Looking Beyond Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
July 13, 2016
By Wendy Cates-Dancer, RN
Menopause. A dreaded time for a large number of women in our society. Why is it that now more than ever women are really struggling with symptoms associated with this time of transition? Many women come to our office desperate for relief, some suffering years with insomnia, hot flashes, depression, and memory loss. There are many different treatment avenues when it comes to hormone balance, but it is amazing how some basic lifestyle factors have profound impacts on how our bodies metabolize hormones.
You're Not Alone
As a society, the primary way menopause has been addressed is with hormone replacement therapy (HRT). In 2000, HRTs were the second most prescribed medication in the United States, 46 million prescriptions were written in that year alone. As most of us have heard, the Women’s Health Initiative brought out some scary statistics for women who were on a combined hormone medication (estrogen and progesterone). In 2002, an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed:
- 26% increase in breast cancer
- 41% increase in stroke
- 29% increase in heart attacks
- Double the risk of blood clots
When we put these synthetic hormones into our body, they may take away the symptoms but they do not deal with the issue at hand. Without education women are left confused and frustrated about what options they are left with to treat the symptoms.
Looking Beneath the Symptoms
When we work with menopausal women, we look beneath the symptoms to see what is causing the problems. Choices we make on a daily basis can make a profound impact on our health. The human body relies on so many different nutrients to maintain balance. If we are deficient, we are more out of balance and often will experience symptoms. As we work with people, we look at where those deficiencies are and put together a plan that will restore balance. One of the first things we look at, as nutritionists, is what you are eating every day.
When you are stressed what kind of foods do you reach for? Most women would admit that when under stress they usually reach for the sweets. Consumption of processed, sugar-laden foods causes your blood sugar to rise, which puts a lot of stress on the body. A person with high blood sugar will struggle more with:
- Mood swings
- Weight gain
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Bone loss
Any of these sound familiar? High sugar has a negative effect on how the body processes hormones. Most notably, it will create more toxic forms of estrogen which will give a person a lot more menopausal symptoms. Keeping your blood sugar balanced is the fundamental piece to balanced hormones.
So how do you keep your blood sugar balanced? Easy. You eat a balance of protein, healthy fats and carbohydrates at every meal and snack. It is especially important to keep a healthy snack handy when you are stressed. A couple of pieces of smoked salmon on a Wasa cracker with regular cream cheese is a great snack that would be easy to keep at the office or at home. It tastes good and would keep your blood sugar stable.
Often times I am asked if there is a supplement that can help balance hormones while in menopause. My advice is always to start with an activated Omega-6 fatty acid from borage seed oil called GLA. Your body needs adequate amounts of therapeutic Omega-6’s to keep your hormones balanced. Beyond that there are a number of options available depending on the individual. At Nutritional Weight & Wellness, we work with countless women during the menopausal time of life to get them on the right track to feeling good.