HRT – is it the answer to menopausal problems?
Since the 1960s, women have been led to believe that oestrogen replacement was the answer for all of their menopausal problems. Women have been told by mainstream media, medical texts, consumer advertising for conventional HRT (Hormonal Replacement Therapy –predominantly oestrogen supplementation) that their weight gain, mood swings, depressions, hot flushes, vaginal dryness, loss of sex drive and accelerating osteoporosis were indisputable evidence of oestrogen deficiency. But is this really the case?
The Work of Dr. John Lee
Not satisfied with the results obtained from conventional HRT treatments in his clinic, Dr. John R. Lee M.D., (California – USA), together with a group of other medical doctors researched this subject for over 30 years. The conclusions Dr. Lee’s group have now reached turn the ‘magic bullet’ aspiration of conventional HRT on its head. After three decades of research and observation, Dr. Lee concludes that due to lifestyle, diet, environmental pollution and certain drugs, far from needing more oestrogen, the problems many mid-life women experience around menopause are due to high levels of oestrogen in relation to progesterone – the other main female hormone. Progesterone has a balancing effect on oestrogen and when it drops we have oestrogen dominance.
Oestrogen, Progesterone and Hormonal Balance
It is widely accepted by both, conventional and holistic / complementary medicine that hormonal balance and balance in one’s health and moods (life, you might say) go hand in hand. Of course the opposite is also true – hormonal imbalances can make us feel terrible and unable to function at our best.
Whilst it is true, as the purveyors of conventional HRT suggest, that oestrogen does decline at menopause, it is also true that the body continues to produce oestrogen indefinitely; in the fat cells, the adrenal glands, muscles, liver and the brain. Contrary to myth therefore, on-going levels of oestrogen are maintained by the body. In most menopausal/postmenopausal women, the drop in oestrogen levels is only below that necessary for pregnancy, but remains sufficient for other normal body functions.
In contrast however, to progesterone – the other main female hormone – drops to almost zero in many women at pre-menopause, menopause/post-menopause or even during peri- menopause if women suffer from anovulatory (no ovulation) cycles and/or adrenal exhaustion. Dr Lee believes it is this drop in progesterone relative to oestrogen that causes the principal hormonal imbalance and thus many of the problems associated with menopause, as our bodies need a balanced quantity of both. It is evident from this that the oestrogen supplements of conventional HRT, rather than alleviate matters, can give the body a powerful push in the wrong direction through exacerbating the oestrogen/progesterone imbalance. True, most conventional HRT formulas now include an amount of synthetic progestogen and the name progesterone has been used by doctors to mean both the synthetic progestogen and the natural progesterone. The synthetic progestogen used in the conventional HRT treatment, is dangerously different from the natural hormone, progesterone, and does not work in the same manner as our own hormones do, hence the long list of side effects. Oestrogen is still the predominant hormone in conventional HRT treatment. The prevailing believe in mainstream medicine still seems to be that menopause is an oestrogen deficiency disease. But the truth is that oestrogen is only one part of the menopause picture.
Dr. Lee’s work suggests that researchers and doctors may have been looking at the wrong hormone for fifty years, and that natural progesterone is the answer to conventional HRT. Many doctors now believe that natural progesterone is the hormone that most women should have been using all along.
An Holistic View of Menopause
It is my view both as a woman and as an alternative practitioner that menopause per se should be regarded as a normal physiologic adjustment reflecting a change in a woman’s biological life, a period of new personal power and fulfillment. We should view menopausal problems as an abnormality brought about by industrialized cultures’ deviation from a healthy lifestyle – menopause itself can proceed smoothly and naturally without problems. Viewed from this perspective, the problems associated with menopause can be addressed at the root cause, with such treatment being far more effective, complete and lasting than hit-and-miss attempts to patch up symptoms using side effect-ridden drugs or other allopathic crutches.
So, did Mother Nature make a mistake? NO! We did! For example, many plants, including herbs contain certain phytochemicals that have a hormone like effect on our body. Women in non-industrialized cultures not subjected to environmental pollution, daily stresses, and whose diets are rich in fresh vegetables, whole grains, pulses, including a large variety of plants and herbs, go through their menopause and beyond symptom free.
Simple steps to Natural Hormone Balance
It is never too late! There are some simple rules to follow:
- Have only hormone replacement when you are truly deficient – it requires a saliva test that will show you which hormone is deficient. Never believe that you are oestrogen deficient because your doctor tells you so.
- Use only bio-identical hormones (same as made by our bodies) rather than synthetic hormones – Natural progesterone has been available since the 30th and it continues to be available. Natural oestrogen is also available. Synthetic hormones cause undesirable side-effects not found with bio-identical hormones. Research has shown that progesterone levels are not raised by supplementing synthetic progestogen (mistakenly called progesterone by medical doctors)!
- Use only in dosage that provides normal physiologic tissue levels. Saliva test helps to determine optimal dosage of supplemented steroid hormones, something that blood testing cannot do.
- Vitamins and Minerals;
- Certain vitamins and minerals are essential to hormone balance. These often need to be supplemented for a short period of time.
- Reduce consumption of refined carbohydrates, margarine, sugar, alcohol, salt, coffee, tea, chocolate. Drink plenty of clean fresh water.
- Eat more fiber such as wholemeal bread, whole grains, and plenty of fruit, nuts, pulses and fresh organic vegetables. Reduce fatty meats, processed fats, processed foods, and deep fried foods. Cook with organic cold pressed olive oil, organic sesame oil, hempseed oil. Use organic butter instead of margarine.
- Avoid taking steroids and the pill. (If these are prescribed ask your doctor about alternatives or consider alternative treatments).
- Take Herbs for Hormone Balance.
- Take plenty of exercise and fresh air – this steadily increases our energy reserves, our ability to deal with stress, and helps our bodies purify themselves of toxins.
- Take time aside for yourself to rest and relax.