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How Naturopathy can Support Trans and Gender Diverse Folk

Updated: Jan 31

Tw: discrimination, periods

A recent Perth study found that among trans young people 60% felt isolated from health care services (medical and mental health services) and 42% had experiences with a practitioner who did not understand or respect their gender identity (Strauss et al., 2017).

I am truly passionate about providing more health care resources for the trans-community which understand and respect our humanity. I am incredibly excited to delve more into this area with a couple of big education and research projects arising.

In the mean-time here are a few ways in which Naturopathy can benefit the health of transgender/gender diverse folk…

This group faces an increased risk of chronic disease largely due to the discrimination and trauma experienced. Chronic stress or being in a state of hyper-vigilance impacts long term health by driving up cortisol, blood sugar and blood pressure.

Fortunately this is where complementary and alternative medicine thrives. A naturopath will work holistically to look at causative factors including stress, lifestyle factors, nutrition and more to create a health-care plan which not only acknowledges the role of societal factors in health but gives you resources to combat this. This is not a substitute for care from a mental health professional, or a solution to the discrimination which this group faces. But, we can look at dietary and lifestyle interventions (alongside herbal and supplement therapies) which can address the physical manifestations of chronic stress.

Some examples of areas of trans/gender diverse health where a naturopath can provide support includes:

  • Supporting trans-men and non-binary folk with period/menstruation related issues including endometriosis or pelvic pain 1.

  • Supporting the nutrition of trans teens using puberty blockers to help maintain healthy bones 2–4. Studies commonly show low vitamin D levels which is very important to bone health!

  • Supporting a healthy mood 5.

  • Reducing gut symptoms which are very common with increased levels of stress 6.

  • Improving sleep, with insomnia also common with high stress levels 7.

  • Supporting cardiovascular and metabolic health (e.g. reducing thrombotic risk, high blood sugar) 8,9.

  • Reducing acne severity when starting gender affirming hormones 10,11.

  • Reducing hot flashes, or migraines linked to hormonal changes 12,13.

These health conditions are not unique to trans-people! Being a trans-health focused practitioner is really about understanding how to use correct and respectful language and understanding potential interactions between gender affirming hormone therapy and natural therapies.

1. Ferrando CA, Chapman G, Pollard R. Preoperative Pain Symptoms and the Incidence of Endometriosis in Transgender Men Undergoing Hysterectomy for Gender Affirmation. J Minim Invasive Gynecol. 2021;28(9):1579-1584. doi:10.1016/J.JMIG.2021.01.018

2. Schagen SEE, Wouters FM, Cohen-Kettenis PT, Gooren LJ, Hannema SE. Bone Development in Transgender Adolescents Treated With GnRH Analogues and Subsequent Gender-Affirming Hormones. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2020;105(12):e4252-e4263. doi:10.1210/CLINEM/DGAA604

3. Stoffers IE, de Vries MC, Hannema SE. Physical changes, laboratory parameters, and bone mineral density during testosterone treatment in adolescents with gender dysphoria. J Sex Med. 2019;16(9):1459-1468. doi:10.1016/J.JSXM.2019.06.014

4. Vlot MC, Klink DT, den Heijer M, Blankenstein MA, Rotteveel J, Heijboer AC. Effect of pubertal suppression and cross-sex hormone therapy on bone turnover markers and bone mineral apparent density (BMAD) in transgender adolescents. Bone. 2017;95:11-19. doi:10.1016/J.BONE.2016.11.008

5. LGBTIQ+ Health Australia. Snapshot of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Statistics for LGBTI People.; 2021. Accessed August 1, 2022.

6. Schächtle MA, Rosshart SP. The Microbiota-Gut-Brain Axis in Health and Disease and Its Implications for Translational Research. Front Cell Neurosci. 2021;15:256. doi:10.3389/FNCEL.2021.698172/BIBTEX

7. Borrás S, Martínez-Solís I, Ríos JL. Medicinal Plants for Insomnia Related to Anxiety: An Updated Review. Planta Med. 2021;87(10-11):738-753. doi:10.1055/A-1510-9826

8. Abramovich A, De Oliveira C, Kiran T, Iwajomo T, Ross LE, Kurdyak P. Assessment of Health Conditions and Health Service Use Among Transgender Patients in Canada. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(8):e2015036-e2015036. doi:10.1001/JAMANETWORKOPEN.2020.15036

9. Balcerek MI, Nolan BJ, Brownhill A, et al. Feminizing Hormone Therapy Prescription Patterns and Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Aging Transgender Individuals in Australia. Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2021;12:857. doi:10.3389/FENDO.2021.667403/BIBTEX

10. Kucharska A, Szmurło A, Sinska B. Significance of diet in treated and untreated acne vulgaris. Postep dermatologii i Alergol. 2016;33(2):81-86. doi:10.5114/ADA.2016.59146

11. Yee BE, Richards P, Sui JY, Marsch AF. Serum zinc levels and efficacy of zinc treatment in acne vulgaris: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Dermatol Ther. 2020;33(6). doi:10.1111/DTH.14252

12. Deutsch M. Overview of masculinizing hormone therapy | Gender Affirming Health Program. University of California San Francisco. Published 2016. Accessed August 1, 2022.

13. Obedin-Maliver J. Pelvic pain and persistent menses in transgender men | Transgender Care. UCSF Gender Care Website. Published 2016. Accessed August 1, 2022.

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