(Photo credit: Sally Howard)
Forgetful? Sweaty? Waking up in the middle of the night? Less interested in sex? Increasingly stressed, unfocused or irritable?
Your doctor might suggest you’re in peri or full menopause. Or perhaps you’ve had a complete hysterectomy and she wants you on hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
Or, maybe your cortisol (the stress hormone) levels are high, a condition that is all too common today in our stressful society, that and adrenal fatigue. Cortisol in small doses as the “fight or flight” hormone alerts you to take action. And, like all hormones it’s just doing its job. But, at chronically high levels, as in the case of constant stress, cortisol can harm your sleep and your health.
Whatever is going on your doctor (or you) may want to test your hormones and a number of other factors. The connection between hormones, neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) and our mind and body wellness is intricately complex, but infinitely manageable.
Here’s my six-prong approach to making decisions about hormone therapy:
1. Track your symptoms. Do this for several months before and and after (if you decide) you start hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Write in a journal how you feel, your symptoms based on time of day, how your symptoms change from day to day, weekly and monthly and how you feel after you eat.
Food is the first and foremost nutraceutical we take in throughout the day, and food affects our mood, hormones, EVERYTHING. Your diligent symptom tracking will provide you and your doctor with some useful patterns and information about what hormones and neurotransmitters might be off balance. Do you see patterns before your period? After? Sporadically?
2. Test your hormone levels (saliva testing is more accurate for several hormones). Get tested even while you track your symptoms.
3. Consult with an open minded doctor. Preferably find one who specializes in natural hormone and mood balancing. The gift of finding a doctor who listens, respects your symptoms and who understands women’s hormones and brains is beyond priceless.
Much of what I’ve learned is from my hormone balancing doctor, my own decade of research and Dr. John Lee’s books. He’s my guru for bioidentical hormones. (Dr. Braverman is my guru for mood balancing).
4. If applicable, start hormone therapy (HT). Ask yourself, do I feel increasingly crappy? Do I want to stay this way and accept feeling crappy as par for aging?
You have your answer.
5. Use bioidentical hormones (BH)
6. Use a compounding pharmacist. Most insurance companies don’t cover BH, however some might reimburse a portion. You may only need progesterone. Many women do not need estrogen replacement. Progesterone often alleviates symptoms of the common “estrogen dominance” which doesn’t mean you have high estrogen (though some women do and this is referred to as “estrogen excess”) it means your progesterone is too low. However if after balancing your progesterone you are still low in estrogen, BH estrogen is FDA regulated, therefore often covered through your health insurance and/or discount pharmacy plans.
I order my BH estrogen transdermal patches from Canada, Smart Choice Pharmacy. I’ve found their pricing and customer service to be excellent.
Whether you opt in or out of HRT, at least stay open to the possibility.
Read between the hormone news scare lines, don’t react against HRT until you understand the researching findings, until you understand the difference between synthetic and bioidentical hormones, until you talk to an experienced physician who understands natural hormone balancing and who keeps up with the latest research on both sides, conventional and natural hormone HRT.