Menopause, a women’s worst nightmare or is it? By simply understanding the basic science, we can clear the myths of this dreaded change and make it the most empowering years of a women’s life.
The two predominant hormones are Estrogen and Progesterone. Menopause is nothing more than a mirror image of menarche, or the start of menses.
In the pubertal years, the E2 (Estrogen) and P4 (Progesterone) begin to increase in quantity in preparation of future pregnancies. During this time, there is an imbalance of E2 and P4 which occurs that results in PMS, development of female habitus, acne, mood changes and so on.
During the 20’s and 30’s, E2 and P4 are in prime balance which allows the opportunity for the woman to conceive. When in equilibrium, a woman feels her best.
Around 35 years of age, the body begins to prepare to slow down. This is the time, the change STARTS.
E2 and P4 levels begin to biologically drop. Progesterone declines twice as fast as Estrogen. It is this imbalance between the lower Progesterone in relation to the higher Estrogen that causes menopausal symptoms.
Walking around with higher than needed Estrogen leads to higher risk of breast, uterine, or ovarian cancers, blood clots, and heart disease. Progesterone is there to keep Estrogen from over stimulating the cells. Progesterone also helps with sleep, balances your mood, acts as a diuretic, and gives an overall sense of calm.
When Progesterone declines in respect to Estrogen, it creates a phenomena known as Progesterone Deficiency or Estrogen Dominance.
This is when women experience acne, mood changes, sleep issues, cravings, slowed metabolism, weight gain around mid-section and hips. In essence, menopause is a mirror reflection of menarche.
The solution? That is the million dollar question. Pre-menopause, Peri-Menopause, Menopause, Post-Menopause-whatever phrase you choose to describe this phase is irrelevant because the concept is the same.
Crossing the turbulent rivers of menopause is much easier and simpler than we think because we now understand why the body is changing the way it is.
So how do we get through these years? Here are few things to remember:
- Breathe. This is not a permanent! The hormones are trying to find their balance and they eventually will. No one can predict how long this will take. And nothing can be done to speed up the process. The body is only trying to protect you. Allow it to do so. Don’t condemn the changes you are experiencing. The body is your armor, your voice and your friend. Understand what it is trying to tell you when it speaks to you in the form of symptoms.
- Stop worrying about the weight. The weight is a symptom like anything else. Weight gain occurs due to Estrogen Dominance/Progesterone Deficiency. There are alpha and beta receptors throughout our muscle and adipose layers in the body. Depending on how those receptors are activated in each person, is where the weight change will occur.
- Watch your diet and move your body. Our foods are coated with Estrogen and other chemicals which worsens Estrogen Dominance. It is imperative to cut out gluten, sugar, dairy. Eat clean and as unprocessed as possible. Additionally, without exercise don’t expect the body to change. Your body will not respond how it did was few years prior. And that’s ok. But it doesn’t mean that it won’t change. This will just become the new norm. One of the places Estrogen is converted is in adipose tissues. So the more fat you carry, the more estrogen it will convert, thereby again, worsening Estrogen Dominance. Striving towards optimal body fat will help keep Estrogen Dominance controlled. Focus on feeling balanced, not skinny.
- Make sleep a priority. Without sleep the adrenal glands cannot function at their best. The disruption to the cortisol results in further Progesterone depletion. Turn off the devices and sink yourself into restful slumber.
- Meditate. When the mind is silenced amongst the chaos of life, we are able to center and align to the root of our existence. Take 5-10 minutes a day, close your eyes and go to the places that feel off balance and listen for the guidance given.
- Use hormones. I am all for using hormones, IF AND WHEN IT IS NEEDED. Treating with hormones during menopause is certainly not mandatory. The fundamental question to ask is, “are my symptoms debilitating enough that it is affecting my quality of life?” If the answer is yes, use the smallest amount needed for optimal results. Hormones are like the waves of the ocean. Anything can affect them – sleep, weight, seasonal changes, stress levels, nutritional habits, exercise commitment. You may need hormones for a while and decide later they are not needed. And depending on what’s going on in life, may need them again. There is no one answer. The correct answer always is what your body tells you it needs. Hormones are not the magic solution to these symptoms. They are only a crutch to lean on while working on lifestyle modifications.
- Stop comparing. Don’t compare yourself to your past self. Menopause is a beautiful opportunity for growth and experience. Just keep remembering the symptoms we experience is the body protecting us. This cloud WILL pass! Learn to dance in the rain and embrace the glory of being a woman. This is a period of transformation, revitalization and rejuvenation.
Menopause is the process of shedding the layers of struggle. But just be patient my friends because the wings of healing are opening to reveal the vastness of all that is authentically you.
Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on holistic care and good health maintenance. For more information on healthy eating habits and achieving and maintaining OPTIMAL health, CONTACT our office today to schedule your appointment. You can also learn more by following Dr. Raman on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest.
Estrogen and progesterone are hormones that play a significant role in women’s health. These two hormones are most commonly understood as they relate to menstrual cycles, but they affect so many other areas of wellbeing, especially as women age.
Both estrogen and progesterone are primarily produced by the ovaries. From adolescence until perimenopause, estrogen and progesterone levels rise and fall related to a woman’s menstrual cycle.
Progesterone and Estrogen Changes During Perimenopause and Menopause
As a woman ages and enters perimenopause, both estrogen and progesterone levels change. In the early stages of perimenopause, progesterone production declines, resulting in estrogen dominance. During this time, many women feel they are in a constant state of pre-menstrual syndrome, experiencing:
- Mood swings
- Tender breasts
Estrogen production declines in the second phase of perimenopause. This drop in estrogen levels often results in symptoms such as:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Memory problems
- Heart palpitations
- Sleep disturbances
- Vaginal dryness
Eventually, both estrogen and progesterone decline to very low levels and most symptoms are relieved, although some women continue to experience discomfort through menopause.
As estrogen and progesterone production decline, symptoms can range from easily manageable to negatively life-altering. Additional changes that result from the varying levels of estrogen and progesterone include:
- Reduction in skin thickness and elasticity
- Increased risk of heart attack due to increased rigidity of the blood vessels in the heart
- Reduced calcium absorption leading to decreased bone density
- Increased bladder infections
Although these lists of symptoms may sound daunting, having a sound relationship with your physician can make all the difference!
Healthy Aging IS Possible
Confusion and stress often accompany the wide variety of symptoms related to estrogen and progesterone imbalance. The inevitability of aging combined with limited information and treatment options add to a sense of frustration and helplessness. However, healthy aging is possible and women should not only survive this time of transition, but can actually thrive.
General recommendations regarding a healthy diet and adequate exercise are more important than ever as estrogen and progesterone production declines. Fresh, leafy greens, colorful fruits and vegetables, healthy fats and lean protein support the body as it adjusts to new hormone levels. Additionally, regular weight-bearing exercise builds muscle to support aging bones, while cardiovascular workouts strengthen the heart and lungs and improve circulation.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and bioidentical hormone therapy are common treatments for the side effects of estrogen and progesterone decline. HRT is not without risks, however. A thorough health history review is necessary before beginning treatment and continual monitoring is required during treatment.
Vitamin and mineral supplements, topical estrogen, focused nutritional therapy and prescription medications have all been shown to support healthy aging and offer relief of symptoms related to estrogen and progesterone imbalances. The correct combination for each woman is best determined over time in collaboration with her doctor.
The concept of hormonal pathways, including thyroid and adrenals, has to be understood to seamlessly get through this transition phase. While the scope of menopause is much more extensive than this article allows for discussion, Dr.Raman teaches, counsels, and treats once each women has understood why she is experiencing the symptoms she is.
Dr. Raman is focused on holistic care and good health maintenance. Patients at her Concierge Medical Practice may benefit from bioidentical hormone therapy and a medically supervised weight management program to help ease the symptoms associated with progesterone and estrogen changes.