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In women it is important that the balance between oestrogen and progesterone is maintained.  An imbalance may cause a host of symptoms and disease.  Excess oestrogen called oestrogen dominance is associated with increased risk of breast cancer, fibroids, ovarian cysts, endometriosis and PMS.  Early warning symptoms of oestrogen dominance include PMS, depression, loss of sex drive, sweet cravings, heavy periods, weight gain, breast swelling and water retention.10

Oestrogen dominance can be brought on by exposure to oestrogenic substances, or a lack of progesterone; or a combination of both.  Today we find more oestrogen dominance together with the related symptoms because oestrogenic compounds are found in meat and dairy products as the animals are hormone fed; in many pesticides and the breakdown of such products such as DDT and Vincloxaline; and in soft plastics where the oestrogen leeches into food when it is used for packaging.  Hormones are readily dispensed as oestrogen is found in most birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy (HRT).10

Progesterone is produced in the sac that contains the ovum and is secreted once the ovum is released. Should a woman not ovulate, no progesterone will be produced.  If no progesterone is produced there will be an oestrogen dominance.  Stress produces cortisol from the Adrenal glands which competes with progesterone and more and more women are found to be “stressed out” trying to cope with work and financial pressures as well as running a family.

Symptoms such as depression, tension, headaches, breast tenderness, water retention, bloating, low energy and irritability occuring pre-menstrually were thought to be the result of hormonal changes. Yet research done at the Institute for Optimal Nutrition in the UK found that following a strict no-sugar, no-stimulant diet, while eating complex carbohydrates or fruit, little and often, can relieve symptoms of PMS altogether.  In another group a supplemental program of Vitamin B6, zinc, magnesium and GLA’s (gamma linolenic Acid) had a substantial improvement of 55-85%.10

“Doctors have now invented a scenario in which the menopause is an illness and woman are naturally “missing” a vital hormone at a certain age. The widely viewed opinion is that women weren’t meant to live past about 45, our bodies begin sputtering then because they are in effect, past their sell-by date.  They obviously never walked in 17th century graveyards to see that if people survived infectious diseases, they had a good chance of living out their three score years and ten.”9

Menopause results from a falling off in the production of the female hormones, oestrogens and progestogens. As these hormones diminish, the body will eventually adjust to the lower level.  Many women experience some symptoms of menopause such as hot flushes; night sweats; tiredness, headaches, irritability, depression, joint pains, vaginal dryness; cervical, vaginal and uterine atrophy; and lack of libido.  These symptoms may occur for a few months, up to 18 months.

An increased need for replacement therapy may arise as a result of oestrogen-sensitive cells in the body, continually being blasted with high doses of hormones such as the early use of oestrogens to control PMT; or, as included in the Pill; or, in Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT); or, intake of oestrogenic substances.  Once affected these cells may lose the ability to respond.

HRT employs artificial or “natural” oestrogens and progestogen to trick the body into thinking it is still pre-menopausal, in order to postpone, reduce or eliminate the symptoms of the change. These days HRT is marketed as having a complement of added benefits to treating menopause and future diseases such as heart disease, osteoporosis, stroke and senile dementia.

“The latest study of HRT and osteoporosis shows that women taking the drug for 10 years are not protected any more than those not taking any drugs, as soon as women stop the drug, even after a decade of use, bone mineral density catches up in its rapid decline, so that by age 75 it is virtually the same as it is in women who have never taken the drug.  One large scale review of 31 studies on osteoporosis concluded that oestrogen didn’t have a significant benefit in slowing the onset of osteoporosis. Another found it didn’t strengthen bones in women even when they had used it for 16 years.  As regards heart disease, data on mortality from coronary heart disease shows that there is no acceleration in coronary heart disease in women after the age of 50. It has also been found that women with heart disease didn’t have lower levels of oestrogen than those with healthy hearts.”9

Without all these claimed benefits, all HRT offers is a list of potentially fatal side-effects.  Women taking HRT orally may experience a number of gastro-intestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, bloating – and may even develop jaundice.  HRT is associated with the added risk of breast and endometrial cancer.

Many nutritional doctors, including those with great experience in treating women during the menopause, argue that the kind of menopause you experience, like your degree of morning sickness or PMT, simply reflects your nutritional state. They believe that a difficult menopause is a “deficiency disease”  but not of oestrogen. The root of the problem is deficiency in one of a number of vital micronutrients, food intolerance, or inefficient function of certain organs.9

According to Dr Ellen Grant, author of Sexual Chemistry: “Hot flushes are not a sign of oestrogen deficiency  .. but a result of allergic reaction.  Flushes are similar to headaches, migraine and rises in blood-pressure.”  John Mansfield, a British allergy specialist concurs that many menopausal symptoms are related to food sensitivity: “Once we put women on an elimination diet, the severe symptoms stop.  In some cases, we find that women have a candida albicans overgrowth.” Patrick Kingsley another nutritional specialist  finds that a wholefood diet and supplement programme helps relieve many menopausal symptoms.

Dr Grant suggests avoiding calcium mega doses as they interfere with the absorption of zinc and iron, and that menopausal women take 500mg of Magnesium, 30mg of Zinc, 3mg of Boron, which help the body make its own oestrogen;  and at least 10mg of mangnese and 1mg of vitamin C daily. If accelerated bone formation is desired you also need Vitamin K, Vitamin D, Folic Acid, 50-100mg of B6, essential fatty acids and “first class proteins”.   Dr Kingsely says the idea that women get old and haggard after the menopause is “absolute rubbish”. Although there is slightly more oestrogen diminuation after menopause, the body is still producing it from the Adrenal glands.

Rhubarb and hops both contain oestrogen-like hormones, known as phytoestrols, which have been shown to relieve menopausal symptoms.  Soya beans and soya products – such as tofu and miso are also a good source of oestrogen.  Other sources of phytoestrols include anise, celery, fennel, ginseng, alfalfa, red clover and liquorice.

A reason why the West may be plagued with Osteoporosis is our tendency to eat excessive amounts of protein.  As calcium is needed to metabolize protein; a high-protein diet means calcium is constantly leeched from bones.

From the point of view of Traditional Chinese Medicine, oestrogen and progesterone imbalances and their associated symptoms as well as the side-effects of HRT (such as depression, irritability, mood swings, sleep disorders, metabolic disorders, digestive problems, darkened facial pigmentation, breast pain, lumps, sexual dysfunctions, cervical or vaginal problems, candida, and osteoporosis) all reflect an imbalance in the wood element. Interestingly all the mentioned symptoms occur along the meridian pathways of the wood organs of the gallbladder and liver.

The wood element is responsible for nutrition of the body, mind and spirit from an energetic intake provided by food, water, sunshine, air, and positive thoughts. Thus, if there is an imbalance along one of the wood element meridians, it can be said that there is an imbalance in energetic and nutritional intake.  Therefore TCM can be said to be in agreement with the previous statements made about oestrogen and progesterone imbalances being due to an imbalance in nutritional intake brought about by lack of adequate nutrition; nutrition being tainted with artificial hormones either directly in the food or from leeching of oestrogens from packaging;  and artificial additives which cause allergic reactions in the body.  It is therefore recommended to address these imbalances when treating the symptoms of hormone imbalances.


4.     International School of Reflexology & Meridian Therapy
       Study Notes 2003

9.    What Doctors Don’t Tell You by Lynne McTaggart,
       ISBN 0-7225-3024-2, pages 161-182

10.  The Optimum Nutrition Bible by Patrick Holford,
       ISBN0-7499-1855-1 pages 215 – 219

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