Women's Hormones - Natural Alternatives - Fact Sheet
Compiled by: Leslie Bedell, D.C.
Currently, approximately 10 million women are taking synthetic, risk-laden hormones. These include birth control pills as well as drugs prescribed for perimenopause and menopause.
Synthetic hormones such as Premarin and Provera are not human hormones; they have been chemically altered in the lab to mimic the action of naturally produced hormones.
Because of the many physical side effects of these synthetic drugs including weight gain, water retention, mood swings, fatigue, headaches, tender breasts, and muscle weakness, nearly 75% of women decide for themselves to go off their prescribed hormones.
Synthetic estrogen replacement therapy has been shown to cause a six-fold increase in the risk of endometrial cancer as well as a significant increase in the risk for breast cancer.
The International Journal of Cancer reported in 1991 that “High intake of dietary fiber, vitamin C, beta-carotene decrease the risk for postmenopausal breast cancer”.
The female body slows down its production of hormones such as estrogen and progesterone in the mid-thirties.
Blood tests used to determine women's hormone levels can vary widely from day to day;
Saliva testing is much more accurate.
There is not one hormone called “Estrogen”; it is a class of hormones which include estrone, estradiol, estriol. Progesterone is actually considered to be the “mother hormone” and precursor to most of the steroid hormones made by the human body.
Adrenal glands continue to manufacture female sex hormones even as the ovaries slow down their production. The healthier the adrenal glands are, the less likely that women will experience negative menopausal symptoms. Constant exposure to stressful conditions physically and emotionally will deplete the adrenal glands.
Natural menopause does NOT have negative mental health consequences for the middle-aged woman and does not by itself cause weight gain.
Marcus Laux, N.D., author of Natural Women, Natural Menopause, points out that Asian women who eat diets high in soy rarely suffer from any menopausal or perimenopausal symptoms.
Researchers have shown that soy isoflavone supplements can greatly reduce the negative symptoms of hot flashes and night sweats. These isoflavones have also been shown to protect the heart in research done at the Bowman Gray School of Medicine.
Phytoestrogens also include black cohosh and licorice; these, like isoflavones, are weak estrogen-like substances, which help to block excess estrogen from entering estrogen receptor sites. If there is not enough estrogen in the body, they fill the gap and fool the body into thinking that there is.
The majority of women in the past generations began menopause in their mid-forties and early fifties. In this last generation, however, women have begun to have anovulatory cycles in their mid-thirties. Estrogen production becomes erratic and can cause many uncomfortable symptoms until women enter their fifties. Surges can produce heavy menstrual bleeding, sleep pattern disturbances, tender breasts, mood swings, water retention, depression, and weight gain.
Dr. John Lee who wrote What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause and spent years researching the role of hormones in women, believes that a condition known as “Estrogen Dominance” is actually the cause of the many negative symptoms women suffer as they enter their perimenopausal years. He recommends the use of a natural progesterone crème derived from the Mexican wild yam as an alternative to synthetic hormone replacement. His research shows that it helps to protect the heart as well as preventing and reversing osteoporosis.
Dr. Lee's research in his book states that unopposed estrogen in the human body can have devastating physical consequences to both men and women, including cancer, infertility, sexual problems, menstrual difficulties, endometriosis, and infertility.
Many experts, including Dr. Lee, cite increasing evidence that xenoestrogens in our external environment are a primary factor inn the “estrogen dominance” syndrome. Xenoestrogens mimic the action of estrogen and are formed from substances that are petrochemically based. These include petroleum fuels, plastics (used in saran wrap and white fillings for teeth), cosmetics, clothing, computer parts, and dozens of other commonly used materials which may make life more convenient but are flooding our Western culture with many estrogen mimicking chemicals.
A naturally occurring substance called Calcium D-glucarate has been found to help the body eliminate these dangerous xenoestrogens, which have been shown to have carcinogenic properties. Calcium D-glucarate is found in highest concentration in apples, grapefruit, broccoli and alfalfa sprouts and also available in supplements.
A poor Western diet includes many destructive oils and fats. Flax seed oil has been shown to have beneficial results for perimenopausal women and is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids.
The Canadian journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology reported in 1991 that “Osteoporosis begins several years prior to menopause, before any decrease in estrogen levels”.
Dairy products are a poor source of calcium. Broad-leafed vegetables such as kale and collards and sesame seeds are the best food sources. People who eat excess animal protein may need up to 1,500 milligrams per day while vegetarians require less, up to 800 mg./day.
Gastric hydrochloric acid facilitates the absorption of calcium; that's why TUMS are a poor source of calcium supplementation.
Weight-bearing exercise, progesterone, estrogen including phytoestrogens such as soy isoflavones, Vitamin D, Vitamin K, Magnesium, Boron, and micronutrients all help the body to absorb dietary calcium.
Excess protein, phosphorus, diuretics, antibiotics, fluoride, and metabolic acidosis all inhibit calcium absorption.
In order for calcium to form bone (osteoblasts), enzymes, which require magnesium and Vitamin B6, are necessary.
In a recent animal study, Black Cohosh extract was shown to stimulate the formation of bone cells by increasing the utilization of calcium.
According to Dr. Christiane Northrup's text, Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom, perimenopausal symptoms such as hot flashes are messages from the body that can enhance a woman's awareness of unresolved issues in her life. Dr. Northrup tells us “If a woman is willing to deal with her own unfinished business, she will have fewer menopausal symptoms. She will find that her symptoms are messages from her inner guidance system that parts of her life need attention.” Women who are involved in personal growth activities such as counseling and support groups often do not experience any negative symptoms. To the contrary, many women in their 50's awaken to their inner needs and fulfill their life-long dreams by going to college, beginning new careers, starting their own businesses, engaging in new social activities, and traveling.
Women experience fewer hormone imbalances and related symptoms in cultures that allow for rest and introspection during premenstrual times. PMS is virtually unknown in areas where women still live communally on the land. Their cycles follow the cycles of the moon and tides.
In other parts of the world, women gain increased societal respect as they age and are involved in cultural traditions where they are esteemed as valuable elders. America is one of the only cultures that display postmenopausal women as depressed, tired and useless. There is a direct correlation between a woman's physical symptoms at the time of menopause and her self-esteem, sense of purpose, and view of herself in relation to others.
Women Face Increasing Health Challenges
In light of the recent halt in one of the largest federal studies of hormone replacement therapy due to the increased risks of breast cancer, heart attack, stroke and blood clots in women using synthetic hormones, it is imperative that women become educated about their full range of choices and utilize natural health care options that are safe, effective and affordable. Women cannot afford to wait for research to prove that widely promoted surgical or drug treatments have been ineffective or dangerous to their health.
As our culture places more demands on us and time becomes an increasingly valuable commodity, illnesses and diseases for women are on the increase. Primary challenges include cancer and heart disease, diabetes, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue, depression, addictions of all kinds, stress syndromes, headaches and back pain, and hormonal imbalances including PMS, dysmenorrhea, and complaints associated with perimenopause and menopause.
New drugs are invented at an alarming rate in an attempt to treat these disorders, so many that the 4 th leading cause of death in the U.S. is now attributed to prescription drugs, properly taken and properly prescribed. It is estimated that a child views 20,00 hours of prescription drug commercials on TV by the time they are 18. Recently, synthetic estrogen was classified as a carcinogen, which may frighten many of the thousands of women currently taking various pharmaceutical forms of this drug. Even more concerning is the trend of young girls to be put on hormone therapy earlier since they are starting puberty at younger ages. There is a new movement promoting the female menstrual cycle as unnatural and an unnecessary nuisance and advocating the use of hormones for menstrual suppression beginning in puberty.
Women are turning 50 at an every-increasing rate and have become primary breadwinners and consumers in our society. Their voices dictate what happens not only on Madison Avenue but also in mainstream society. More and more women are beginning to search for their own answers to health problems, using the many resources available, including the Internet. Women are learning that there are other options for their health choices other than those recommended by their family physicians. They are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the medicalization of their symptoms into new conditions treated with new and fancy drugs. One of the most recent includes the invention of “PMDD (Premenstrual Dystrophic Disorder), classified as a mental disorder, but in reality, just plain old PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome). The fancy drug is Serafem, pretty purple and pink capsules, which are the exact active ingredient that is in Prozac. I wonder if the pharmaceutical company thinks women are so ignorant that they won't recognize this marketing ploy.
Due to the increasing demands of our society, health problems related to addictive behaviors and obsessive-compulsive disorders are becoming more numerous.
Stress syndromes now account for the majority of reasons that women visit doctors. How female bodies adapt to and deal with stress is mediated through their thoughts and emotions. The way that a woman perceives herself to the world around her has a great impact on her ability to make healthy choices in her lifestyle, relationships, and careers.
Recent scientific research shows us the relationship of our emotions to our physical health. Not only do our thoughts and emotions affect our ability to handle stress but it has also been proven that they greatly affect our immune systems, hormones, and metabolism. The brain chemicals called neuropeptides, which include Dopamine and Seratonin, were once thought to be present only in the brain but have now been found in throughout the body, including the spinal cord. Research by Candace Pert, Ph.D., author of Molecules of Emotion ; clearly show that receptor sites for these powerful brain chemicals are found on all major organs. This means that the thoughts we think and the emotions we feel can either help to promote health or create disease by directly affecting the function of organs like our heart and uterus.
Modern healing modalities whether it be medicine, chiropractic, massage therapy, psychology or acupuncture are entering a new era where more emphasis will be placed on helping patients identify thoughts and belief systems which enhance their own healing process. Many women are seeking out health professionals that will partner with them to treat their whole person, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and nutritionally.
Dr. Leslie Bedell is a licensed Chiropractor, Counselor and Addictionologist. She owns Agape Chiropractic Healing Center in North Bend where she helps women and their families identify not only the interferences in their spines and nervous systems, but also in their lives. She offers many gentle and safe Chiropractic techniques, as well as craniosacral therapy. Individualized health programs including education about diet, exercise, family dynamics, stress reduction and self-care are available. She can be reached for an appointment or speaking engagements at 425-888-1670. and is open in the evenings and on Saturdays.