Hormone-related conditions

The subtle actions of hormones are quite powerful and affect every system in the body while operating quietly in the background. Hormonal balance is very important to maintain proper functioning and when an imbalance occurs, the effects can be quite disturbing. The adrenal, reproductive and thyroid glands, governed by sophisticated feedback systems, are most susceptible to hormonal changes. If things go awry, and excessive or insufficient levels of an hormone such as oestrogen are produced, it can result in problems with the menstrual cycle or result in fertility issues. Menopause too, brings many challenges as the hormonal shift can have quite dramatic effects on physical and mental wellbeing. Other hormonal imbalances can affect thyroid function, with an under-active or overactive thyroid causing marked changes in a person's condition.

Adrenal function is critical to how we respond to and manage particularly stressful situations. However if round-the-clock stimulation or stress becomes the norm, greater demands are placed on these glands. This will deplete the adrenal system and result in adrenal fatigue.

The interplay between the thyroid and the reproductive system is well known. For many women, thyroid problems do not manifest until around the time of the menopause. This is because oestrogen enhances the hormone that governs release of thyrotropin (TRH) and thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). These hormones are precursors to the production of T4 which in turn converts to T3, the best form for the body to use. When T3 levels become too low, it can result in an underactive thyroid.

Many symptoms that present to an herbalist such as fatigue, weight gain, hair loss, reduced libido, sleep disturbance and mood swings are common to both the menopause and an under-active thyroid. Given the close interplay between oestrogen and the thyroid, it is no surprise to find this overlap.

Herbs really come into their own in relation to hormonal imbalances as the normalising actions of what are often called ‘balancing’ or ‘adaptogenic’ herbs can address imbalances and restore proper function to the endocrinal system and by extension, affect related organs.

Design: Alan Davis