Treating Women’s Hormones without Drugs
Managing menopause has become a multi-million dollar industry with topical creams, pills and patches dosed daily to women in an attempt to mitigate symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, irritability and poor sleep. For many women, menopause is the same rite of passage that our grandmothers, aunts and mothers experienced, and should not be something to suffer or medicate through. The exception to seeing menopause as a natural change in women’s bodies is surgical menopause. When hormone production ceases due to organ removal or failure, hormone replacement therapy, either bioidentical or synthetic, may be warranted. However, for most women, menopause should be able to be managed with lifestyle and dietary changes. Ingredients for a healthy drug free menopause are proper detoxification, stress hormone balance and a balanced whole food diet.
The ovaries receive all the credit for hormone production and our major stress gland, the adrenal, is often ignored. Once the ovaries have quieted down with menopause, and hormone production from them has discontinued, the adrenal gland is now one of the primary sources of female sex hormones. The adrenal gland is also responsible for our stress response and cortisol production. Chronic stress in the menopausal woman depletes her not just of stress hormones and energy, but also her sex hormones and female hormone balance. The adrenal gland of the menopausal woman has a lot of responsibility and needs to be supported. Stress management, healthy exercise and a balanced whole food diet are important to maintain a healthy adrenal gland. To repair a weakened adrenal gland, the body may require extra nutrients, particularly Vitamin C, Vitamin B6 and Panothenic acid. Often times, naturopathic physicians will prescribe botanical blends of adaptogens, or herbs that help the body’s response to stress. Adrenal function testing can be done through saliva or blood. Treatment of hypo functioning adrenal glands can translate into a reduction of menopause symptoms, as well as improved energy and stress response.
The mechanism of hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms is not clear. However, clinicians and researchers have implicated a balance of estrogen and progesterone to improve symptoms. Many times women experiencing menopausal symptoms have too much estrogen or not enough progesterone. Proper detoxification of estrogen can help promote balanced levels, instead of supplementing with extra hormones. Estrogen is processed in the liver, using enzymes that require B vitamins, cruciferous vegetables and sulfur containing foods such as eggs, garlic and onions. A high nutrient diet and adequate levels of protein will help support the liver to help promote proper estrogen and progesterone levels.
Dietary Hormone Support
Phytohormones are found in many foods. Phytoestrogens and progesterones can be found naturally occurring in many vegetables. Asparagus, sesame seeds, cherries, yams, soy, whole grains and many other vegetables and fruit as well as nuts and seeds contain these natural plant sources of hormones. An increased intake of whole foods can help supplement a decrease in hormone production, often times mitigating symptoms of menopause.
It’s difficult to discuss dietary hormone support without discussing the major phytoestrogen food source, soy. Is soy good? Is soy bad? Every doctor and health food store clerk has a different opinion. There are two truths that make the all or nothing opinion on soy difficult. Soy, much like many other foods, has become extremely processed and genetically modified. Where before you could have a serving of tofu, bowl of edamame or perhaps a glass of soy milk, now almost anything can be made from soy or has soy as an ingredient. Excess and extreme processing can demonize any food, including soy.
The second truth is phytoestrogens, from foods or herbs, need to be kept in perspective. There are three forms of estrogen in the body: estradiol being the strongest and more associated with breast cancer than the weaker estriol and estrone. In fact, studies show having more of estriol and estrone in relation to estradiol may help with autoimmune conditions, cancer prevention and menopause. Most phytoestrogens are about a thousand times weaker than estradiol, where estriol and estrone are about ten to one hundred times weaker. When a phytoestrogen molecule attaches to an estrogen site, it is tremendously weaker than the hormones our body produces. It’s not going to stimulate the body to the same level as human made estrogens do. In fact, it’s now blocking that receptor from being stimulated by a stronger estrogen. Soy and other phyto-estrogen containing foods can help support hormones in the body, but much like anything, should be kept in moderation, from whole food levels and accessed on an individual basis. In general, they offer a great support to hormone balance.
The menopausal woman’s body wants to be balanced; it simply needs the right tools. Stress hormones, nutrient levels and diet plans all can be accessed to ensure proper hormone production, detoxification and body balance. Treating the cause can reduce symptoms and help avoid medications.
Dr. Lauren Young is a board certified naturopathic physician, accepting new patients for her family practice in Manchester, CT. Dr. Young is in network with most insurance companies. For an appointment or more information, please call (860)533-0179 or visit www.ctnaturalhealth.com.