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HORMONES: The Culprits for Problems with your Health?

HORMONES: The Culprits for Problems with your Health?

How often have people said “it’s her hormones” when someone seems out of sorts.

So what are hormones?
Hormones are internal messengers which control the organs in our body. At the beginning of puberty, the hormones controlling our gynaecological organs “switch on” and continue to be produced until we reach perimenopause and menopause.

The main hormones involved in women’s health are oestrogen, progesterone, sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) and testosterone. Other hormones such as thyroid can affect aspects of women’s health.

Hormones are like musical instruments in an orchestra, they need to work in a specific sequence for the smooth running of our bodies. If the amounts produced or sequences are altered, then it can impact the functioning of our bodies.

Normally when people think about hormone issues in women, they think we are talking about fertility or menopause. But hormones can affect us at any stage from puberty onwards.

From the age a woman reaches puberty to around her mid-30s hormone levels are stable and fluctuate naturally each month in line with the menstrual cycle. Periods will be regular in women with a healthy hormone balance unless a woman is on some form of contraceptive pill.

As a woman enters her early to mid-40s her ovaries will start to become less responsive, resulting in the start of the perimenopause where oestrogen and progesterone levels fluctuate more, and periods become less regular.

Oestrogen and progesterone levels gradually decline during the perimenopause and FSH and LH levels increase. These changes cause a hormone imbalance resulting

in menopause symptoms such as irregular periods, mood changes, hot flushes and loss of libido.

The transition from menopause to post-menopause occurs after a woman has not had a period for at least 12 months. Oestrogen, progesterone, and testosterone drop to very low levels. Declining oestrogen levels can lead to longer term health issues such as cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.

Hormones and Adolescence
After a young girl enters puberty her hormones can take a few months to settle into a pattern.

The most common hormonal imbalance that can affect young girls is polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). PCOS affects between 6-12% of women. We see significant numbers in Kerry and many cases go undiagnosed for a number of years which can cause distress for young girls. In this condition the hormone imbalance means that there may be an excess of free male hormones in a girl’s blood stream. Symptoms can include irregular periods / no periods, increased facial hair, changes in head hair including loss of head hair, acne and fertility issues. Mental health problems are also very common.

There are many ways of managing PCOS including using the oral contraceptive pill, specific dietary programmes and exercise. There are also many cosmetics procedures such as laser or peels can be helpful tools in addition to medical care. It is always good to see advice- as early treatments are important.

See Also

Hormones and Mood, PMS /PMDD
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a term describing physical, emotional and psychological symptoms which occur specifically in the week prior to a period. This can be due to altered oestrogen and progesterone levels affecting the brain. Symptoms can include breast tenderness, headaches,
bloating. Psychological changes can include anxiety, sadness or extreme irritability. The key factor is that these symptoms reverse after a period starts.

Up to 30% of women can be affected by PMS and in up to 5% of women symptoms can be severe when we call it PMDD.

PMS can be helped by dietary
changes, vitamin D / B6/ B12
/ magnesium supplements, reducing caffeine of alcohol intake, ensuring good sleep or using psychotherapy techniques such as CBT. Herbal remedies such as Agnus castus or chasteberry are also helpful.

Balancing hormones through the use of the Pill can also help.

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a much more severe form of PMS. It results in extreme emotional disturbances that require medical assistance, usually mental health support. In addition to the measures outlined above women may need to introduce medications to alleviate anxiety or depression.

There are many ways of helping to manage hormone imbalances and it is always good to seek help.

The Scotia Clinic, Scotia House,Manor West, Tralee, Co. Kerry
(066) 7181100

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