Menopause, HRT and other Myths
by Sherrill Sellman
"Women and hormones equal big business these days. Like animals lured into a snare by a trail of crumbs, women have been cajoled with scientific studies, media advertising, patient handbooks and drug samples to accept Hormone Replacement Therapy as a magic potion. HRT is praised as the cure for hot flushes and all the other symptoms assigned to the menopause pantheon. In addition, it is considered an anti-aging medicine acting as a talisman to ward off osteoporosis, heart disease and even Alzheimer's."
"Millions of menopausal women flock to their doctors' offices each year seeking relief from such complaints as hot flushes, night sweats, bloating, indigestion, allergies, headaches, insomnia, fatigue, depression, high blood pressure, weight gain, head hair loss, facial hair growth, mood swings, aging skin, irritability, foggy thinking, lack of concentration, anxiety attacks, heart palpitations, bone loss, and heavy bleeding. The common panacea prescribed for all these symptoms is usually HRT. All these presenting symptoms are lumped together into the menopausal pigeonhole, estrogen deficiency is the diagnosis and synthetic estrogen replacement becomes the cure. An obvious and simple solution for hormonal imbalance! Or so we are led to believe."
"But what if these symptoms that mostly plague forty and fifty year old women are not at all about menopause? What if it's not estrogen deficiency but rather estrogen excess that is the cause of these discomforts? What if the real physiological problems are, in fact, being ignored misdiagnosed or misunderstood?
"Unfortunately, women have been intentionally led on a merry hormone goose chase. While medicalizing and pathologising of menopausal women with potent, carcinogenic and dangerous steroid drugs has filled the coffers of the drug companies and doctors alike, the real cause of these health problems has been ignored.... And so have safe and effective solutions.
"For the past 40 years, women have been told that menopause is a time when the ovaries fail and cease to produce estrogen, thus creating the myth of the estrogen deficient woman. Is also justifies the rationale for a multi-billion dollar industry that is supplying estrogen (along with progestins such as Provera ) to women not only for the relief of hot flashes and vaginal dryness but also as an anti-aging drug that will supposedly prevent skin from wrinkling, bones from disintegrating and hearts from failing, etc. It has also found its way as treatment for the myriad of symptoms plaguing perimenopausal women to help boost their supposedly flagging estrogen levels. The Pill has also become a popular treatment for the perimenopausal woman."
"So, first of all to make sense of what's really happening with women's cycles and their hormones, a few very powerful myths needs to be dispelled."
"1. Hormone Replacement Therapy, i.e., estrogen and synthetic progestins, have a combined 120 possible risks and side-effects. They are not natural hormones replacing our own hormones but rather powerful drug therapies. Estrogen and progestins are carcinogenic substances initiating and promoting breast, ovarian and uterine cancer. They also cause blood clots, strokes and high blood pressure and much more."
"The Pill is made up of the same steroid hormones as HRT but up to 4 times the strength. The Pill can not only predispose a woman to a life time of hormonal imbalances but also breast cancer, strokes, miscarriages, infertility and nutritional deficiencies. Women have paid a huge price for the Pill."
"Why are healthy women going through a natural life transition prescribed powerful, carcinogenic drugs? At whatever stage of life a woman may be experiencing hormonal imbalance, there are literally dozens of safe, effective and natural solutions."
"2. Nature did not make a design fault in women's bodies causing their health to deteriorate when then arrive at menopause. Menopause is not a downhill slide nor an "estrogen deficiency disease" as the medical world likes to call it. At menopause there is an adjustment in estrogen levels reducing the output by the ovaries by about 40-60 percent. Just low enough so that the menopausal woman won't be maturing eggs (the post-menopausal journey is a time to nurture our passion and creativity not to bear children). Nature has also provided a back-up system in the estrogen department...both the fat cells and the adrenals produce estrogen . If we have any "meat on our bones," menopausal women are generally making plenty of estrogen, even if they have had a full hysterectomy!"
"However, with menopause there is a cessation of ovulation. When we ovulate, the site, known as a follicle, from which an eggs bursts forth turns into an endocrine gland that makes progesterone. When there's no ovulation, the primary supply of progesterone is not available. Thus, there is a precipitous fall in progesterone levels at menopause. However, once again, nature's back system makes progesterone from the adrenals. When this essential and delicate balance between estrogen and progesterone is altered, causing low progesterone levels and high estrogen levels - the resulting imbalance is called estrogen dominance. When estrogen is in excess, it is toxic to the body."
3. "The World Health Organization has found that an overweight post menopausal woman has more estrogen circulating in her body than a skinny pre-menopausal woman!! Western women now have some of the highest estrogen levels ever recorded in history. In fact, we are literally swimming in a sea of estrogen exposure due medication such as the Pill and HRT, the estrogen mimics found in pesticides, herbicides, and plastics, as well as the hormones injected into feed lot cattle and farmed fish (estrogen accelerates grow and increases weight gain in animals.... and in women, too!)."
"4. As a result of saliva testing, we now know that perimenopause is not a time of declining estrogen levels at all. But rather a time when the body is doing it's final hurrah trying to stir those ovaries into action thus making some of the highest levels of estrogen ever made by the body. Perimenopause is really a time of high but fluctuating estrogen levels along with low progesterone (perimenopausal women are irregular in their ovulation). High estrogen levels and low progesterone production causes an estrogen dominant condition. Thus, it is totally inappropriate and dangerous to give the Pill or HRT to perimenopausal women since they already have high estrogen levels circulating through their body. Adding even more estrogen can cause many uncomfortable side-effects as well as serious health risks."
5. "Unfortunately what the medical experts believed were symptoms of estrogen deficiency are really estrogen excess symptoms. Estrogen dominant symptoms include: weight gain, migraines, fluid retention, high blood pressure, fatigue, aging skin, thinning hair, fluid retention, PMS, low libido, muscle aches and pains, memory fogginess, fibroids, endometriosis, depression, fibrocystic breasts and miscarriage. The more serious, life-threatening conditions of estrogen excess are: reproductive cancers, strokes, blood clots, compromised immune system, toxic livers, gall bladder disease, auto-immune diseases (lupus, MS, rheumatoid arthritis), glucose intolerance, pancreatitis, and interfering with the uptake of thyroid hormones."
"Estrogen excess, progesterone deficiency and thyroid imbalance have a very intimate relationship. Correcting hormonal imbalance naturally can effectively assist the recovery of thyroid function."
"Most women who have menopausal complaints are perimenopausal women in their 40's or early 50's who are still menstruating. Prescribing the Pill or HRT to these women is a disaster in the making since the vast majority really have progesterone deficiency and estrogen excess."
About the author:
SHERRILL SELLMAN is a psychotherapist, lecturer, and Women's Health Educator. Sherrill writes for health magazines in over 12 different countries and presents public and corporate lectures and trainings in Australia, New Zealand, America, Canada, and England.