Especially for Women
Sunshine Sharing

Irregular Periods (Amenorrhea) - Lack of Menstruation
Short cycles, greasy skin - Cravings for sweets
Long cycles - Cramping pains - Spotting before periods
Brusing easily - Varicose veins
Heavy (Menorrhagia) menstrual flow
Menopause
The Four Types of PMS
Liver Functions - Hormones Balance
Painful menstrual periods (Dysmenorrhea)


Women Cycles

In health, a woman's monthly cycles follow an intricate weave of shifting hormones. Like harmonious music and dance in a theater play, all the parts work together to produce a beautiful and thrilling result.
Constant change makes ready for the growth of new life, adapts to need, and repeats the circle. But for good or bad, as they say in the theatre: "the play must go on."


Introducing The Players

Endocrine Glands
Release hormones directly into the blood stream. The hypothalamus and pituitary glands, in the head, are in control.

Exocrine Glands
Release secretions into ducts.

The Liver
Responsible for destroying or detoxifying excess hormones. Maintains hormonal balance.

Most Tissues

Contain hormone reaction systems, which allow them to respond to the messages from a variety of hormones.

Hormones are not the enemy - they are the directors and messengers of this monthly performance. However, they can have a powerful physical and emotional influence on us. They must have this power in order to fulfill their intended function. Although cyclic changes in body and mind are normal, imbalances produce the equivalent of poor timing, miscues and forgotten lines - with the resulting internal confusion and growing discomfort that could only be expected under the circumstances.

Happily, the body seeks health. And, given the necessary nutrients and environment, it can get back into a harmonious cycle of change and renewal. It is not necessary for women to suffer the extremes of discomfort associated with menstrual irregularities and premenstrual syndrome. Excessive flow, spotting, missed periods, cramps, bad moods, hot flashes and other symptoms do not need to be a perpetual way of life.

In this article, we focus on identifying these various imbalances, understanding what they mean, what causes them, and how to correct them using natural therapies and supplements.



Amenorrhea and Irregular Periods


Amenorrhea is the lack of menstruation in women who should be having regular periods.
There may be a reason why a woman is not menstruating.
* Is she pregnant? (If she is pregnant, do not use significant amounts of the emmenagogue menstrual stimulants listed below.)
* Is she taking a prescription drug that suppresses menstruation?
* Extreme stress can inhibit menstrual periods.
* Does she participate in athletic training?

The body will shift hormone levels with repeated strenuous activity to increase testosterone levels as a signal to build muscle tissue.

* Is she anemic? Her body may be acting to preserve oxygen-carrying blood.
* Is she dieting? Her body may be acting to preserve vital protein and essential fatty acids. And while we're on the subject, when deficiencies of essential fatty acids are resolved with an increase in dietary Omega-3 oils, some women have found that irregular periods returned to normal.

Vegetarians are four times more likely to have irregular or missing periods than non vegetarians.

Very high amounts of vitamin A are still sometimes recommended for skin problems. However, an excess of A may contribute to amenorrhea. Also, if pregnancy is a possibility, a woman should limit her use of A to 10,000 IU per day.

Emmenagogue herbs encourage the production of menstrual flow. These include black cohosh, dong quai, chaste tree berry (vitex), juniper, yarrow and many others. These are generally aromatics such as mints which, turn the body's energies inward. For instance, many of these herbs are also used to improve digestion.
Recommended product: Female Comfort.

The stories of women who have used herbs for irregular periods are not very exciting. Usually, they take the herbs and the herbs work. Results may come within a single month or, depending on the situation, up to a year.

Black cohosh has also helped balance hormones for women starting menopause and having irregular periods. Many of these women are annoyed to discover that while their discomforts go away, their periods come back-regularly until true menopause occurs.
Scientific research done on chaste tree berry (vitex) shows that it acts directly on the pituitary gland in the brain to increase LH (lutenizing hormone) and decrease FSH (follicle stimulating hormone). This explains its progesterone-like effect and its ability to promote more regular menstrual cycles.

In India, aloe vera juice is used as a female tonic. Studies show that it can help regulate menstruation.

Protein digesting enzymes such as protease and bromelain can promote menstruation. Plants that are high in these enzymes such as figs, ginger, papaya and pineapple are often listed as emmenagogues.

The course, Activating the Healing Response by Tree of Light Institute, recommends:




Short cycles, greasy skin and cravings for sweets

The following may be helpful:
Oregon grape, dong quai, dandelion, verbena and essential fatty acids (flax seed oil).



Long cycles, spotting before periods, and cramping pains

Consider:
Wild Yam & Chaste Tree and squaw vine. If the adrenals are exhausted, use adrenal tonics.

Sometimes, ovarian cysts can cause high levels of testosterone and irregular menstrual cycles. In these cases, the fatty sterols in saw palmetto berries inhibit the formation of dihydrotestosterone. This is the same benefit that men obtain in the prostate gland from saw palmetto.



Dysmenorrhea

Dysmenorrhea is the occurrence of painful menstrual periods with cramping. Although mild cramps may be tolerated, they can be extremely painful and debilitating and that is intolerable. Herbs for dysmenorrhea tend to be antispasmodics and may also be helpful for ovarian, labor and after birth pain. Asthma, muscle tension, vascular headaches, bowel spasms, adult colic, and even hiccoughs often respond to antispasmodics.

Cramp Relief is specifically formulated for relieving smooth muscle cramping. Cramp Relief includes cramp bark (its name says it all), wild yam (which not only relieves spasms but is anti-inflammatory), black cohosh (for hormonal balancing), lobelia (a truly powerful relaxer especially suited to intense spasms), and plantain (to relieve lymphatic congestion).

Magnesium is important for muscle cramps. Here is why.
When muscles contract, the process uses calcium. However, when muscles relax, the process requires magnesium. That is why magnesium is helpful for some circulatory problems where tight blood vessels restrict flow or tight heart muscles produce an irregular beat. It is best always to take a good quality calcium supplement that also provides magnesium; usually in a 2:1 ratio. Magnesium also inhibits the synthesis of an inflammatory prostaglandin.
Vitamin B6 is required to move magnesium into cells. It make sense to add supplemental B6 when having muscle cramps.

In the Caribbean, Morinda (Nature's Noni) is known as "Pain Killer Tree" and is used to relieve pain from a variety of causes including menstrual pain. You may want to experiment with using niacin when symptoms occur. In the 1950's Dr. Archibald Huggins reported using niacin successfully with 90% of 80 women who had debilitating menstrual cramps.

Female Comfort and FCS II with Lobelia are both formulated as "female correctives" and may be helpful.

Aromatherapy oils recommended for dysmenorrhea include geranium and Roman chamomile.




Menorrhagia

Menorrhagia is heavy menstrual flow that may require hourly attention.
If menstrual flow becomes unexpectedly and uncharacteristically heavy, it is a good time to consult a doctor. Starting a new program of heavy dieting or exercise may produce menorrhagia, but so might infections, blood clotting problems, and uterine polyps or fibroids.

Menstrual Reg
is a formula designed to help reduce heavy bleeding while balancing hormones and easing menstrual pain. It contains herbs that have a direct styptic or antihemorragic action, as well as herbs to balance hormones.

Yarrow, shepherd's purse, lady's mantle, and black haw all have a long history of helping to stop internal and external bleeding. As uterine tonics they may be expected to help tone and tighten weak tissues. Sarsaparilla, false unicorn, and chaste tree (vitex) are included to balance hormones. Nettle leaf is also nutritive and rich in iron.



Brusing easily or have varicose veins?

Vitamin C and the bioflavonoids are required to make collagen for strong connective tissue. When capillaries and blood vessel walls are weak, all manner of bleeding is more likely to occur-including capillaries in the lining of the uterine wall.
The B complex of vitamins, especially vitamin B12 are needed with iron to maintain healthy blood volume and quality. If blood loss is contributing to anemia, this needs special attention.

Excessive estrogens, produced by the ovaries during the first half of the menstrual cycle, may promote excessive growth of the uterine lining. Progesterone supplements such as WILD YAM EMOLLIENT may help moderate this imbalance. Also an active, healthy liver will help to keep estrogen levels under control.

Dong quai and black cohosh should be avoided for menorrhagia because they can increase menstrual action.



Liver Functions And Hormones Balance


Our livers perform an enormous variety of roles. One of the best-known is the detoxification of fat soluble poisons that we get into (or that get into us). One of the least-known liver functions is the destruction of hormones such as estrogens. Because estrogens promote cell growth, they are often involved in endometriosis, uterine fibroids and some breast problems. Herbalists typically treat this class of problems with "blood purifiers" which is an old-fashioned term for herb formulas that, as it happens, improve the liver's detoxification functions and promote the flow of bile from the liver.
And, while we are talking about increasing the flow of bile, is it just a coincidence that the same women who tend to develop menstrual problems also tend to develop gallbladder problems?




The Four Types of PMS

The hormones in our bodies are especially sensitive to diet and nutrition. PMS and menstrual cramping are not diseases, but rather, symptoms of poor nutrition.

Medical science recognizes four types of pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS). These correspond to distinct hormonal imbalances and can be helped with distinct sets of natural therapies.

A Anxiety type (PMS-A)
Produces anxiety, irritability, mood swings and nervous tension. It is associated with high estrogens and low progesterone. It is aggravated by general poor nutrition and often involves liver congestion.
Reduce consumption of fat and dairy products.
Use bitter liver herbs and formulas such as Liver Balance, Blood Build, and BP-X.
WILD YAM EMOLLIENT may be helpful.

Aromatherapy oils include Roman chamomile, lavender, and geranium.

C Craving type (PMS-C)
Produces food (especially sugar) cravings with headache, fatigue, dizziness, and palpitations. It is associated with low prostaglandins and low blood sugar.
Avoid table salt and eat smaller, more-frequent meals without simple sugars and starches. Licorice root, magnesium and Omega-3 oils from sources such as evening primrose oil may help.

For aromatherapy oils, consider ylang ylang.

D Depression type (PMS-D)
Produces depression, crying, forgetfulness, confusion, and insomnia. It is associated with low estrogens, high progesterone, and elevated aldosterone. Magnesium levels tend to be very low and nerve-damaging heavy metals, especially lead, may be high.
Nervine supplements such as Nutri-Calm, Stress-J, and Mood Elevator may help. If not taking Nutri-Calm, add B complex vitamins and maybe some extra vitamin B6.
Black cohosh and extra magnesium with 1-tyrosine may help.

Aromatherapy oils include clary sage, lavender, bergamot.

H Hyperhydration type (PMS-H)
Produces fluid retention with weight gain, breast tenderness, abdominal swelling and swelling of the hands and feet.
It is associated with elevated aldosterone. Diuretic herbs, including dandelion, parsley, and Kidney Activator (K) may reduce water retention.
Consider adding hormonally-active herbs and foods such as black cohosh, Phyto Soy, whole grains, and green leafy vegetables. Supplemental magnesium, vitamin B6 and vitamin E, and Omega-3 oils from sources such as evening primrose oil may help.

Aromatherapy oils include frankincense and lemon.




Menopause
The “Change of Life” by GayLynn Belliston

Menopause, or the “change of life,” is a natural process that occurs in most women between the ages of 40-60, and is perhaps the most dreaded time of her life. The ability to bear children ends, and this can be an emotional blow to a woman’s self-image and sense of femininity. This loss, combined with the pressures of our “youth-oriented” culture can make this transition even more difficult. Social scientists have shown that a woman’s mental attitude at menopause is strongly influenced by cultural expectations and societal support for her changing role.

At puberty, the female body begins a cycle of preparing for possible conception about every 28 days (on the average). This process is regulated by a continual change of balance between the hormones estrogen and progesterone. As these hormones begin to diminish, the body experiences a shift in balance and prepares for a new phase known as menopause (meno meaning month and pause meaning cessation).

So, menopause is a perfectly natural, normal state. Nature designed the system to protect the woman. When a safe and healthy pregnancy and delivery can no longer be assured, she is deprived of the ability to become pregnant. The ovaries stop ovulation and become less-active in producing sex hormones. So, menstruation eventually stops (this process can be immediate or could take several months of erratic periods). Along with these changes, the blood level of estrogen goes down which is the main cause of menopausal problems.

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Symptoms

  • achy joints
  • hot flashes
  • temporary and minor decrease
  • changes in sexual desire in the ability to concentrate or recall
  • extreme sweating
  • headaches
  • frequent urination
  • early wakening
  • vaginal dryness
  • mood changes
  • insomnia
  • night sweats
  • conditions commonly associated with PMS

A woman may have one, some, or none of these symptoms. Symptoms can be very unpredictable and disturbing if a woman does not know they are related to menopause.

Sources
Activating the Healing Response (a correspondence course), Tree of Light Institute, Inc., 2000
Understanding PMS, Sunshine Sharing, Vol. 12 No. 3., 2002
The Unauthorized Guide to NSP Products, Health Education Library Publications, 2002
Jill Stansbury, The use of botanical medicines to treat menstrual irregularities, Medical Herbalism, 9(3):l