Navigating your Hormonal Network
Ranging anywhere from mildly uncomfortable to severely debilitating, many women experience some form of hormonal based symptoms across their lifetime. In fact, 50-80% of reproductive-aged women experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and 75% of women report mild to severe symptoms as they transition into menopause.
When learning about hormones, many realise that the delicate interplay of a woman’s cyclical hormone balance is more complex than originally thought. This inevitably means understanding and resolving a hormone-based condition can be tricky, and finding the underlying causes may prove elusive without help.
What Symptoms and Conditions Are We Talking About Here?
Any woman can experience the odd irregular cycle, slightly more ‘crampy’ than normal period, or a minor mood fluctuation in the latter couple of weeks of her cycle – however, experiencing a regular problem and/or discomfort, though common, is most definitely not normal and therefore should be assessed by a health professional so it can be resolved. Though female reproductive cycle issues can come in a range of shapes and sizes, some of the most common seen clinically are listed below:
- PMS: symptoms of fluid retention, breast tenderness, anxiety, depression and food cravings occurring in the two weeks before menstruation.
- Dysmenorrhoea: painful menstruation.
- Menorrhagia: heavy menstruation.
- Oligo-/Amenorrhoea: irregular or absent menstruation.
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS): classified by the presence of cysts on the ovaries, elevated androgens and/or absence of ovulation.
- Fibroids: benign growths within the uterine wall, commonly resulting in dysmenorrhoea and menorrhagia.
- Endometriosis: tissue that normally lines the uterus grows elsewhere (outside the uterus), resulting in dysmenorrhoea, pain during other times in the month and potentially infertility.
- Adenomyosis: tissue that normally lines the uterus grows into the inner layers of the uterus, resulting in dysmenorrhoea, menorrhagia, and infertility.
What is it that causes these conditions to arise?
The simplest way to understand pretty much all female reproductive conditions is to begin with acknowledging that something has become unbalanced – but what does that actually mean, and should we be looking to the hormones themselves or not?
Let’s start with the two hormonal ‘leading ladies’ you are most likely to be familiar with: oestrogen and progesterone. These are two of the key players (along with follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinising hormone[LH]) in the cyclical, reproductive activities of the female body – rising and falling during the cycle and contributing to the maturation and release of an egg (ovulation), and the growth and development of the endometrium (uterine lining) to prepare for potential pregnancy. Typically, if fertilisation does not occur following ovulation, production of these hormones drop away, triggering the onset of monthly menstruation, beginning the cycle all over again.
Up until recently, many female hormonal disorders were viewed through the simplified lens of there being either too much or too little of these two hormones; therefore the strategy was to raise or lower their levels to ‘balance’ the cycle out again. For example, PMS and amenorrhoea were viewed as simply due to low progesterone; and dysmenorrhoea, endometriosis and fibroids caused by excess oestrogen production. Nowadays we understand it’s more accurate to gauge hormonal status by assessing a hormones activity and what’s actually going on inside the body.
That’s because there’s more to this hormonal tale than oestrogen and progesterone. You see, female hormonal health is also impacted by a whole troupe of other hormones and compounds. For example, thyroid hormone, insulin, androgens (e.g. testosterone) and cortisol all have the capacity to positively or negatively influence female reproductive health.
Furthermore, the latest science now reveals female hormone activity is impacted by a number of additional processes, molecules and systems. Read up about these here.
So as you can see, optimal female health, and conditions such as PMS, PCOS or endometriosis are not merely the results of hormonal levels. Instead, it is dysfunction across various systems in the body that can cause the clinical presentations listed above. As such, the way to successfully treat these conditions is to identify the upstream triggers in order to resolve the downstream hormonal symptom manifestation.
The web that creates hormonal imbalance is multi-layered, complex and highly individualised to each women. The team at Perpetual Wellbeing specialises in investigating and identifying all the possible contributing factors which may be leading to your hormonal imbalance. Our specialised knowledge allows us to craft a personalised treatment plan that will address not only your symptoms, but begin to tackle the underlying causes of them.
All the practitioners at Perpetual Wellbeing have expertise in treating hormonal issues and can support you with concerns relating to menopause, PMS, sleep disorders, adrenal function and stress, thyroid abnormalities, male hormone imbalances and mood disorders including depression.
Click here to make an appointment to see one of our practitioners to help you navigate through your hormonal network.