Hormones are an integral part of a woman’s health and vitality, influencing everything from mood and energy levels to reproductive function and overall well-being. As a naturopathic doctor with a focus on women’s health, I emphasize the importance of maintaining healthy hormones throughout a woman’s lifespan. In this article, we’ll explore practical tips to support hormone balance.
During early life, hormones promote growth and maturation. Proper nutrition, care, and a nurturing environment are crucial to foster healthy hormonal development in these formative years. During adolescence, hormones play a key role in puberty, influencing emotional well-being, skin health, and of course, menstruation. Many young women are told that it is just normal to experience PMS, painful periods and excessive flow. But these can be signs of hormone imbalances that can be corrected with natural methods. My favorite herb for teens with period problems is Chaste Tree, or Vitex Agnus Castus. This remarkable herb aids the pituitary gland in balancing hormones and has been proven to safely help some menstrual cycle problems.
In adulthood, hormones like estrogen and progesterone regulate the menstrual cycle, fertility, and libido. Hormone balance is essential for reproductive health during these years. In an age where more women are choosing to delay pregnancy, fertility challenges have become increasingly common. I guide my patients in understanding their body’s rhythms and how to optimize their fertility if that is their goal.
Of course, balanced hormones are critical for a healthy pregnancy, and particularly in the postpartum period. Nutritional support and stress management are vital, and naturopathic physicians can provide guidance to women on the safe use of natural medicines during and after pregnancy.
As women approach middle age, menstrual issues and PMS can become more pronounced as the hormone glands struggle to regulate the cycle during perimenopause. This is when active intervention with naturopathic approaches can be pivotal. For instance, natural anti-inflammatory herbs like ginger have been shown to significantly reduce blood flow in menstruating women. Menopause can be a relief or a challenge as rapid hormone changes can give rise to a range of symptoms, including hot flashes, mood swings, and insomnia. There is so much conflicting information out there about hormone replacement therapy, but the most recent scientific findings indicates that it can be used safely long term, and it can help prevent some diseases of aging like cognitive decline and osteoporosis. If it is done right. (See my detailed blog post for more information.)
As women age, we need to keep in mind other hormones that can affect our health and wellbeing. Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, when imbalance, can contribute to lowered immunity, abdominal weight gain, blood sugar imbalance and more. Maintaining blood sugar with the hormone insulin can be more challenging but is critical for disease prevention. Hypothyroidism affects up to one in six women in their lifetime, and the risk increases with age. So just because you were “fine” five years ago, doesn’t mean that your fatigue, depression and weight gain aren’t attributable to low thyroid hormone now.
The body’s hormones are all interconnected and are influenced by our immune system, our digestion (think microbiome) and our lifestyle. Key lifestyle factors that can improve your hormone health include moderating caffeine and alcohol intake, embracing whole food nutrition, regular exercise, ensuring adequate sleep, effective stress management, and maintaining a healthy weight. As a naturopathic physician I often recommend natural medicines and bioidentical hormone prescriptions to help women optimize their hormones.
Empower yourself with knowledge. Stay well-informed about hormonal health and its impact throughout the lifespan. A naturopathic physician with a focus on women’s health can serve as an invaluable resource for guidance and education.