1. PERIOD PAIN
The medical term for this is dysmenorrhoea. It is a common symptom which is associated with an excess of prostaglandins (pro-inflammatory compounds). It may be benign or a symptom of endometriosis and present as lower abdominal pain which radiates to the lower back or thighs. The cause for this is dietary; a high intake of omega 6 fatty acids found in animal fats and vegetable oils promotes the production of prostaglandins that are pro-inflammatory. A high intake of omega 3 fatty acids (found in fish, walnuts, chia seeds and leafy greens) may be protective against period pain.
2. HOT FLUSHES
May be experienced with other symptoms during peri-menopause or menopause. This is related to oestrogen decline and elevated follicle stimulating hormone. Hot flushes may last from a few seconds to 10 minutes – the average being 4 minutes. Avoiding the triggers for hot flushes, including coffee and alcohol, is recommended along with increasing dietary phyto-oestrogens (flaxseed, fermented soybean, chickpeas) can alleviate symptoms. Increasing dietary intake of phyto-oestrogens is not recommended in women with a personal and family history of oestrogen cancers.
3. DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY
Common complaints of peri-menopause and menopause which is thought to be related to changes in oestrogen rather than the amount of oestrogen. Declining hormone levels may cause changes in neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) or the limbic system and therefore increase feelings of depression and anxiety. Life events at this time of a woman’s life may also contribute to these symptoms. Studies show that exercise has a positive effect on mood and smoking has a negative impact on mood.
The definition of infertility is the inability to conceive after 12 months or more of unprotected intercourse with the same partner. The Fertility Society of Australia state that 1 in 6 couples in Australia and New Zealand suffer infertility. Factors that impact fertility include age, weight, smoking, alcohol intake, toxins, timing (fertility window), hormonal conditions (PCOS, endometriosis), STI’s and nutrition. Research shows that the health status of both mothers and fathers around the time of conception can affect the health of the baby at birth and into adulthood. Parenting should start prior to conception with both parents undertaking a preconception program, which a qualified naturopath can assist with.
5. PREMENSTRUAL SYNDROME
A collection of varying symptoms which recur each month after ovulation and before menstruation which include irritability, food cravings, acne, headaches, bloating and breast tenderness. Pre-menstrual symptoms may indicate high oestrogen, low progesterone and/or inflammation. The natural therapists approach is to enhance progesterone, stabilise and detoxify oestrogen and reduce inflammation. Stress can also impact the menstrual cycle as cortisol (hormone released when we are stressed) can interfere with progesterone levels. Measures that may enhance progesterone include reducing inflammatory foods in the diet, reducing alcohol intake and stress, whilst increasing food sources of magnesium in the diet and foods which enhance liver detoxification of oestrogen (such as broccoli, cauliflower and Kale).