The symptoms of peri-menopause are very real for most women all over the world. Insomnia, mood swings, depression, fatigue, brain fog, loss of a sense of self, loss of libido – all of these and more can wreak havoc in the lives of today’s women. We are talking about women who are doing their best to balance the demands of raising children, a career, an intimate relationship, family and community. It’s no wonder that attention on couples their own needs often goes to the bottom of the list!!!
But when the symptoms of hormonal changes begin to show as we get closer to mid-life, the body communicates clearly that it needs more support. “Life will not continue as it has been” is the message. It is time to make those shifts that can recreate balance and good health in one’s life.
This is where we find a big injustice to women.
They are often scared by their own health care provider into believing that the use of any form of hormones, and especially estrogen, will create a hazard to their health. Did you see the January 22 article in the San Francisco Chronicle by Dr. Pollycove? She decided that it was time to speak out about this injustice. Her points are well taken – because of misinformation, many in the medical community still believe that hormones, and particularly estrogen, cause cancer despite multiple studies that show the opposite. It simply is not true.
Yet, how many women are still relying on this old information and scared to consider the use of hormones to help resolve the often debilitating symptoms of menopause and balance peri-menopause? How can we expect them to learn about other options when what they hear and see in the media confirms what some of their misinformed Western Medicine trained practitioners tells them? Unfortunately, some of my own peers, Nurse Practitioners, are the most vocal in erroneously scaring their patients against hormone replacement therapy.
Many of you, my readers, have educated yourselves beyond this fear and taken action in your life to create the balance that is possible, facilitating your good health and vitality. But how many women do you know that are still basing their decisions on the old information, suffering needlessly and not taking action.
I believe that we, as women who have had our lives changed so positively by restoring hormonal balance, are in a unique position to educate our daughters regarding their choices and to have conversations with our friends and family regarding appropriate use of bio-identical hormones.
There is strong evidence that women are healthier and suffer less if they start hormonal support as soon as menopausal symptoms begin – in peri-menopause.
By age 40, if symptoms have not started yet, I suggest every woman get tested to determine her hormone levels. Frequently, low progesterone (the sex hormone that usually declines first) will occur for years before other menopausal symptoms begin to show. This increases the likelihood of developing uterine fibroids, endometriosis, and thickened breast tissue, among other imbalances.
The evidence is clear that supporting balanced hormone levels during and after peri-menopause gives most women the best opportunity to decrease illness and to increase their vitality.
Let’s look at a few interesting facts:
Estrogen is not the cause of breast cancer
Estrogen is one of the most potent anti-oxidants in the body
Estrogen lowers the risk of dementia, heart disease, weakened bones, high LDL (bad cholesterol)
Estrogen promotes good brain function, good sexual function, better moods, less wrinkles, fewer urinary problems, and a moist vagina!
The Women’s Health Initiative Study showed that women in the estrogen only portion of the study had lower risks of breast cancer (these were women with a previous hysterectomy)
The French Women’s Study showed lower risks of blood estrogen clots, stroke, and heart attacks in women using physiological doses of bio-identical hormones compared to post-menopausal women doing nothing
A study following women taking estrogen over a period of 11 years has shown a post-menopausal decrease in breast cancer risk by 33% over those who did not take hormones
Several research studies demonstrate that women using physiologic level bio-identical hormone replacement have lower incidence of breast cancer compared to women who did not use hormones
Diabesity (poor glucose metabolism and being overweight) is linked to cancer risk, driven by insulin resistance. If your waist is over 35 inches, you are in this category
Women who consume more than 2 drinks of alcohol per day increase their likelihood of developing breast cancer by 1.5 times. Several of the newest studies show that women should limit alcohol consumption to no more than 3 drinks per week to lower their risk
The risk of breast cancer in women on bio-identical hormone replacement therapy is less than the risk of breast cancer in women taking a statin drug (popular cholesterol lowering prescription drug)
Breast cancer risk is elevated in women who do not exercise regularly
(see extensive bibliography of research articles on my web pages that are constantly being updated)
And the men in our lives are impacted, too.
Not only by our level of vitality (or lack thereof), but also by the messages that they often get. These include that integrative medicine testosterone causes prostate cancer and other risks, when there is plenty of evidence that this is not the case. Testosterone replacement, with attention to estrogen control and other parameters, is considered a safe and effective way to support vitality and good health. It is a significant factor in preventing heart disease and diabetes, as well as osteoporosis and dementia, as well as other disease processes. It plays a crucial role in men’s libido, sexual performance, mood, strength, and energy.
Let’s not be paralyzed with fear because of reports and beliefs from the past.
Let’s take action in a responsible way to prevent these imbalances in our hormonal systems from destroying our health and well-being.
Please join me in helping to let family, friends, and others in our communities know that there are safe and effective choices that mid-life men and women can make to regain the balance that is so vital and that we can take steps early on to preserve our health and well-being. We owe it to each other!
Standing with the evidence,
Jane Kennedy, CFNP, MN, MPH