Conventional approaches to women’s health have often used surgery and other invasive medical procedures to deal with common physiologic functions such as hormonal imbalances experienced during menopause. I feel that at times, an Alternative Medicine approach often yields wonderful results.
I offer patients a variety of therapeutic options including changes in their diet, nutritional supplements, herbal medications, homeopathy, herbs and natural hormone balance.
Generally women experience menopause between the ages of 48 to 52, but some women cease menstruating as early as their 30s and early 40s, while others stop in their mid 50s. The aging “Baby Boomer” population means that 3500 American women enter their menopausal years every day; yet, because women are healthier now, menopause no longer indicates the onset of old age, and women can expect to live a third of their adult lives after menopause.
Menopause commences when your ovaries stop promoting estrogen. Perimenopause is the period commonly thought of as 5 to 10 years before menopause, approximately the ages of 35 to 50.
It is characterized by several years of regular cycles with no ovulation since the ovaries are at the end of their egg supply. Without an egg present, progesterone is no longer produced, and therefore perimenopause is frequently characterized by estrogen dominance with side effects ranging from water retention, weight gain, mood swings, fibrocystic breasts, breast cancer, fibroids, endometriosis or endometrial cancer.
With the onset of menopause, however, estrogen levels do not drop to zero. Some estrogen is still produced in the fat cells and the supporting tissue around the ovaries. Weight gain after menopause can be the body’s attempt to take advantage of the situation. Estrogen is also made by other chemical pathways in the body. It is this reserve of estrogen that many natural therapies draw on for their effectiveness.
Menstrual cramps, absence of menstruation, and excessive menstruation as well as PMS often respond to natural treatments. I recommend eating a diet that avoids dairy products, saturated fats, salt, alcohol, sugar and caffeine. Nutritional supplementation, herbal medicine, as well as natural hormone balance, especially with natural Bio-identical progesterone is used.
PROBLEMS RELATED TO MENOPAUSE
At the time of menopause the hormonal output, instead of reducing gradually, ultimately stops and starts. This leads to many of the symptoms of menopause. The estrogen supply eventually regulates and reaches a plateau where it remains until around age 70.
The symptoms of menopause are caused by estrogen dominance in the body, progesterone production declines in the years leading up to this change in the woman’s body. Therefore, a woman may experience water retention, weight gain, memory loss, irritability and depression.
During menopause, decreased estrogen levels may cause bladder and vaginal atrophy with the vaginal walls becoming dry and thin, and the women may have less interest in sex or slower arousal time. The hormonal changes also disrupt the delicate acid-alkaline balance of the vagina, which can lead to increased susceptibility to yeast and bacterial infections. Women may develop fibrocystic breasts, fibroids, or endometrial cancer.
TREATMENT FOR THE SYMPTOMS OF MENOPAUSE
Menopause can trigger a wide variety of symptoms, some commonly associated with the symptoms such as hot flashes, but others may be subtle such as anxiety and depression or weight gain. I have found that hot flashes can be controlled using some key menopausal herbs such as dong quai, chasteberry, black cohosh, maca, licorice root, NutraFem and pueraria mirifica. Of interest, this PM also known as Ti Kudzu is hands down the most powerful supplement a woman can take for menopausal symptoms.
It has been used for 700 years by both men and women for its hormone effects. We know is extremely safe and effective at relieving no fewer than 20 different symptoms associated with menopause and perimenopause including vaginal dryness, hot flashes, night sweats, depression, insomnia and irritability. In its Phase 1 studies, every one of the menopausal symptoms evaluated was reduced from moderate-severe to mild with the most significant drop occurring in the first 30 days. It is important that the extract have miroestrol which has its effect on the beta-2 receptors and can actually halt the growth of breast cancer en vivo. The blend is the key.
NATURAL HORMONE THERAPY IN MENOPAUSE
Hormone therapy should consist of Bio-identical, natural hormones.
The balance is the key. Of course, estrogen metabolites, looking at the 4-hydroxy, 2-hydroxy and 16 estrogen series’ are obtained in all my patients. If a patient is metabolizing into the 4-hydroxy series, estrogen should be avoided at all costs. In addition, I perform a breast cancer genetic panel, which can further customize each patient’s care. I ALSO DO BREAST THERMOGRAPHY TO EVALUATE FOR BREAST CANCER RISKS.
Fibroids, ovarian cysts and endometriosis are all addressed using natural hormone balance and an individualized nutrition program for each patient. Iodine, vitamin D, as well as essential fatty acids are especially useful.
Breast disorders can be hereditary and can also result from such environmental and lifestyle factors such as diet, breast implants, and birth control pills. Since early detection of such problems, especially where cancer is concerned, is currently one of the primary strategies for prevention.
It is important for women to examine their own breasts regularly. This must be done each month at the same time in the woman’s cycle in the same physical position, and using the same sequence of steps.
FIBROCYSTIC BREAST DISEASE
Fibrocystic breast disease occurs in 80% of premenopausal women as noted by such studies. Common symptoms include pain and tenderness of the breasts with texture of the breasts changing. Small lumps are detectable to the touch. Fibrocystic breasts are apparently caused by an increased estrogen-progesterone ratio.
This benign disorder is commonly seen among women whose diets are high in proportion of saturated animal fat and rare among those who eat little saturated animal fat but take a high proportion of essential fatty acids. Evaluation of breast disease includes ultrasound, mammography, thermography, MRI, and PET scanning. There is a subtype of fibrocystic breasts that will proceed to breast cancer.
TREATMENT OF FIBROCYSTIC BREASTS
Using progesterone transdermally on the breasts will usually cause breast cysts to disappear. Other modalities include vitamin D, iodine, DIM and calcium D glucarate.
A NATURAL ESTROGEN REPLACEMENT APPROACH
When choosing a natural estrogen replacement dose, one should be certain the ingredients are standardized to meet pharmaceutical potency. These phytoestrogens from soy as well as estrogenic plants such as licorice root, and hormonal modulating plant extracts such as black cohosh, dong quai and pueraria mirifica, otherwise known as Ti-Kudzu, are useful.
WHEN NATURAL ESTROGEN IS NOT ENOUGH
I feel that some women have such severe menopausal symptoms that I use safe forms of estrogen in my practice. The primary forms of estrogen synthesized by the body include three substances: Estrone, estradiol, and estriol. Estrone is one form of estrogen found in Premarin, while 17-estradiol is the only form of estrogen found in Estrace and Estraderm. Estrone and estradiol may significantly increase the risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
I do not use synthetic estrogens in my practice. In my practice I do use, on occasion, bi-est, which is 80% estriol and 20% estradiol, or I use just pure estriol. Estriol is a weak estrogen that provides many of the anti-aging benefits of estrogen replacement without the risk of cancer. Consider this evidence that estriol is benign: During pregnancy, huge amounts of estriol are secreted by the placenta to protect the fetus. Since estriol is a weak estrogen, the dose is titrated for each patient.
Studies have shown that using estriol therapy even in high doses, does not cause endometrial hyperplasia. Estriol and bi-est therapy has also reversed vaginal atrophy and improved the quality of cervical mucosa. There is direct evidence from animal studies and indirect evidence in human studies that estriol can prevent breast cancer. Much of the work has been done at the Department of Internal Medicine of the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
They found that estriol when administered, there were many less mammary tumors in female rats. Because of the anti-cancer effect of cancer in animals, we are also looking at the question of whether estriol is related in any way to breast cancer in humans. Studies have shown that women with breast cancer have low levels of estriol relative to the other forms of estrogen.
THE EPIDEMIC DEFICIENCY OF PROGESTERONE
Throughout life, women have a gradual loss of a critical hormone called progesterone. This decline becomes significant near menopause. Symptoms of progesterone deficiency include premenstrual discomfort, night sweats, hot flashes, along with a loss of smell and depressed feeling. Progesterone has many wonderful benefits including improvement of bone density, brain and heart effects that are all positive. Studies have shown that women taking progesterone experience disappearance of their lumps and bumps in their breasts, are less depressed and have fewer hot flashes, and better bone density.
Previous retrospective studies have shown that women undergoing breast cancer surgery during the luteal phase of the menstrual phase of the menstrual cycle, when progesterone level is higher, have a much longer survival time. This is thought to be since progesterone lowers vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGS) which is a potent angiogenic factor in cancer.
It has been reported that women with a progesterone level of 4 ng/mL or more at the time of breast cancer had a significantly better survival at 18 years than those with a lower level of progesterone at the time of surgery. Another study showed that the incidence of breast cancer was 5.4 times greater in women with low progesterone than in women with unstable progesterone levels.
POTENTIAL DANGERS OF SYNTHETIC PROGESTIN DRUGS
The use of synthetic versus natural hormones is as important with progesterone as it is with estrogen. There is a synthetic progesterone called Provera, which in my opinion has many dangerous side effects and should not be used. These include birth defects, breast cancer, blood clots, fluid retention, acne rash, weight gain and depression. These drugs are classified as progestins, not as progesterone. In my patients, I only use natural progesterone, never synthetic.
DHEA is a natural hormone secreted by the adrenal hormones, gonads and brain. It is produced by both men and women. It is a precursor of estrogen and testosterone, and it is a good starting place for hormone modulation in aging females. Studies have shown that an increase in testosterone and DHEA seem to protect against vasomotor symptoms in menopause. DHEA has also been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and lower blood sugar as well as lipid profiles.. ALSO USED IS PREGNENOLONE THE MOTHER HORMONE.
Women’s Health is a complex interplay of genes, biochemical individuality and toxins. Diet, exercise, nutritional assessment, as well as natural hormone balance is essential in every female. Perimenopause and menopause are treatable conditions by safe, effective modalities.
If you wish to learn more about perimenopause or menopause, please call my office for an in-depth consultation. Learn your options. Be proactive. Take control of your life.