Menopause: Are we meant to go through it?
Sitting across from me the other day, right after experiencing a hot flash and discussing her treatment options, one of my patients asked me “Isn’t menopause normal? Aren’t we meant to go through it? Shouldn’t my body be going through this process?”
Many of my peri-menopausal and post-menopausal patients describe going through menopause as if they are separating from their body – let me paint this picture:
- Hot Flashes
- Mood swings
- Weight Gain
- Vaginal Dryness
- Painful intercourse
- Loss of libido
- Hair growth on the face
- Hair loss from the scalp
- Urinary tract infections
- Dizzy spells
- Memory lapses
- Joint Pain
Do any of these sound normal to you? To me they sound like the side effects of a really awful medication.
My short answer to my patient’s questions is “No”. You do not have to live through the nightmare that can be menopause.
Let me address the questions directly.
Her first question was “Isn’t menopause normal?”
While we have accepted menopause as a normal part of aging, menopause is in fact unique to humans. Other primate species like monkeys and chimpanzees do not experience menopause like we do.
Because of advancements in society and medicine, we are living longer than ever. Now a woman can expect to live on average a third of her life without sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone)! Our ancestors had much shorter lifespans than we live today, and it is believed that they didn’t even live long enough to go through menopause.
My patient then asked “Aren’t we meant to go through it?”
You are never meant to feel unwell. Never. I do what I do because I believe in challenging the status quo of health and healthcare – aging can be done gracefully, it’s not an excuse for feeling like your body is falling apart.
You are never meant to live in hormonal imbalance. Today, hormonal imbalance is largely impacted by cortisol – your primary stress hormone. You are stressed at home, work, and from the environment you live in and the food you eat. Our lives today are busy and fast paced. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to minimize and manage stress. When our bodies are busy making cortisol because of mis-managed stress, our bodies basically forget about making any sex hormones. This leads to hormonal imbalance.
Finally my patient asked “Shouldn’t my body be going through this process?”
While it is normal for your ovaries to begin to produce less estrogen after menopause, your adrenal glands should be able to compensate and take over producing estrogen in the post-menopausal years. Your adrenal glands are the glands that also produce cortisol and guess what? With all the stress throughout your life, your adrenal glands are likely too tired to now take up the task of making your sex hormones too. Think about the impact stress can have on your body over 30-40 years, before you even start to have symptoms of menopause! That stress wears on your adrenal glands and they get tired. How can you expect them to make enough estrogen and sex hormones for another 30-40 years after menopause? They probably need a little help.
So what can we do?
Test and treat.
Testing your hormones, including cortisol, all 3 estrogens (yes you have 3), progesterone, testosterone and DHEA, gives you a comprehensive understanding of not only your hormonal levels, but how they’re interacting.
Do you have high cortisol from long term stress? You won’t make be making sex hormones.
Has your cortisol bottomed out? You won’t be making sex hormones.
Are you in estrogen dominance? Read more about that here.
Is your cholesterol too low from cholesterol lowering medications? You won’t be making sex hormones.
Is your blood sugar out of control? Your insulin will be too – that causes you to store extra fat. Extra fat = extra storage of toxic estrogens.
Is your cholesterol too high from liver congestion or low thyroid function? You won’t be making sex hormones and in fact, you’re likely storing excess estrogens and androgens (male hormones).
So we test.
And we treat by addressing the cause.
If cortisol is out of whack, we fix it. If you’re one of the 10% of people that’s lucky enough to be living a stress-free life then we skip right to the good stuff and fix the hormones.
And we address the hormones directly and individually. What needs raising? What needs lowering? You are a unique human being and deserve personalized care. This is the beauty of bio-identical hormone replacement therapy.
And as always, the choice is yours. Choose to live the most vital, fulfilling life you can. You only get one. If your hormones are holding you back, let’s fix it.
Dr. Harmonie Eleveld, ND