Society sets women up to believe that the transition into the cessation of periods is a turbulent, symptomatic whirlwind consisting of hot flashes, mood changes, night sweats, cravings, weight gain, and hair growth in unwelcome places (to name a few). However, this need not be the case. Obviously, prevention is the key, and if one has been living a healthy lifestyle incorporating whole food nutrition, stress reduction techniques, and regular exercise, this transition can be a smooth process with very little additional support needed. Sound like a twisted fantasy?? Let me assure you, it isn’t.
In a teleseminar I attended with Nat Jones, RPh, and authority on bio-identical hormones, the following functions of sex hormones where discussed:
n Estrogen: assists NO (nitric oxide) formation in vasculature, promotes nerve growth, decreases reaction time, enhances cognitive ability, assists glucose utilization, tightens skin collagen, assists with neurotransmitter signaling, increases urogenital tissue, builds endometrium, and effects mood. (Some studies show how estrogen decreases anxiety by modulating serotonin receptors: PMID: 19049819, PMID: 19046994)
n Progesterone-aids libido, helps glucose regulation, aids mood, inhibits testosterone, acts as a diuretic, normalizes blood pressure, normalizes thyroid function, regulates cholesterol, and stimulates osteoblasts for bone-building (along with testosterone, whereas cortisol breaks down bone)
n Testosterone: maintains stamina, energy & libido, promotes muscle development & tone, promotes bone strength, improves balance, aids mood, assists with red blood cell production, decreases insulin resistance, lowers blood pressure, decreases body fat and cholesterol, protects against breast cancer, and protects the brain from excess cortisol during stress (aromatized to estradiol in the brain)
The effect of every hormone is important, there are no good or bad guys here in the hormonal health saga; therefore, balance is a very important principle. Not only must these sex hormones be in balance, but also other steroid hormones such as cortisol, DHEA, and thyroid hormones must be considered. Also, certain stimulating hormones from the pituitary, FSH and LH, must be monitored to get a clear picture of how each hormone is interplaying in this hormonal dance. (We want to avoid any toe stubbing!). Another hormone that is important to test with estrogen dominant women is prolactin.
Bio-identical hormone therapy has been used by many natural health care providers and has not been shown to have the same side effects as HRT. This is probably due to the biochemical similarity of the body’s own hormones. This is one method that many women may choose to explore. I agree with Dr. Mercola that if this method is employed, it is important to have hormone levels checked every 3-6 months to make sure that the dosage is correct. Bio-identical hormone therapy can be the answer to many women’s prayers in relieving the symptoms associated with menopause.
Recently, I have had more experience with post-menopausal women entering my clinic searching for non-hormonal approaches to their symptoms. I have found nutritional and herbal approaches to be very effective for them. As a Naturopathic Doctor, it is my job to play detective and assess what imbalance is in their system that is creating thire symptoms.
In my practice, I address each woman individually for nutritional imbalances, underlying inflammation, and food sensitivities/ digestive support issues that occur as I support their hormonal system with natural, therapeutic and pharmaceutical-grade herbals and essential oils. The results have been rewarding and remarkable for many of my clients within 2-3 months. I’ve also had experience with women who are already using HRT and working with their prescribing doctor to decrease the dosage. It is my job in this case to use nutritional and other natural support factors to ease this transition. Hormones are very effective biochemical communicators, if they are raised too quickly or lowered too soon, symptoms can come on faster than a swirling dog in a tornado up the yellow brick road. This is where the turtle analogy comes into play. Slow and steady support to the hormonal systems to rev it back up to it’s natural balance.
I feel that starting with the most natural and simple means first is the best bet. I am pleased that bio-identical hormone therapy is getting so much media attention, although sometimes celebrities get the negative lash-back. In my opinion, bio-identical hormones are much safer alternative to risks associated with HRT and can be a good stepping stone to use as the body adjusts to more natural therapeutics.
The mind is your biggest factory for feel good chemicals. For mind-body techniques to accentuate balanced hormonal production, view my article on adrenal stress and hormones.
Confused on the semantics of “natural”, “identical”, and “synthetic”? Here is a link from medquest.
Ok, now a brief discussion of the second topic: Conventional Medicine Catches On! The AMA can no longer ignore that food quality is linked to health:
The AMA’s new Sustainable Food policy builds on a report from its Council on Science and Public Health (http://www.ama-assn.org/ama1/pub/upload/mm/475/refcomd.pdf), which notes that locally produced and organic foods “reduce the use of fuel, decrease the need for packaging and resultant waste disposal, preserve farmland … [and] the related reduced fuel emissions contribute to cleaner air and in turn, lower the incidence of asthma attacks and other respiratory problems.” Industrial food production is a significant contributor to increased antibiotic resistance, climate change, and air and water pollution.”
This is a good sign for the health care reform. Preventing disease by giving the body what it needs. I think I’ve heard of that concept before?