Women’s health: From puberty to post menopause

James LiddellArticles, MenopauseLeave a Comment

puberty-to-menopauseBy Dr James G Liddell B.Pharm  M.Pharm  PhD

Puberty

During puberty the body goes through rapid changes to accommodate sexual development and requires specific nutrients to prevent acne, obesity and behavioural problems.

From 14 to 16 years of age girls and boys need more vitamin A, D, B6, biotin, zinc, calcium, magnesium and essential fatty acids. They also need more protein because of still being in a growth phase. Growing pains and acne are because of a zinc deficiency.

The following key eating habits must be encouraged :-

  • Seeds – rich in zinc, magnesium and EFA`s
  • Eat fruit and little to no sweets
  • Vegetables daily
  • Proper sit down meals and not eat on the run

Beating Pre-Menstrual Syndrome through a good diethealthy-diet

PMS normally starts a week before menstruation.

Common symptoms with PMS

  • Depression
  • Tension
  • Headaches
  • Breast tenderness
  • Water retension
  • Bloating
  • Low energy
  • Irritability

Hormonal interventions disrupt the body’s chemistry and can increase the risk for cancer. The best nutrient combination for PMS will include Vit B6, magnesium, zinc and omega 6. Within 3 months at least 66% patients should feel better.

There is also a group of patients where the hormonal changes will disturb blood sugar control and these patients will crave sugar and other stimulants. They can present with symptoms like tiredness and irritation. This group of PMS sufferers should stay clear of sugar and stimulants and follow a low GL diet and eat small amounts of food frequently.

In a small group of girls the hormonal imbalances can not be corrected by food and supplements. The imbalance is normally due to an oestrogen dominance and can be rectified by progesterone cream.

Contraception : pros and cons

Oral contraception as well the 2-3 month injection has too many side effects. The best contraceptive methods are :-

  • Ovulation – 3 days after ovulation and  up to 7 days before next ovulation will be a safe period where no conception can take place
  • Condoms
  • Abstinence

Menopause, a blessing or a curse

Menopause is a natural process in the body. It is a blessing and not a curse. If menopause did not rescue women in time, they could have had children till just before death. Not all women experience menopausal symptoms. Intervene if necessary.

So why do some women have the hell of menopause?               

Oestrogen and progesterone drops during menopause, but progesterone drops much faster then oestrogen. The continued relative excess of oestrogen compared to progesterone may prove to be the major cause for Menopause.

Background

Oestrogen refers to a group of female hormones that are produced mainly by the ovaries. Oestrogen is responsible for the development of female sexual characteristics, growth stimulating effect on breasts and regulates reproductive functions. There are 300 different oestrogen receptors in the female body and that is why menopause affects the whole body of a women.

During menopause many women suffer from severe mood swings, night sweats and hot flushes, lower libido thinning and drying out of the vaginal epithelium. Any ERT (oestrogen replacement) natural or synthetic will improve these symptoms. ERT alone stimulates growth in many tissues like uterine lining and breast and may increase risk for cancer and that is why synthetic progestin is combined to suppress this effect.

HRT has risks as well as benefits. Oestrogen promotes youthful cell division. Benefits are such as improving moistness of skin and vaginal tissue, improve thinning of vaginal membranes, improve libido, reduced menopausal symptoms, and improve wellbeing, improved memory, immune system and neurological function.

How safe are conventional HRT and ERT?

Common side-effects are: enhance blood clotting, fibroids, weight gain and headaches. Oestrogen (ERT) use can increase cancer risk with 34% in genetic prone subjects. Various studies prove that if a woman is on oestrogen therapy for 5 years or more, her chances of developing breast cancer increase 1.7 to 2 times. HRT does not protect your heart and has a partial beneficial effect on bones because it suppresses osteoclastic activity (broken down process) and has no effect on osteoblastic activity (new bone formation). Women who had been on HRT lose bone faster if they stop when compared to a group of women who have never taken HRT. Osteoporosis starts at the age of 30 when oestrogen levels are at its highest – there is no osteoporosis prevention benefit in HRT.

Oestrogen dominance and progesterone

Oestrogen dominance occurs when there is no balance between oestrogen and progesterone. his happens when additional oestrogen is taken without considering the progesterone levels. The above can be aggravated by xeno-oestrogens in our environment. Oestrogen levels drop but never stop, where progesterone drops to zero and proving to be the major cause of menopause.

The safest way to supplement progesterone is in the form of a bioequivalent progesterone cream.

Common side effects associated with oestrogen dominance are: face puffiness, excessive uterine bleeding, night-time swelling and PMS symptoms. Oestrogen dominance is very important in the menopausal and postmenopausal women in whom progesterone levels may decline to very low levels.

When the above women use conventional HRT (oestrogen + progestin) they normally gain weight because of the effect on insulin and the tendency to eat more refined carbohydrates. These foods cause chronically elevated blood sugar levels with chronically elevated insulin levels. This leads to elevated triglycerides, insulin resistance, high blood pressure and weight gain. Oestrogen (in the HRT combo) suppresses glucagons secretion – and it is glucagon that has the ability to control elevated insulin levels. What happens now is that insulin levels rises further – the lipid profile worsens and women gain more weight.

Environmental oestrogens

HRT patients should realize that apart from the oestrogen they get from their HRT; they also are exposed to daily xeno-oestrogens (acts like extra oestrogen) in plastic, herbicides, milk and meat. This leads to infertility, increased cancers (breasts, cervix and testes), endometrioses, ovarian cysts and fibroids. These xeno-oestrogens are metabolized by the P450 enzyme system in the liver. Overload of this system leads to storage of these endocrine disrupters in the connective tissue and negatively affects hormonal systems.

Other hormones that are important in menopause

Cortisol and DHEA

High cortisol secretion (adrenal hormone) is common in most chronic lifestyle diseases and is also high after menopause. DHEA levels are generally low after menopause. This hormonal status is more important in women than men because their hormones only come from the adrenal glands (no more hormones from the uterus), but men still get androgenic hormones from the testis. When women get no oestrogen from the ovaries, the replacement of DHEA has a positive effect on bone density. DHEA has a balancing effect on cortisol and has a potent anti-aging effect.

Thyroid hormones

Low thyroid hormone levels are common in older women. Replacement of thyroid hormone has also been associated with bone loss. But when you replace oestrogen, your thyroid dosage needs to be increased.

Insulin and insulin resistance

High insulin levels are standard in obese women. Many hormones have an effect on insulin secretion.  Relatively high cortisol levels (because of stress and age), extra oestrogen in HRT and low DHEA levels (because of aging) are the main contributors to insulin resistance. An elevated insulin level has a potent effect on the liver and is also associated with high cholesterol levels.

Probiotics and hormones

Gut bacteria helps to balance hormones. Dysbiotic bacteria produce amines, indoles and phenols and they are all toxic. They can interfere with neurotransmission and other hormone signals. Keeping your gut healthy does not only support your immune system, protect your gut lining but also helps to balance your hormones.

Menopausal symptoms – what works?exercise

  • Exercise, yoga and acupuncture

Vigorous physical exercise and the above will reduce hot flushes.

  • Blood sugar control

Eat low GI foods with protein and/or eat 5-6 times a day.

  • Probiotics

Gut bacteria helps to balance hormones.

  • Vitamins C and E

Vitamin C helps your hormones to work – take 1-2 grams a day. Vitamin E helps with vaginal dryness – take 600IU a day and remember it takes 30 days before it really works.

  • Essential fatty acids

Essential fats will balance hormones and stabilize moods.

  • Soya and red clover

Both contain isoflavones and are effective in hot flushes.  Also eat more tofu – it will help.

  • Black cohosh

Helps for hot flushes, sweating, insomnia and anxiety.

  • Dong quai

Works very well for hot flushes – high success rate.

  • Bio-identical hormones – They are without preservatives, adhesives, dyes, binders and fillers.  Tests performed in France on these bio-identical hormones were not associated with increased risk of breast cancer. These bio-identical hormones in combination with other strategies are known to reduce the risk of breast cancer and heart disease. But we must realize that there is no scientific data to prove those bio-identical hormones are without risk.

Progesterone cream

Works very well for hot flushes – high success rate.  It has an anti-cancer effect and four times more effective at reversing osteoporosis.

Bio-identical Estrogen cream (Tri E cream)

Bio-identical Estrogen cream has a high success rate.

In a nutshell

  • One shoe does not fit all.
  • It takes 30 days for hormones to settle on medication (conventional or natural).
  • Healthy lifestyle – balanced diet plus exercise.
  • Probiotics – take daily – it helps to balance hormones.
  • Try the natural remedies first as discussed e.g. soya, red clover, black cohosh and dong quai.
  • If no joy – blood tests for – progesterone, estrogen, testosterone, DHEA and thyroid hormone.
  • Step 1 : Lifestyle Clinic : Herbal Female Hormone Balancer
  • Step 2 : Progesterone cream
  • Step 3 : progesterone cream, DHEA, bio-identical Estrogen cream
  • Step 4 : Conventional HRT –  only if you don’t have the estrogen cancer driven gene
  • If you want to go off HRT to bio-identical hormones you need assistance from an experienced healthcare provider

 References:

  1. New Optimum Nutrition Bible – Patrick Holford
  2. Prescription Alternatives – Earl Mindell
  3. Natural medicine  – Beth Maceoin
  4. Herbal Medicine  – expanded commission E Monographs
  5. Natural Medicine – issue 2
  6. Genesende Voeding  – Dr Willem Serfontein
  7. Gesondheid vir `n leeftyd – Dr Christiaan
  8. Townsendletters – April 2006 #273

 

 

 

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Dr James Liddell is an Integrated Healthcare Specialist (B.Pharm; M.Pharm; PhD; SAPC and PSSA registered) specialising in integrating different disciplines of healthcare to ensure holistic healthcare solutions. With 25 years experience as a Pharmacist, Dr of Nutrition and Complementary & Alternative Medicine Healthcare Practitioner, he believes lifestyle is ultimately the key to optimal health; a good nutritional foundation combined with sound emotional health are the fundamentals to what he calls ‘the optimal health zone’.

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