Over the next few blogs I am going to have a look at the wide array of symptoms that can be linked to the menopause and peri-menopause and the natural remedies which can help.
To help you understand why there is such a broad array of symptoms during the menopause, however, I will first try to provide a basic explanation of the hormonal cycle in women.
Written By Jenny Logan DNMed. (Jenny is a Nutritional Therapist who has worked with clients in Health Foods Stores and Private Clinics for over 20 years.)
An Introduction to Women’s Hormones:
There are two main hormones involved in the menstrual cycle – oestrogen and progesterone. Their production, and indeed the whole hormonal cycle, is controlled by:
- The Hypothalamus – an area in the brain, which is basically the control centre for our hormones.
- The Pituitary Gland – a gland responsible for triggering & supressing hormone release.
A Quick Guide to the Hormonal Cycle
- The first day of the menstrual cycle is marked by the beginning of the period. After the period has started, low levels of hormones in the system trigger the hypothalamus, which in turn alerts the pituitary.
- In response, the pituitary starts to produce Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH). FSH stimulates the development of an egg within the ovary and the production of oestrogen.
- As oestrogen levels start to rise, the pituitary releases Luteinising Hormone (LH). LH stimulates the release of the egg into the womb and the production of progesterone. It is at this point that the woman is at her most fertile.
- If the egg is not fertilised, hormone levels start to fall, eventually triggering the start of the menstrual bleed.
As women age, the number of eggs available starts to run out, this can cause drop in hormones being produced, which in turn can trigger the symptoms commonly associated with the menopause. This fall in hormone production can also lead to imbalances in the hypothalamus, which is linked to the development of hot sweats…
The Hormonal Cause of Hot Flushes & Night Sweats
Hot Flushes & Sweats are caused by the hypothalamus over-reacting to the reduction in hormone levels.
The absence of egg cells in the ovaries means that they cannot respond to the FSH or LH being released from the Pituitary Gland. This causes the Hypothalamus to basically go into ‘overdrive’ as it tries to get the menstrual cycle restarted. This can lead to issues with temperature regulation and excessive perspiration, because as well as regulating our hormones, the hypothalamus also controls our temperature.
Natural Remedies for Hot Flushes & Night Sweats
SAGE – Sage Leaves sweat in the heat, which led to traditional herbalists using the plant to help relieve excess perspiration. It is believed that Sage can help to re-balance the hypothalamus, relieving hot flushes and night sweats for around 80% of the women who try it.
RED CLOVER / SOYA – Red Clover & Soya both contain Isoflavones, which are often referred to as ‘Phyto-oestrogens’. This is because they have the same chemical structure as oestrogen, so can sit on the oestrogen receptor sites in the body. This action allows phyto-oestrogens basically to ‘con’ the body into believing that oestrogen levels are higher than they are, which can put a stop to the uncomfortable symptoms. It is important to note that phyto-oestrogens are NOT actually oestrogen and are NOT linked with an increased risk of hormonal cancers.
Either would be helpful, especially if there are other menopausal symptoms. Isoflavones could also be used in combination with Sage, for a complete approach to menopausal symptoms.
In our next blog – a look at mood swings and other issues…
Missed our previous instalment? Read The Menopause FAQ here.