As a woman each month given the right environment, we have the ability to create and grow life… how incredible is that! But what happens when hormones aren’t flowing (excuse the pun) regularly month to month? For some this may look like a cycle of 6-8 weeks, for others 2-3 periods a year; sore breasts, raging PMS, bloating, poor sleep, weight gain and lethargy. So what is going on in my body? And what can I do about it?
I first started getting irregular periods 4 years ago. I had just come off the pill; was in the middle of my final Chiropractic exams; in student practice for the first time; my boyfriend was moving to the UK; I was running 10-15km 4 times per week and doing HIIT 4-5 times per week, and living away from home. I had unknowingly created the perfect physiological stress storm which turned my nervous system from rest, digest, reproduce into preparing itself to run away from a really big mean lion – the only problem – the lion never left. I thought that my missing period was my body getting back on track following being on the oral contraceptive pill but after 8 months I knew something wasn’t right, I went to my GP and got blood tests which revealed my hormones were within normal range. GREAT! I thought, let’s continue playing the waiting game because it’s got to come soon. Fast forward another 2 months and still no period and then a pattern started to emerge:
- I went home to see my parents – period
- I went back to university in Melbourne – no period
- I flew to London to visit my boyfriend – period
- Sitting my Chiropractic Registration exam in London – no period
- Finding a job at Northcote Chiropractic – period
It became apparent that my irregular cycles and hormone imbalance had a strong link to my stress levels. In 2017 I started to really listen to my body and decided this was the year that I get down to the root cause of this imbalance. I got 3 sets of blood tests and an ultrasound (to rule out PCOS) which all came back as normal which meant it was time to take a leaf out of the Chiropractic handbook and with the help of my Northcote Chiropractic colleagues and Alex Gear the Functional Medicine practitioner it was time to start looking at how I can reduce the 3 lifestyle stressors – Traumas, Toxins and Thoughts.
When our body is under stress we produce cortisol. Overtime when cortisol levels remain high it preferentially steals cholesterol away from the pathway that makes progesterone, progesterone is important in our cycle to balance out Oestrogen. With inadequate progesterone, Oestrogen is dominant and can be responsible for:
- mood swings
- breast tenderness
- long menstrual cycle
- weight gain
- trouble falling pregnant
- loss of libido
So what can you do to reduce the 3T’s? And get your body back in sync?
Our nervous system is central to our health and function. Each week to ensure that my nervous system is able to self heal, self regulate and adapt to my lifestyle changes I get a Chiropractic adjustment. Now that my brain and body are communicating properly and my internal environment is functioning optimally here are some things that I have started to do to combat the external stressors aka the 3T’s.
Trauma – Physical stress this can be major or microtraumas, in my case – over exercising – If your body is already primed in the fight or flight response doing high intensity exercise like running, boxing or high intensity circuit training can actually increase your levels of circulating cortisol (1). Swap for low intensity exercises such as yoga, pilates, body balance, leisurely bike ride, swimming or stretching.
Toxins – Chemical imbalance can come from what we eat, drink, the air we breathe and what we put on our skin. Below are some tips on how you can minimise some of the toxic load on your system and nourish your body.
- Your liver plays an important role in breaking down oestrogen loading up on liver cleansing foods like leafy greens, parsley, cruciferous veg including broccoli, cabbage, Oily fish (salmon, mackeral, anchovies, sardines, herring) and flax seeds.
- Drink plenty of water. Add a dash of lemon in the morning to help cleanse the liver, wake up your digestive system and give you a hit of vitamin C.
- Swap your morning coffee for a herbal tea or turmeric latte with non dairy milk to satisfy that morning habit. Caffeine spikes our cortisol and testosterone (4) – you may have seen in the practice my goal of the month is to give up coffee or cutting out sugar – this is to give my adrenals a break
- swap plastic containers, drink bottles for glass containers. BPA plastic contain xeno-oestrogens which are chemicals found in certain types of plastics, herbicides, pesticides and petrochemical products (for a list ask the front desk about the dirty dozen). Xeno-oestrogens are known as endocrine disrupters that preferentially bind to oestrogen receptor sites, increasing the bodies level of oestrogen.
- If you are someone who reaches for the nurofen at any sign of an ache and pain research shows that taking NSAIDs for >10 days can also have a detrimental effect on your cycle. (3) Speak to your healthcare practitioner about alternatives
Thoughts – We have 65 000 conversations with ourselves a day and are only aware of 5% of these. Stress at home, work or relationships, poor sleep patterns is a surefire way to spike cortisol levels. Try some of these below:
- Try mindfulness – headspace or calm app are fantastic apps you can take on the go. Try walking meditation, yoga.
- Turning off any devices before bed including wifi
- Running a nice bath 2-3 times per week with some epsom salts a few drops of lavender and a good book (no kindle)
- Breathe – taking deep breaths into your diaphragm stimulates your parasympathetics and re instill a sense of calm
- Keep a gratitude journal and write in it morning or evening. Did you know when you write what you’re grateful for your brain can’t produce stress hormones?
- Do something each week just for you!
While I am still early on in this chapter of my health journey, the body is designed to be healthy, self heal and self regulate it just needs to right resources and enough time to do so. If this story sounds familiar and you would like more information on a multimodal approach to Oestrogen Dominance ask to speak to one of the Chiropractors at Northcote Chiropractic Clinic or our Functional Medicine practitioner Alex Gear.
Dr Demi Moretti
Doctor of Chiropractic