The definition of menopause itself is the cessation of menses for twelve months. However, women can experience symptoms for years prior and up to five to ten years after menopause. The most common signs and symptoms are hot flashes and night sweats, urinary tract changes, mood swings, insomnia, fatigue, decreased libido, headaches, changes in memory, skin and hair changes, vaginal dryness, and weight gain. Symptoms can be mild, moderate or severe and vary from woman to woman. Some women’s symptoms will be subtle and infrequent, while those of other women will be overt and increasingly problematic for years to come.
Many of these changes are due to hormone irregularities. As a woman’s body ages, there are fewer and fewer ovarian eggs. This means that fewer follicles grow each menstrual cycle resulting in a shorter a shorter menstrual cycle. Cycle length can vary. Some women may have more frequent cycles while others may notice the number of days increasing between the cycles. As menopause approaches, the ovaries make less estrogen and progesterone. Eventually, estrogen levels drop low enough that there is not enough uterine tissue build-up to produce a menses and menstruation stops altogether. Finally imbalances or low adrenal and thyroid hormones can also contribute to weight gain, muscle loss, thinning skin and memory loss.
The goal of overall treatment and changes is to provide relief from symptoms and also to prevent osteoporosis and other diseases associated with aging. Many women going through menopause can seek symptom relief through specific dietary recommendations, exercise, stress reduction, and botanical formulas. There are also specific nutrients that can re-set and stabilize the thermostat in the body that is flipping on and off due to the fluctuation in estrogen.
Those who have more moderate to severe hot flashes and who aren’t finding relief from botanicals may need to try hormone therapy. Bio-identical hormones are compounded in a pharmacy and made to look like what the body produces. The beauty of compounded hormones is that the hormones are not one size fits all. Your physician has the ability to prescribe a more specific formula that is right for you. The most common compounded hormones prescribed are estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. See the HORMONE REPLACEMENT THERAPY section for more details.
The adrenals are responsible for producing most of the female hormones after menopause. Unfortunately, most women live a stressful lifestyle and don’t realize that the stress is being taken out on their adrenal glands. When the adrenals are functioning normally they are responsible for providing us with energy, sound sleep, blood sugar balance, decreased inflammation, hormone balance and regulate blood pressure. The more stress that is present the quicker the adrenals become depleted of these essential hormones. The good news is that we can evaluate your adrenals by doing the Adrenal Function Testing to determine how dysfunctional your adrenals really are. The test checks your cortisol, DHEA through saliva over a course of a day. This allows your doctor to implement appropriate therapies to allow for repair.