 and 55. However, when this decline commences, progesterone production falls considerably faster than oestrogen. The result is a widened gap in the levels of these two hormones which does not right itself until hormone levels finally stabilise in the years following the menopause. This natural change in hormone levels is aggravated by modern environmental and lifestyle factors, which are believed to be responsible for the increasing incidence of what’s referred to as oestrogen dominance.
So what are the symptoms of Oestrogen Dominance?
- Acceleration of the ageing process
- Allergies, including asthma, rashes, sinus congestion and autoimmune disorders
- Breast tenderness
- Cervical Dysplasia
- Cold hands and feet, relating to thyroid dysfunction
- Decreased sex drive
- Depression with anxiety or agitation
- Dry eyes
- Fibrocystic breasts
- Gallbladder disease
- Hair loss
- Inability to focus
- Early onset of menstruation
- Fat gain, especially around the abdomen, hips and thighs
- Mood swings
- Pre-menopausal bone loss
- Increase blood clotting
- Increased risk of strokes
- Irregular menstruation
- Memory loss
- Sluggish metabolism
- Uterine cancer
- Uterine fibroids
- Water retention, bloating
Phew! That’s quite a list
What can you do to stay in balance?
Oestrogen dominance can occur at any age and a first step is to look at your lifestyle. The basic building blocks of optimal hormone balance start with a good wholefood diet, regular exercise and stress reduction as that can play a major part in most hormonal symptoms. Oestrogen dominance is driven by our modern day exposure to hormones found in animal products, excessive sugar, the birth control pill and environmental endocrine disruptors. In the 1990’s soya products were given to cattle, so those of us who eat meat were consuming phytoestrogens in our diets. Cattle are also given Bovine Growth Hormone and antibiotics, so consider green leafy vegetables rather than dairy to get Calcium into your diet. Plastics leach phalates into our foods/water supply, which is why there are been so much news about oestrogen entering our body’s via plastic bottles. These phalates mimic hormones and therefore disrupt the natural balance. Pesticides also do this, hence the need to include organic foods where possible in our diets.
Some self-help ideas:
If you have been on any form of hormone therapy (The Birth Control Pill, IVF, HRT etc) then it is likely your body is lacking some vital nutrients: Magnesium and Potassium – symptoms include fatigue, cramps, anxiety, sleep issues and cravings for sugar and chocolate. Anyone entering my clinic stating they are craving chocolate gets sent away with a magnesium supplement! Magnesium is quickly used up when we are stressed or have a diet high in tea, coffee and sugar, which deplete the body of this vital mineral. Magnesium is also needed by the body to help absorb and balance Calcium and Vitamin D. Vitamin B – a lack of B vitamins will show as a loss of appetite, fatigue and weakness, oversensitivity, depression, anxiety, skin problems, sleep problems, constipation. Consider adding more fish, poultry, whole grains and potatoes in your diet. Selenium – needed for healthy hair and breast health. Heavy metals found in pesticides, some fish, deodorants and fillings have been known to deplete the body’s stores of selenium and zinc. Selenium can be found in Brazil nuts. Chromium – to help balance blood sugar levels. Chromium also helps raise the body’s metabolic rate. Zinc – the birth control pill is known to deplete the body’s zinc levels. Pumpkin seeds are a good natural source. Calcium – rather than getting this from dairy products, which have been pasteurised and may contain growth hormones etc, consider getting calcium from dark green leafy vegetables. Mineral waters such as San Pellegrino and Perrier are known for their high mineral contents too, so swap your next Diet Coke for a fizzy water!
Consider switching to organic meat & dairy to avoid synthetic hormones
Cut back on sugar, caffeine, alcohol and limit stressful situations, all of which deplete our magnesium levels. The body will start to take magnesium from our bones if there’s a shortfall in our diets!
It can take 6 months to restore magnesium levels!
Take a bath in Epsom salts twice a week to boost levels or consider buying some Magnesium supplements.
Add some nuts and seeds to your cereal
A handful of almonds for calcium, pumpkin seeds for zinc and 4 Brazil nuts for selenium. Dark berries and fruits are high in antioxidants and micronutrients so add them to breakfasts or a handful in a smoothie. Green Tea is also high in antioxidants, which help the body remove cell damaging free radicals, chemicals and environmental pollutants.
A range of organic, vegan, non GM super food supplements and a ‘Transformational’ 10 Day Cleanse, which is helping thousands of people beat lifelong sugar cravings! I particularly like Best of Greens or Love Supermeal to add to a smoothie or juice and Ionic Elements as a single supplement for ensuring you get all of your mineral requirements daily. I add a few drops of this to a bottle of water every day – it’s that easy to get the whole range of minerals into your diet!http://www.platinumuk.biz/wisehealth
Consider some of the Super foods and supplements available from Purium.
Some herbs and spices worth considering:
Herbs such as turmeric and ginger help to relieve hormonal cramps by increasing blood flow through the uterus and have anti-inflammatory properties. Fennel seed tea is also worth considering for painful periods as an anti-inflammatory option to over the counter drugs. Members of the brassica family (broccoli and kale) contain vital nutrients that help the body process oestrogen and help the liver to detox the body. Also useful for this are onions, garlic and leeks. A few grams of seaweed helps to feed the hormonal system and improves a sluggish metabolism. It’s also good for the thyroid gland. Phytoestrogens, found in plant based foods help to balance oestrogen, so consider adding flaxseeds or lentils to your diet. Oestrogen levels drop at the time of menopause, so consider these foods at this time to establish balance naturally. Finally, herbs such as oregano, thyme, rosemary and sage promote good liver function and help the organ to detox excessive oestrogen effectively. Sage tea also has also been used successfully to reduce hot flushes in menopausal women.
How about some oils and Essential Fatty Acids to balance things:
Naturopaths and other complimentary practitioners will use EFA’s and organic oils to help balance an irregular menstrual cycle, once other causes (Endometriosis, Polycystic Ovaries, fibroids etc) have been excluded. Flaxseed and pumpkin oil are used to support the first (oestrogen) phase, while sesame and sunflower oil are used to support the second (progesterone) phase. Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s) can be found in raw foods, as processing/cooking foods destroys them. Nuts and seeds are a good source too. The Natural Dispensary is a great website for buying health products, herbal teas, essential oils, vitamins, minerals and natural hair and beauty products. Contact me for a discount code to get 15% discount off any orders you place with them – postage is free for orders over £25
If you’d like a health overview, to look at any vitamin or mineral short falls there might be in your diet, or to discuss how Homeopathy may be able to help your hormonal or general health, then drop me a line.