Understanding Female Hormone Cycles — Age 51+: Menopause

Hormone Therapy Doctors, Functional Medicine Doctor – Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake.

A Synergy Note:  Following is an excellent article by functional medicine doctor Sara Gottfried, who we frequently agree with.

If you are suffering from menopause, hot flashes, sleep problems, mood swings, weight gain, loss of energy, or depression, we encourage you to call our Chesapeake office at (757) 410-5462. We’ve helped many women and men, and we may be able to help you, too.


Understanding Female Hormone Cycles – Age 51+: Menopause and beyond

By Sara Gottfried, M.D. – January 2018

As a woman, you’re on a hormonal roller coaster ride most of your life.

Hormones are chemical messages, like text messages sent from an endocrine gland through your blood to target cells. Hormones influence your behavior, emotions, brain chemicals, immunity, and metabolism. When your hormones are in balance, you look and feel your best. But when they are imbalanced, they can make your life miserable. You can feel lethargic, irritable, weepy, grumpy, unappreciated, anxious, and depressed.

The message from most conventional doctors is that it is normal to feel like this as you age and that you should just accept it. As a functional medicine doctor specializing in women’s hormones, I can assure you it’s not normal. You can balance your hormones and get back to feeling vivacious and genuinely content.

Each life stage has its hormonal benefits and challenges for women. But for this article, let’s talk about the perimenopause stage and see some tips for staying balanced.

Age 51+:  Menopause
Menopause is the permanent end to a woman’s menstruation and fertility and begins twelve months after a woman’s last period. Symptoms include mood swings, hot flashes, night sweats, and insomnia. In menopause, estrogen is low and progesterone is super low. Those levels cause the female brain to feel distracted (even ADD-like) and difficult to soothe. The ratio of estrogen to progesterone makes women more likely to be depressed and to gain weight, particularly fat at the waist (muffin top anyone?)

Let’s Talk Menopause Help

To make the transition into menopause easier,

• Take vitamin E to alleviate hot flashes, vaginal dryness and mood swings. Doses between 50−400 IU have been proven to be effective.

• Magnesium can help reduce hot flashes, fatigue, and distress.

• Maca helps with insomnia, depression, memory, concentration, energy, hot flashes, and vaginal dryness. Maca also improves body mass index and bone density. I love adding Maca to my morning shake. Don’t take it too close to bedtime as it may be too stimulating.

• Pueraria lobata is a traditional Chinese herbal remedy for menopausal symptoms and is prepared as a brew like tea.

• Red ginseng can help reduce hot flashes and improve symptoms of fatigue, insomnia, and depression in menopausal women.

Let’s Talk Bioidentical Hormones
The truth is that bioidentical hormones are a godsend for some women and inappropriate for others. So one-size-fits-all is obsolete medicine. There’s no harm in trying a small amount of bioidentical hormone replacement to see if it’s right for you. Your body will either say yes or no quickly.

Hormone testing is controversial because it only measures a point in time (like looking at the speedometer in your car only once during a road trip) and hormones fluctuate widely throughout the day. (This applies to blood, saliva or urine tests.) Results also depend upon what you eat, your activity level, the time of day, and your nutritional status. Still, a baseline blood test is a good starting point for monitoring therapy. The vast majority of experts agree that blood hormone values are the most reliable compared to saliva. These should be tested by a lab that has a lot of experience in hormone testing such as Genova Diagnostics.


Natural Hormone Balancing
Many safe, proven supplements can help you balance hormones naturally in conjunction with lifestyle changes. I recommend a “food first” philosophy: Get what you need from food, and only if you can’t, rely on supplements. You need the foundation of nutrient-dense whole foods (no processed foods, and especially no refined carbohydrates, which worsen adrenal problems) and restorative sleep. Then certain foods and supplements can help fill nutritional gaps and effectively balance hormones for all ages:

Brazil nuts. Brazil nuts provide 100 percent of the recommended daily allowance of selenium, which you need to keep your thyroid happy. Don’t overdo it: five to six Brazil nuts per day is just right.

Oysters. This is my favorite order at happy hour: a half dozen fresh oysters. They provide the copper you need to boost your thyroid and testosterone levels. If oysters are not your thing, try cashews for the dose of zinc and iron.

Omega 3s. I advise my tribe to eat two to three servings of wild-caught fish every week. In between your “fish” days, take a high-quality supplement. Men and women who took 4,000 mg (4 grams) of fish oil a day for six weeks lowered morning cortisol levels to healthier levels and got leaner. I recommend choosing a form of fish oil that has been tested by a third party and free of mercury and other endocrine disruptors.

Maca. The magical herb maca (Lepidum meyenii) has consistently been shown to increase estradiol in menopausal. See details above under “Let’s Talk Menopause Help.”

Vitamin B5. Stress-crazed? Also known as pantothenic acid, B5 reduces the hypersecretion of cortisol in people under high stress, and it is a low-risk treatment. If you’re chronically stressed, I recommend taking 500 mg/day.

Lifestyle Effects on Hormones
Drink less. Alcohol raises cortisol, robs you of deep sleep, and lowers metabolism by more than 70 percent. I suggest getting off alcohol completely for a minimum of two weeks, twice per year, to give your liver a break.

Dance differently with stress. Develop a more playful attitude. Laugh more, roll with the punches, hang out with friends, take a hot detox bath with Epsom salt.

Master your sleep. Only 6 percent of the population does well on less than 7 hours of sleep, so chances are you’re not one of them. Sleeping seven to eight and a half hours every night keeps cortisol in check, which prevents the muffin top and accelerated aging.

Burst train. It’s better than cardio. Interval training raises your growth hormone and melts the muffin top.

Activate the positive. Write a nightly gratitude list of three big wins. Practice forgiveness and intentionally connecting with those you love. Focusing on the positive has been shown to lower cortisol by 23 percent and raise DHEA, the precursor to testosterone.

Remove estrogen disruptors. More than 700 synthetic chemicals mimic estrogen in a toxic way, and their prevalence in our environment is on the rise. These toxins, found in an array of items from receipts to canned foods and from plastics to pesticides, have now been linked with early puberty, female infertility, ovulation, miscarriage, endometriosis, male infertility, obesity, diabetes, and an increase in certain cancers.