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Hormonal harmony – it’s all about balance

Tired, stressed out and over it. Partners hiding kitchen knives, breasts so sore they feel as if they will burst. Sound familiar? I hear this story all the time from women who feel as if they are possessed by a demon for one week out of every four. I used to tell all those young women that the way they felt was “ normal”. I now realise how wrong I was.

Fertility hormones have the opportunity to create a wonderful gift for women. They also have the potential to create hormonal hell. Today we’re exploring the concept of estrogen dominance, and it’s effect on the modern woman.

Let’s strip away all the tears, irritability mood swings and sore breasts and see PMS for what it really is: Estrogen dominance.

Julie’s Story

I could tell by the way she walked into my office that there were big problems. Julie sat down and burst into tears, apologising for taking up my time. She then started to tell her story. Julie’s husband was at his wit’s end, and he had insisted on getting a second opinion on her situation, hence the appointment with me. He said he would do anything to have the old Julie back again. She had been to a couple of doctors who had done blood tests and said that her hormones were ‘normal’.

Julie described the struggle with her hormones over several years, since the birth of her third child. I asked her if there was any time of the month when things were OK. She replied that the only time her family gets a glimpse of that old Julie is for a few days just after her bleeding stops. “After that the nightmare starts all over again”.

Julie continued to tell me how the rage of irritability builds up to the point where she feels frightened of herself and can only imagine the effect her behaviour has on her children and husband. She has a good relationship with her husband, who she described as having the patience of a saint “but that patience is wearing very thin these days”.

I asked her if any other symptoms worried her in that second half of the cycle and she continued her story of hormonal havoc:

"My breasts get so sore and full that I can’t even go to gym. And I seem to be spotting for a few days before my period starts properly. It's much heavier than it was before I had the kids.

When I checked with her about her bleeding she confirmed what I had suspected. Her periods were now 6 days long, instead of her normal five days and she had to change pads every 2 to 4 hours on her heavy days.

Sometimes now I even have to get up during the night and change pads, otherwise …”

I asked to see her previous blood pathology results and asked her what part of her menstrual cycle the blood was taken. Julie replied that she didn’t recall, but thinks it was just after period time as she had just recovered from a particularly heavy bleed and a bad episode of PMS had prompted the doctor’s appointment.

After checking her over I sent her for more hormone testing, to be done precisely between day 18 and 22 of her cycle, when her PMS symptoms were at their worst.

Julie’s results confirmed what I had suspected. Her estrogen levels were pumping along too well. Day 21 levels were at 984, well over the upper range for that part of her cycle. And progesterone had failed to surge, leaving estrogen standing on centre stage dictating the beat of the dance.

PMS - It’s all about Estrogen Dominance

Understanding the concept of estrogen dominance goes a long way towards getting back into equilibrium.

It is a rare individual these days who is not acquainted with the phenomenon of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), either personally or in a female friend or relative. Fast forward from the cyclical terror of PMS to the potential nightmare of the menopausal syndrome. Both these conditions, so common in today’s society as to be considered ‘the norm’, are virtually unknown in the worlds more primitive cultures!

I remember talking to a parade of tearful younger women like Julie in my first few years out in medical practice. They would sit in my office chair and burst into a sobbing confession of how their lives are ruled by their menstrual cycle. Perfect angels just after the period and morphing into she-devils from mid cycle onward.

Sadly, back then, I used to listen carefully and then reassure them that they were ‘normal’. I had heard so many similar stories of hormonal transformation that I had falsely assumed this was their burden to bare. Of course, being a doctor I could offer them an amazing pharmaceutical panacea to all hormonal woes called the oral contraceptive pill. But in reality what these woman were suffering with is the demon of estrogen dominance.

Nowadays I can offer you so much more.

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