By Sally Longden
Contemporary medicine views menopause as a “deficiency of oestrogen” disease, but Nature did not made a mistake. Menopause is not a deficiency, nor a “disease” at all. Menopause is a natural, necessary phase of life where huge personal development takes place—physical, mental and spiritual. A phase that every woman should go through naturally. As Leslie Kenton says in her book Passage to Power, “Power, energy and freedom. These are the rewards of menopause. The freedom of which I speak is the freedom of body and soul which enables each woman to experience unfettered her full potential for aliveness. Only by doing this can we call forth our greatest gifts both for our own personal fulfilment and to share with our culture and the planet”.
Certainly modern women are having a tougher passage through this transition (and I will explain why), but the solution to these hardships is undoubtedly not in drugs. There are numerous cons to taking HRT (hormone replacement therapy), and natural, gentle interventions are available to fully help your body through this stage. Hopefully I shall encourage you to look at these alternatives and to do your own research rather than blindly following the automatic medical trajectory onto drugs. So often, HRT is the first drug taken in a long line of other drugs then needed to counter drug side effects. This couse can finally lead to a spiralling down into a full-flegded prescription-drug addiction. (Ref The Judas Window by Felicity Bielowich……)
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Let me first introduce you to the roles of oestrogen and a short history of hormonal development in the female. There is a class of about 20 oestrogens, but the main ones involved in the female ‘fertile stage’, menopause and post menopause are oestradiol, oestrone and oestriol.
Puberty and the Fertile Years: A child starts puberty as a result of the pituitary stimulating the ovaries to produce oestradial, the fertile female oestrogen. This has monumental effects on the child … in all respects. Physically their bodies change— breasts grow, pubic hair sprouts, and the body becomes curvaceous. Mentally, their thinking changes, boys have to be impressed and a desire for sexy clothes and make up emerges. In fact, the entire teenage biological, emotional, mental, and social climates becomes oriented to (consumed by actually) concerns of the opposite sex. The girl has changed into the young woman within a few months … and has entered the “baby-making phase of life” thanks to oetradiol. I often marvel at the changes seen in little girls at this stage of life. From being rough and tumble play mates with boys, full of confidence and their own importance to suddenly becoming shy and flirtatious with those same ‘friends’. It has been said that oestradiol ‘keeps us sexy, pathetic, and in the kitchen!!’ Suffragette values aside, this stage of life is all about marrying, being submissive (sexually) and devoting our lives to procreation, bringing up children and keeping husbands happy.
Hormonally, the role oestradiol has to play in the menstrual cycle is to build up the lining of the uterus (the endometrium) very quickly and, with the effects of it’s antagonist, progesterone; to get the endometrium ready to accept the fertilised ovum. As with all steroids, oestrogen has an antagonist, i.e. another hormone necessary to complete ‘the job’ that oestrogen has started. The antagonist to oestrogen is progesterone. It is vital that these two hormones are in balance because unopposed oestradiol is highly dangerous. Oestradiol switches on the BCL2 gene which instructs the cells to multiply like mad, not to differentiate and not to die, thus causing the cells in the endometrium to grow quickly. Progesterone switches off this ‘mad’ message and switches on another gene, the P53, that now instructs the cells to mature, differentiate, (become what they are supposed to become), and die (apoptosis) to be replaced by other healthy cells. If there is imbalance between these two hormones, a state of Oestrogen Dominance results.(see symptoms of Oestrogen Dominance in Table 1). The most dangerous symptom, however, is that the right message does not get to the cells and they continue to multiply and not die. Dr John Lee, leading author on natural progesterone therapy, states that this failure of cellular/hormonal communication is the chief cause of cancers …Cancer cells responding to these same cues and reacting in the same madly multiplying, undifferentiating, and undying way. Another very prevalent complaint today is endometriosis where, again, this message given by the BCL2 gene has not been switched off.
WHAT HAS GONE WRONG
Nature, in its wisdom, knows how important the balance is between these two hormones, oestrogen and progesterone. Whenever oestrogen levels rise in the body, so will progesterone levels rise to balance the excess oestrogen. Sadly. now, something has gone wrong in our world that has upset this delicate, crucial balance. Man has been playing around with chemicals ever since the 1940’s. POLLUTION is the result! Much of this pollution consists of substances that are Xeno-oestrogens. Xeno-oestrogens are chemicals which have the characteristic of oestrogen and attach themselves to the oestrogen receptors found in our cells. They come mostly from the breakdown products of many processes involved in the petro-chemical and plastics industry. Once attached to the receptors they produce a stronger effect than oestrogen itself. Other xeno-orestrogens in common use are the synthetic drugs now used in the contraceptive pill, fertility treatments and HRT!!! These Xeno-oestrogens cause hormonal havoc. (See table 2 for Xeno-oestrogens)
Because of all the xeno-oestrogens, It is now this state of oestrogen dominance that is responsible for the hormonal imbalances many people— women, men, children and even the unborn child, suffer from today. It is this state of hormonal imbalance that has made the symptoms of menopause far worse.
WHAT IS HAPPENING AT MENOPAUSE?
Well, the truth is, it all starts to ‘happen’ well before the actual menopause (cessation of menstrual flow), and it brings us back to the role of the hormones; oestrogen and progesterone. Progesterone is secreted from the ovaries during the menstrual cycle only after ovulation. If you do not ovulate, you do not produce the extra progesterone. It is the little body left behind in the ovary, after the ovum has been released, called the Corpus Luteum, that secretes large amounts of progesterone each month. The Progesterone is responsible for the maturing of the endometrium to receive the fertilized egg, which will be able to implant and form a placenta. The role of progesterone is vital. It ensures that the lining of the uterus is mature and that it is not shed thus enabling the young embryo to survive. This is where it got it’s name —‘pro’ meaning in favour of and ‘gestation’ meaning pregnancy. If fertilization does not occur, then the levels of progesterone plummet and the lining of the uterus is shed causing the monthly bleed. This cycle goes on and on during the fertile years. When menopause is reached, the cycle stops.
In the past, before the effects of pollution, women used to ovulate well into their late 40’s early 50’s. Now, because of the xeno-oestrogens and their imbalancing effects, woman are, on average, having anovulatory (no ovulation) cycles as early as 34 years old. Many women that I know personally, have sadly stopped ovulation in their 20’s. This was unheard of 50 years ago!
An anovulatory cycle is one in which NO ovum matures and none is released. Therefore, there is no progesterone to control the oestrogen, causing a state of unopposed oestrogen and serious oestrogen dominant symptoms (see table 1). The earlier the age that anovulatory cycles starts, the higher the oestrogen levels and the worse the oestrogen dominant symptoms. This phase of a woman’s life is called “peri-menopause” and is, undoubtably, the most difficult period of a woman’s life. Many women in their 30’s are already in peri-menopause, experiencing some months in which ovulation occurs and some when it doesn’t. PMS is the most obvious symptom of this imbalance with all its fluid retention, weight gain, mood swings, depressions uncontrolled tempers and heavy menstrual flow. The ONLY thing presently known to help at this stage is Progesterone Therapy which counters the effects of unopposed oestrogen and restores balance. Drugs will not do this! Progesterone, by balancing the high levels of oestrogen, helps with depression, fluid retention mood swings, acne etc. The peri-menopausal phase continues until the oestradiol levels also start to drop, anywhere between late 40’s – late 50’s— the threshold to menopause.
The drop in oestrodiol levels induces the symptoms we commonly associate with menopause: hot flushes, anxiety and panic attacks. If you now seek help from a medical professional, they will take your blood and test for oestradiol levels. They cannot accurately test for progesterone in the blood as these levels are continually varying due to stress levels (the stress hormones are derived directly from progesterone and drain our “dam” of progesterone). Menopause, caused exclusively by diminished oestradiol levels, does not mean that you are deficient in oestrogen. It just means you are at last coming to the end of the fertile phase of your life—the . Passage to Power beautifully addressed by Leslie Kenton.. In this phase, the oestrogen that now becomes prevalent is oestriol— responsible for the wonderful change in your mental and spiritual attitude. You become much more assertive, introspective and wise. These are the years of the ‘crone’ which means wise-woman. This is the time in your life that you have time for ‘you’. This is when you reach your full potential and find your ‘dharma’, your responsibility or speciality to give to the world.
Unfortunately, even though HRT has been proven to be one the worst drugs one can take, you may be offered HRT at this stage of your life. You will be told it helps with osteoporosis, is good for your heart and will alleviate hot flushes … In actuality, the only positive thing HRT does do, is to relieve hot flushes. In two major experiments, the first ever independent, randomised, and double-blind studies done on oestrogen and involving millions of women, HRT was firmly given the ‘thumbs down’ in 2002, and 2003 two of these experiments were stopped after only five years because the statistics on breast cancer had doubled. They have not only, at last, shown that HRT certainly doubles your risk of breast cancer, but it also causes clotting, strokes and does nothing for your bone mass density. A 2003 study showed that combined HRT increased the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. The FDA now requires a warning about this on all HRT drug labeling. A University of Rochester study reported that women who took HRT suffered from impaired hearing. Another study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital showed a sharply increased risk of asthma for women taking either estrogen alone or combined HRT. Arguably, none of these health problems are as significant as the 2002 revelation that HRT increases the risk of heart disease – the disease that kills more women than any other. But it turns out that this risk was known years before 2002 !
Data coming from the American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute, the Centers for Disease Control, and the Journal of Clinical Oncology (Clarke et al, Vol 24, 33:Nov 20 2006) shows that “[in] November 2006, research was released by cancer centers around the U.S. showing that breast cancer rates have dropped dramatically since 2002. Most doctors and researchers agree that the drop was created when millions of women suddenly stopped using hormone replacement therapy (HRT) after the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study group announced, in the summer of 2002, that HRT users had an increased risk of breast cancer, stroke and heart disease. Estimates are that as many as 50 percent of women using HRT stopped taking it within six months after the WHI results came out.” Thankfully!
Advocates of HRT will, no doubt, continue to put the best possible spin on the deteriorating reputation of this dangerous therapy. But statistics show that sales of HRT have dropped off sharply. Women are finally learning that there are much safer ways to treat their menopausal symptoms—especially as the list of side effects gets longer and more serious seemingly every day.
SAFE ALTERNATIVES TO MENOPAUSAL SYMPTOMS
So what are these safer and more effective ways to help menopausal symptoms and ward off the dangers of osteoporosis ?
Firstly the most important therapy is the one that will balance the ill-effects of unopposed oestrogen and the xeno-oestrogens and this is Natural Progesterone Therapy. (in cream form applied to the skin).
• This is the hormone responsible for stimulating the bone building function and, provided nutrition is good, improving bone mass density and reversing osteoporosis.
• This is the hormone that helps to slow down the aging process
• This is natures “Valium”, natural sedative, transquilizer and anti-depressant.
• This is the hormone that balances oestrogens and makes the right oestrogen needed at specific stages of life.
• And yes, in most cases, it alleviates most hot flushes! (see Table 3 for more on progesterone).
Secondly, if you are one of the few who still suffers from hot flushes or dry vagina, then the addition of phyto-oestrogens will help. These are the only oestrogens you should consider. Black Cohosh, Agnes Castis, Red Clover are a few that can help. Therre are nutrition companies that make feminine herbal mixes that are good. Homeopathic remedies also help.
Thirdly good nutrition is paramount. Stop eating junk—especially sugar and coffee! These worsen hot flushes. Get onto good, organically grown foods, eat fresh fruit and vegies. Avoid, as far as possible, man-made junk …use sparingly any tinned and packaged food as they have lost their vitality. Supplement with whole food supplements, because at this stage of life, you need all the help you can get as your digestive system is not what it used to be. Include large doses of the Omega 3 fatty acids as these too are essential for hormonal balance. Buy your supplements from a Health Shop to ensure they are from a natural and unpolluted source.
Lastly, develop a purely positive attitude to life. Laugh a lot, especially at yourself. This is the best medicine there is !
For a really good, in depth, approach to menopause; read Leslie Kenton’s Passage to Power and Susan E Brown’s “Better Body, Better Bones”.
For more information on Natural Progesterone Therapy see www.naturone.com or contact Sally Longden on firstname.lastname@example.org, phone fax 023 6251113.
TABLE 1 – SYMPTOMS OF OESTROGEN DOMINANCE
INCREASE IN BODY FAT
FLUID & SALT RETENTION
RISK OF HEART DISEASE, STROKES, EXCESSIVE BLOOD CLOTTING
RISK OF ALL OESTROGEN CANCERS
DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY
LOSS OF ZINC RETENTION OF COPPER
INTERFERENCE WITH THYROID ACTIVITY
FIBROCYSTIC BREAST DISEASE
PROMOTES GALL BLADDER DISEASE
INCREASE IN UTERINE FIBROIDS
DECREASED SPERM COUNT
DECREASED SEX DRIVE
FEMINISATION OF MALES
RESTRAINT OF OSTEOCLAST FUNCTION.
TABLE 2 – XENO-OESTROGENS
EXHAUST FUMES AND OTHER PETRO-CHEMICAL SUBSTANCES
SYNTHETIC OESTROGEN DRUGS –
ERT and HRT.
FERTILITY TREATMENT DRUGS
PESTICIDES & HERBICIDES FOUND ON INORGANICALLY GROWN FOOD.
PLASTICS especially CLINGWRAP, POLYSTYRENE, SOFT PLASTICS
REUSED PLASTIC WATER BOTTLES
VASELINE AND AQUEOUS HAND AND BODY CREAMS
MANY COSMETIC PRODUCTS CONTAINING MINERAL OILS
HOUSEHOLD DETERGENTS MADE FROM PETRO CHEMICALS
WAX FLOOR POLISH
PCB AND OTHER CHEMICALS
HOUSEHOLD PAINTS AND GLUES
MEAT FROM HORMONE FED ANIMALS
MILK FROM HORMONALLY TREATED COWS.
THESE ALL AFFECT THE OESTROGEN/PROGESTERONE BALANCE!!!
TABLE 3 – PROGESTERONE BENEFITS
• Helps to prevent osteoporosis and complements oestrogen
• Promotes bone rebuilding by stimulating the osteoblast (bone building) function,
• In the brain, where progesterone concentrations are found to be 20 times higher than in the blood, progesterone has a soothing effect and has been used to treat seizures.
• 50% of the Progesterone receptor sites are found in the brain, so low levels effect brain function.
• Works wonders for memory problems associated with low hormone levels, and it can flatten out mood swings
• Protects against Altzheimers
• Helps relieve depressions.
• Effective in decreasing migraines caused by oestrogen.
• Can promote sleep and counteract edginess, anxiety and panic.
• Protects against cancers by switching off the onca gene BCL2.
• Improves thyroid function
• In some recent studies, progesterone has been shown to provide great cardiovascular benefits.
• Promotes the use of fat for energy, thus opposing the oestrogenic tendency to fat storage.
• Normalizes blood sugar levels.
• Has a thermogenic effect – making you warmer by increasing blood flow to the skin
• Counters oestrogenic binding of zinc and copper, thus normalizing those levels.
• Has a diuretic effect which helps to get rid of fluid-bloating that oestrogen can cause.
• Helps to nourish vaginal and urinary tract tissues
• Seems to reduce the severity of allergic reactions and allergies.
• Facilitates the manufacture of the cortico-steroids responsible for keeping allergies, auto-immune diseases, at bay.
• Reduces aches and pains
• Restores skin hydration
• Protects against stress
• Restores blood sugar levels
• Maintains the secretory endometrium thus preventing miscarriages.
• Regulates the monthly cycle
• Helps improve fertility naturally
• Counters the effects of poly cystic ovarian disease (PCOD).