The 30-Day Natural Hormone Plan: Look and Feel Young Again - Without Synthetic HRT
By Erika Schwartz, M.D.
Life changes, expected or unexpected, sudden or planned, produce shifts in hormone levels. During these shifts, symptoms develop and alter life as a whole. Understanding the connection between life changes and hormone shifts is critical to being able to adjust lifestyle, diet, exercise, and stress management to weather the storms and keep the hormones from wreaking havoc in our lives.
The key to keeping yourself in good health is often found in the anticipation of hormone changes. Knowing what to expect when changes occur may actually allow you to help prevent disease. Even small changes in the hormone balance can create a cascading effect that batters your body and mind and leads to serious illness.
Hormone changes occur all the time. For this reason alone, we would have to measure hormone levels continuously to be able to evaluate their quantitative impact on our lives. To successfully survive hormone changes, we must learn to rely on self-awareness and high levels of understanding of how our bodies function and why and how we react to change.
For starters, it is of utmost importance to fully grasp the indelible connection between hormone changes and life experiences. Change—any kind of change—creates stress. Although we are highly evolved, our stress mechanisms are old. Stress, regardless of its cause, produces the same hormonal reaction in all humans every time, a reaction that is the same as our ancestors' who lived in caves and feared attacks from bison and bear.
Stress reactions involve instant release of a series of hormones. Whether the stressor is something exciting, like going out to an amusement park, or something scary such as hearing a strange noise in the middle of the night when you are home alone, the internal reaction is always the same. Adrenaline, and then Cortisol, the "flight or fight" hormones produced by the nervous system and the adrenal glands, are suddenly released. Other hormones quickly follow. The blood sugar level rises, the blood pressure is increased, your heart starts racing, and the body prepares itself to face or run from danger. Estrogen levels rise, and progesterone levels drop. The neurotransmitters fire, insulin levels spike, glucocorticoids flood the system, and blood rushes to the brain.
You are ready to fight or to run away. You get cold and clammy, you start to sweat, your palms are moist, your heartbeat is accelerating. Your thinking becomes cloudy. You start to hyperventilate.
You pass out, or you regroup and attempt to relax.
In time, if the stressor is not removed, or if you don't get used to it and stop reacting, the wear and tear on the body starts to show. Awash in Cortisol, adrenaline, estrogen, insulin, and many other hormones, your system starts to wear down. You get bloated and your periods become irregular, you get acne, lose your sex drive, and become an insomniac; your moods become unpredictable; you gain weight. Your immune system gets run down, your joints begin to ache, your thinking stays foggy, you get sick, and you grow prematurely old.
Sounds awful. Yet this is what happens if we don't understand how stress—and through it hormones—affects our bodies. Once we understand what happens inside our bodies and minds at times of stress and how all these changes are intimately connected to changes in our hormones, we can take steps, such as my 30-Day Plan, to protect ourselves and limit potential long-term damage.
Hormones and Environmental Stressors
Stress comes in many forms. It can come from your own body. If one organ isn't working properly, for instance, other organs become stressed out as well. But the greatest forms of stress come from outside our bodies. Much of the stress we experience every day comes directly from our environment. There are two kinds of environmental stressors that affect us: physical challenges and lifestyle changes.
The Challenges of the Environment
Since we know that everything affects our hormones, it's easy to understand that this includes everything in the environment— whether natural or human-made. Simply choosing where you live (or being born in a particular area) has a great effect on your hormones. For example, let's look at how geography affects age of onset of menstruation.
It is a well-known fact that girls who live in cold, northern climates typically start menstruating around age sixteen. Conversely, girls who live in warm climates around the equator and Tropics tend to begin to menstruate around the age of nine or ten In temperate climates, the average age for menstruation is thirteen.
Climate and seasonal changes bring changes to our hormonal systems. If you move from one extreme climate to another, for in-stance, you can expect that it will take a while for your hormone system to adapt and balance itself to the new environment. Even the changes from winter to summer can cause many women to experience sudden changes in their hormone balance. In my practice, there are patients I see only when the temperature changes. Some women find hot weather intolerable, while others love it. If a change in the weather brings a dramatic change in how you feel, don't ignore it. Be even more vigilant about starting and/or sticking to the principles of the 30-Dav Plan, or seek help from a health professional who is willing to comprehensively evaluate the reasons for your sudden hormonal change.