Throughout their lives, women often feel like they are at the mercy of their hormones.

Female sex hormones have many important effects on women’s health. They influence reproductive health, from menstruation to pregnancy to menopause and more. The levels of female sex hormones ebb and flow with the rhythm of her monthly menstrual cycle and throughout her lifecycle as she transitions from puberty through to menopause. Along the way, hormonal imbalances can many occur resulting in some of these common hormonal disorders:

Menstruation:
A typically healthy menstrual cycle is usually described as being 28 days long with menstruation (bleeding) occurring over a three to five day period. However, many women will experience menstrual cycles that are slightly shorter or longer. Irregular cycle length (less than 21 days or greater than 35 days), failure to menstruate, the duration of menstruation, the volume of blood (both heavy and light) and menstrual pain may be signs of hormone imbalance.

Pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS):
PMS is used to describe a number of symptoms that may be experienced in the weeks or days leading up to menstruation. These symptoms vary from woman to woman but may include mood changes (teary, irritable, anxious, sad), breast tenderness, lower back pain, acne, food cravings, bloating, brain fog, digestive upset, clumsiness, fluid retention, headaches and migraines, hot flushes and sweats, increases or decreased appetite and changes to sleep patterns. Between three to eight per cent of women suffer from a seriously debilitating form of PMS called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). The symptoms of PMDD affect a woman’s mental health state whereby she may not be able to carry out her normal activities. Women often feel like PMS symptoms are just part of being a woman but many women can find relief with supplemental, dietary and lifestyle interventions.

Endometriosis and Adenomyosis:
Endometriosis and adenomyosis are disorders that involve the proliferation of endometrial cells in areas of the body outside of the normally placed uterine lining. Endometrial tissue, irrespective of location, is influenced by the hormonal fluctuations of the menstrual cycle. For some women, these conditions can cause considerable pain and discomfort.

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS):
PCOS is a common endocrine disorder that is characterised with a failure to ovulate regularly, insulin resistance, hyperandrogenism and ovarian cysts. The symptoms of PCOS may include acne, facial and body hair, irregular menstrual cycles, weight gain, anxiety, depression and infertility. Women with PCOS can often manage the condition with dietary changes, exercise and weight loss (if relevant).

Peri-menopause:
Peri-menopause refers to the period of menopausal transition that precedes menopause. Peri-menopausal hormone changes generally begin when a woman is in her 30’s, with symptoms becoming more noticeable by her early 40s. The first signs of perimenopause are changes to the woman’s usual menstrual pattern, mood changes, PMS, fatigue, dizziness, headaches and migraines, weight gain, lower sex drive, increased body temperate and hot flashes, breast tenderness, vaginal dryness and urine leakage when coughing or sneezing.

Menopause:
Menopause means the permanent stopping of menstruation for at least 12 months. For most women, menopause is experienced in the early to mid-50s however premature menopause (usually induced for medical reasons) and premature ovarian failure can put women in the menopausal state before the age of 40. Menopausal symptoms include hot flushes, night sweats, heart palpitations, dizziness, headaches, insomnia, vaginal dryness, urinary frequency and incontinence, mood changes, poor memory and concentration, reduced skin elasticity, weight gain and increased sensitivity to stimulants such as alcohol and caffeine.

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