Hormone Balance – Yin and Yang – Making the Connection

There are clear physiological and biochemical reasons for pre or peri-menopause syndrome. But the whole woman- including the emotional, mental and spiritual aspects needs to be taken into account if we are to get to the root causes of those difficult to deal with, pre/peri-menopause symptoms. A way to simplify and illustrate this is to use Chinese medicine and the concepts of yin and yang.


In its essence, the female body is yin and the male body is yang. Each contains some of the other, but yin predominates for females and yang predominates for males. Yin is dark and earthy. The yin personality would tend to be nurturing, passive, introverted, calm, intuitive, and soft.  Yang is light and abstract. The yang personality would tend to be active, outgoing, focused, aggressive, logical, and impatient.  Estrogens, the hormones responsible for female sexual development, and progesterone, the progestational, or mothering, hormone, tend to produce yin behavior. Testosterone and DHEA, two of the hormones responsible for male sexual development, tend to produce yang behavior. Although generalizations are always untrue by their very nature, women tend to “default” more on the side of yin behavior and men tend to “default” more on the side of yang behavior.


The environment of raising children naturally favors the yin or female attributes. The business world naturally favors the yang or male attributes. What happens when a woman finds herself spending her days in an environment that’s very yang, as so many working women do these days? To survive and thrive, she is going to minimize her yin aspects and maximize her yang aspects. Her body will pay attention to these signals and respond accordingly. The stereotype successful woman executive is slim, trim and muscular-yang. The stereotype mother figure is ample in breasts, hips, and thighs-yin. These differences in roles work fine when a woman’s life is balanced, when she has ample time and energy to develop both sides. But take a woman who is working full-time away from home, has a couple of kids, and a husband and we have a recipe for imbalance and stress. This woman is going to be pulling on her yang attributes at the expense of her yin attributes. She’s likely to be chronically exhausted, and always “on”, never taking care of herself.


She rarely has time to spend quiet, nurturing time with her children or herself, not to mention her husband. In as effort just to maintain her lifestyle, her adrenal glands are constantly pumping out hormones meant to be used sparingly for “fight or flight” situations and they eventually become tired, sluggish and depleted. Her body gets the message that survival is at state. Blood sugar becomes constantly unstable. Digestion goes awry, so she isn’t absorbing nutrients properly. The ovaries respond by shutting down in favor of survival. When her ovaries shut down, Progesterone production occurs only at the adrenal glands, but they aren’t working and when not getting any progesterone from poor dietary habits, she becomes progesterone deficient and estrogen dominant.


The estrogen dominance causes the all-to-familiar signs of fatigue, depression, weight gain, water retention, headaches, and mood swings. By her late thirties and early forties she probably has fibrocystic breasts, uterine fibroids, or endometriosis. The estrogen dominance interferes with thyroid action, which increases her fatigue; she’s cold all the time and gaining more weight. So her doctor prescribes thyroid medication. She may really be producing enough thyroid hormone, but because of the estrogen dominance, its not be utilized by the body effectively.


She diets continuously (bingeing in between on sugar, caffeine, and refined carbohydrates in a desperate attempt to get her adrenals jump-started), but it does no good because her metabolism has also gone into survival mode, which is to say it’s very, very slow. Due to her sluggish adrenals, she finds it very difficult to get out of bed in the morning. It’s an all too common scenario. In fact I would venture to say its epidemic among working mothers in their thirties and forties. But pre/peri-menopause syndrome is by no means limited to working mothers. Even without children, women who get on a career track and develop their yang attributes at the expense of their yin attributes are likely to suffer from hormone imbalances.

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar to you?



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