Making the Best of Menopause Issues
Menopause, and for several years leading up to it, also known as perimenopause, can be a time of great confusion and distress. Menopause is defined as the cessation of menstruation for a period of 12 months and it typically occurs between the ages of 45 to 55. Women will spend a major portion of their life as a menopausal woman.
The most common signs and symptoms of menopause are hot flashes, trouble sleeping, night sweats, weight gain, fatigue, low libido, vaginal dryness, anxiety, brain fog, weight gain, muscle aches, dry skin and an increased incidence of UTIs. Throughout all stages of life but especially during menopause, hormone health optimization is so important for weight management, disease prevention (eg. diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s) and enjoyment of life.
For some women, little to no treatment is needed and they just want to understand their body and the changes that are happening. For others, this can be a very difficult time and may require a combination of the following:
1. Laboratory testing: Lab tests will tell us if your hormones need to be balanced. A comprehensive hormone assessment should include more than just the typical sex hormones. Thyroid hormones, adrenal hormones, sex hormones, insulin and vitamin D (also hormones!) all have such a complex interrelationship; a deficiency or excess in one can have dramatic effects on another. Often times, women are treated based on test results and nothing else. Always find a doctor who is thorough and who will spend more than 5 minutes with you because your health matters for the rest of your life.
2. Lifestyle: Lifestyle change involves addressing everything under the sun from diet, weight, physical activity, stress, relationships, sleep, meditation, supplements, water intake, and so much more! Your physician should be knowledgeable in how each one of these may affect your hormone health and wellness.
3. Gut health optimization: Gut health is so important during anytime of your life, but especially during menopause when the bio-absorption of nutrients becomes a challenge for the body. Leaky-gut syndrome is a common finding that refers to abnormalities in the intestinal barrier, allowing substances to “leak” through the gut and enter the bloodstream. This can result in local and systemic levels of chronic inflammation causing a myriad of symptoms including excessive fatigue, bloating, weight gain, muscle pain, arthritis and a weak immune system. It can also be a trigger for allergies, chronic fatigue syndrome and autoimmune diseases such a Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. A specialty blood test performed in office will detect foods in your diet that may be leaking into your blood stream, unknowingly wrecking havoc on your body. These foods can often be from a healthy, 100% organic diet--- foods that you may have never suspected were the culprits to your sore joints, fatigue and headaches. Gut health is tightly interconnected to the optimal functioning of every organ system.
4. Botanical support: There are a number of natural products that are clinically proven to balance and regulate hormone production, metabolism and excretion. Some common remedies include black cohosh, kava, red clover, chaste tree, dong quai, evening primrose oil, ginseng, valerian, licorice root, or ginkgo, to name a few. These natural formulas can often times be the only treatment necessary to mitigate symptoms and correct a hormone imbalance.
5. Hormone replacement therapy: Bio-identical hormone replacement therapy (bHRT) is a safe and effective therapy when prescribed by an experienced physician. It is a simple way to replace low levels of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone for men and women. Bio-identical hormones are made from plant-derived products, such as yams, with molecules that are exactly the same to that of our own. Applied topically to the skin or subcutaneously with pellets, bHRT can be a life changing therapy for those suffering from menopause or hormone imbalance. Hormone management becomes so important to improving our entire health picture and for the prevention of many prevalent diseases such as osteoporosis, diabetes or cardiovascular issues.