By 2015, almost half of all American women will be in menopause. Will the temperature of the planet rise from all the hot flashes?! Menopause is intended by Nature to be a gradual reduction of estrogen by the ovaries with few side effects. In a well-nourished, vibrant woman, the adrenals and other glands pick up the job of estrogen secretion to keep her active and attractive after menopause. While almost 90% of women experience some menopausal body changes and hormonal fluctuations, most only last a year or two and are not severe enough to interrupt their lives. Still, our modern stressful lifestyles and poor eating habits mean that many women reach their menopausal years with prematurely worn out adrenals and poor liver function where estrogen is not being processed correctly, so hormone fluctuations are magnified. Hormone Replacement Therapy
There’s a firestorm of controversy about synthetic hormone replacement. Premarin, an estrogen replacement drug for menopausal women made from pregnant mare’s urine, is one of the top selling drugs in the U.S. The threat of breast and uterine cancer is dramatically increased with HRT, and the risk increases as a woman ages. In an action that received wide media attention, U.S. government scientists halted a July 2002 study on hormone replacement because it was such a threat to the participants’ health. Increased risk of invasive breast cancer, heart disease, stroke and pulmonary embolism (blood clots in the lungs) were all cited as reasons for halting the study. The drugs being tested included Premarin, Prempro and Provera. In hopeful news, some research finds that the higher risk for breast cancer diminishes, even largely disappears when a woman is off HRT treatment for five years.
What’s The HRT Connection To Osteoporosis?
HRT is still strongly promoted for osteoporosis prevention. Many menopausal women are so afraid of osteoporosis that with a little coaxing from their physicians they begin taking hormone drugs right away. Of those, about 60% discontinue the therapy because of side effects or fear of cancer! There is no question that hormones are involved in bone-building and bone loss, but declining estrogen levels after menopause do not by themselves cause osteoporosis. Although some studies show estrogen inhibits bone cell death, the newest tests reveal that as many as 15% of women on estrogen therapy continue to lose bone! Moreover, estrogen isn’t the only hormone involved in bone building. The hormone progesterone actually increases bone density in clinical tests. Low androgen levels of DHEA and testosterone also play a role in bone loss.
All About BHRT (Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy)
With celebrity endorsements from Suzanne Somers and Oprah Winfrey, today bioidentical hormones are an incredibly popular approach to relieve menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats and low libido. One reason is bioidentical hormones avoid high doses of estrogen common to conventional HRT drugs like Prempro. Early research suggests they may even be safer with less breast/uterine cancer risk than traditional drugs. Common side effects like weight gain and mood swings are often reduced, too.
How Are Bioidentical Hormones Unique?
Bioidentical hormones are synthesized from plant sources and are chemically identical to what is produced in the body. Estradiol, estrone, estriol, DHEA, progesterone and testosterone are all available. Some bioidenticals are FDA approved and sold in a standardized dosage. However, most are produced on a case-by-case basis. Your physician tests your blood or saliva in order (sometimes at different times of day) to develop the formula for you to reach a targeted level of hormones. A compounding pharmacist then produces a customized hormone Rx in the exact proportions that your body needs.
Menopause The Natural Way
80 percent of postmenopausal women in the U.S. do not use any form of HRT at all! Beyond increased cancer risk, HRT can have many unpleasant side effects. Women taking hormone drugs report weight gain (especially fatty deposits on the hips and thighs), heavy bleeding (worse than former menstrual periods), PMS-like pain, severe leg cramps, migraine headaches, uterine and breast fibroids, and low libido.
Unless you have specific, extenuating circumstances (only about 6% of American women do), a natural menopause may be the best. Even women who don’t have a symptom-free menopause say they feel younger and more energetic when they address menopausal changes, naturally. If you are about to be confronted with the great HRT choice, consider carefully before you agree. Symptoms that accompany menopause are due to the body’s difficulty in adapting to its new hormone functions. Many are positively influenced with natural approaches like whole herb formulas and bodywork therapies. If you’re experiencing a hormone roller coaster, with hot flashes, mood swings, vaginal dryness and low libido, check out my newest book release, Healthy Healing 14th Edition for much more information on the natural way to “keep the change!”
To Life-long health,