1. Does going through menopause early mean I will age more quickly?
This is one of the most common questions asked. Women have been conditioned to believe that female hormones keep them young and that menopause is the beginning of ageing. Look around and you will notice that despite the fact that all women over the age of 70 years are long past menopause and have low hormone levels, the way they look varies enormously. Some look old and wrinkled and others look fresh and full of vigour despite their low hormones. I have not seen a single study to show that low hormones equate with a shorter life or less quality of life or even have anything to do with the outer manifestations of ageing. Conversely I have seen young women look old because of poor lifestyle, smoking and drinking.
It is true that many studies have shown that after menopause women catch up with men in terms of the frequency of heart attacks, strokes and other degenerative disease. It is also true however, that these diseases tend to be due to poor lifestyle choices and not due to low hormone levels.
2. How common is false menopause?
During times of stress, especially if this is prolonged such as following the death of a loved one, a divorce or prolonged illness, ovulation may cease for months and even the periods will stop. Symptoms of relative oestrogen excess may occur such as weight gain, irritability, depression, crying, bloating, etc. and even the FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) test may show increased levels, all suggesting the beginning of peri-menopause. However all that may be required is some bio-identical progesterone cream to balance the oestrogen dominance, and good counselling to deal with the stress. After a few months you should start to feel better.
3. What is the difference between natural bio-identical progesterone and synthetic progestins?
In early menopause the general feeling of panic that grips most women
makes them feel that the higher the hormone level the better and therefore they should be taking powerful synthetic hormones rather than low-dose natural hormones which seem insignificant in dose.
The synthetic progestins are decidedly not natural. They are often even made from natural progesterone but tweaked in such a way that they are no longer identical and can be patented. Without this patent they are of no interest to pharmaceutical companies. Natural progesterone is body-friendly, but more important is that it is part of a constellation of events. Progesterone is used for making other important chemicals in the body. Progestins are end molecules. Their function is clearly similar but they are end molecules and cannot be used in the same way as the natural form. No wonder they are linked to an increase in the incidence of breast cancer.
4. If I am having ovarian failure at an early age should I not be taking oestrogen replacement in order to bring the level back to what is normal for my age?
Again one needs to differentiate between synthetic un-identical oestrogen and bio-identical oestrogen. Oestrogens have been called the ‘angels of life and the angels of death’ by Dr Ercole Cavalieri (head of cancer research at the University of Nebraska Medical Centre) because too much is dangerous to a woman’s health and too little can make her feel mentally lethargic and depressed. Maintaining a healthy balance in the peri-menopasual period can be a challenge to any woman experiencing symptoms.
There are three main human oestrogens: oestradiol, oestrone and oestriol. There are also other oestrogens such as synthetic oestrogens, animal oestrogen (from which Premarin is made), phyto-oestrogens (from plant sources) and xenoestrogens (chemicals in the environment with oestrogen-like properties). Oestrogen dominance, a name coined by Dr Lee (an expert on progesterone therapy), is the result of all these oestrogen and oestrogen-like compounds flooding the body. According to Dr Lee, even in the peri-menopause when the body’s own oestrogen level is falling together with an even greater fall in progesterone, the total oestrogen activity in the body will be dominant in relation to progesterone causing this relative oestrogen domination. It is for this reason that Dr Lee recommends bio-identical progesterone cream rather than oestrogen for the majority of women in the peri-menopause.
Please consider also that vitamins, minerals and enzymes are essential components required for the manufacture and transformation of hormones. With nutrient deficiency a major problem today, one should always consider adding nutrients to your diet even before deciding on hormone replacement.
Don’t rush for the hormones. There is a great deal that should be done first. Throwing hormones into the mix before maximising the functional integrity of the system may not be a good idea. The intelligence of the system may be compromised by this approach.
1. Check your diet. The best diet contains organic fruit and vegetables, with some fish and meat, and minimal or no junk and processed food. Sugar and other refined carbohydrates are highly processed and should be avoided at all times of life but especially early menopause. Coffee and alcohol intake should be minimal and smoking should be avoided. Avoid rancid and partially hydrogenated oils and margarines made from those oils.
2. Maintain optimum hydration. Listen to your body and drink water frequently during the day.
3. Exercise. Regular exercise is essential. Try to do 45 minutes per day.
4. Restore or maximise the health of receptor sites using essential fatty acids and other nutrients such as vitamin A (skin and mucous membranes), B vitamins, vitamin C, bioflavonoids, vitamins D and E, calcium and magnesium.
5. Restore and maximise the health of the liver and bowels with nutrients such as Ultra Clear Sustain, probioitics, glutamine and digestive enzyme supplements.
6. Consider herbal products that influence and support the body’s own intrinsic hormonal supply. These include black cohosh, chaste tree, macca, dong quai, yarrow, sarsparilla and wild yam.
7. Bio-identical hormones should be considered when all the above are in place and hormones still seem necessary.
Early menopause should not be seen as a crisis but rather as a physiological variant that requires special care. Good control for a woman with early menopause means optimising the health of her bowel-blood-liver ecosystem; making sure that the receptor sites for hormone function are not being distorted by synthetic hormones, xenoestrogens and other pollutants; supplying all the nutrients required for optimal function; and dealing with stress creatively. Natural bio-identical hormones do have their place but generally should not be the first choice.