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What Is a Women to Do When It Comes to Hormones?

Friday, September 12, 2008 by: Leigh Erin Connealy, M.D.
Tags: hormones, health news, Natural News

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(NewsTarget) For many women, confusion is the only continuity as they search for personal answers to their declining hormones. Between the media, friends, healthcare professionals, and the written word, whom does one believe when the advice conflicts?

The dilemma can be resolved by empowering yourself with reliable information about all your options and then wearing the shoe with the best fit. This can be a process of educated trial and error, because the answers are not uncovered necessarily by a simple laboratory report, and because the possibilities for individual therapy are countless. In fact, the sheer number of effective possibilities and combinations can be quite overwhelming.

If we are to improve upon Mother Nature, we must honor and respect our natural physiology by imitation, a most sincere form of flattery. This approach is far more successful than overpowering and over manipulating the body with synthetic chemistry, which on a molecular level is akin to forcing a square peg into a round hole. Hormones in our body have helped us function reasonably well all our lives, and indeed they are just as essential to life as our heart and our brains. It has taken Mother Nature millions of years to perfect our own natural hormones, which are the natural drug in our body.

In our second decade of life when hormone levels are highest, we are least likely, not more likely to have cancer, cardiovascular disease and stroke, hypertension, osteoporosis, autoimmune and degenerative diseases. There are receptor sites on every cell of our body for each of these hormones. They are the messengers that connect the mind and the spirit to the physical body. The precursor hormones such as progesterone, DHEA (which is dehydroepiandrosterone), and pregnenolone are converted to many other steroid hormones throughout the body, depending upon our individual specific needs for that time. Most notably, progesterone is converted to all the stress-busting adrenal hormones that modulate our immune system, and give us energy and resistance in times of trauma and stress.

Hormone Types

Choose your hormones carefully. The WHI study was limited to two brands of hormone therapy. Premarin, which is an estrogen made from the urine of pregnant mares (hence the name), and Prempro, a combination of Premarin and Progestin (a synthetic progesterone). Both contain substances not normally found in the human body. Doctors practicing integrative medicine have long considered these drugs inferior to "natural" or bio-identical formulations, which are indistinguishable from a woman's own hormones such as Estradiol, Estriol, Estrone and Progesterone. "Natural" as these doctors use the word refers to the bio-chemical structure of the hormone rather than its source.

Bio-identical estrogens and progesterones are available in pills and creams, whose method of gradual delivery more closely resembles that of the human body. In the WHI study, a large group of women who were taking Premarin alone have not been found to have a greater risk of breast cancer, heart disease or stroke, and they are continuing in the study. So it may be that the synthetic progesterone rather than the estrogen is the culprit. But as we know, the natural bio-identical hormones from soy or yam is no more natural to one's body than one made from equine urine - "neither one belongs in your body".

Last summer, the bubble burst for millions of middle-aged women as their fountain of youth dried up. News was out that part of a major clinical study on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) had been abruptly halted last July when early results revealed more long-term risks than benefits. At the time, some 20 million women were on HRT. The number has since dropped by half. So the question is: What is a woman to do? With another 20 million women facing menopause in the next decade, it is still a pressing concern, and the answer depends on many, many factors.

After the age of 35, there is a big variation in the hormonal production amongst different women. This is a time when the ovaries often start to slow down, and generally produce less of the sex hormones. In particular, ovulation may start to become irregular, and less frequent which reduces fertility and leads to progesterone deficiency. This may result in irregular and/or heavy menstrual bleeding, and increasingly severe premenstrual syndrome. Thankfully, this is easily treated with homeopathic progesterone, herbs and foods.

Most women begin the perimenopause at sometime during their 40's which is really the beginning of ovarian failure. Perimenopause consists of the period of time before, during and after menopause where the ovarian output of sex hormones becomes erratic and eventually fails completely. Menopause occurs because the ovaries run out of eggs and the average age is 50 years with a normal range from 45 to 55.

A small percentage of women have a premature menopause in their 30's or early 40's, and rarely have I seen women in their early 20's go through menopause. Causes of premature menopause vary from chronic stress, autoimmune diseases, smoking, genetic factors, hysterectomy, removal of the ovaries, chemotherapy, and in some cases are unknown. Other women continue to produce good levels of estrogen and progesterone right through their 40's, and well into their 50's before the ovaries eventually fail. No matter what age a woman goes through menopause, the question of whether to take hormone replacement (HRT) remains an individual one.

The art and science of hormone replacement therapy has broadened in the last five years because we can now tailor-make combinations of hormonal regimens to suit every individual woman. Thankfully, the old way of HRT where menopause was treated with standard brands of synthetic or animal hormones is no longer considered acceptable by women. During the first few years of menopause, the prescription or the treatment solution for HRT may need to be regulated and adjusted on a regular basis because a woman's body is in a constant evolving process. The goal of natural HRT is to restore hormones to around the normal body level that were present during a woman's 30s or 40s. An integrated, balanced or holistic approach which caters to the individual is extremely important. In some cases, the three classes of sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone and testosterone) are required even in women who have had a hysterectomy. Currently, most women who have had a hysterectomy are offered only estrogen without consideration of the need of progesterone or androgen.

Theoretically, the eggs producing hormones should no longer produce the menstrual cycle that once was present in your 20's and 30's. Your adrenal glands which are little glands that sit on top of your kidneys and make 151 hormones are supposed to take over the job of producing hormones, and therefore, it is absolutely essential to have very healthy adrenal glands. Therefore, what I have been doing on my patients, I have been using for the past year the NuFem rejuvenation system. The NuFem rejuvenation system is based upon checking the saliva levels of your Cortisol, which is the predominant hormone made by your adrenal glands, on day 2 of your menstrual cycle, and along with checking the Cortisol levels that vary every 4 hours, we check the estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and DHEA levels. After we receive the results, we prescribe a customized program to restore adrenal gland function and/or prescribe homeopathic creams to balance estrogen, progesterone and/or testosterone. You should evaluate your hormones at an early age because this will show your ideal hormonal levels before menopause begins making it much easier to create a tailor-made program of HRT when your ovaries finally fail.

Many women will need only homeopathic progesterone cream as their HRT, especially those who are estrogen dominant. Possible symptoms of estrogen dominance are tender breast, fluid retention, headaches, anxiety, weight gain below the waist, and heavy bleeding periods.

No matter what age you go through menopause, you will have fewer symptoms and feel healthier, if you have a good diet, a regular exercise program, a positive state of mind, and a healthy liver and adrenal glands. The liver breaks down all the body's hormones as well as any hormonal regimen that is being prescribed. And if it is sluggish or dysfunctional, hormone imbalances will arise and be present and there will not be hormonal harmony unless the liver is properly functioning. Perimenopausal women with sluggish liver function are more likely to have a weight problem also. The adrenal glands are very important during the perimenopausal years because they take over the role of the failed ovaries to a significant degree and continue to produce significant amounts of the sex hormones, especially testosterone. Women with healthy adrenal glands have much better energy levels and sex drive.

Women in their 50's and 60's will also want to continue with some form of nutritional and/or hormonal support for the post menopausal years with the aim of reducing osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. During these two decades, the body produces less and less sex hormones, and this can cause continuing bone loss, increased cholesterol levels and sexual dysfunction. The major health problems for women over 50 is osteoporosis, a higher risk of cancer, and cardiovascular diseases. It is important that women utilize preventative strategies to reduce the occurrence of these common diseases.

For products developed and recommended by Leigh Erin Connealy, MD visit (www.perfectlyhealthy.net) .

About the author

Leigh Erin Connealy, M.D. has specialized in Integrative Medicine for over twenty years, using conventional and natural methods to determine and discover the "root of the cause" in her clinic, Center for New Medicine in Irvine, California, each and every day. Many people come in to the clinic from all over the world with severe chronic illnesses that conventional medical protocols have been unsuccessful treating. She realized early on that she can truly change lives through education as well as treatment protocols.
Leigh Erin Connealy, M.D. and her medical staff strives to look at the whole person while exploring the effects and relationships among nutrition, psychological and social factors, environmental effects and personal attunement. Out of frustration of trying to find the right products to help her patients she formulated the perfectlyhealthy brand of products. All perfectlyhealthy products are clinically tested. For more information on recommended products, please visit www.perfectlyhealthy.net or www.perfectlyhealthy.com.

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