Published Wednesday March 31st, 2010
Is it possible for women to have a menstruation without ovulating (aka anovulatory cycles)?
Does PMS (premenstrual syndrome), irregular menstrual cycles, painful menstrual cramps, and infertility have something in common?
Yes, and yes. Read on…
In the past, the majority of women began menopause in their mid-40s to early 50s. In more recent years, things are changing. Women are exhibiting anovulatory cycles already in their early 30s and yet, don’t experience cessation of periods (menopause) until their early 50s.
Anovulatory cycles is a hidden epidemic affecting more and more premenopausal women. In other words, many premenopausal women in their 30s, 40s and early 50s are experiencing menstrual cycles in which they do not ovulate even though they continue to menstruate.
The menstrual bleed represents for women a physical manifestation of their monthly hormonal cycle. This renewal and shedding of the uterine lining doesn’t go unnoticed. In contrast, most women are unaware of whether or not ovulation (release an of egg) takes place.
There are many unpleasant symptoms associated with anovulatory cycles. Symptoms can include: short or long menstrual cycles, PMS, heavy menstrual flow, and painful menstrual cramps. Infertility is also commonly associated with anovulatory cycles.
These symptoms are a warning signal that hormonal imbalances exist beneath the surface of the body. Most importantly, it is a state of estrogen dominance that is often underlying these problems, a term that will be discussed later in this article.
As I’ve explained in many of my previous articles (see www.monctonnaturopathic.com for previous columns), it is our goal to treat the cause of disease and not just manage symptoms.
Let’s explore some of the underlying causes of irregular, long and/or painful menses, PMS, infertility, and many other menstrual related symptoms.
* Stress: Our state of mind, whether relaxed or stressed, directly affects hormone balance.
The hypothalamus is the master control centre in the brain. It is on a constant 24 hours surveillance of what’s going on in the body. It monitors and creates changes in the body based on our body temperature, hormone or mineral levels in the blood stream, and our emotions.
As it relates directly to the menstrual cycle, it regulates the pituitary gland’s production of two hormones called LH and FSH. Simply put, FSH stimulates the ovaries to make estrogen, while LH triggers ovulation. The signals sent from the brain determine how much estrogen and progesterone are released by the ovaries.
When we understand the complexity of the hypothalamus, it is no wonder that menstruation and ovulation can be affected by stress, diet, and other hormones (such as the thyroid hormone or cortisol). Stress causes abnormal secretion of LH and FSH by the hypothalamus, which in turn can lead to anovulatory cycles.
Too often, synthetic estrogen in the form of birth control pills, IUDs, or hormone replacement therapy are used to treat hormonal imbalances. Although these can be effective at decreasing symptoms in the short term, it does not address the cause(s) behind hypothalamus disruption.