Menopause, which means cessation of menses for over one year in a healthy woman, is due to hormonal changes in the body. While around the world, this hormonal drop of estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and DHEA is similar, symptoms of menopause vary depending on ones culture and social standing. Stress is the main factor determining a woman’s experience.
It is not surprising that 80% of women in the U.S. endure significant menopausal symptoms because most are nutritionally deficient, lacking in exercise, sleep deprived, working too hard and living in a youth obsessive culture that has little understanding of the aging process. Symptoms of hot flashes, insomnia, vaginal and bladder problems, osteoporosis and a host of other symptoms are common.
The body has a remarkable ability to stay in balance and there is a mechanism in place to buffer the cessation of ovarian hormone production. Adrenal glands, if healthy, will compensate during menopause with increased production of estrogen, progesterone, DHEA and testosterone. The problem is that this system has been damaged by living a western lifestyle which means lots of stress. Unfortunately, stressed out people have compromised adrenal function and this is the primary reason for an unpleasant menopausal journey.
To summarize the metabolic pathway I’m describing:
Excess stress causes excess adrenal cortisol production. Excess cortisol increases bone loss, and decreases the precursors for estrogen and progesterone. This results in an increased core temperature which results in hot flashes as the body dissipates heat.
One study found that women who attended a workshop on stress reduction experienced nearly 45% fewer hot flashes. By identifying and addressing the stress in one’s life, the adrenal glands are able to recover and maintain healthy hormonal balance.
Here’s a check list of things to consider in a whole person hot flash program:
Assess the quality of food in your diet with an emphasis on hormonally supportive foods:
Fruit: pomegranate, dates, apples, cherries, olives, plums and coconut
Vegetables: eggplant, tomato, potato, pepper, carrot, yam
Organic animal products: yogurt, eggs, chicken, turkey, ocean going fish
Grains: barley, brown rice, bulghar, oats, wheat germ
Seeds: sunflower seeds, flax seed, Flax oil and hemp oil
Herbs and seasonings: alfalfa, anise seed, garlic, licorice root, parsley, red raspberry, sage, oregano, nutmeg, turmeric, thyme, cumin, fennel, cloves
Miscellaneous: red clover, chamomile, yucca
Hot flash nutrients:
Vitamin E 400IU three times a day: if high blood pressure, build up slowly over the course of 10 days.
Women’s Phase II by Vitanica as instructed: takes 2-6 weeks for good results
Herb Pharm Healthy Menopause Tonic as instructed: again allow 2-6 weeks for results
Probiotics (acidophilus) for healthy intestinal flora to convert the plant estrogens listed above into their active form
Saliva hormone test and bio-identical hormone support if indicated
For more information regarding adrenal support please see my June ‘07’ newsletter on Rhodiola or attend one of my public talks at Jimbo’s: Detox, De-Stress and Energize (see website listings of public talks for time and location).
While osteoporosis is thought to be a concern of post-menopausal women, nearly one fifth of men struggle with this condition. Here are some additional findings of skeletal interest:
Countries with highest calcium intake have highest rate of osteoporosis.
Pharmaceutical treatments don’t reduce fractures and present serious health risks such as necrosis (death) to the jaw bone.
Bone density testing does not evaluate the quality of bone. Quality of bone is what determines if a fracture will occur or not.
Calcium has no effect on trabecular bone and minimal effect on cortical bone. Osteoporosis is about diminishment of trabecular bone.
Milk consumption is not a viable preventive for osteoporosis.
Bone is a living tissue, not rigid inert scaffolding, and needs a spectrum of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients along with stimulants such as weight bearing exercise and hormones to stay strong and healthy.
The standard American non-nutritional junk food diet is a high acid diet. High acid makes the blood become too acidic. The blood has priority over bones when it comes to pH balance in the body, and the leaching of calcium from bone to buffer blood is a primary cause of osteoporosis.
Additional risk factors effecting quality of bone can be summarized as: genetic predisposition, lifestyle habits and the degree of exposure to pharmaceutical medicine.
Treatment for Osteoporosis
Physical weight bearing exercise, meaning any activity you do while standing (walking etc.) is a proven way to increase quality of bone. Even one hour three times a week of weight bearing exercise has been shown to benefit. Follow the dietary suggestions above and keep in mind the dietary maxim: enjoy a variety of food in as close to its natural state as possible.
Bone Nutrient-Guide Checklist
Vitamins, Minerals and Daily Dose
Vitamin D3: 3,000 IU
Vitamin K: 15 mg (Caution: Vitamin K may inhibit the effect of prescription blood thinners: monitor and adjust accordingly)
Vitamin C: 500-1,000 mg twice a day
Folic acid: 800mcg
Magnesium: 200-250 mg twice daily (more important then calcium)
Calcium: Calcium citrate 600 mg daily (citrate is absorbed better then carbonate especially if low stomach acid)
Boron: 3mg daily (Boron also tends to increase estrogen levels)
Copper: 2 mg
Manganese: 5 mg
Strontium: 5 mg (suggested doses vary, up to 1,000 mg daily, but more is not necessarily better)
Osteoprime is a good example of a well rounded bone building nutrient complex.
Additional testing and treatments such as bio-identical hormone therapy are offered at this clinic if more assistance is needed.
Weight gain with menopause is a common concern. Here are some of the reasons why:
Less activity with same caloric intake.
Increased tendency to make more fat from the same calories as we age due to insulin resistance (see January ‘07’ newsletter ‘Diabetic Syndrome’).
Body tries to maintain estrogen levels by increasing size of fat cells which produce estrogen from adrenal metabolites to maintain bones (and minimize hot flashes).
Slower metabolism from less estrogen (and just plain aging) means fewer calories needed, especially if less exercise.
Testosterone deficiency results in a loss of muscle tissue. Muscle burns calories at a higher metabolic rate and any reduction reduces caloric requirements.
Estrogen deficiency reduces the production of leptin. Leptin is the “I’m full hormone” which controls appetite and burns calories efficiently.
Lack of sleep increases appetite: there is chemistry involved here: Lack of sleep produces the hormone ghrelin which, among other effects, stimulates appetite and inhibits leptin production.
I hope you have enjoyed this month’s newsletter. Comments are always welcome.
Jon Dunn, ND