Sharpen your understanding of hormonal balancing and estrogen level management.
By Debra Muth, ND, RN, WHNP, BAAHP
May 13, 2011
The transition to menopause can be a time of reflection and inspiration. Although transitions of any kind can be inherently difficult, many women experience a newfound sense of freedom and personal growth during menopause. As one author put it: “Menopause is a time of great change — it is the adolescence of older age but better than the adolescence of youth because menopausal women have confidence and experience.”
Women begin to experience hormonal changes beginning in their late 30s to early 40s; however, many women do not realize that their symptoms are from hormonal changes. Hormones fluctuate during the lifetime and the menstrual cycle.
Hormone therapy is an $840-million industry: Approximately 8 million women are receiving supplementation with synthetic hormone therapy using ethinyl estradiol and progestin. There are 6 million women who use synthetic estrogen alone. Over 2 million women are currently using hormone therapy, and many are obtaining relief from their symptoms.
Synthetic hormones, known as “patented,” “conventional,” or “artificial,” are produced from products that are usually not found in nature, or at least not in humans. This is because natural sources cannot be patented. The substances are chemically altered from human hormones, but not identical in structure or activity to the natural hormones they emulate.
The most commonly prescribed hormone replacement in the U.S. contains a mixture of equilin and equilenin, along with other additives that are synthetic. These additives and coatings may cause their own side effects including burning in the urinary tract, allergies, joint aches, and pains. Synthetic estrogens contain many forms of estrogen that do not fit into the estrogen receptors in the body.
In 2002, the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study was released. The study was a major 15-year research program to address the most common causes of death, disability, and poor quality of life in postmenopausal women; namely, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and osteoporosis. During the first year of the study, there was an increased risk of heart disease, but over a six-year-period the women actually had a decreased risk of heart disease.1 The actual risks in the study equated to eight more breast cancers, eight more strokes, seven more heart attacks, and 18 more blood clots per 10,000 women.