I recently received an email thanking me for an article on “Why Progesterone Isn't The Calming Hormone You Thought It Would Be.” Her basic story is like almost everyone I see in my practice. Her hormones were changing and was given hormone replacement. When it didn't work, they gave her a larger dose.
She didn’t mention this, but for a large percentage of women whose hormone therapy doesn’t work, they can begin to feel agitated or anxious. To remedy this, they are often prescribed anti-depressants.
To be clear, I’m not against hormone therapy or anti-depressants. For some the normal adjustment can be uncomfortable, and there are those who are genetically predisposed for a harder time during this transition. Therefore, can be helpful for reducing stress which can give you the space you need to address the root cause of the problem. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen.
The women I see are usually transitioning and are in perimenopause, menopause or even post-menopause. And their ‘treatment for menopause’ usually ends there, and are left to suffer with ‘menopause symptoms.’
And this isn’t about natural verses medication or that one form of hormone replacement is better than another.
The Actual Problem
The problem is, if hormone replacement therapy doesn't work, your hormones are not the problem, regardless of the form of hormone replacement you are taking. In fact, rarely are hormones ever “the problem.” And the idea that you have to ‘treat’ menopause is ludicrous.
It’s a natural transition for women when they are no longer fertile. There certainly can be some annoying consequences while your body is adjusting to its new normal, but you’re not sick. You don’t have a negative health problem.
If you are suffering with severe symptoms, and hormone replacement isn’t working, you have a system, an organ or something else that is dysfunctional. Your hormones are not dysfunctional.
For example, if you have low estrogen, low enough to cause you to experience;
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Mood swings
- Hot flashes
- Difficulty focusing or memory lapses
- Vaginal dryness
- Breast tenderness
- Headaches or migraines
Your estrogen isn’t dysfunctional. Rather, if you are not producing enough estrogen for the stage you’re in, your ovaries, fat cells, adrenal gland or your brain are not producing enough estrogen. They could be dysfunctional, or they may not have the resources to produce enough estrogen.
If your estrogen is high, then maybe your detoxification system isn’t clearing it well enough from your body or maybe your brain is signally for more estrogen to be produced than necessary.
Whether you have too much or too little estrogen for the stage of life you are in and you’re suffering with symptoms related to the level of estrogen, your estrogen itself is not the problem.
The Hormone Lie
By using hormone replacement therapy to correct hormone imbalance you can reduce or eliminate symptoms and you can prevent more serious conditions associated with low or high estrogen. However, you are not correcting the actual dysfunction.
If there is no dysfunction, but you are experiencing symptoms related to your body’s natural transition to lower levels of reproductive hormones, then using the lowest effective dose of hormone replacement will ease your discomfort.
But if it works for a while, then stops. Or you never seem to get the dosage right. Look further.
I cannot stress this enough; it is a LIE that your hormones are the problem and that you need a high dose or anti-depressants.
And you do not require the same level of estrogen or progesterone once you are no longer fertile. Why would your body want to expend energy and resources producing and managing hormones it doesn’t need? It doesn’t make sense.
Women, including myself, have strong bones, maintain muscle, have healthy hearts, plenty of hair, clear skin, can manage weight and sleep well without needing hormone replacement. I, personally, have had no hormone replacement since my early thirties, a couple of years after I had a full hysterectomy to include my ovaries, and I’m in my mid-fifties. I don’t miss them, and I don’t need them.
If your body is not absorbing the dose you are providing it, it doesn’t want it. (You’re not wearing the patch wrong.)
If your body is absorbing the hormones you are providing it and your patch dries quickly, you can increase the dose and see how that goes.
What You Can Do
But, if you can’t get it right, I recommend that you do some detective work, and check your systems. Check to see if you are missing key nutrients in various pathways. Check your gut health and ensure you don’t have a pathogen infection, or you have leaky gut. Have your health practitioner test your stress response function and cortisol status.
Be sincere with yourself about what you’re eating, how you’re handling stress, how much movement your body gets, and how well you are managing your energy.
Are you paying attention to the basics; your relationships, your finances, home, family, fitness and so forth?
You have many, many more hormones than progesterone and estrogen and none of them work in isolation. They are messengers your brain, organs and systems to use to relay information. They instruct processes to turn on and off. And none of your organs, system or functions work in isolation either. Everything is interconnected in one way or another, and everything depends on your stress levels, nutrients, oxygen, healthy mitochondria, a health GI tract microbiome and healthy microbes all over and in your body. If anything is missing or out of balance, it will affect your hormones, because they are responding to the environment.
Hearing that hormone replacement is not the remedy for all things ‘hormone,’ can feel like a let-down. Wouldn’t it be nice if it was that easy? And it can feel overwhelming when faced with trying to identify where the dysfunction is when there are so many possibilities.
Narrowing It Down
However, it’s not that difficult to narrow it down.
To do so, you want to sit down with your health practitioner and go through your health history and lifestyle is some detail. This will help patterns of dysfunction to emerge and can help you determine where to look first.
Then have the correct lab testing done to either verify or disqualify your suspicions.
Once you do identify the most probable area of dysfunction, you can address it by going back to basics and focusing on what was missing. You may need supplements to help support your diet and get the nutrients you need, you may need a prescription, and you may need to make some lifestyle adjustments depending on what you find.
But when you support what your body is missing and give it the space it needs; your body is a healing machine.
To help put this in perspective, the areas of dysfunction I see when hormone replacement isn’t working for my clients are;
- Diminished gut health; yeast and/or bacterial overgrowths, pathogen infections
- Insufficient enzyme production and nutritional deficiencies
- High carbohydrate diet – unstable blood sugar
- Poor detoxification function and toxicity
- Inadequate sleep, lack of rest and poor energy management
- Trauma, excessive stress (internal & external) and ‘Adrenal Fatigue’
- Poor hormone regulation – estrogen dominance; overweight, over supplementation
Everyone is unique, their circumstances different, and yet it is rare for an individual who has hormonal imbalances not to be affected by 2 or more, even all 7 of these areas of concern. However, once identified, it’s not difficult to correct most dysfunction.
If you suspect your hormone levels are not what they should be and you feel like you can't get a handle on your hormone therapy, I invite you to contact me.
I have set aside time to meet with women like yourself to look deeper and determine possible root causes of your current condition and to determine a near-term and a long-term strategy for feeling like yourself again.
If you're interested in this, click on the button below and schedule an appointment that is convenient for you.
You can feel like yourself again and feel confident that you have a handle on your health, so you can live vibrantly and get on with your life.
Your partner in health,
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