"How's your mood?", I ask. She takes a deep belly laugh, looks across my desk into my eyes and says, "I'm generally easy going, level, and happy... until three days before my period and then my poor husband and kids just can't do anything right for a day or two. Then I'm back to normal".
I laugh back at her because I know. I know it well - both personally and every. single. day. with many of my female patients.
The bread and butter of my work is hormonal imbalance. I love it because no one person I work with is exactly the same, yet I see some patterns over and over again.
Quick fact, 100% of us have hormones (big surprise) and at some point, most of us and our families will blame these little physiological messengers for all kinds of "crazy", "irrational" or "emotional" behavior. We collectively fuel genres of literature, movies, musical and live stage performances with our unpredictability.
We are a complex symphony of hormones, and if we are mentally, physically and emotionally balanced, this song repeats on a monthly basis. Throw in some life stress, sleepless nights, carrying extra weight, not having enough weight, eating too much or too little, being sedentary or over-training, pollution, medication... and the song starts to skip, we lose entire bars of the melody and the orchestra gets really confused.
Many of us turn to our family doctors for help. We are prescribed oral contraceptives to help prevent pregnancy and "normalize" our cycle, clomid and/or metformin to stimulate our bodies to ovulate and hormone replacement therapy to transition into menopause. Sometimes, if we are unbalanced enough, a hysterectomy is recommended. I'm certainly not saying that each of these interventions don't have their place - they do, and in the right circumstances are very helpful. However, I am advocating for more options.
Naturopathic Medicine looks at the body, and more importantly, the person as a whole. Being more than a collection of uterus, breasts, brain, guts and chemical messengers, your health is profoundly influenced by your environment and flavoured by your genetics. Rather than forcing your body to behave in a certain way to achieve a very particular outcome, I work with women of all ages to help balance these complex systems so that the body itself can function optimally.
Three Areas that You Should Explore for Optimal Hormonal Balance
We are genetically wired to require specific amount of nutrients, and to store fat away in the event that we should become pregnant. With an overabundance of calorie-dense and nutrient-poor foods available 24/7 our bodies can pack on the pounds and be malnourished at the same time. Likewise, we can also become sensitive to many "healthy" foods to the extent that it can prevent ovulation, imbalance our hormones and become a silent cause of infertility.
2. Know your rhythms (ie. learn your own song)
Most women have menstrual cycles lasting 21-32 days although 28 days is considered the standard. Optimally, we can know when we are about to menstruate, ovulate, and how our body differs at each stage in between. Being regular is a good sign, but if your cycle differs each month by a few days - or even months, it's like the band doesn't know when the performances are scheduled. One of my favorite resources for learning about your rhythms is Toni Weschler's Taking Charge of Your Fertility.
3. Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine
Asian Medicine and herbal medicine (both in Eastern and Western traditions) seek to balance the body rather than force it - the difference between gentle encouragement from the music teacher and a smack on your knuckles - repeatedly. Acupuncture use for fertility pre-dates the Christian Era by thousands of years. Every culture has a long history of herbal medicine use as well. I recommend working with a skilled and licensed health care provider to determine the best approach for your situation.
In health (and hormonal happiness),
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Dr. Keila Roesner is a Naturopathic Doctor. When not treating patients she is also an enthusiastic barefoot-strolling, music-loving, yoga-doing kitchen wiz - who also happens to be a wrestling fan.