As we mature our ovaries take a much needed retirement and stop producing sex hormones. In an ideal world, with lower stress levels and adequate nutrients, a woman’s adrenal glands would take over for her ovaries; her adrenal glands would make sex hormones and a woman would transition to post-menopause with little or no symptoms. According to conventional wisdom menopause should last 18 months but many women experience menopausal symptoms for years. Unfortunately in the modern world our adrenal glands are so busy making our stress hormone, Cortisol, that the production of sex hormones takes a back seat. This causes a wired and tired feeling and insomnia.
Peri-menopause and menopause can be a scary time for women experiencing hot flashes, sleeplessness, irritability, panic attacks, etc. Fortunately there are both herbal and dietary solutions to help a woman come back into balance. For the 75% of women who suffer symptoms, vitamin and adaptogenic herbs and diet therapy will be enough. A peri-menopausal diet focuses on balancing insulin and blood sugar levels to help the adrenal glands rejuvenate, and herbs help a woman’s body produce hormones or mimic hormones, and her symptoms subside. In my practice women feel better within a few weeks of making even small changes to their diet and adding a few supplements. Working in consultation with a dietitian provides most women with relief.
The other 25% of women may benefit from Bio-Identical Hormone Restoration Therapy (BHRT). A number of physicians in Toronto specialize in this type of therapy and can discuss its safety and risks. Any women who wishes to pursue BHRT should have a detailed assessment with a BHRT specialist so that she and her doctor can make informed decisions about their use. BHRT is not Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). It is different and many MDs are not yet caught up with the latest science. One BHRT cream is called Bi-Est meaning two estrogens. The use of estriol (our weakest estrogen) with a smaller amount of estridiol (our stronger estrogen) is said to improve the risk profile of estrogen therapy. According to John R. Lee MD, author of “What Your Doctor May Not Have Told You About Peri-Menopause”,”Bi-Est provides the anti-carcinogenic effects of estriol while also providing the cardiovascular benefit, prevention of bone loss, and menopausal symptom relief of estradiol.” Most of today’s BHRT is applied via patch or cream, which is safer than ingesting because it bypasses the liver. Progesterone and Testosterone must also be in balance and these too are applied topically.
How about you? Are you having symptoms that you suspect are hormonal?