When your ovaries “retire”, either naturally or surgically, we call it menopause. There is an assumption that when this occurs, that estrogen just stops. Although the levels of estrogen and progesterone hormones diminish during this time of life, no longer needed in large quantities to support reproduction, they don’t stop. Since all hormones, with few exceptions are vitally needed throughout life, the body has a back-up system to continue to produce hormones for the duration of life. So if you are suffering from “hormone deficiency symptoms” such as hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, low libido, etc., you should be asking why.
For the remainder of life the adrenals, fat cells, breasts and the liver play the primary role in hormone production. They do not produce pre-menopausal levels – they’re not supposed to. "Just because a hormone declines, doesn't necessarily mean we should automatically replace it," says Jeffrey Bland, Ph.D. "The goal should be balance. We don't want to override the body's ability to normalize itself.” “Administering hormones [as replacement therapy] is playing with fire. “We have to understand that there is an intricate feedback system in the body for hormones and disrupting that delicate balance can be harmful, rather than helpful.
When confronted with the discomfort of menopausal symptoms, a woman frequently grabs for anything she can get her hands on for allaying the symptoms. Most will turn to their medical doctors for hormones. For about 50 years the use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was relatively unopposed. But in 2002 after an announcement by the Women’s Health Initiative of the National Institutes of Health that those receiving conjugated equine hormones had increased risk of breast cancer, heart attacks and strokes, the attitude towards HRT changed. This study was reconfirmed in a larger national study called The Million Women Study done in the UK.
At that time other alternatives were sought out. During this time the relatively unrecognized field of Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT) blossomed. Women began pleading with their doctors to prescribe BHRT instead, not understanding that these too are drugs. They affect the natural biochemical feedback system involving many other organs and hormones. When a bio-identical hormone (or any exogenous hormone – an outside hormone given instead of the body producing it) is introduced, all the other associated glands have to adjust their function to compensate, potentially causing some disrupting effects.
While ovaries necessarily shrink after menopause, other systems are not supposed to. When you give an exogenous hormone the body says “Hey! Where’d all this extra hormone come from? I don’t know, but I’ll take it!” And it stops producing its own, getting lazier and lazier, making the person dependent upon it. As the gland scales back in its own production, HRT dosages must be increased to make up the difference.
Better to support the glands, organs and tissues responsible for hormone production so they can supply the hormones themselves, rather than sending in replacements. How we do that will be in Part II of Menopause: Restoring Retired Ovary Function.
Dr. Holly Carling is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine, Licensed Acupuncturist, Doctor of Naturopathy, Clinical Nutritionist and Master Herbologist with nearly four decades of experience. Dr. Carling is a “Health Detective,” she looks beyond your symptom picture and investigates WHY you are experiencing your symptoms in the first place. Dr. Carling is currently accepting new patients and offers natural health care services and whole food nutritional supplements in her Coeur d’ Alene clinic. Visit Dr. Carling’s website at www.vitalhealthcda.com to learn more about Dr. Carling, view a list of upcoming health classes and read other informative articles. Dr. Carling can be reached at 208-765-1994 and would be happy to answer any questions regarding this topic.