Prolactin is a hormone produced by the anterior pituitary gland and is responsible for breast changes during pregnancy and lactation following delivery. High prolactin, also called hyperprolactinemia, happens when the pituitary gland secretes too much prolactin. Certain drugs, pituitary tumors and hypothyroid disease can cause hyperprolactinemia. In her book, "Women's Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine," Tori Hudson, N.D., describes the symptoms of high prolactin experienced by women who are not pregnant or nursing. They include breast engorgement and pain, disruptions in menstruation, and spontaneous breast milk production and flow. According to Alan Wein, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of the Division of Urology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and chief of urology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, hyperprolactinemia is also responsible for infertility and erectile dysfunction in men. When using natural therapies, best results are achieved under the supervision of a holistically trained physician, such as a naturopathic doctor.
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A whole foods diet rich in fruits and vegetables, especially dark, leafy greens, is thought to optimize anyone's health. The diet should also include whole grains; legumes, especially soybeans; nuts and seeds; and cold-water fish. Beyond this, certain foods emerge as specifically beneficial in lowering prolactin levels. According to Oregon State University's Micronutrient Information Center, several studies point out a link between vitamin B6 deficiency and hyperprolactinemia. Consider eating more foods containing vitamin B6, such as potatoes, bananas, wild salmon, chicken and spinach. Also, according to a study published in "The Lancet," supplementation with zinc decreased prolactin levels in the participants. Foods high in zinc include shellfish, beef, turkey and beans. Consulting your doctor before making any major dietary changes or taking nutritional supplements is advised.
According to Hudson, the most effective herb at lowering prolactin is chaste tree, also known by the botanical name Vitex agnus castus. Chaste tree is probably best known for its hormone-balancing effects and has been used at least since the days of ancient Greece for the treatment of various menstrual disorders. Chaste tree binds to dopamine receptors and prevents the release of prolactin from the pituitary. Hudson warns that it usually takes three or four months for chaste tree to have an effect, so it is best to wait six months before retesting prolactin levels. Before taking any herbal medicine, it is best to consult with a holistic physician, who can recommend appropriate dosages.
Recently, homeopathy has emerged as a useful tool in the quest to bring balance to one's hormones naturally. Homeopathy is a system of medicine that uses very small amounts of natural substances to stimulate the body to heal. Each homeopathic remedy is prescribed based on the unique set of symptoms someone comes in the office with, not their diagnosis. According to Joseph Pizzorno, N.D., homeopathy has a gentle, though long-lasting effect, and it can be used in conjunction with other treatments safely. Finding the remedy that would be most effective is best done with the help of a classically trained homeopath, such as a naturopathic physician.