Having hundreds of conversations with women about hormonal wellness throughout my career has taught me SO MUCH! One thing that comes to my attention again and again is that many women have come to believe things about their hormones that aren’t true. Its not our faults! Social influences, marketing, and misinformation spreading like wildfire via the internet can set us up to feel overwhelmed and possibly confused about our physiology, making it difficult to make sound decisions about our healthcare. I’ve found that a bit of clarity about this foundational aspect of our health makes a world of difference, so let’s dive right into debunking some of the most common myths about women’s hormones!
Myth #1: We don’t need to worry about our hormones until menopause is looming.
Many times, when I tell young women that I focus on women’s hormonal wellness in my practice, they say something like, “That will be good to know once I reach that age,” or “My mom could really use that.” We’ve come to believe that hormones really only need our attention once the inevitable hot flashes are already running our lives.
The truth is that hormonal production & balance are foundational aspects of our health from the moment we are conceived until the day we die. They are powerful, biological chemicals produced by our endocrine glands that initiate cellular actions as well as help regulate, control, and coordinate body functions. They affect everything!
- I’ve worked with young women in their teens experiencing hormonal challenges like heavy or irregular periods, acne, turbulent mood shifts, or trouble focusing in school.
- Women in their twenties who don’t feel well while taking hormonal birth control options have sought me out to help them either find alternatives or support them in reducing the side effects.
- Women either wanting to prepare for a healthy pregnancy, or are experiencing fertility challenges, greatly benefit from assessing & supporting hormonal production in a holistic way. Postpartum recovery is another time that hormonal wellness plays a big role in how we feel & how much we can relax and enjoy what should be a beautiful, special time in our lives.
So, what’s the theme here? It’s never too early to talk about or support our hormonal harmony!
Take a step back look at it like a wellness timeline. Our hormonal health in utero, as a child, and an adolescent sets the stage for our hormonal experiences as cycling women & during pregnancy, and those experiences depict what our menopausal time may look like. The way that we care for ourselves as young women has everything to do with how we’ll be feeling into our golden years. Let’s set that example for the young women in our lives!
Myth #2: “The pill” regulates hormones.
- I know of many women who were put on a form of hormonal birth control in their early teens simply because they had acne or irregular periods. Some of them have stayed on them for up to 15-20 years and wonder what their natural cycles would even be like with it.
- I’ve worked with women who were prescribed birth control in their twenties for uncomfortable PMS symptoms, cramping or heavy bleeding during their periods.
- I know women who were put on birth control in their late forties at the first signs of perimenopause like hot flashes or irregular periods.
All of these prescriptions have something in common: they were written in the name of “regulating hormones”. It’s helpful to first understand the way that hormonal birth control options work. They are made of synthetic hormones unlike our own that are introduced in amounts and at times that are not natural for our bodies in order to fool our systems into thinking we are already pregnant so that we won’t ovulate. Because this disrupts our natural production of hormones it “confuses” our endocrine systems more than it actually “regulates” them. Women can see a temporary reduction in some of their symptoms, but because of the stress they put on our hormonal systems, I’ve clinically seen many of these symptoms reappear with a vengeance over time, along with new ones.
Let me just say that I am in no way anti birth control. I am pro women having all the information so that they can make informed decisions about their bodies. I know when I was first introduced to “the pill” as a young woman I was not really familiar with the possible side effects. I didn’t realize it could have accumulative effects on my body like nutrient depletion and causing disruption in my hormonal system that could last longer than I chose to be on “the pill”. I think if more women had the whole story and understood that there are other, more natural options to help regulate & balance hormones, it would not be as common for women to be experiencing fertility challenges and difficult menopausal times.
If a woman does decide that a hormonal birth control option like “the pill” or an IUD is right for her, then she should know that there are many holistic tools that will help buffer & reduce the accumulative side effects.
Myth #3: Hormonal balance is not important after menopause.
Remember when I said that hormones initiate cellular actions as well as help regulate, control, and coordinate body functions? Well they do that after menopause as well! This means that they effect foundational aspects of our health like cellular development & repair, energy, sleep, mood, inflammation, stress response, blood sugar stability, and bone density for the rest of our lives! Aspects of health that we assume just decline because of the aging process can also often be tied to hormonal insufficiency or imbalance, so when post-menopausal women reach out to me with frustrating health problems like bone loss, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, chronic bladder or vaginal infections, or memory difficulties I suggest we test hormones as a part of the initial evaluation.
Every woman should know that we are fully capable of producing enough of our hormones during perimenopause, after menopause, and for the rest of our lives! What do you think women did before hormone replacement therapy (HRT)? Its true that there are more physical obstacles than ever these days that make it harder to maintain hormonal harmony after menopause, but once we identify those obstacles and give our bodies the nourishment & support we need, there should be no need for hormone replacement therapy for most women. Revolutionary thought, right?
It’s true, bioidentical hormones are a HUGE improvement upon their synthetic & horse hormone derived counterparts. There are examples of times when bioidentical HRT can be helpful, like immediately following a complete hysterectomy to aid in the transition or if a woman is experiencing adrenal depletion that is not responding to holistic therapies. This being said it is not an ideal long-term approach for most women. Supplementing with bioidentical hormones slowly weakens the gland that should be making them naturally, and they are often given in larger than physiologic doses & not monitored efficiently which is stressful on the whole hormonal system therefore the whole body.
If you are feeling inspired to get off HRT you never want to go cold turkey! This can cause undue stress on your body and therefore unnecessary symptoms. Ain’t nobody got time for that! Reach out to me or another practitioner who is familiar with how to support your body through that transition so that we can work with your prescribing doctor to do it in an optimal way.
I hope this sheds some light on some of the most common hormone misconceptions! We deserve to have all the information about these amazing, beautiful bodies we live in! Please reach out if you have any questions : )
China Rose Zamora is a nutritional therapist, clinical herbalist, & yoga teacher who has worked in the holistic health field for 20 years and has proudly served her community as China Rose Wellness since 2009. When she’s not coaching women to rise to their health potential, practicing herbal alchemy, traveling the country via mobile tiny house teaching inspirational workshops to demystify wellness, or co-facilitating transformational retreats with her-eco warrior partner in adventure, you can find her meandering on the nearest hiking trail or jammin’ at a local, live music venue. China Rose is a firm believer that wellness encompasses everything that nourishes us, body & soul!