Menopause: Navigating Hormone Changes & Treatment Options
For women, menopause can often be difficult to navigate. There is so much information out there to digest and how are women expected to form any sort of plan towards normality when the truth is this: everyone and everybody is different! What works for one person may not work for another.
Where should one start then? We should start by understanding what happens to our bodies during Menopause, specifically our hormone levels. Our hormones are at the center of all things “health and wellness” and when out of balance, our body reacts. I’m going to break down what symptoms women should expect during this time, the key hormones at play, and the treatment options.
By: Wendy Chouteau, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC
What Happens to the Body During Menopause?
Menopause is a time in a woman’s life when it seems that our bodies can be a little “off” or in some cases, a LOT “off”. During menopause, some women experience hot flashes or flushes. The hot flashes seem to come out of nowhere and the bedsheets may be soaked. There are complaints of decreased libido (sex drive), vaginal dryness and painful sex. I often hear women say, “I just don’t care about sex anymore; I just don’t want it or need it”. OR, “It hurts too bad to have sex and I’m just waiting for him to finish”.
Weight loss that used to happen easily just does not happen at all. In fact, weight increases, particularly around the waist, and there is no way to target it with diet or exercise. Still others report a crippling lack of energy and the motivation to exercise is simply gone. Aches and pains may be prevalent as well as foggy thinking. Often, sleep quality is affected by menopausal symptoms with frequent wakening at night and difficulty getting to sleep. This leads to more fatigue which affects your entire next day. Remember how well you used to sleep when you were younger? Are you still sleeping well? Maybe not.
When do Menopause Symptoms Begin?
Our hormones can start decreasing in our 30s causing women to have complaints of fatigue and just not having the energy they used to have. I’ve had many women tell me they ask their primary care provider about this and they are told “well, that’s just part of getting older. Maybe you’re depressed”. By the time I see them, they are frustrated and feel like no one is listening. This is where Your Wellness Center comes in. We take your symptoms seriously and want to help you live a life filled with vitality and energy.
Can Your Treat Menopause?
Treatment for menopausal symptoms or pre-menopausal symptoms starts with comprehensive lab testing. We will review your medical history and discuss each lab with you so that you understand what we are looking at and why. In addition, we show you where we’d like your labs to be and review where they likely were when you were younger and felt better. Then, we provide you with a personalized treatment plan based on your symptoms and lab results.
All hormones prescribed at Your Wellness Center are natural and bio-identical. They have the same chemistry as your own hormones. Providers at Your Wellness Center focus on hormone optimization. When our hormones are at optimal levels, the symptoms of menopause improve dramatically. We repeatedly hear from our patients who tell us that they feel so much better!
Hormones That Affect Menopause & Overall Health:
When out of balance, these key hormones are what can trigger those menopause symptoms. So it makes sense that if brought back into balance, these hormones can also help restore a sense of equilibrium within our bodies. I’ll break down each of these below:
- Estradiol (if in menopause)
- Vitamin D3
- Other recommendations (individualized)
It’s a feel-good hormone in women. Optimization helps with libido, energy levels, muscle mass, sexual desire, brain fog and body aches and pains. It can help with vaginal dryness as well by increasing lubrication, making sex more comfortable, as well as increasing vaginal and clitoral orgasmic ability. Testosterone optimization may also have an anti-depressant effect.
Estradiol is made by the ovaries and production stops in menopause. It is recommended to replace estradiol when women are in menopause. Estradiol decreases the risk of heart disease by 30%, decreases risk of Alzheimer’s disease, protects against or reverses osteoporosis, and helps melt visceral fat. Optimization will protect against vaginal atrophy, urinary incontinence and urinary tract infections.
A hormone that, when at optimal levels, can help improve fatigue, energy and metabolism. Thyroid deficiency is not necessarily hypothyroidism. It may simply mean your thyroid is not working optimally.
Symptoms of thyroid deficiency can include:
- Feeling weak, cold, tired, thin hair and nails
- Weight gain and increased body fat
- Loss of energy and motivation
- Loss of cognition and memory
- Poor sense of well-being and depression/anxiety
- Bowel function and constipation.
Yes, Vitamin D3 is actually a hormone! It is used to improve mood, help with weight loss, decrease risks associated with viruses and helps keep bones healthy by improving calcium absorption.
DHEA is a hormone made by your adrenal glands. Optimal levels help support our body’s own hormone production. It decreases cardiac risks, the number 1 killer of women in menopause, by decreasing visceral fat. DHEA stimulates the immune system, restores sexual vitality, improves mood and decreases cholesterol and body fat. It is also the opposite of cortisol which may be inflammatory.
One of the most protective hormones we have, progesterone can safeguard our breasts from breast cancer and is also protective for our brains. It is also defends our bodies against both coronary artery disease and cerebral vascular disease. Not to mention, it helps balance estradiol and also helps with sleep! Struggling with night sweats or hot flashes? It can help lessen those as well. Progesterone is also used successfully with postpartum depression, helping to offset some of those symptoms.
If you are wondering what bio-identical hormones can do for you and if you are a good candidate for them, get in touch with us! You can call us at (513)-791-9474 or head to our hormone therapy page to learn more. You can also fill out our initial consultation form and someone will be in touch with you to get you started.
Let us help you make the most out of life, optimizing your hormones and giving you back all those good feelings you used to have!