Menopause: Are your menopausal symptoms driving you mad?
For many women, menopause looms as a dreaded phase through which they must pass, plagued by symptoms such as hot flushes, insomnia, brain fog, aches pains and other inconveniences. However, contrary to what the pharmaceutical industry and many socalled ‘experts’ would have you believe, menopause is not a hormone-deficiency disease! HRT is not a must, and life beyond menopause should be happily anticipated as a wonderful time without the pressures of children; a time when you are able to discover who you really are, become creative and pursue the things in life you’ve always wanted to do. In this article I’d like to discuss with you some of the symptoms you may experience as you pass through this transition phase, some of their known causes, what you can do to help minimise them and make this a time of joy and celebration! Firstly though, since there is some confusion, let me clarify exactly what menopause is. Literally, menopause means ‘stopping menstruation’. In fact, menopause can only be determined retrospectively as it is actually the date after which no period has occurred for 1 year. So the term ‘perimenopause’ is a more appropriate name to use for the transition phase. When should you expect to experience menopause? Most women pass through menopause between the ages of 45 and 55. There appears to be little variation between different countries and ethnic groups. In Australia for most women it generally occurs www.HormoneHelpNow.com
between the ages of 48 and 53. If you are thin, you may experience menopause at an earlier age in this range and if you are overweight menopause may not occur until well into your fifties. Smoking will cause you to go through menopause 1-2 years earlier. Occasionally premature menopause may occur before the age of 40 due to failure of the ovaries. This may have an unknown cause (idiopathic) or be caused by surgery, drugs, radiotherapy treatment or illness. It may also be induced deliberately for medical reasons. Other causes of premature ovarian failure may be faulty genes and autoimmune disease especially in women with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Low body weight which occurs with anorexia and in elite sports women may cause early menopause. Pituitary tumours or a high level of the hormone prolactin, as sometimes occurs with certain drugs including antidepressants, are other possible causes. In some women with premature ovarian failure there may be sporadic ovulation once or twice a year and they may even fall pregnant. Prior to menopause your ovaries no longer respond regularly to the hormonal messages from your pituitary gland which normally stimulate your eggs to develop and ovulation to occur. In response, these hormones, follicular stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinising hormone (LH) rise as your body tries harder to stimulate a response. A blood test to check the levels of these hormones can determine whether or not you are close to menopause.
Because your ovaries are no longer ovulating regularly your menstrual cycles may become erratic, often they become shorter and your periods may become heavier before eventually stopping or they may just stop suddenly. As a result of not ovulating, your levels of oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone all drop.
Contrary to popular opinion, only some women have low oestrogen levels during perimenopause and after menopause, and in my experience, a majority still have quite adequate levels well beyond menopause. When your ovaries stop producing oestrogen your fat cells become the main source of your main post menopausal oestrogen. The main source for this is a male hormone made by your adrenal glands, so if your adrenal glands are overworked because of stress, your oestrogen level will suffer. If you are thin or suffer from stress, or are simply just too busy, you may suffer from the effects of low oestrogen. What are the symptoms of low oestrogen? Hot flushes, sweats, thin dry skin, vaginal dryness, depression, insomnia, brain fog, bone loss, bladder incontinence, unexplained urinary tract infections and low libido are the most common symptoms you may experience. Hot flushes are actually due to surges of luteinising hormone which occur as your body tries to get your ovaries to ovulate, which will in turn increase your oestrogen level.
However, whether you oestrogen level is high, normal or low, oestrogen dominance (too much oestrogen relative to progesterone) is often exacerbated because you are ovulating less frequently or not at all. See my article PMS: Is Premenstrual Syndrome Making Your Life a Misery? for more information on oestrogen dominance and how it contributes to PMS. Even if you have never suffered from PMS previously, it may start when you hit perimenopause. If you are in your forties, have fairly regular cycles and don’t suffer from hot flushes or vaginal dryness, it is most likely your symptoms are due to PMS. Being overweight can also be a contributing factor to oestrogen dominance since your fat cells make oestrogen. www.HormoneHelpNow.com
Besides PMS, the symptoms of oestrogen dominance are many and varied and include lower body weight gain which is difficult to shift, mood swings, depression, anxiety, fatigue, low libido, insomnia, endometriosis, dry eyes, accelerated aging, difficulty thinking clearly, headaches, fibroids and heavy menstrual bleeding, headaches, gall bladder disease and breast cancer. Other factors which could be causing you to be oestrogen dominant are drugs including the pill or other contraceptives, HRT, antibiotics, stress and chemicals you have been exposed to from your environment, food and water. I covered this topic in my free report ‘3 Crucial Keys to Hormonal Balance Every Woman Must Know’ which I hope you’ve signed up for and read by now! You’ll also find more on this topic in my article PMS: Is Premenstrual Syndrome Making Your Life a Misery? Contraceptive drugs, IUDs which release synthetic progesterone and hormonereleasing vaginal rings prevent you from ovulating and therefore reduce your monthly progesterone production to a very low level. Synthetic progesterone is not the same as your own progesterone and does not function in the same way, also contributing to low progesterone and oestrogen dominance. See my article HRT: What You Must Know Before You Decide if it’s Right For You The symptoms of low progesterone are very similar to the symptoms I’ve already mentioned above for oestrogen dominance.
One very often overlooked hormone around menopause is testosterone which is already usually lower in your late thirties than early twenties and it can drop to about half that at menopause when your ovaries stop functioning. Some of the symptoms are similar www.HormoneHelpNow.com
to low oestrogen or other hormones but if your testosterone is low you may also notice depression, muscle and bone loss, belly fat gain, fatigue, a reduced sense of wellness, bladder incontinence and low libido. However, despite a dropping testosterone level your hair follicles may become more sensitised to testosterone and you may experience a male-pattern thinning of your head hair and increased hair on your face especially your upper lip and chin. Just to make things more complex, other hormones which could be having an effect on your health around menopause are your adrenal hormones cortisol and DHEA as well as your thyroid hormones. You see, hormones work like a symphony and when one player is out of tune, others follow! Chronic stress is the major player that interferes with and causes all three of these hormones to become imbalanced. Other things which could also be contributing are chronic inflammation caused by an injury or silent inflammation due to insulin resistance, eating the wrong foods, chronic infection, inadequate sleep, medications and gut bacterial imbalance. Your cortisol level will initially be high but if your stress or another aggravating factor continues for a long time, it may eventually drop below normal. Neither a high or low cortisol is a good thing.
When your cortisol is high for long periods of time it affects virtually every system of your body. Symptoms you may experience include poor immunity, cancer, digestive and gut problems, depression, anxiety, agitation, irritability, poor memory and weight gain. Disturbances in your blood fats and glucose very often occur as well as high blood pressure and these can frequently lead to cardiovascular disease and diabetes if not addressed.
On the other hand low cortisol is often associated with chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia and autoimmune diseases. Your thyroid hormones may also be affected around perimenopause especially if your oestrogen is high, progesterone is low and cortisol is either high or low. These hormonal imbalances will cause your thyroid hormone levels to drop. Midlife is also the time of life at which you are at greatest risk of having low thyroid hormone levels and autoimmune disease of the thyroid. As a woman you have a 5 – 8 times greater risk than men of developing low thyroid hormones.
Many of the symptoms you may currently be experiencing and which you have put down to being perimenopausal or menopausal may in fact be due to low thyroid hormones. Or, because you may have low thyroid hormones your perimenopausal or menopausal symptoms may be exacerbated. Click on this link for my article titled ‘Do You Suffer From Low Thyroid Hormones?’ Perhaps by now you are beginning to understand that the symptoms you may be experiencing are due to not just one or two hormonal imbalances, but that there is a complex relationship between many of your hormones which can result in a myriad of symptoms particularly prior to and after menopause. Chronic stress, nutrient deficiencies and toxicity can all contribute to and exacerbate your hormonal imbalances. You will find many sources of information for dealing with perimenopausal symptoms, some of which are free. Many of these promote specific products, in particular, hormone replacement therapy (HRT). From the many glowing reports I can totally understand that you might think that HRT, especially the so-called ‘natural’ or bioidentical type is the obvious answer because it is perfectly safe and natural. So I’d like to briefly mention some of the issues with HRT which are not so commonly presented.
There has been quite a lot of bad press over the last 5 years since research has shown that synthetic HRT increases the risk of heart attack and breast cancer. Names of these synthetic types of HRT include Premarin, Provera and Prempro. Many women (and doctors) have since switched to using so-called ‘natural’ or bioidentical HRT. Unfortunately there have not been any long-term trials done using bioidentical HRT, so its safety long-term is still not assured. What is often overlooked when bioidentical HRT is prescribed is that hormones commonly used such as pregnenolone, progesterone, DHEA and testosterone are precursors to other hormones and one cannot predict how your body will use them. Using any of these precursor hormones can increase the level of any of the hormones further down the pathways and result in imbalances of those hormones. See the diagram below which shows the steps your body normal goes through to make the hormones shown. Cholesterol Pregnenolone
Oestrone (main post-menopausal oestrogen)
Progesterone is the buzz-word amongst many perimenopausal women and it is freely available on the internet. You, like many other women around the worlds may be using it without realising the consequences. Without a proper initial assessment and regular salivary hormone testing, you could be overdosing on it or you could end up with some other severe hormonal imbalances. Also, not addressing your stress level while using progesterone can cause your cortisol level to rise while your progesterone level may still be low because the extra progesterone is simply used up to make cortisol. As I’ve already discussed, having a high cortisol level for an extended period does result in some serious chronic illnesses. To become fully informed about HRT (synthetic and bioidentical), click on the link for my article HRT: What You Must Know Before You Decide If It’s Right For You If you do decide use HRT it is imperative that you have a thorough health assessment and complete test of 7 hormones (oestrone, oestradiol, oestrone, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA and cortisol) before starting and then again at least every 3 months. However, I’d like to emphasise that simply using HRT to address your symptoms is not a holistic approach, will not fix the problems which caused your symptoms in the first place and can in fact lead to other problems. www.HormoneHelpNow.com
A more natural and holistic approach to hormone related problems experienced during perimenopause and post menopausally is to look at the factors such as nutrition, stress, your attitude and other lifestyle factors which may be contributing to your symptoms. You may have heard of other women using herbs for their symptoms and the internet abounds with herbal products for all manner of perimenopausal symptoms. However, you are doing yourself a disservice if you do not seek the advice of a naturopath experienced in restoring hormonal balance. You are an individual and a one size fits all approach will not give you the results you deserve.
Also, not all herbal and nutritional supplements are created equal! Oftentimes I hear or read stories about women who have tried herbal supplements for their symptoms but have been disappointed with the results. This is because of 3 reasons: firstly, poor quality herbs; secondly, inappropriate herbs or only a single herb were used; and thirdly, just buying an over-the-counter product is not addressing all the hormonal imbalances and the other factors contributing to those imbalances. Many off-the-shelf natural products promoted for treatment of menopausal symptoms , including some well-known products sold in pharmacies use an extract from just a single herb, much like pharmaceutical drugs. Others may not contain the herbs you need or in appropriate doses. This is not a holistic approach and though it may relieve a few of your symptoms will not give lasting benefits or fix the cause of your symptoms. Taking this approach is like tinkering with your car! If there’s a problem with your car you take it to a qualified professional, so why wouldn’t you do the same with your body? Why not get the specialised advice and care you deserve? What I offer is a treatment plan tailored specifically to your needs. This involves taking the time to get to know you, gathering your history and getting the appropriate tests done. Based on this information I can explain what needs to be done and why, prescribe
the appropriate herbs and nutrients for your needs, help you through making the changes required and followup with regular testing until the balance is restored. Once you are feeling well, naturally you will want to maintain that feeling so that you can enjoy a long and happy life. The best way to achieve this is to commit to a wellnes program which includes regular health assessments and a nutritional program tailored to your specific needs. The benefits are not only that you feel great and avoid chronic disease commonly experienced in old age but that you feel better faster and save money getting only the best and most appropriate herbs and supplements for you.
So why suffer any longer? Call Kris on 0414 247 155 today or click here to Book an Appointment I am happy to offer a FREE 10 minute phone consultation so you can assess if I’m the right person to help you. Print the voucher on the page below and receive a free Cellular Health Analysis (valued at $35) when you attend your first consultation. Click here for more information on Cellular Health Analysis (Not available with any other offer)
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This voucher entitles the bearer to receive a Cellular Health Analysis Valued at $35 When attending for an Initial Naturopathic Consultation With Kris Kern Naturopath www.HormoneHelpNow.com (Not valid with any other offer)
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