As women, we often spend our increasingly busy lives caring for others and running ourselves ragged. We feel more and more tired, depressed and out of sorts. We tell ourselves we just need sleep, or a vacation, and soldier on, despite feeling like death warmed over. Until one day, we can’t ignore it anymore. So it’s off to the doctor. We get rushed through the appointment, told to eat better, rest more, reduce stress, and then sent on our not so merry way, still feeling awful, prescription for antidepressants in hand.
As a doctor of Internal Medicine and Women’s Health specialist, I hear stories like these every day from patients. I’ve experienced it myself. I began having symptoms of early menopause in my 20s, while I was still in medical school. You’d think that would be the place to be to get answers, but no. My instincts and my concerns were brushed aside. By 35, I was in menopause, and on a mission to improve the state of women’s healthcare.
Our health issues, especially those connected with hormones or menopause, are understudied and often presented as something we “just have to get used to”. We’re being told to accept what we’re feeling as normal, even when we know it’s not. So what’s really going on? Let’s look at two of the most common problems, and how bio-identical hormone replacement therapy can help women feel better and live better.
Extreme fatigue. Weight gain. Sore muscles. Aching joints. Hair loss. Cold intolerance. Sound familiar? Approximately 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men have a low functioning thyroid (hypothyroidism) by age 50. Hypothyroidism not only makes you feel terrible, it’s also a big risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease, inflammatory conditions and cancers; including breast and colon cancer.But most doctors miss it because they rely on the standard TSH blood screen test, which is not the most reliable indicator of thyroid disease, especially if the patient also has Testosterone or Estrogen deficiencies. Patient history, physical exam plus Thyroid 3 (T3), Thyroid 4(T4) and reverse T3 levels indicating true thyroid function must all be considered to make a correct diagnosis.
As women approach menopause, a variety of symptoms begin to wreak havoc on our minds and our bodies. We’re already stressed, but when things like memory loss, weight gain, irregular or heavy periods, mood swings, hot flashes, low libido, vaginal dryness, night sweats and insomnia set in, it’s no wonder so many of us feel like we’re going crazy. We’re not. Lower levels of estrogen and testosterone are the root cause. These two little hormones play big parts in all of our biological systems, so when they decline, it’s like a chain of dominoes falling.
Hormone replacement therapy, or HRT, can help relieve menopause symptoms, revitalize health and restore focus. Sadly, American media reports based on a few flawed studies have scared women and confused doctors about HRT use. In reality, numerous studies from Europe and around the world show that bio-identical HRT is not only safe, but also reduces risk factors for many diseases. Unlike synthetic hormones metabolized through the liver, bio-identical hormones have the same chemical structure as those your body makes naturally, so it metabolizes them the same way. Best of all, bio-identical hormones are tailored to fit the needs of the individual, because as women know, one size does not fit all.