A healthy menstrual cycle generally reflects a healthy lifestyle. Changes in mood, along with symptoms of pain and discomfort associated with menstruation, are too often accepted as ‘just a normal part of being a woman’. Nevertheless, despite being common, if and when symptoms do arise, they should be viewed for what they are – a system out of balance, and as such, not something that needs to be endured. The symptoms should be addressed and resolved once the underlying causes of the imbalance are identified and treated. Take our Health Appraisal Questionnaire to identify the areas of your health you may need support with.

Hormone shifts through life

As a woman progresses through life, her menstrual cycle will typically change in response to changing levels of reproductive hormones. These changes can bedivided into 4 stages

First period (Menarche)

Most girls will start menstruating somewhere between the ages of 10 to 15, and sometimes even younger. During the first few years the cycle may be irregular or heavy as the body adjusts normal monthly hormonal ƒfluctuations.

Reproductive years

As a woman reaches her reproductive age, the timing of ovulation and menstruation should be fairly regular.


This can refer to a period of time between 2 to 12 years prior to menopause occurring. It is a time of fluctuating estrogen levels, where the menstrual cycle begins to change. The cycle may become heavier or lighter, shorter or longer. Though many women transition to menopause very smoothly, it is not uncommon for some women to experience a wide range of symptoms and menstrual disturbances during this time, including hot flushes, sleep disruption and night sweats.


Menopause is a point in time when a female has gone 12 consecutive months without a menstrual period. It marks the end of the reproductive years. On average, menopause is reached at around age 51. Take our Hormone Questionnaire to identify if you may need assistance fromour experienced Adelaide naturopath to transition through menopause with optimal health.

Post Menopause

This is the name given to the time after you haven’t had a period for an entire year (or the rest of your life after menopause). During this stage, menopausal symptoms, such as hot flushes, may begin to improve. However, some people continue to experience menopausal symptoms for a decade longer after the menopause transition. As a result of a lower estrogen level, women in the postmenopausal phase are at an increased risk for several health conditions, such as osteoporosis and heart disease.

Causes of hormonal imbalance

  • Stress – the stress hormone ‘cortisol’ is made from the same foundational structure (hormone precursors) as many of your reproductive hormones. When you are under stressful conditions, the available hormone precursors are turned into cortisol instead of estrogen and progesterone, leading to an imbalance that can cause irregular cycles, as well as other hormonal conditions.
  • Inflammation – If your body is in an inflammatory state (eg. being overweight), estrogen producing enzymes are ‘switched-on’, leading to an increased production of estrogen. This can lead to conditions associated with excess estrogen activity, such as endometriosis.
  •  Blood glucose irregularities – Increased blood glucose and insulin levels, due to excess weight, metabolic syndrome or diabetes, promote inflammation leading to excess levels of estrogen. Blood glucose imbalances may also contribute to excess testosterone production in PCOS.
  •  Hormone detoxification – To maintain balance, hormones such as estrogen need to be excreted from your body via healthy detoxification, with this process occurring primarily in the gut and liver. If your detoxification capacity is impaired, eg. due to compromised gut or liver function, excess alcohol consumption or medication use, then these hormones cannot be properly excreted and may instead be reabsorbed into the circulation. This can lead to conditions of hormonal activity excess, such as heavy periods, fibroids and endometriosis.
  •  Hypothyroidism – Poor thyroid function is associated with low levels of progesterone, therefore women with this condition may suffer higher levels of PMS symptoms and/or PCOS. Low thyroid function can also reduce the detoxification of estrogen and progesterone due to the impact the thyroid has on liver detoxification processes.
  • Medications – Birth control medications such as the contraceptive pill or hormonal intrauterine system are synthetic hormones that work by ‘switching-off’ your body’s own production of ovarian hormones. If you stop using synthetic birth control you may experience symptoms such as absent or irregular cycles, or an exacerbation of menstrual symptoms you had previously, as your body tries to re-establish its natural hormone balance.
  •  Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDC’s) – These are chemical substances found in plastics, pesticides, household cleaning products, food additives and contaminants, and many personal care products such as skin care items and make-up. EDC’s have been linked with hormonal disruption and altered hormonal function in adult women and men, as well as children. 

Common symptoms of hormone imbalance

  • Acne
  • Brain fog
  • Diabetes
  •  Endometriosis
  •  Fibroids
  •  Fatigue
  •  Irritable Bowel/bloating/constipation
  • Hair loss or excess hair growth
  • Hot flushes/night sweats
  • Incontinence
  •  Infertility
  • Irregular and heavy menstrual cycles
  •  Joint pain and bone health
  •  Low libido
  • Mood shift
  •  Perimenopause
  •  PCOS
  •  PMS
  •  Skin changes
  •  Sleep issues
  •  Thyroid disorders
  •  Vaginal changes
  •  Weight gain

Healthy eating for healthy hormones

What you do and don’t eat can have a significant impact on your hormones and overall health. An optimal diet provides the right amounts of macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fats) and micronutrients to promote wellbeing. Choose organic fruits, vegetables, seeds and meats as much as possible, and make the effort to avoid overly processed and refined foods. This will reduce the risk of you consuming unwanted chemicals and pesticides, as well as reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in your body.  

Healthy foods for reproductive hormone health

  • Omega-3 fatty acids: These essential fats cannot be produced by your body so they must be obtained from your diet. They have anti-inflammatory effects that help to correct hormonal imbalances caused by inflammation in your body. Foods rich in omega-3 fats include oily fish (sardines, anchovies, salmon, trout, herring), avocado, walnuts, almonds, hemp seeds and linseeds (flaxseeds).
  • Antioxidants: When we produce healthy levels of progesterone we reduce PMS symptoms and promote a balanced mood. Antioxidants, such as vitamin E (found in almonds, egg yolk, hazelnuts, wheat germ), have been shown to increase progesterone production when it is deficient.
  •  Cruciferous vegetables: Help to promote the healthy elimination of estrogen due to a plant chemical they contain known as sulforaphane. Choose from broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussel sprouts and kale to get the benefits of these healthy vegetables.
  •  Green leafy vegetables: These are a source of lutein, another antioxidant shown to support healthy progesterone function, which helps keep you calm during the second half of the cycle. Greens, such as spinach, kale, Swiss chard and collards, are also a good source of magnesium and B vitamins, which improve symptoms of PMS, dysmenorrhea, cramping, stress and poor sleep.
  •  Fibre: Foods rich in fibre promote healthy bowel function, helping to clear excess hormones from the body. Choose a wide range of vegetables and fruits, and eat them with the skin on where appropriate as this increases the fibre content. Other fibre-rich foods include beans, chickpeas, lentils, cashew nuts, pistachio nuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds, hemp seeds, oats and quinoa. Avoid refined ‘white’ grains which have had the natural fibre removed, eg. white bread, white rice. 

Lifestyle tips for optimal hormone health


Not sleeping well can significantly influence how you react to stress during the day, as well as contribute to inflammation in the body. Regular quality sleep is required to heal and restore your body.

Regular exercise

Establishing a routine of regular exercise that incorporates a combination of cardio, resistance training, and restorative exercises (such as yoga and Tai Chi), are important for two reasons. Firstly, it promotes healthy detoxification of sex hormones, and secondly, increases your ability to cope with stress. Just 3 x 60-minute sessions of cardio per week can improve physical and emotional symptoms of PMS.

Meditate to manage stress

By learning to cope with stress, you help to balance your estrogen and progesterone, which has benefits for symptoms of PMS and menopause,and promotes a healthy cycle.

Breathing techniques for menopause

One of the most debilitating symptoms of perimenopause are hot flushes, which occur with greater frequency and severity under stress. Practicing breathing techniques regularly has been shown to reduce hot flushes by up to 50%. Becoming more mindful of your breath simply requires you to start paying attention to it on a regular basis. Notice how the rhythm varies as your mood or emotions change. It’s possible to calm yourself by slowing your breathing rate and taking a few deep breaths – a proven stress-reducing strategy you can take anywhere to help you feel more centred and relaxed.

Quick self-care tips

  • Sore back: Lower back pain is something many women experience around the time of their period. Try using a heat pack or taking a nice, long bath to relax your muscles.
  • Headache: Applying essential oils of peppermint and lavender to your temples may help to relieve headaches. Make sure to test the oils on a small patch of skin first as some individuals may be sensitive to them. Avoid applying them too close to the eyes. If muscular tension is the cause, book yourself in for a massage. Acupuncture can also be very helpful in alleviating headaches and remember to remain well hydrated by drinking plenty of fresh water.
  • Nausea and/or cramps: Take 5 minutes to enjoy a cup of chamomile and ginger tea. Both help to alleviate cramps and are anti-inflammatory, with chamomile having the added benefit of making you feel calm and ginger known to help reduce nausea.
  • Hot flushes: Sage and chamomile tea can help reduce this symptom. Taking part in stress-relieving practices such as yoga, meditating and simple deep breathing, can also provide much needed relief.
  • Vaginal dryness: Can be a painful and frustrating symptom of perimenopause and menopause. Topical application of vitamin E and shea butter may provide temporary relief. 


The most common mood-related symptoms include irritability, anxiety, poor mood and weepiness. Common physical symptoms include fluid retention, bloating. Breast tenderness, acne, food cravings, brain fog andsleep disturbances.


This term is used to describe painful periods. The pain can be described as a continual dull ache or sense of heaviness with episodes of cramping pain. The pain is usually central and located in the lower abdomen. Period pain is classified into two types:
Primary dysmenorrhea – where there is period pain but the uterus itself is otherwise healthy and functioning normally.
Secondary dysmenorrhea – where the period pain is caused by an underlying condition, such as endometriosis.


This is a condition where endometrial tissue (the lining of the uterus) is found in sites outside the uterus, but typically within the abdomen. Estrogen stimulates the growth of endometrial tissue. Every month, when estrogen is being produced, endometrial tissue growth is stimulated, wherever it is located. This can cause significant pain and inflammation, pelvic discomfort, abnormal bleeding, PMS, and in some cases may affect fertility.


These are benign (non-cancerous) growths that may be asymptomatic, or may cause heavy periods, anaemia, frequent urination, constipation and pain. Fibroids have also been associated with infertility.


This condition is characterised by elevated testosterone levels in a woman’s body. Symptoms of PCOS include hirsutism (excessive growth of hair on the face or body), obesity, infertility and insulin resistance (blood glucose imbalance).

Natural treatment solutions

Many women seek out natural solutions for them management of these and other hormonal imbalances, finding the approach of complementary medicine (naturopathy) very effective. Holistic treatment of female reproductive issues focuses on restoring balance to hormonal and reproductive systems, not only by addressing symptoms, but also by correcting any underlying imbalance. 

Treating female hormonal imbalances focuses on addressing any excess or deficiency in the activity of a hormone, rather than by increasing or decreasing the production of a hormone. This has particular relevance for women that present with clinical symptoms of hormone imbalance, but do not necessarily have ‘abnormal’ hormone levels reflected in their blood tests or other pathology.