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A note to women (or men that know one): hormones, hormones

During the past week I have listened to two podcasts dealing with the issue of women's hormonal shifts during adolescence and perimenopause.  One podcast was an MD speaking with a nationally known and respected nutritionist and author Leyla Muedin,  and the other one was Michelle Obama talking to her personal friend and MD, Sharon Malone, OB-GYN.  In both cases the women stressed the importance of recognizing when you are approaching menopause. They compared it to the hormonal shifts in adolescence, only in reverse.  The unstable emotional shifts, changes in sleep habits, bodily heat irregularities , mid-section weight gain, vaginal irritation or dryness and/or uncomfortable sex, etc, can creep up on women slowly, quickly, or not at all. 

All four women are using bio-identical hormones at this point in their lives.

All of them emphasized the individuality of this experience but stressed the need to get to know your body and where you are in the process.  And now that the Women's Health Initiative has been examined from every angle and the data re-examined many times during the past 20 years, there is a general consensus that exogenous estrogen does not increase the risk for breast or uterine cancer. (this was true even for the horse-urine estrogen.  It turns out the artificial progesterone, called "progestin" was the culprit in both uterine cancer and blood clotting)  In fact, my own MD has read studies showing a slight decrease in BC for women using bio-identical hormones.

When applied as a cream to the skin, the liver is bypassed and the body does not recognize it as a drug but "sees" it as the same hormone that it has recognized since you were thirteen. 

Most of my clients are women and I would say that 90% of them are using bioidentical hormones now, many of them (including myself) started using them at the first signs of "something different happening" in my body.  I remember when I was in my early 50's my daughter came up to me in the kitchen and gave me a hug and said:  "Wow, mom, you're like hugging a heater."  It was wintertime so the hug lasted a little while :-)   I had already been using OTC progesterone cream (for breast protection) since in my mid 40's, but at the "you're like a heater" comment I made an appointment to get my hormones evaluated.  If I could roll back the clock I wish I'd had the hormone evaluation done in my late 20's or early 30's just to see what "normal" looked like for me.  At this point, it's just guesswork based on symptoms.  It seems my need for estrogen is abnormally high, making me think I probably had very high estrogen when I was young as well.

So, my input for this email is:  Get your hormones (estradiol, progestesterone, testosterone, DHEAs and a full thyroid panel) done as soon as you can make an appointment.  That way, when you start having symptoms you will have a direction to pursue.  There is no need to suffer as our moms and grandmothers did in the '"old days" because help is available and usually covered by insurance, now that we recognize these symptoms at mid-life for what they are.  Getting your hormones balanced is the key to health and sanity, without the need for Prozac or Xanax.  Not to mention the protection it offers or bones and cardiovascular health.  My MD says he's not had a single female patient suffer cardiovascular "events"  in the 20 years he's been using hormones with every woman he can talk into using them for those 2 reasons, if not for emotional stability and  happy sex!

And it's never too late to start.  There are women past menopause, in their 60s and 70s who start hormone replacement to ward off osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease.  

Not all doctors are on board with this idea.  Especially if you have a history of breast cancer that is estrogen dependent.  However, some doctors, even in this scenario, recommend at least minimal doses just to offset some of the most troublesome symptoms.  Find a doctor you trust and work with her/him to figure out a safe plan for you.

If you are local and need a referral for an MD knowledgeable in this area, LMK and I'll send details. There are quite a few in the OC area.

Mary Anne Robinson, MS Bio-Nutrition
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