Hormones/Supplements (with Anne Digby)
Anne Digby is a women’s health specialist and Naturopath. She is also Founder and Chairperson of Journey Nepal Australia, an organisation that is assisting women in Nepal with fertility and birthing centres, and opened its first Women’s Educational Centre and refuge in November 2014 in Kathmandu valley. Visit www.journey-nepal.org for more information.
Lynda: If a women realises that her moods are changing, becoming a bit to and fro, that she feels sad or angry or ‘flat’ sometimes and the old tricks that used to spark her up aren’t working, what should she do?
Anne: First of all she needs to determine that it is hormonal in cause or whether it has some other cause. The main give away sign is that the symptoms will come for a few days (maybe a week or so) and then resolve for a week or so. If a woman is still having periods then the symptoms will tend to be obvious at around the same time of the cycle. If she’s not having a period then this can be less obvious. Usually hormonal symptoms will be least likely to occur in the week following the period – this is usually the ‘best’ week of the month for women having hormonal symptoms.
Lynda: What’s the primary reason for these changes in mood? Is it simply a change in hormone levels?
Anne: There are several reasons for the mood changes associated with menopause. It is primarily a change of hormone levels but it’s also when women are coming to terms with either their unfulfilled desire to have children or women with children are coming to terms with their children becoming adults and perhaps leaving home. There is also the aging aspect. Aging brings its own symptoms not associated with menopause but often these become more pronounced at menopause. I think one of the major causes of mood changes is fatigue and sleep disturbance. This can be caused by night sweats, worry/anxiety or could be insomnia. Addressing sleep is one of the most important aspects of treating mood changes, anxiety and irritability
Lynda: What do you generally prescribe for these hormone changes and related symptoms?
Anne: I have a series of different herbs that I tend to use. It’s a matter of trying one thing and seeing if it helps enough and if not, then trying another herb or formula. If a woman is still having a period then the first herb I try is Vitex agnus-castus – 2000mg each morning. This herb is very good for PMS symptoms and balancing female reproductive hormones – it’s also very good for anxiety, especially if the anxiety or other symptoms come and go cyclically. The second most helpful herb is wild yam. I usually use wild yam in combination with other herbs as a tablet. The dosage depends on the severity and duration of symptoms and I often start with a high dose and then when the symptoms are under control, I reduce the dose until we find the lowest effective dose. Wild yam is very good for adrenal function and stress/anxiety, and as a consequence it improves female hormone balance. If these herbs are not as effective as desired, then I use liquid herbs passionflower and zizyphus. These herbs work really well to improve sleep quality and reduce anxiety. They don’t work specifically on hormones but more on the nervous system.
Lynda: Are B vitamins a good idea also?
Anne: B vitamins are important to support the adrenal glands and because they are water soluble, you need to take them every day.
B vitamins come from the husk of whole grains, green leafy vegetables, meat/fish/poultry and nuts. They can be taken as a supplement and you get what you pay for – so buy a good quality one.