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-ageing medicine acting as a talisman to ward off osteoporosis, heart disease and even Alzheimers. 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 most 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? And what if the pathological condition of “menopause”, the supposed cause of a midlife woman’s lament doesn’t even exist? 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. Menopause, far from being a stage in a woman’s life that leads her into a dark dungeon of discomfort and decline, is actually a time when the abuses of life style, poor diet, environmental tonicities, and stress finally take their toll. Hormonal imbalances are, in fact, symptoms of poor health. If the symptoms are addressed only with various HRT formulations, the real underlying problems are not just ignored but in all likelihood, worsened. When you add in the possible 120 the side effects from HRT, you have a frightening recipe for disaster.
Digestion, malabsorption and Candida
A healthy digestive and a gastro-intestinal system are the keys to good health. It begins with the first bite. Proper digestion depends on the proper secretion of digestive enzymes and the digestive system’s ability to assimilate and absorb foods. Most health problems begin here. No matter what foods are eaten, everything in our diets are composed of proteins, carbohydrates and fat, sugars, and fiber. The essential digestive enzymes (protease, amylase, lipase, disaccharidase and cellulase) are necessary to break then down during digestion. Without adequate enzymes, people become intolerant to certain foods, which leads to a whole host of food allergies. When the enzyme deficiency is left untreated, serious health problems inevitably result.
Enzyme deficiencies include a compromised immune system, chronic infections, fluid retention, chronic constipation, hypoglycemia, moodiness, depression, irritability, anxiety, impaired bone metabolism leading to osteoporosis, blood clots, allergic reactions, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and varicose veins. Our modern day life style has contributed to the depletion of digestive enzymes. Poisonous pesticides destroy enzymes and chemicals, genetic engineering, food irradiation, hydrogenated oils, microwaves, radiation, fluoridation, heavy metals and mercury amalgams. Supplementing one’s diet with plant-based digestive enzymes available from the health food store is becoming necessity for people of all ages.
Another serious digestive problem leading to many health problems is a condition called candidiasis. Approximately one in three American women suffer from this toxic yeast overgrowth which is caused by eating large amounts of sugar, prolonged or repeated use of antibiotics, birth control pills, estrogen therapy and cortisone, Candida has been found to produce 79 different toxins which are know to wreak havoc with the immune system. There is a long list of symptoms associated with a candida overgrowth. They include depression, anxiety attacks, mood swings, lack of concentration, drowsiness, poor memory, headaches, insomnia, fatigue, bloating, constipation, bladder infections, menstrual cramps, vaginal itching, muscle and joint swelling and pain, hypothyroidism, and skin problems.
To rid the body of pathological yeast and improve the immune system it important o eliminate sugar in all its forms, eliminate foods that are difficult to digest, eat organic foods, use natural anti-fungal remedies such as grapefruit seed extract, oregano oil, probiotics (friendly bacteria s), cultured foods and digestive enzymes. It is obvious from the long list of above symptoms that so called menopause affliction could be due to chronic digestive problems. And it is interesting to note that both the Pill and HRT cause impaired digestion and candida overgrowth. In fact, candida feeds on estrogens. And so the vicious cycle continues.
The thyroid gland is an important component of the immune system. It is a small butterfly-shaped endocrine organ at the base of the neck. The thyroid is the body’s thermostat controlling body temperature, energy use, the rate which organs function and the speed with which the body uses food. The thyroid is implicated in the functioning of all body process and organs. Thyroid problems are also of epidemic proportion in women – 15-20 time more prevalent than in men. It is estimated that as between 50-80 percent of Western women suffer from hypothyroidism, an underactive thyroid. Hypothyroidism has a direct effective on women’s hormonal health. Seventy percent of women with infertility and miscarriages have hypothyroidism.
In addition, fibrocyctic breast disease, fibroids, ovarian cysts, endometriosis, PMS, menopausal symptoms and multiple sclerosis are caused or worsened by an underactive thyroid. Other symptoms include fatigue, depression, weight gain, cold hands and feet, skin problems (itching, eczema, acne, dry and scaly), loss of memory, lack of concentration, migraines, muscle aches, swelling of eyelids, constipation, brittle nails and poor vision. A deficiency of thyroid hormone can also lead to elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels, putting older women at greater risk of heart disease. Hypothyroidism weakens the immune system and makes women more susceptible to recurring infections, While hypothyroidism is also one of the least understood health conditions by the medical profession, the causes are readily known by alternative medicine. Radiation is probably the greatest environmental cause both ionizing and non-ionizing forms). Another significant cause is estrogen dominance (an excess of estrogen in relation to progesterone).
Estrogen dominance interferes with the uptake of thyroid hormones and can result from taking birth control pills, estrogen replacement therapy, or exposure to pesticides, powerful estrogen mimics and other environmental toxins. Stress and nutritional deficiencies such as selenium, glutathione, iodine and zinc also have a key role. And once again an imbalance in microflora of the gut decreases the body’s ability to uptake thyroid hormone. Other thyroid inhibitors include excess intake of unsaturated fats (liquid oils at room temperature), fluoride, heavy metal poisoning, mercury amalgam fillings, low protein diet, soy products, raw cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli etc), and endurance exercise. The most popular thyroid medication, Synthroid which is an inactive form of the thyroid hormone actually shrinks the thyroid gland, suppresses the pituitary and suppresses cellular respiration. Another side effect of synthroid is osteoporosis. We live in a thyroid toxic culture and environment. No wonder it is such a common disorder. However there are very effective natural approaches to help in regulating the thyroid.
Natural progesterone balances the thyroid inhibiting effect of estrogen dominance. As does supplementation with thyroid glandular extracts, enzyme therapy, and herbal remedies such as the Auyervedic herb, gulgulipid. Dietary recommendations to support thyroid function include getting adequate protein i.e. organic beef, poultry, eggs, fish, cultured milk products such as kefir and yogurt. Another great thyroid promoting food is coconut oil, which not only stimulates thyroid function thus promoting weight loss in those who are overweight. Thyroid healing foods include these high in the B vitamins such as wheat germ, whole grains, nuts, seeds, dark greens, legumes and Brewer’s yeast. Other foods include seaweeds, and wheat germ oil (or Vitamin E), Unfortunately most of the standard thyroid tests often fail to pinpoint an underactive thyroid, leading physicians to make erroneous diagnoses. Subclinical conditions abound. However, there are effective self-diagnosis tests. Taking an underarm temperature reading with an oral thermometer first thing in the morning for 5 consecutive days. Leave it under the arm for 5-10 minutes.
It is even more effective is you keep your eyes open and have exposure to bright lights for half and hour before taking the test. But remember to say in bed and remain inactive. A low functioning thyroid will show an average temperature of under 97.5 F. Also check the resting pulse less than 85 beats per minute plus a low basal temperature may indicate hypothyroidism. Another simple test is to paint an area on your thigh or belly with a 2 inch in diameter with a 2% tincture of iodine. If the yellowish stain disappears in less than 24 hours, it indicates your body has an iodine deficiency, a cause of hypothyroidism. Continuing to paint different areas of your body every 24 hours until the stain remains a full 24 hours will increase your iodine levels. Seaweeds and Celtic sea salt will rich sources of iodine.
The glands which work hand in glove with the thyroid are the adrenal glands, two small prune-shaped glands that sit on top of the kidneys. Although small in size they are very big in function. They are involved in manufacturing 28 different hormones, the digestion of food especially carbohydrates and sugar, the regulation of the body’s minerals, producing and maintaining the body’s energy levels in conjunction with the thyroid, producing hormones that monitor stress. Progesterone is the primary raw material for producing adrenal gland hormones. Prolonged stress, whether as a result of emotional, environmental or physical causes are disastrous for the adrenals. Initially, it increases the output of the adrenal hormone, cortisol. Cortisol helps to regulate blood sugar, the movement of carbohydrates, proteins and fats in and out of the cells. inflammation and muscle function.
Chronic stress causes chronically elevated levels of cortisol resulting in weight gain (especially around the midsection), blood sugar imbalances, thinning skin, muscle wasting, memory loss, high blood pressure, dizziness, hot flushes, excessive facial hair, and other masculinizing tendencies. Overworked adrenals will eventually crash leading to adrenal exhaustion and unable to maintain adequate production of adrenal hormones. Symptoms of overtaxed adrenals include extreme fatigue such as in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, irritability, inability to concentrate, frustration, insomnia, addictions to either sweet or salty foods, allergies, nervousness, depression, PMS sensitivity to cold, diabetes and headaches.
Chronic low blood pressure is a key symptom of adrenal exhaustion. Adrenal exhaustion creates havoc with the endocrine system. Many hormonal imbalances in women of all ages are caused by overworked adrenal glands. Nutrients that have special importance to the adrenal glands are the B vitamins (especially B5), vitamin C, proteins, magnesium, manganese, zinc, potassium, plant enzymes, adrenal extracts, and the amino acids, tyrosine and phenylalanine. Rest is the best when it comes to rebuilding the adrenals. And so is stress reduction.
Shedding one’s life of those stressful events, people, demands, high-pressure jobs as well as addressing unresolved emotional wounds is vital for healing the adrenal glands. As more and more women awaken from the spell that has been cast upon them, it becomes apparent that menopause is not the enemy of their quality of life. Popping a hormone pill is certainly not the solution. Regaining the knowledge of their female physiology, reducing their hectic lives, honoring the needs of their bodies and returning to the healing power of natural foods and natural medicines, is indeed, the greatest challenge for women in this new millennium.