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Menopause and Perimenopause
What is Menopause and Perimenopause?
Menopause is defined as the end of menstruation due to the normal decline in ovarian function that occurs with aging. It is defined as the period of time following one year after the last menstrual period.
Perimenopause is the period of hormonal fluctuation that leads up to menopause. Perimenopause can last from five to fifteen years.
Early menopause, also known as premature ovarian failure, occurs in 5-10% of women and encompasses multiple causative factors. Some of them include: IVF, chemotherapy, traumatic stress (loss, death, accidents), medications, other hormonal therapies (birth control pills, anti-estrogenic drugs).
Medical/surgical menopause is menopause induced by outside factors, such as medical or surgical treatment (hysterectomy, oophorectomy, or radiation and other cancer treatments). Twenty-five percent of women enter menopause this way.
Menopause and Hormonal Balance
Essentially, menopause marks the end of fertility for a woman and is a natural life transition, yet it is all too often accompanied by severely disruptive symptoms.
When we are in hormonal balance we are in our normal healthy state. When we have menopausal symptoms, we are suffering from hormonal imbalance — an abnormal state. Many menopausal symptoms occur as a result of the imbalance and loss of the sex hormones: estrogen, progesterone and testosterone as well as thyroid. These hormones work as a team, fitting together to determine our wellbeing, life perspective, weight, sexuality, mood, sleep, ability to focus. Hormonal balance can also effect how much we enjoy life, how we age and how long we live.
When one hormone is imbalanced or just unavailable to the cells that need it for optimum function, the entire team suffers. Symptoms of hormonal imbalance may include weight gain, restlessness, decreased memory, loss of libido, pruritus, rashes, erythema, insomnia, vaginal dryness, recurrent urninary tract infections, joint pains, urinary incontinence, hot flashes and mood swings, among others.
A Growing Problem
About 80% of women today experience symptoms of hormonal imbalance, 40 million women over the age of 50 in the US alone, and 2.2 billion women over the age of 50 worldwide in 2025 — more than ever before — because of the extraordinary demands made on their bodies by our culture, environmental factors, medications and synthetic hormones, poor diets, poor nutrition and the inadequate support provided by our health care system.
Fortunately, most women need not suffer because they can find relief from the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause by restoring hormone balance with hormone replacement therapy.
Synthetic Hormones and Their Risks
Over the past four decades, menopause has been treated primarily with synthetic hormone therapy in the US in order to relieve vasomotor symptoms and vaginal dryness. The drugs of choice in the US have been Premarin (conjugated equine estrogen manufactured from pregnant mares’ urine), Provera (medroxyprogesterone acetate, a synthetic progestin), or Prempro (a combination of Premarin and Provera).
Criticism of synthetic hormones culminated with the Women’s Health Initiative study, an NIH sponsored double blind placebo controlled study of 16,000 women treated with Premarin and Prempro, which was discontinued in 2002 due to the unacceptable increase in risk to heart attacks, breast cancer and strokes in the treated group.
Synthetic hormones offer an unsafe, one-size-fits-all solution for hormonal imbalance. Produced from pregnant horse urine estrogens, synthetic hormones act as toxins as their chemical makeup is divergent from the human estrogens and cannot be processed or accepted as fitting into the human cellular hormone receptors. Oral estrogen is also proven scientifically to be dangerous to the human body. Regardless of its make-up, oral estrogen is toxic to the liver and cannot be properly metabolized by the human body.
Rather than support and balance the natural hormone structure, it now seems clear that synthetic hormones add to the imbalance and can cause side effects as well as contribute to serious health problems as identified in hundreds of scientific studies.
Safe and Effective Alternative Treatments for Menopause
Since the denouement of the WHI study, the medical community and millions of women have been seeking better, safer alternatives to synthetic drugs. Bioidentical hormones appear to be the safest, best studied and most efficacious option.
Unlike synthetic hormones, bioidentical hormones are exact replicas of the hormones produced by the human body naturally. Based on compounds found in plants such as soybeans and wild yams, natural bioidentical hormone powders are made by pharmaceutical processes of concentration and purification.
Researched in most academic institutions and reported in many leading medical publications, the effects of conjugated equine estrogens and medroxy progesterone acetate have consistently proven inferior to bioidentical alternatives. Starting as early as the 1970s, the medical literature is replete with data demonstrating superior results obtained with the use of bioidentical hormones on VCAM (inflammatory marker protein), endothelial thickening (atherosclerosis marker), lipoprotein profile (cholesterol lowering effects), coronary artery vasospasm induction, and both in vivo and in vitro cancer cell growth.
Individualized, transdermal formulations of bioidentical hormones applied to the skin have proven to be the ideal method of treating patients. Compounding pharmacists customize these physician prescribed formulations to match a woman’s specific hormone needs. The molecular structure of the formulation is identical to the woman’s natural estrogen, progesterone and testosterone hormones and are therefore metabolized naturally and accepted by the woman’s body as its own with minimal or no side effects.
Many women have researched the best options for addressing their individual menopausal hormonal imbalance symptoms and have determined that bioidentical hormone replacement therapy is the best option to alleviate their suffering and balance their hormones. They have found that natural approaches via the use of bioidentical hormone therapy relieve hormonal imbalance by supporting their individual needs, reducing disease risks while improving energy, mental clarity, sex drive, eliminating depression and increasing overall well-being.
As women live longer they will continue to seek relief from menopausal symptoms and look to decrease the risks associated with the aging process, making bioidentical hormone replacement therapy a viable, safe and important option.