‘The Art of Balancing your Life, by balancing your hormones.
–Dr.Divya Siju BAMS, MD
In modern world, many of us findourselves in a near constant state of stress. So we need to have our stress hormones released in quick spurts to help us get out of life or death trouble, but now a days,they get triggered too often and in too great quantities. We often have a version of fight-or-flight feelings in every day circumstances.So stress is at the root of most of the women’s health concerns. It sets off hormonal imbalance and causes “praana”(the life force) to stagnate. Thus women’s problems are rooted in hormonal imbalance. This can lead to everything from menstrual cramps and menopausal concerns to very serious illness.
Women in all ages, at one stage have to go through any one or more of the following.
1. Painful periods
2. Mood swings,
6. Uterine fibroids
7. Hot flashes
8. Heart diseases
Modern medicine emphasize the separate domains and functions of various kinds of hormones in the body. But the Ayurveda emphasize the context with in which they exist and how they relate to each other.
So major hormones affect are,
2. stress hormones
The balance of both gives the following
· Plenty of energy
· Deeper sleep
· Healthier menstrual cycle
· Happier dispositions
· Easier menopause
· Healthier hearts
· Stronger bones etc much…. Much more.
When stress is experienced (self induced or otherwise, our body releases an extra stress hormone until the danger resolves itself. Thus throwing off our hormonal balance. So whole life is stressful and thus the imbalance become chronic.
So healing begins when we start to live the life we really want to be living.
So naturally stress reduces, and in turn reduces the stress hormones in the blood stream. When it is balanced ,sex hormones get balanced, so we will experience well being from Balanced hormones.
Modern woman mistakes the feeling of being under stress for having energy.
But Ayurveda has a different concept about the energy, it is the “praana“,The life force
To nourish praana,
· Freshly cooked food that agrees with hormones
· Breathing clean air
· Keeping good company
v This will increase balance in life
v Also bring equanimity in hormonal levels which will makes her happy with an uninterrupted flow of” praana “.
It is one thing to go through a crunch period of high stress for a day, a week, a month, even two months, which happens to all of us and we can tolerate it for a year or two.
When we go through stress full time we survive them by living “on credit”, borrowing from our reserves of good health .when the stressful time passes we re-group and rebuild.
Trouble arises when stress is prolonged and our reserves become too depleted, so that no resources to combat . This effect of excess Stress results in the over abundance of stress hormones, out weighs the nourishing effect of sex hormones . It leads to break down of bone ,skin, muscle, brain tissues. When we start feeling seriously off,it needs serious repair. The hope that we can regain the health, is an up hill climb.
So it is easier to maintain our health than to regain it.
Daily needs of energy out pace the daily intake of energy. So that it needs a dip in to her reserves, which depletes her core nourishment, it needs bailouts.
Mechanism of hormonal imbalance
When there is more stress, release more stress hormones, which induce hyper vigilance of nervous system, it makes it to hypersensitive and makes the benign events to critical. Again the secretion of more stress hormones. This produces over saturation of cells causing a hormonal imbalance . It gives a false belief, that we need more than we afford .so we put ourselves under stress, and slowly we become habituated. So we will not realize that its not our natural state.
May be we know intellectually and physically that we need a change but we don’t know how to stop running, pushing over reaching ourselves. We afraid if we stop, some thing terrible will happen, so keep going and our hormonal balance become the victim .
· Head ache
· Irritable bowels
· Hot flashes
· Feeling tightness in the chest….
Are we talking about you?
1. Do you jump when phone rings?
2. Feel anxiety about checking your messages?
3. Do you dwell on the many things that could go wrong later?
4. Do you commonly feel anxiety, stress or worry for no particular reason? Or For any reason? Or about family members?
5. Do you have panic attacks?
6. Are you exposed to any environmental pollutants or things like smelly paints ,plastics, industrial plants, city pollutions, new Construction works.?
7. Menstrual cycle and associated problems, head aches, mood swings, acne, bloating, constipation, heavy or scanty bleeding, painful cramping, irregular periods, pain at ovulation, or bleeding between cycles.
8. Synthetic hormone therapy of any kind like birth control pills, fertility drugs, hormone replacement therapy for menopausal symptoms .
9. Hot flashes, insomnia, palpitations, thyroid troubles, low immunity .
If the answer is yes, you have hormonal imbalance. Show courage to stop, stop running, stop pushing, stop trying to please everyone one, stop out spending our reserves.
When we do, world do not crash. On the contrary if we take little step to slow our pace and have more time, life becomes more enjoyable, even easier, and become confident to slow down further.
The down ward cycle becomes an upward spiral that gain more momentum and delivers us in to a life saturated with more joy than stress, more meaning than emptiness, more health than disorder.
First step in achieving hormonal imbalance is to understand it. There are two easy to understand categories of hormones which have already described.
Three pillars which supports health and happiness are,
2. Life style and exercise
3. Stress management .
changing habits to regain health is not easy nor it is complicated or hard, but it really works, so that we can avoid drug and surgery and the related complications, side effects ,which will end up in more trouble than you started out with.
According to journal of American medical Association, in 2002, in US hospitals alone as many as 106000 people were dying as a direct result of adverse reactions to properly prescribed drugs. This doesn’t includes death by,
1. Properly performed surgery
2. Poorly performed surgery,
3. Or poorly prescribed drugs.
so this data’s may violate “do no harm “part of Hippocratic oath. They are routinely used as first response strategies, rather than using Style, diet and less invasive tools.
In the original Hippocratic oath, along with doing no harm, swears “to prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgement”. And Ayurveda is all about healthy regimen. There are certainly appropriate times for surgical or pharmacological intervention and natural herbs and remedies. We lean on them too often when we could achieve better results with life style and dietary changes.
Sex hormones and stress hormones are often misunderstood. It can be understood easily through vata, pitta, kapha .First differentiate the effect of excess stress and poor nourishment ,(ie” santharpana or brimhana “and apatharpana or langhana “),then we can change the direction of our lives. It configures the quagmire of hormonal information in to a construction that is easily navigated and feel, surprisingly like common sense.
As we get in to the story of how hormones control health, it will be much simpler to understand hormones than to memorize the names of hundreds of hormones and role of each hormone plays.
Any time you take a pill to cure one thing ,you cause some thing else to shift and risk getting side effects. As a culture, we often ignore the fundamental causes of health and illness, and focus Instead on how to fund to drugs and surgery.
Our health care system spent for medical care, 95% was used to treat disease, not to prevent it. Gives more attention to disease, than to health.
Easy to maintain health, than to regain it.
“Foolish, the doctor Who despises the knowledge acquired by the ancients. “-Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine.
Although Ayurveda doesn’t explain and name each hormones, it gives us a comprehensive context in which, to understand how they work. It explains the fundamental causes of hormonal imbalance and the remedies for restoring it, we will simply optimise their environment through changes in the nutrition and life style, and our hormones will shift in response.
Balancing our hormones is crucial to regaining full health. These are responsible for mental and physical balance. Each is secreted in one part of our body, travels to another part and influences it to do what ever the body needs to achieve its equilibrium in the moment.
Hormones enter the cells of every tissues in our bodies and brains, affect both physical and mental well-being. Some hormones (stress hormones kick our bodies and mind ,others which are the dominant sex hormones (oestrogen and progesterone), lead us to calm our minds and slow down, so our bodies can replace depleted energy.
Stimulate monthly recreation of uterine lining and production of breast milk after giving birth.
Increasing blood pressure which helps to leap into action.
So both have relations, that reflects the duality present in physiology, each supports each other.
We can see these 2 factors can be easily understood by understanding 2 entities explained in Ayurveda and they are “santarpana“(nourishing principle) and “apatarpana“(reducing principle).
Nourishing and building principle
Energising, motivating and and activating principle
Factors like meditation, sleeping, getting massage ,drinking milk are santarpana
Factors like driving car, making deals, playing sports, multi tasking, drinking coffee, eating spicy food etc are apatarpana.
The qualities of the santarpana factors are cool, dark, slow ,soft ,substantial, stable, moist, Tranquil
Qualities are hot, bright, fast, mobile, day, energetic, aggressive
Manifest as substances of body, and calms the mind.
Motivating metabolism, transformation, active functions of body and mind.
So the stress hormones are apatarpana in action and sex hormones are santarpana.
Every human being has a life force ( vital energy or “praana”) which is the manifestation of santarpana factors. And are manifested through all the nourishing fluids that circulate in our bodies. So if both principles are balanced, “praana” is balanced .It flows smoothly and we have sufficient nourishing fluids, to irrigate our tissues and deliver nutrition to them. We receivsantarpana factors from food, drink, and emotional comfort.
They digests these received factors. Transforms and organizes in to biologically useful substances such as blood and bone also removes the rest as waste .Apatarpanagunas not only provide the energy for metabolic process but for clarity of mind and happiness too. Also transforms information to knowledge and knowledge to wisdom.
And when two factors are out of balance and cannot re-balance themselves, the crisis ensures.
When we see the sex hormones and stress hormones or other physiological opposites that coexist for mutual benefit, we can see that there is a tremendous intelligence at work. Every cell in our body, as well as in greater universe, has to have a balance in both principles to function well.
If both are out of balance, the cell as well as the organism must regain the balance to thrive. If they have good balance, we feel healthy. When we have optimal amount and quality of “reducing principle “we have sufficient “praana” to feel energized, confident and focused and engaged. And what we eat are effectively transformed to blood, tissue,energy etc.
If we have insufficient “principle “our praana become depleted and we may feel fatigued ,scattered, track off, chilly, out of sync or out of sorts and with out enough reducing principle, the body’s garbage disposal also becomes out of order. We may encounter any no. of other uncomfortable symptoms that accompany insufficient reducing factor. If we have too much reducing factor, leading to excessively fast, hard, hot or aggressive energy, leads to migraines or ulcers or feel manic, restless or energy less. When such expressions possesses over bodies and minds,”praana” becomes stagnant, increasing irritability, restlessness or pain. If optimal santarpana present feel fulfilled, nourished, content physically, emotionally and spiritually. Menstrual flow is appropriate, sleep is sound and replenishing. In Excess santarpana feel bloated, heavy, overweight, lethargic, stuffed up. If we do not have enough of santarpana’s cool ,soft, moist and tranquil properties, we get hot flashes, feel emotionally isolated or fearful, or experience physical dryness or insomnia. We may become anaemic ,weak, scanty periods ,experience dizziness. If both principles are off, we feel hot one minute, cold the next and have weight fluctuations, bone loss or mood swings.
In our bodies these two principle energies manifest on a deep physiological levels as hormones. Women’s dominant sex hormones like oestrogen and progesterone have a predominantly “santarpana “influence in the body, where as stress hormones like adrenaline or cortisol, have a predominantly” apatarpana ” influence.
Ayurveda teach us, we are affected physically and emotionally by every quality with which we come in to contact. The general rule is “like increases like”.
Women’s dominant sex hormones serve to lubricate, nourish, build us. They are “santarpana”.Among different sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone are considerd. Estrogen is more santarpana than progesterone.
Provides nourishment, lubrication and beauty. While progesterone is more apatarpana than oestrogen leading to dance and providing balance to extreme apatarpana. Estrogen is a wet, nourishing, ultimate juicy hormone responsible for female sexual characteristics and stimulates the growth of uterine lining and every single tissue of body have been found to contain oestrogen.
Many kinds of oestrogen, mainly 3,
Their glands of origin
Produced in the ovaries and in adrenals.
Most potent of 3 hormones
After 50’s and removal of ovaries, adrenals will produce some (To provide the bio chemical pre- cursors that our bodies can use to synthesis estrogen.)
Produced by placenta during pregnancy, by fat tissue (in less amount). This is the major estrogen for post menopausal women, even though they may not grow placenta, but the liver can transform estron in to estradiol and vice versa.
Produced by placenta and liver (less amount), so called pregnancy estrogen not a major player after menopause. Progesterone, testosterone and other hormones can serve as estrogen producers. These precursor hormones are synthesised in the overis
Are synthesized in the ovaries, renal glands, and throughout the entire body in fat, bones, muscles, skin, brain, and other tissues. Thus they continue to provide oestrogens after menopause. So it is possible for an overweight women to have more oestrogenafter menopause than a thin woman.
To make oestrogen we also require aromatase and oestrogen receptors. Aromatase is an enzyme that can instantaneously transform even precursor hormones like testosterone, in to oestrogen. Like estrogen aromatase decreases after menopause, but is also become more potent. And it is also widely available in the body.
Although they decline after menopause, they are also found through out the entire body,bcoz every one of our cells needs nourishment. So can we imagine a shortage of oestrogen in our body? Yes, the issue is not that we are not producing, but they are either insufficient to balance the effect of stress hormones on the body or are even being sacrificed in our body’s attempts to fuel or high levels of stress.
EFFECTS OF REDUCED ESTROGEN
1. Vaginal dryness
2. Dry skin
3. Hot flashes
4. Night sweats
EFFECTS OF EXCESS ESTROGEN
1. Gain weight
2. Feel lethargic
3. Get depressed
4. Lose our libido
5. Develop fibrocystic or tender breast
6. Retain water,
7. Get uterine fibroids
8. Increased chance of breast or endometrial cancer.
Good And Bad Estrogen
The estradiol is the most potent estrogen, which is then converted to good estrogen 2 hydroxyestron or toxic estrogen 16 alpha hydroxyestrone. Good estrogen May help prevent cancer, but bad estrogen can greatly increase its risk.
It is produced in the outer portion of the adrenal glands.
1. Controls the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins
2. Fight against infections
3. important role in blood sugar balance, immune response, thinking and other healthy functions.
Effect of excess hormones
1. Risk factor fordepression
2. Osteo porosis by blocking progesterone’s ability to support bone density.
3. Weight loss (through muscle wasting)or gain (by hindering the optimal function of insulin).
4. Problems in the cardio vascular system
5. High BP
6. Host of other issues in women’s health.
7. Protein breakdown, leads to muscles wasting
8. Weakened immune system ( May cause recurring infections, especially of respiratory system,cancers ,increased blood sugaretc)
Effects of lower cortisol levels
There’s a strong link between increased cortisol and depression and solid evidence of lower bone mineral density in women with increased cortisol.
Like other stress hormones, cortisol is released in response to any real or perceived stress be it physical or emotional upset, mental strain and the presence of a threat to life. Once cortisol has been released in to the system, hard to get rid of it. It is released more slowly than adrenaline and lingers longer in the body. Once it has entered our system, it remains active long after the real or perceived crisis has past.
When We are under chronic or extreme stress ,any available resources are allocated to supporting the body’sstress response instead of it’s reproductive function, so progesterone is also used to make cortisol.
This system might work as a short term arrangement ,but for many of us it becomes a way of life.
Little by little we deplete both our Sex hormones and our stress hormones. Then all the endocrine glands are at risk, and this is true at any age, but is especially pronounced during And after menopause.
When we lack enough of this stress hormones,our sex hormones are transferred to stress hormones.
If a woman is pregnant,this transmission is taking place from her developing child. Studies have shown that an unborn baby’sadrenal glands may enlarge substantially in- Utero to supply it’s mother with the stress hormones that her body is demanding.
If a child is born with already over taxed adrenal glands Ayurveda would suspect that she may have a naturally lower tolerance for stress and be especially prone to a hyper sensitive nervous system and its related hormonal dysfunction from her day of birth onward.
Too much cortisol circulating in the body leads to overall hormone resistance including thyroid resistance. And also hinders the optimal function of many other essential hormones such as sex hormones.
DHEA: Natural Antidote
Just as estrogen is balanced by progesterone, cortisol’s main balancing partner is DHEA. It serves to buffer balance or antidote increased cortisol.
OXYTOCIN AND PROLACTIN: BONUS BUFFERS
They provide aid in damage control by counter acting the effects of excess cortisol.
Both naturally occur in both men and women, but found higher in women which allows us to have different options for stress response than men. Low levels of oxytocin are associated with major depression. Prolactin may reduce fear and anxiety and induce calmness, it buffers the effects of stress.
FOR A BETTER LIFE
Living a life that has a good balance between nourishment And activity,leads to balanced hormone levels before, during and after menopause.
Ayurveda is the only life science which explains very extensively about the importance of following
· Healthy deit
· Regimens and life style
· Importance of keeping the normalcy of “praana”,through spiritual practices , meditation, praanayama( alternate nostril breathing), practicingyoga,exercises that focus on the smooth movement of praana like kalarippayattu(a form of martial art),that emphasizes and support the free and easy movement of praana around thebody and doing “abhyanga”(warm oil massage).
· Focusing on our relationship withpraana and encouraging its free movement.
It is not that we are suffering now and we can enjoy life later. We are suffering now and we will suffer for it later too.
Simply put,our hormonal activity reflects the level of satisfaction we have with the choices we have made and the lives we are living, they are inextricably linked.
Dr.Divya Siju BAMS, MD
Sreepathy Ayurveda Clinic