In my clinical practice, I spend a large portion of my time helping women in the perimenopausal, menopausal, and post‑menopausal years.
As women, we face greater life stresses now than perhaps at any other time in history. The stressors have multiplied – women today face a much larger array of simultaneous challenges: raising children, caring for parents, being partners in a relationship, running companies, improving our body, mind, and soul, etc.
It’s quietly assumed that we’ll be up for the challenge – in these modern times we’re expected to be Xena: Warrior Princess – invincible in body, mind, and soul – no questions asked.
And yet, in my practice I meet many women whose bodies are failing to provide them the energy to be an all-conquering female warrior.
Often, the first thing they’ll ask about is a quick solution. Very often, they’ll assume the problem is hormonal, and they’ll ask about bioidentical hormones.
No doubt, there are times when bioidentical hormones are just the ticket. Supplemental estrogen and progesterone can powerfully impact our mood, energy, and all our bodily systems.
But simply replacing missing hormones may not always be the best long-term solution.
In perimenopause (the midlife period of hormonal shifting, which can last as long as ten years), the best choice may be a more natural approach, with nutritional and botanical support to help the body restore its own optimal hormone production.
A natural approach to optimizing thyroid and adrenal function can often stabilize the irregular cycles and emotional turmoil that are playing havoc with a woman’s life.
Even if a perimenopausal woman’s hormones are measurably deficient, supplementing with hormones may not be the best answer.
We need to understand that there’s tremendous individual variation in women’s experience of menopause. We’ve all known women who sailed through menopause without a hitch or a hot flash.
For these very fortunate women, we can offer simple hormonal and non‑hormonal solutions to solve any isolated problems that don’t call for drastic measures.
For example, if the only issue is vaginal atrophy, we can offer estriol vaginal suppositories.
But if there are serious hormone-related problems, we may need to opt for bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (bHRT).
Even so, the safest approach to treating perimenopausal issues with bHRT requires that we first carefully determine the correct, individualized course of estrogen and/or progesterone and/or testosterone – in forms and dosages that will be safely and suitably adjusted for the individual patient.
Women often ask me: “Why not go immediately to bHRT?”
The answer is humbling: “Because we healers aren’t smart enough to understand the many possible consequences of fiddling with the body’s extremely complex and sensitive hormonal systems.”
Hormones impact everything about us. The dangers of over-enthusiastic experimentation on the female hormonal system were clearly shown by the disaster of Premarin/Provera – where inadequate studies failed to reveal the long-term effects.
Using bioidentical hormones makes a lot more sense than rashly over-medicating menopausal issues. But, in truth, we still don’t know what the long-term effects of their use will be.
On the other hand, long experience has shown us that nature’s own healing wisdom is a lot more likely to “get it right.”
Therefore, measures that work with the body to gently stimulate and unblock its own vital force are a very good first choice.
Also, let’s remember that menopause isn’t called “The Change” for nothing! Among our life’s many natural, cyclical changes, menopause is MAJOR one!
At this extremely challenging time of our lives, we re‑evaluate who we are, how we’re managing our lives, and our inner calling.
As “emerging Elders,” it’s a wonderful idea to come to an inner clarity about whether hormone replacement (bioidentical or otherwise) is the best option for dealing with our discomforts.
Although transitions can be terrifying, they can also be transformational. As a naturopathic doctor who practices functional endocrinology, I’m deeply concerned to facilitate a transformational menopausal experience, by working with all levels of a woman’s reality.
Find out more about Dr. Connie’s work HERE.