Blog 9 of 30
Hormone therapy… a subject I am intimately aware of. A couple of years ago I had a partial hysterectomy to deal with painful fibroids that weren’t shrinking on their own. Fibroids can be from an accumulation of too much estrogen in the body (estrogen from foods and outside sources as well as hormone imbalances) and happen over time. So although I had removed those sources of estrogenic compounds from my diet it was too late and surgery was the best option for me. This put me into menopause faster than nature would have and the hormone dance began. First the weight gain around the middle came….then the hot flashes. Hot flashes are the top thing women complain of when going through menopause……we all have probably had that mother or aunt that is waving her hand in front of her and stripping down in an icy cold room during the holidays. She was having a hot flash…and let me tell you those things are FO REAL! They are typically from a drop in Estrogen and are one reason many women look to BHRT (Bio Identical Hormone Therapy). They can be unbearable! Until you have experienced one that is no way to explain it except an internal FIRE that can’t be put out for a matter of seconds to minutes and then POOF it’s gone leaving a sweaty mess in its wake. A partial (or total) hysterectomy is not something I recommend unless you are having complications and quality of life issues. BHRT is not something I will do forever and it isn’t something I do without a break. I take a week off each month and I take a “honeymoon” from all hormones as well to see how I feel and to give my body a break.
If you transition naturally, menopause comes with a slow lead in if you are lucky. Perimenopause comes first and can start as early as 35. This is where irregular periods begin as hormones start their fluctuation leading into menopause. “Perimenopause or “menopause transition.” Perimenopause can begin 8 to 10 years before menopause, when the ovaries gradually produce less estrogen. It usually starts in a woman’s 40s, but can start in the 30s as well. Perimenopause lasts up until menopause, the point when the ovaries stop releasing eggs. In the last 1-2 years of perimenopause, the drop in estrogen accelerates. At this stage, many women can experience menopause symptoms. Women are still having menstrual cycles during this time, and can get pregnant.” (Cleveland Clinic)
Then comes menopause which can largely be determined by the age your mother went through it. I have friends who are in their mid 50’s still having a cycle and friends in their mid 30’s going through perimenopause. “The traditional changes we think of as “menopause” happen when the ovaries no longer produce high levels of hormones. The ovaries are the reproductive glands that store eggs and release them into the fallopian tubes. They also produce the female hormones estrogen and progesterone as well as testosterone. Together, estrogen and progesterone control menstruation. Estrogen also influences how the body uses calcium and maintains cholesterol levels in the blood. As menopause nears, the ovaries slowly begin to run out of eggs. Eventually, the ovaries no longer release eggs into the fallopian tubes and the woman has her last menstrual cycle.” (Cleveland Clinic)
I have been working with clients for years that have hormone issues so I was aware of my symptoms and my options. Before even considering HRT (hormone replacement therapy) a person should do everything possible to create a healthy balance on their own. Some things that can help a person get back on track are as follows:
- Follow a circadian lifestyle and get some sleep. (get my free sleep guide on my home page for how to practice this)
- Support the liver (estrogen can clog the liver) and consider talking to your doctor about using DIM to clear excess estrogens
- Lose weight
- Reduce stress
- Lift weights
- Get your minerals balanced (magnesium especially)
For a more thorough explanation of natural balance read here.
If you have done everything you can (like me) and the symptoms of hormone imbalance are just too much it may be time to see a doctor skilled in this kind of treatment. Conventional doctors and OBGYN’s are typically going to start with synthetic hormones so finding someone skilled in bioidentical hormone replacement (BHRT) would be best.
I visited a doctor who specializes in women’s sexual health and we formulated a plan. I told her I wanted to do the minimum amount of hormone treatment possible to achieve the best results. I believe in starting slow and low with hormone treatment of any kind (including thyroid) and only after testing. The world of hormones is filled with controversy. Some people believe urine testing is best and some say saliva. Then there is your old conventional method of blood testing that many doctors swear by. I won’t comment on the best form here, that is something to talk with your own doctor about but the links should help you make an educated decision.
Once you decide that replacement is something you are interested in you have more decisions to make. What kind should you use? There are creams, pills, oils and sublinguals to choose from. One thing I am 100% committed to is bio identical forms of HRT and I recommend you do your homework by doing the following:
1. Find a doctor who offers options for testing hormones OR do your own through Canary Club.
2. Research your pharmacy options as you will need a compounding pharmacy that understands bioidenticals. Locally we have Sango Pharmacy that I trust and also Cornerstone Pharmacy in Arkansas who ships anywhere.
3. Explain to your pharmacists that when your doctor calls in the prescription you want to make sure they have an understanding of benign fillers and very small doses so you can titrate up to the effective dose.
4. TEST and RESTEST. Never take hormones without testing and having someone who can follow your progress.
Using hormones is something that can make you feel fearful from all of the hype about estrogen and cancer in the past. Make sure you use current research when making your decisions.