Natural Therapies

to nurture your body, mind and soul


Why minimising stress will keep hormones in check

Posted on Thursday, March 03, 2016 by Regina Lasaitis

Emotions and hormones are very closely linked. When you’re feeling stressed, upset, down, anxious or overwhelmed to the point where your emotions are taxing your body, hormones can go haywire and periods might become irregular or even stop.

This is because stress affects our biochemistry with the release of a whole cascade of hormones that are part of the “fight or flight” response.  Our body activates these hormones when we are in a stressed state as it can’t detect the difference between when we are confronting an actual life or death situation or when we are worrying over our finances, anticipating an upcoming confrontation with someone or we’re stressing about a work deadline.

Stress for a lot of us has become routine. Some days it feels manageable, and other days it feels like it has a life of its own and this is considered “normal”. The end result is being in a constant, physically stressed out state. This is a problem because the body’s stress response isn’t designed to continuously cope with the levels of stress and it impacts on other hormonal systems.  For females it can negatively influence our reproductive hormones at whichever stage of life you’re in.  

Sure, PMS can affect our emotions.  We can blame being a victim of our hormones for snapping at people and our “Jekyll and Hyde” personality change at “that time of the month” but if the stress system wasn’t overtaxed that monthly cyclical transition could be smoother. 

This can often be the case in fertility problems - why are so many needing IVF these days? My suspicion is that our stressed out systems are a factor.  I treat women experiencing fertility issues.  Often they’ve had medical testing and there is nothing mechanically wrong but when we look at their life there’s stress overload.  Making changes to lifestyle as well as treatment with my favourite tonic herbs to balance the hormones and support the body’s stress response can lead to shopping for a pram.   Most of us know of a couple that when they stopped trying, and focused on other aspects of their life or even adopted, they conceived.  This is evidence of the link between stress and hormones.

This interplay with stress hormones and female hormones is paramount in menopause.  Our adrenals play a crucial role in the stress response and all our life they are pumping out stress hormones, often without a break.  Then during menopause they are expected to be taking over some of the duties of the ovaries that are heading for retirement. These stressed out adrenals say “sorry, I’m busy dealing with the stress response, can’t help you” so the woman has a harder time with low energy, low libido and any of the other (not fun) menopausal symptoms.  A trigger for a hot flush can be a stressful situation so there’s this emotions and hormonal link again.

So what can be done?  Minimising stress is the key and preventing the effects of stress is how to keep those hormones balanced.  In an ideal world this would mean having an equal balance between work and relaxation.  Keeping completely chilled, not overworking,  eating well,  doing exercise you enjoy and choosing activities that bring you joy.  In reality, for most of us it’s a struggle to not take on too much, say no to extra commitments and not feel guilty when we do something for ourselves.  

A wise friend once said to me “we are human beings not human doings” and I’ve often used this phrase when counseling people about achieving balance and allowing time to just “be”.  I always ask  “what do you do for relaxation” and I often get puzzled expressions and it seems we are very good at being busy but not so good at not being busy.  The opposite to busy is what will give that stress response a break, let those hormones settle and ultimately lead to better health.  

Life is short. Live in the present. “At this moment I’m ok” is a mantra for when you are anticipating events that haven’t happened yet.  We never have full control of the future, that’s the nature of this life.  If you let go of the drive to do everything, be everyone for everybody and allow time out that’s when the fight or flight emergency system can stop pumping out those stress hormones, female hormones will equalise, you’ll regain balance and feel better.

If you are experiencing any of these problems contact me.

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Coping with Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

Posted on Tuesday, March 29, 2011 by Regina Lasaitis

PMS is a set of physical and/or behavioural symptoms that can occur up to 14 days before menstruation.

Physical symptoms can include: acne, abdominal bloating, water retention, breast pain and/or swelling, appetite changes, cravings, headaches, insomnia, constipation and backache.

Behavioural symptoms can include: anxiety, depression, increased irritability, anger, concentration problems and emotional sensitivity. Some women experience premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) which is a severe form of premenstrual mood disorder. 

PMS is more common in women in their late 20s and 30s. It is thought to be due to hormone fluctuations and changes in neurotransmitters in the brain. 

The good news is that there are herbal medicines and nutritional supplements clinically proven to help sufferers of PMS.  It’s not something that is just part of being a menstruating woman! 

Vitex agnus-castus- Chaste tree is a herb that has been extensively studied and has demonstrated beneficial results in the reduction of PMS symptoms. There are also many other herbal medicines that will help to reduce specific physical and emotional PMS symptoms.

Magnesium is a useful mineral in PMS helping to relieve symptoms of mood and fluid retention.

Vitamin E is also beneficial in helping breast tenderness and emotional tension and irritability.

A healthy diet is also important in treating PMS. Avoiding a diet high in dairy products, refined sugars, sodium foods and caffeine can be beneficial. Drinking plenty of water and herbal teas is essential.  Eating small frequent meals to regulate blood sugar levels will assist your hormonal levels.

Regular exercise is essential to reduce PMS. Being your optimum weight will reduce your PMS symptoms. A BMI (body mass index) of >30 will predispose a woman to PMS.

Charting your cycle is important. A sense of control and understanding around your menstrual cycle can be achieved by being aware of when you are approaching your ‘danger time’. Steps can be taken to ensure that ‘that time of the month’ is not one of dread. For example, the premenstrual time may be the time that you schedule a massage, some pampering or just some time out to nurture yourself. 

As with any health issue, the best results are achieved when using natural therapies including herbal medicine by consulting a qualified and experienced practitioner. Your symptoms and cycles can be assessed and effective treatments can be specifically prescribed for you.

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