Hormones, Herbs and Her!

Written by Ravinder Lilly & Josephine Daly

Hormonal ups and downs are a fact of life for women of every age and every walk of life commencing at puberty and are heightened pre-menstrual, during the menstrual period, post menstrual and during the menopausal period.

Most often these hormonal ups and downs are not made much of, but did you know that an estimated 80% of Australian women experience one or more recognised monthly symptoms including tiredness, irritability and "wanting to be alone"?

So what are these hormones?
What are the roles that they play in the woman’s body?
What are the symptoms that hormonal imbalances cause?
How can we combat them?

These are some of the crucial questions that every woman has and would love to have the answers to.

Hormones are the chemical messengers that send signals between cells. Even small fluctuations can trigger changes and although these changes happen at the cell level, they can result in whole-body effects.

The main sex hormones for women are oestrogen and progesterone. The monthly hormonal fluctuations that trigger menstruation and can also produce symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Most, though not all women, experience PMS – the symptoms are different for every woman and can range from slight tension to extreme tearfulness. Heightened hormonal changes during the menstrual period and post-menstrual time can trigger unwanted symptoms too. Plus, hormonal imbalances towards the end of a woman’s reproductive life, the peri-menopause and the menopause, can also trigger unwanted symptoms like hot flushes.

Menopause is a natural and normal process which begins anywhere between the age of mid forties and the mid fifties. A woman’s ovaries gradually produce less and less of the female sex hormones, and this eventually leads to the ending of menstruation. The falling and fluctuating levels of female hormones trigger symptoms from mood swings to night sweats and hot flushes. After menopause, the reduced oestrogen levels contribute to the raised incidence of heart disease and loss of bone density in women.

For many women, the unpleasant symptoms of PMS and Menopause can be upsetting.

So what can you do?
For both menstrual and menopausal symptoms, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) as tablets or patches can help. Plus, there are herbal options are being sought out by more women today. Herbs and plants have been used to treat hormonal problems for centuries. But scientific interest in phytoestrogens (which literally means plant oestrogens) was sparked relatively recently when researchers noticed that women in Asian countries had far fewer symptoms of menopause compared with women in western countries.

A major reason for this, they suggested, could be the larger quantities of phytoestrogens and other plant chemicals eaten as part of traditional eastern diets. Phytoestrogens are thought to have weak oestrogen-like effects.

The traditional far eastern diet is rich in plant proteins – it is estimated that Asian women consume 20-80 mg of isoflavones dailyi compared to less than 5 mg per day for western type diets.

In women who need relief for mild vasomotor symptoms, the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) recommends first considering lifestyle changes, either alone or together with a non-prescription remedy, such as dietary isoflavones and black cohoshii.

World over, Mother’s Day is celebrated in the month of May to focus on the incredible role that women play as Mothers. And with the same focus, USANA has chosen the Product of the Month to be PhytElleTM

USANA’s Product of the Month – PhytElle is a superior formulation that supports women’s health during those menstrual years and menopausal phase of life, offering relief from symptoms associated with menopause and PMS.

PhytElle was developed by USANA’s research and development team; it’s a carefully formulated collection of plant herbs and plant compounds in concentrations designed to reduce unwanted symptoms associated with women’s hormonal changes.

PhytElle also contains a combination of herbs that complements the activity of the soy isoflavones: black cohosh, dong quai, liquorice-root extract and chasteberry powder. Together with the isoflavones, these herbs provide support during menstruation and in the peri- and post-menopausal years.

USANA PhytElle for Women

PhytElle is laboratory tested, quality guaranteed. It meets British Pharmacopoeia (BP) specifications for potency, uniformity and disintegration where applicable.

Use only as directed. Always read the label.
Contains glucose.
In very rare cases, black cohosh has been associated with liver failure. If you are experiencing yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes, dark urine, nausea, vomiting, unusual tiredness, weakness, stomach or abdominal pain, and/or loss of appetite, you should stop using this product and see your doctor.
*If symptoms persist consult your healthcare practitioner.

i Soy Isoflavones, Alternative Medicine Review 2002. Accessed 23 April 2012. Available from: http://www.anaturalhealingcenter.com/documents/Thorne/monos/soy%20mono.pdf
ii Treatment of menopause-associated vasomotor symptoms: position statement of The North American Menopause Society. North American Menopause Society, Cleveland, OH 44101, USA. Accessed 23 April 2012. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14716179