Mind

What I learned about hormones from Dr Libby's The Hormone Factor NZ tour

Never has biochemistry seemed more fascinating.

By Karyn Henger

Last night I attended Dr Libby's "The Hormone Factor" event in Auckland and I already know that if Dr Libby could see me now, she would be disappointed. Less than 24 hours after she told us that stress is one of our biggest enemies for disrupting hormonal balance here I am, cortisol levels through the roof.

Am I in danger? Not really. I'm just sitting at my desk at work. But the morning I've had… an argument with my 15-year-old who's pissed off that she's coeliac and refusing to eat anything except apples, turning up to my 17-year-old's school award ceremony only for her to not be given her award because she's been sick all week and they hadn't prepared it (is that a reason?), getting off at the wrong bus stop on the way to work, a tense meeting with a work colleague.

My body doesn't realise I'm not running from a lion so it's in the very 'fight or flight mode' Dr Libby warned us about.

The problem is that women today are doing the work of their fathers and carrying the responsibilities of their mothers, Dr Libby told us last night. Piled on top of this is a perception that we must always appear to be perfect. Thanks to social media we care far too much about what others think of us. Our daughters care even more than we do (her latest book The Beauty Guide: Your body, biochemistry and beliefs addresses this). And we don't take enough time for ourselves to rest.

By god, she had us all in the palm of her hands. There would have been close to 1000 women in the room and you could have heard a pin drop.

Dr Libby is good at what she does and she skillfully moved us through a series of biochemistry concepts. She talked us through the menstrual cycle and explained how constantly feeling stressed impacts on our ability to produce progesterone, resulting in oestrogen dominance which affects our weight, moods, periods, anxiety levels and more.

She suggested that most of our stress comes from a fear of not meeting others' needs because we intrinsically want to be accepted and loved.

She explained how easy it can be to flip your inner dialogue to help reduce stress – instead of feeling annoyed about having to make three school lunches every morning be joyful that you have three healthy children who need lunch. This hit home for a friend of hers who attended one of her seminars and realised that the very next year her son would be leaving home for university and she would miss him terribly.

She taught us about the role perception plays in our lives by sharing a story about a 60-year-old Irish woman who had weight issues because she couldn't stop eating cake. The woman's mother had died while giving birth to her and then when she was 14 her father had sent her to New Zealand to live with an aunt.

The woman had spent most of her life believing her father didn't love her because he had only sent her away, not her brothers. But Dr Libby suggested maybe it was a different reason altogether and encouraged her to call her father and ask him why. He told her he'd wanted a better life for her and a woman's influence in her teenage years.

The woman stopped eating cake, except when she met her friends for a cup of tea, of course.

We were educated about liver health and the importance of supporting our adrenal glands - both play a huge role in hormonal balance. We learned about how amazing our petuitary gland is in producing and directing the myriad of hormones we have in our system.

Dr Libby lectured us on the importance of eating vegetables – you're adults, you have to eat your vegetables, she said.

She covered off getting enough sleep and not falling back on liver loaders such as alcohol to unwind, or adrenaline boosters like caffeine for energy levels.

The promotion of her products and books was of course woven into her presentation, but no one seemed to feel 'sold to'. We were there because we were feeling exactly as she described – tired, run down, hormonal and stressed out. We were looking for answers and she was providing them.

What she did make me think about, more than anything else, was the impact our living now has on our later years. All these days I spend wired and on high alert, not producing enough progesterone because my adrenal glands are pumping out stress hormones, are going to have an impact on when I go into menopause.

When a woman goes into menopause her ovaries stop producing progesterone (and oestrogen) and it becomes up to her adrenal glands to produce what she needs. But if her adrenal glands have been pumping out stress hormones most of their life they no longer have the ability to produce progesterone – and that's when you get the debilitating symptoms of menopause.

The time is now to change the course of your health. And the good news is we have the power and ability to do so.