A hormonal imbalance occurs when there is too much estrogen relative to progesterone in a woman’s body, also referred to as estrogen dominance. In a normal cycle, estrogen and progesterone hormones work together to maintain a woman’s menstrual cycle, each playing an important role.
When a hormone balance occurs and estrogen levels are too high, it can lead to many problems with a woman’s reproductive cycle, from PMS symptoms to menstrual problems or irregular periods, to mood swings, abdominal weight gain, increased levels of stress hormones, uterine fibroids, and an increased risk of osteoporosis, heart disease, and breast cancer.
There are many causes for an estrogen-progesterone hormone imbalance. These include aging, stress, birth control pills, and lifestyle factors like diet and weight. The use of hormonal birth control and the perimenopause stage of life are probably the two biggest factors.
Current hormonal birth control pills rely on high dose estrogen to suppress ovulation combined with progestin to make the endometrial lining of the uterus thin and to dry out the cervical mucus. Compared to average estrogen levels during the normal menstrual cycle, current hormonal contraceptives cause about four times higher estrogen in the body.
Often when women go off the pill, they experience higher than normal estrogen levels that lead to symptoms of PMS, menstrual cycle issues, and mood swings. To aggravate things, this often coincides with a woman entering the perimenopause stage of her life, when natural estrogen dominance often occurs because estrogen levels are naturally much higher and progesterone levels naturally much lower than normal.
A hormone imbalance can be diagnosed as chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, depression or anxiety disorder, restless legs syndrome, and digestive or bowel disorders. Is this caused by a hormone imbalance, aggravated by a hormone imbalance, or a misdiagnosis? Whatever the case, a hormone imbalance can lead to a drastic decrease in quality of life and cause very real difficulties in a woman’s daily life, from mood problems to sleep problems, to menstrual cycle problems. It can be a complex problem to treat, and many women are dissatisfied with medications or hormone replacement as a solution.
Thankfully, acupuncture and Chinese medicine offer an effective and safe option for managing and resolving a hormone imbalance. Acupuncture has a regulating effect on the body and can help to promote normal functioning of various systems, from hormone levels to sleep cycle, energy levels, moods, and digestion.
By looking at the various symptoms that are presenting, we can determine the areas of the body that are not functioning properly and treat the root cause of the problem. This almost always involves the liver not functioning properly as it plays a very important role in the regulation of emotions and of the menstrual cycle. As the body regains healthy equilibrium and these causes are treated, the hormones begin to normalize and the symptoms will begin to lessen. Over time and with continued treatments, the body’s imbalance should resolve.
Hormone imbalances can be complex to treat and often lifestyle factors play an important role in successfully managing and resolving them. This includes managing stress levels and emotional stress, getting regular exercise, maintaining a regular sleep-wake schedule, staying hydrated, and a healthy diet. While these seem like common sense strategies, they are indeed pillars of good health and help us to maintain good health throughout the many changes we face in life.
James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna. He can be reached at www.okanaganacupuncture.com.