Men and women both encounter hormonal fluctuations, but women experience them twice as much and have at least twice as many hormone related conditions as men. Men experience imbalances in testosterone at puberty and as they age. Women experience imbalances in estrogen and progesterone in puberty, menstruation, pregnancy and menopause. Additionally, women can experience changes in their level of testosterone. High levels of testosterone are related to polycystic ovary syndrome as well as other symptoms. As we age, we also produce less testosterone which is responsible for a low libido, among other symptoms.
Today, I’m looking at female hormone and reproductive issues, from menstrual cramps to menopause. At puberty and beyond we can experience PMS, menstrual cramping and bloating, irregular menstruation, mood swings, and painful swollen breasts. In pregnancy we can experience swelling, constipation, nausea, heartburn, back pain, stress, stretchmarks and finally labour pains. But it doesn’t end there. There’s also post-partum depression and balancing breast milk production. Or there’s infertility. Throughout life we may experience yeast infections, ovarian cysts, high libido, sexual tension, heavy or no menstruation and endometriosis. As we age, we can experience irregular menstruation, uterine prolapse, low libido and menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats. And that my friends, is not an exhaustive list.
We can try to manage our hormone levels using the birth control pill or hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Is there a difference between the two? Yes, there is. HRT is a supplement to the hormones your body is producing, while the birth control pill is much stronger and takes over hormone production. Additionally, HRT isn’t a type of birth control.
The birth control pill is helpful for hormone imbalances and is generally safe. Side effects can include spotting, nausea, breast tenderness, headaches, migraines, weight gain, mood changes, missed periods, decreased libido and vaginal discharge. Risks include blood clots, stroke, heart attack, increase in blood pressure, benign liver tumours and some types of cancer.
Hormone replacement therapy side effects include monthly bleeding, irregular spotting, breast tenderness, fluid retention, headaches, skin discolouration and increased breast density. Risks include increased chance of breast and endometrial cancer, blood clots and stroke, gallbladder/gallstone problems and increased risk of dementia.
There are external factors which may also affect our hormone levels such as plastics, genetically modified food, phthalates (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0917504017301120), hormones in meat and dairy (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4524299/), sugar (as insulin levels affect hormones), phytoestrogens, or plant “estrogens”, found in soy, for example, (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3074428/) and pesticides (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1524969/).
By the way, labeling is not required in Canada or the US for genetically modified foods but you can check the produce codes (those five-digit numbers on the stickers). Numbers starting with an eight indicate GMO and numbers starting with a nine indicate organic. Other numbers indicate that they were conventionally grown.
We can also try to balance our hormone levels with supplements and essential oils. A study on menopause shows that after 8 weeks of aromatherapy massage (using lavender, rose geranium, rose and jasmine), symptoms decreased compared to the control group. Another study on perimenopause shows that inhalation of geranium and rose otto essential oils increased estrogen secretion.
Essential oils can help with more than menopause and perimenopause. All those hormonal and reproductive issues that I mentioned earlier can be helped by essential oils. Let’s have a look at some common issues and what oils can help.
PMS can be helped by using bergamot, clary sage, geranium, lavender and rose to balance hormones, ease headaches and cramping and help with acne.
Hot flashes can be helped by clary sage, grapefruit, lemon, geranium, lavender, peppermint and patchouli which help by balancing hormones, improving circulation, constricting blood vessels and cooling.
Yeast infections can be helped with cinnamon, eucalyptus, lavender, lemon and tea tree which have powerful antifungal properties.
Clary sage, grapefruit, lavender and rose essential oils are great for helping balance hormones.
Cinnamon, clary sage, geranium, patchouli and ylang ylang have aphrodisiac properties.
Not sure which oils to use or how to use them? Make an appointment with an aromatherapist today.
Learn more about aromatherapy and menopause here.