Menopause, Bioidentical Hormones, and Hormone Replacement Therapy
Menopause marks the end of a woman's reproductive potential. It is the termination of the monthly menstrual cycle following the normal "retirement"of ovarian activity, except when induced by or as a consequence of medication, surgery, or certain diseases.
In American culture, menopause is treated like a disease because of common problems associated with the normal hormonal changes. It can, however, be a fresh phase of life with new opportunities that a woman's wisdom of experience can direct. With an appropriate perspective of menopause, and the guidance of a trained, well-informed and sensitive practitioner, a woman can seize this opportunity the transition provides to optimize her health and lifestyle in a proactive and preventative fashion
Menopausal symptoms are the results of decreased sex hormones: estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and DHEA which are produced in greatest amounts, generally speaking, in the ovaries.
Symptoms vary from woman to woman and can be unpredictable.
Important things to understand about menopause:
When treating menopausal symptoms, it's important to differentiate it from disease prevention. A woman's risk of osteoporosis and heart disease increase following menopause. Determining your individual risk with your Naturopath Physician for those and other diseases, Alzheimer's and breast cancer namely, will be an important basis for menopause treatment options.
Monitoring bone health with bone density tests and screening for heart disease should be recommended for every woman at this stage in her life. It is important to remember that these processes develop over time, and they can be treated prior to becoming problematic with an appropriate and lifestyle encompassing health care plan.
A treatment plan from your Naturopath will be based on diet and exercise changes in addition to supplements, herbs and possibly natural or other hormone replacement therapy aimed at relieving menopausal symptoms, optimizing bone health and prevention of heart disease.
There has been much confusion and misinformation in the media about natural hormones, and what makes a hormone "natural." There has also been a recent surge in demand for bioidentical hormones by women who have read popular books on the matter. It is important to know that while there's much relief to be gained from hormone replacement therapy, it may not be appropriate for every woman. However, studies have shown that bioidentical hormones have significant benefits over conventional synthetic hormones. Again, your Naturopathic Physician will help you navigate the individual risks and benefits of hormone replacement therapy.
Bioidentical Hormones have the exact chemical structure to the hormones the body makes and have the identical effect. Conventional synthetic hormones, estrogen in particular, have a much more potent effect on the liver in relation to their estrogenic effect. Premarin, for instance, is derived from the urine of pregnant mares [hence the name: Pre- (pregnant) -mar (mare) -in (urine)]. It is two molecules of horse estrogen joined together (conjugated equine estrogen) and is difficult to metabolize out of the body.
Therefore, it is not necessarily a smooth transition for women taking conjugated equine estrogen (CEE) to switch to bioidentical estrogen. The liver is accustomed to detoxifying enormous molecules of CEE and the bioidentical estrogen is caught in the current, so to speak, and it passes right out of the body. The woman changing her HRT is advised that menopausal symptoms will temporarily reoccur while the body clears the remaining CEE, then she will feel the effects of bioidentical hormone therapy.