Hormone Imbalance Symptoms and Immune Systems - Magnificent Midlife

Hormone Imbalance Symptoms and Immune Systems

Photo by Jason Briscoe

This is a summary transcription of my podcast interview with Angela Counsel who is a naturopath, kinesiologist and mindset coach working particularly with women in midlife. Like me, she’s on a mission to spread the word that menopause doesn’t have to be a tough time in life, in fact it can be a time of stepping into your wisdom and falling in love with yourself and your life. We talked about menopause, hormone imbalance symptoms and how to support our immune systems, particularly in response to Covid-19. You can listen to the full interview here.

I’m from Australia and I’ve been a naturopath for nearly 19 years. Before that, I worked in corporate as a project manager and consultant for large banks and telecommunications companies.

Doing that for about 20 years, I felt I needed a change. One of the things that triggered that change is when I had a miscarriage. I realized my job was impacting my health.

I took a break which I planned initially to be only for three months, but I haven’t returned to being full time employed ever again! I went to college and took up naturopathy. I fell pregnant, continued my studies and got a degree.

I opened a clinic after I have finished the degree. I’m now working with women going through menopause.

I’m always two or three years ahead of the clients I’m working with because I know and understand them. Now that I’m through menopause, I’m currently working with women coming through menopause.

Menopause, hormones and immune systems

Angela Counsel

It’s so common these days that we see more and more women who are going into an early menopause. I’ve worked with clients who come to me and they think they’re in menopause.

But once we rebalance their hormones and address what’s going on with their diet and lifestyle, their periods start again. They are surprised at what happened to them.

I tell them they weren’t meant to be going into menopause at that stage. They were only in menopause because their hormones were so out of balance.

Once hormones are balanced up again, they get back into their natural cycle and they will go into menopause naturally when they’re meant to. I’ve had that happen with several clients and I’ve heard those stories happen with other women as well who went into an early menopause.

If you’re cycling and you’re healthy, it means your body’s working the way it’s supposed to. When you go into a natural menopause, you’re more likely to go in without having any symptoms.

Everyone talks about all the symptoms, hot flushes, joint pain, weight gain, all of that and they say well, it’s just normal and in fact, it isn’t normal. It’s common but it’s not normal.

If it was normal, everybody would experience it. Everyone doesn’t experience it so that means it’s common and not normal, and that’s something I really want women to understand.

It’s not normal to be experiencing all these different symptoms. When they’re happening, it’s your body telling you something’s going on. Whether on a physical or an emotional level, something needs to be addressed.

It’s not just always about diet though. We’re being exposed to so many toxic hormones that are impacting our body and women are not aware of that.

They’re not aware of what they’re being exposed to. Not only does that impact our hormones, it impacts our immune system as well because that is a stress on the body.

If we look at the way our body functions, we’ve got an automatic nervous system. These are the things that happen automatically. We don’t even think about it. All of that just happens.

When we’re in sympathetic dominance (responding to dangerous or stressful situations), we’re actually in a sympathetic state. That’s a stress state and all the time, we down regulate our autonomic nervous system.

We turn down our immune system. We also turn down our digestive system and a lot of different things, but our heart rate goes up.

We increase our blood pressure because we’re now in a situation whereby the body is getting ready for fight, flight, or freeze.  All these things are happening, and we have no control over them.

As women, we spend a lot of time being stressed, whether it’s emotional stress or physical stress that comes from the food we’re eating, the cosmetics we’re wearing and everything else that’s going into our body or on our body. It’s changing our immune system and increasing pressure which lowers our immune system.

Photo by Engin Akyurt

Have you ever been on holiday and the first thing that happens is you get sick? It’s basically your stress levels. The stress hormone cortisol actually lowers your immune system to a certain level that it’s not actually reacting.

You go on holidays and you’ve just relaxed and then the cortisol levels just drop off. All of a sudden, the immune system can do its job, but you get sick because that’s what it’s been trying to do all along.

Because the cortisol levels have been keeping that immune system down, it hasn’t been able to react to whatever’s going on. This is what happens when we have long-term immune depression or the immune system’s not working the way it’s supposed to.

We are at a higher risk of things like cancer, because cancer is an immune condition. Ideally, the immune system keeps the cancer cells under control because they are just rogue cells and we have rogue cells all through our body all the time.

The immune system should keep that under control. When the immune system isn’t working properly, those cells get out of control and start to grow. They’ve got an imbalance that’s going on there.

For some people they just continually get sick, while other people never get sick. There are two things we need to look at. First, those who are getting sick all the time and never recovering like when you get a cold, which just seems to linger on and on and on because you’re not recovering.

Then there’s the people who say I haven’t been sick for five years and that’s a real red flag for me because we should be getting sick. We should because we’re being exposed to all different viruses and bacteria all the time.

We should actually get sick because that’s the way our immune system responds. . Getting sick is okay. Getting sick once or twice a year is okay with a sniffle or a sore throat but it’s how well you recover that matters. If you can recover from a severe cold within a week then that’s fine.

If it takes you six months to recover from a cold, then there’s something wrong. It means  your immune system hasn’t done its job.

What are the issues with what’s going on at the moment? The reason why they call it a novel virus is because we don’t know how it’s going to act.

The doctors don’t know how it’s going to act, and the doctors don’t have a treatment for it right now. In Australia, anybody who says  they have a treatment for COVID, there will be big fines from what we call the TGA (Therapeutic Goods Association) which is really strict.

No one can treat COVID. We as practitioners, as naturopaths, can support the immune system. If you go and look at the medical side of things, there’s nothing you can do to support the immune system. There’s nothing you can do to stop getting this virus but that’s because they don’t understand what’s going on.

If we get back to basics of what the immune system does, when you think of a child, they get sick all the time, particularly when you very first send them off to day-care.  All of a sudden, they’re getting sick all the time because they’ve got a very immature immune system.

They have to get sick because that’s the  way the immune system works It is a bit like memory. It has to be exposed to all these different pathogens, viruses, and bacteria. It has to react to them. Once it’s reacted to a particular virus or a bacteria or any other pathogen, it has a memory and it knows what to do.

If that particular virus comes along again, it will already know what to do and can actually deal with it. Quite often, you don’t get sick.

Sometimes if you’ve ever felt  a bit achy, or your nose is a bit blocked, you feel that you might be getting sick, but you don’t actually get sick. It’s because your immune system has actually dealt with it really quickly.

It has seen that virus before. That’s why it was able to deal with it and you just go on and you just have a day and you only just feel a little bit off.

If the immune system doesn’t know what to do, you will then start to get sick because it needs to attack. You can think of your immune system like an army with different levels.

The generals have  a high-level view and are basically just keeping  control of the whole army. The captains are out there looking to see what’s going on. They are the one who notice  there’s some type of virus that’s come in. The foot soldiers are those who go out there and kill that virus.

It’s also like the Pacman Video games where they go out  and kill the virus.

If you ever had a cold or anything, you’ll notice that your mucus to start with is clear and then it goes green. When we’ve got clear mucus, that’s the sign that the white blood cells have raised.

What they’re doing is making the environment hostile to kill the virus.  Once they start to kill the virus and the Pacman eat this virus up, then the mucus turns green because that’s all the dead viral bodies coming out.

We don’t actually want to stop a runny nose. The more we can allow a nose to run, the more everything just clears out. When we go and take a tablet, what we’ve done now is we’ve stopped the immune system from doing what it’s supposed to do.

It’s because this mucus is thick and sticky and it’s full of chemicals that actually help to kill the virus. It comes out in places where we’re actually open to the environment which is the nose and mouth and our lungs create  mucus as well.

If we get a viral infection in our lungs, we get a whole pile of mucus and we cough. The idea of the cough is to lift the mucus and the viral bodies up so  we can cough them out.

This is the body doing what the body’s supposed to do. But  we think we know better, so we stop the cough and we stop the runny nose and we wonder why we don’t get well.

The other thing is the fever. We stop the fever because for some reason we’re scared of fevers, but there’s a reason  we have a fever. Most viruses only survive at around 37 degrees Celsius.

The body raises the temperature above that, so that it kills the virus and then, the white  blood cells can do their job. If we bring the fever down another way, the body isn’t able to kill it using heat.

This is another reason why it takes longer for us to get over illness because we keep taking things and we keep overriding the body’s natural processes because we’ve been told  it’s inconvenient to have a cold or to have a runny nose.

I find it quite amusing to see what’s happened with Covid. . Everyone was told to stay home. It would have been great if we all had been staying home for years and years and years when we had colds and flu, rather than spreading them.

We’ve been told for years and years that we’ve got to soldier on. Now, we’ve been told, don’t walk outside your front door because you might spread a virus. It’s very conflicting advice and we probably need to be somewhere in the middle.

I think at some stage, and probably the generation before us, we started to lose connection with the way our body works, because it became easy to take a pill to fix a problem. Now, it’s just becoming more and more. I’ve got a problem, take a pill.

If we go back a couple of generations, when we still had the medicine women, when we still used a lot of herbs, we were using nature to help our body heal. A lot of times, you would have a cup of herbal tea which had a particular herb in it, which would help to support the immune system.

Herbs don’t work like pharmaceutical drugs. They don’t override the body’s natural processes. What they do is  support the body’s natural processes.

Photo by Chinh Le Duc

There are times when it’s good to support the body’s natural processes. It’s good to support the immune system. When you do that with herbs, we have herbs that help you cough everything up. If you have a really wet cough and you’re very mucusy, we use herbs to help you lift that out of the lungs.

If you have a dry cough, which is just like an irritation, we have herbs that will actually suppress that irritation because it’s just something that’s irritating it.

That isn’t doing what drugs do.  Drugs override the way the body works, herbs support the way the body works. We can do the same with food as well.

Food will support the way our body functions and specific foods  will actually support the immune system.

Garlic, onions, and gingers are great antivirals. Fruits and veggies that are full of vitamin C are really great for the immune system. There are lots of  foods that are great for the immune system.

In fact, any food that comes from nature actually has an impact on the immune system because it’s just healthy food and it’s not stressing the body. If you’re eating McDonald’s and all the other fast food, that’s a stress on the body.

As soon as you stress the body, you’re impacting the immune system. If we’re eating food that works for our body, nourishes and supports our body, we are going to be supporting our immune system.

To get rid of pesticides, eating  organic food is an ideal way to do that. For some people, organic food can be expensive. If you can grow your own fruits and veggies, it will be absolutely fantastic.

If you can’t afford organic foods, one of the things you can do, especially because some foods are more susceptible to pesticides than others, you can wash them.

I wouldn’t be worried too much with anything that has an outer skin because you’re not eating their skin. Things like an apple where you eat the skin, you can actually wash it.

There’s a couple of ways you can wash it to get rid of the waxy coating they put on which is the pesticide and everything else.

It’s actually designed to be waterproof so rinsing in normal water won’t do it.  You have to scrub it by combining apple cider or brown vinegar with water. If you can’t afford organic at all, wash what you can.  That’s  the best you can do because something is better than nothing.

Eating organic or something non organic but like broccoli is better than going and buying a McDonald’s. Even if it does have some pesticides on it, it’s still better than eating McDonald’s. Do the best  you can and as you can do more, do more.

Photo by Sydney Rae

Stress is a major part of all of it. As I said before, as we raise our stress levels, we’re lowering  our immune system. When we’re looking at the situation that we’re in right now around the world, many people are living in fear.

They’re afraid of what’s going on. Mainstream media I’m sure is the same over there as what it is here. It’s very much about the fear of what’s going on and there’s so much guesswork of what’s going to happen in the future and what’s the world gonna look like?

People are really afraid. A few months ago, they were totally afraid. The toilet paper issue is people not feeling safe and they’re afraid because they felt they are about to lose their base needs.

This is a very primitive response. We responded with toilet paper, which may not be quite so primitive. It’s more of a first world response, but that was the common denominator.

All of a sudden, all these people are thinking there’s not going to be enough toilet paper.  They’re not going to have any money or not going to be able to go out.

There was all this fear going on and all that fear creates  stress. The more stress we have, the more we’re impacting our immune system.

When we’re stressed, many people tend to emotionally eat and eat foods that aren’t the best for them. At the moment over here, they had to put limits on the amount of alcohol  you could buy.  Even then, the limits were just unbalanced. Who could drink that much alcohol in a day really?

I don’t drink. I used to but I haven’t drunk in 18 months because I found it was making my menopause symptoms worse. I stopped drinking and all my symptoms went away.

People are drinking more because they’re bored and stressed. They’re drinking more and they’re eating foods that aren’t good for them. It just keeps cycling and that  gives them  higher levels of stress, which is lowering their immune system.

When people do go back out again, they get exposed to the virus. They are more likely to get sick than  when they’re at home and they are looking after themselves, eating well and exercising.

Not everybody who gets exposed to the virus is going to get sick. In fact, there are many people who have tested positive, who don’t get sick. They’re asymptomatic. Ideally that would be the way to be, exposed, but asymptomatic.

Then  you’ve built an immunity.  But We’re  not a hundred percent sure on this virus, whether or not people are building immunity. We won’t know, but we believe that, if it’s like any virus, you would build that immunity.

Unfortunately, we don’t know a lot about this virus. It’s not acting the way  they expect it to. It’s not even acting like a virus. Once it’s in the body, it’s acting more like a bacteria.

They’re stumbling on trying to find a treatment because of the way it’s acting. They’ve been looking at some of the malaria treatments and they’ve been getting some success with malaria treatments, but then that doesn’t work with everyone.

There’s no consistent treatment at the moment and that’s a  bit of a problem because the medical system hasn’t come up with a treatment.  This is where we have to take control of our own health.

We’re in a lucky situation here in Australia, because we’re away from the rest of the world. We’ve actually only experienced a total of just over a hundred deaths, which is way lower than anywhere else in the world. New Zealand is lower than us.

Photo by Martin Sanchez

We’re so far away and most of our deaths are because of old age or from cruise ship passengers that had the virus. We are a pretty much completely contained so it does mean  we can relax a little bit.

We only have 20 million in the whole of Australia and the middle of it is empty. We’re all round the coast. We’ve probably got a younger population as well. I know in Italy where it got hit hard there, they’ve got an older and a bigger population.

The other thing too, which they believe is playing a really big role is Vitamin D levels. We‘re just coming off summer, so our Vitamin D levels are quite high.  Whereas you‘re (Northern Hemisphere) just coming off winter and your Vitamin  D levels are quite low.

In general, Australia has higher Vitamin D levels in most of the country and that boosts our immune system just naturally. There are a few things that make us   lucky and  it hasn’t hit us as hard as it has the rest of the world.

We’ve all gotta go back out in the world. We’re starting to do that now but what happens when the second wave hits? We can’t stay locked up forever. It’s impacting people’s health. It’s a big hit on the economy. It’s a big hit on people.

We do need to get back out in the world and it’s gonna be interesting to see what happens. But that’s why it’s so important that all of us  take responsibility so that we can stay healthy and if we do get the virus, we can move through it quite quickly.

You can find out more about Angela:

Angela’s Website

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