Hair loss & excessive facial hair

With declining progesterone levels in the 5 to 10 years prior to menopause, the body responds by producing alternative adrenal hormones which have some male like effects. The two most obvious results of this are male pattern baldness and facial hair. With progesterone, facial hair drops off within weeks, but hair on the head will take up to 6 months to grow.

Heavy periods

Heavy periods or menorrhagia is usually caused from a hormonal imbalance of progesterone and oestrogen. It is most common during perimenopause when woman are running low on progesterone as they ovulate less, but still have high or normal oestrogen levels. It is also common in young girls who have just started their periods where oestrogen has risen but progesterone remains quite low until ovulation starts around 18 months after the first show of blood. This is because progesterone is only produced at higher levels during ovulation.

Oestrogen is the hormone that stimulates the bloody lining of the uterus by multiplying and proliferating cells which causes it to grow and become thicker in preparation for a pregnancy in the first part of the cycle. Progesterone is the hormone that rises in the second part of the cycle and becomes the more dominate hormone after ovulation and ‘calms’ down the oestrogen and further refines the uterus ready to except an embryo. If there is no conception, then by about day 28 of the cycle both hormones drop which instigates the shedding of the uterine lining. Then the whole cycle starts again with oestrogen steadily rising and building up the uterine lining until about day 14 when ovulation normally occurs and progesterone is released at higher levels.

At any time during a woman’s menstrual life where oestrogen becomes more dominant than progesterone, over stimulation of the uterine cells can happen which can create heavy and clotty periods. The large clots and the increase in prostaglandin, which helps to eliminate them by increasing uterine contractions, can cause severe pain and discomfort.

In many of the cases where higher oestrogen levels are causing these symptoms, supplementing with a little progesterone can regain the balance and give relief within a few months. There are also herbal formulas which can speed up the process which can be used in the short term if necessary.

Hot flushes and night sweats

At present no one knows what causes hot flushes. Within the hypothalamus is our temperature controlling centre, it is thought that a sudden stimulus to this causes it to go out of control. The stimulus can be the result of a sudden drop in hormones, particularly oestrogen or testosterone or a rapid drop in the blood sugar levels. This can be further aggravated by hot drinks, coffee, wine and stressful situations. Although they are generally associated with women and the menopause, they can occur during puberty, or with removal of the testes because of cancer.

Adding back the hormones that are lacking can generally control hot flushes. Most women have found that using progesterone alone is all that is needed. This is because progesterone is the precursor to nearly all the other steroid hormones and can naturally bring them back to normal levels alleviating symptoms almost immediately. However, if oestrogen has dropped too low, progesterone may not be enough and a little supplement of natural oestrogen can help considerably.

This can be taken in the form of a phytoestrogen which must be of a particular type or, rarely, natural bio-identical oestrogen. Judy can give more information about safe, natural oestrogen supplementation if it is needed.

Hypothyroidism (Underactive thyroid)

The thyroid gland is situated in the neck and produces two hormones called thyroxine (T4) (an amino acid holding 4 iodine atoms) and triiodothyronine (T3) (an amino acid holding 3 iodine atoms) which regulate the metabolic rate of all the cells in the body. By links to the hypothalamus within the brain, they are released by the thyroid gland to increase energy. If the body’s metabolic rate is too low, the hypothalamus will send a message to the thyroid gland to increase its thyroid hormones. It does this by releasing a hormone called the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). This hormone stimulates the thyroid gland to produce more T4 and T3 in order to make more energy within the mitochondria of all cells.

Free serum T4 is approximately within a range of between 11 – 26 pmol/L and this is what is usually measured for a thyroid test. The serum TSH is also measured and the range is approximately between 0.35 – 4.5 mlU/L. The lower the TSH the better as constant high levels gives the message that not enough thyroid hormones are being produced.

The approximate normal range for serum T3 is 3.9 – 6.8 pmol/L. However, this is not usually tested for even though it is the most important thyroid hormone to be produced for energy. Before the mitochondria can increase the energy output of a body T4 must be converted to T3 first. So even if T4 is within normal range, if the conversion to T3 is hindered for any reason, then symptoms of hypothyroidism will normally be the result.

There are specific conditions that can affect the healthy function of the thyroid gland which can then produce too little or too much of the thyroid hormones. However, many women in peri or post-menopause suffer from underactive thyroid symptoms, but show levels within the normal range. They are usually on the lower and of the average range which can still create some symptoms of hypothyroidism which will not be treated by doctors. Naturopaths call this subclinical hypothyroidism and can support a patient with very effective natural treatments.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism:

  • Depression
  • Lack of energy
  • Unusual weight gain
  • Poor hair, nails and skin
  • Feeling cold
  • Mental sluggishness
  • Aches and pains
  • Digestive system problems
  • Constant feelings of hunger
  • Increased menopausal symptoms
  • Tendency for autoimmune disorders
  • Low libido
  • Difficult to get out of bed in the morning