Q: I have been suffering from pretty severe menopause for 6 years now. Is there anything you can suggest that will help?
A: Your question is such a good one! You don’t have to look far to see the prevalence of menopausal discomforts in the population, as an estimated 10-60% of American women suffer from night sweats alone. (Mold, 2012) The symptoms of this problem can include hot flashes, night sweats, feelings of anxiety or panic, depression, insomnia, stress, irritability, vaginal dryness, brain fog, forgetfulness, fatigue, and a general worsening of any of your previous conditions.
There is a simple physical reality you must understand that describes WHY you are suffering like this and what you can do to get better.
As women approach menopause, their ovaries gradually become less active and produce reduced amounts of the sexual hormones estrogen and progesterone. At this time, the adrenal glands (the glands that handle “stress” in all its forms) should take over hormone production. However with today’s stressful lifestyle, the adrenal glands are often in a weakened state by the time a woman reaches menopause, and the adrenals are often not up to the task. For this reason, supporting the adrenal glands and the stress response generally (alleviating stress regardless of its cause) is an integral part of the successful management of peri-menopausal and menopausal syndromes in women.
Estrogen and progesterone synthesis at the time a woman goes through menopause also requires DHEA, the primary source of which is the adrenal glands. Many patients suffer from low DHEA due to chronic stress. This is a common scenario today because of insulin surges, diets high in carbohydrates, and systemic inflammation that promotes the conversion of estrogen to testosterone in women (and testosterone to estrogen in men).
The most common medical treatment for menopause is hormone replacement therapy, but this has been shown to raise the risk of strokes, embolisms, and endometrial, ovarian, and breast cancers (among others), and many other complications. (American Cancer Society, 2013) This approach also leaves the underlying cause(s) of your abnormal health untreated.
When hormones become imbalanced like this and produce severe menopausal symptoms, they also promote disturbances in brain chemistry which affects how you feel, function, and view your life. These kinds of hormone imbalances impacts brain inflammation and degeneration and considerably speeds aging of the brain. (Midzak, 2009)
Endocrine-related problems include overproduction of a hormone, underproduction of a hormone, and non-functional receptors that cause target cells to become insensitive to or unable to utilize hormones. Each of these conditions has been shown to respond to natural therapeutics. (Kharrazian, 2013)
This year a report about 10 women in Pueblo who suffered moderate to severe menopausal symptoms was published. We tested each of these women with Salivary Hormone Tests, showing the hormone imbalances underlying their condition. Nutritional and chiropractic treatment produced excellent results in all 10 cases, as measured by the Menopause Rating Scale, an established tool for measuring the effects of treatment upon menopausal symptoms. Based on the findings of this report and the outcomes of treatment, the basic disturbances in these menopausal women appeared to involve stress physiology, adrenal gland imbalances, thyroid dysfunction, compromised liver biotransformation of hormones, spinal joint disturbances, and nutritional deficiencies. Each of these impairments was detected with the chiropractic physical examination system used in our office (called applied kinesiology) and confirmed with salivary hormone tests, with subsequent conservative treatments being helpful for these women. (Cuthbert, 2013)
Diet is, of course, critical. As discussed in a previous Ask Dr. Scott letter, an elimination/provocation diet to remove foods from your diet that create an inflammatory burden upon your liver or gut should be done. Gluten is pro-inflammatory for most people, and many of these people also have problems with dairy, corn, eggs, or grains in general.
The vicious mood swings and discomforts associated with menopausal, as well as pre-menstrual symptoms, are the results of hormone-related imbalances. They are so widespread now that people think they’re a normal part of aging – they aren’t. Rarely is this disorder one that mysteriously arrives out of nowhere, nor is it due solely to a genetic predisposition. In most cases one can trace the demise of a person’s biochemical and hormonal health to their modern lifestyle – high-carbohydrate diets, processed foods laden with neurotoxins, “bad” fats, common digestive problems, wheat and gluten foods, lack of sleep, poor liver function, and chronic stress.
My own research and clinical experience has shown that addressing nutritional deficiencies, brain nutrition and function, improving the performance of the adrenal and thyroid glands, correcting blood sugar imbalances and liver dysfunction, and addressing chronic inflammation and pain will frequently change everything for a woman at the time of menopause, often rapidly.
Dr. Scott Cuthbert is the chief clinician at the Chiropractic Health Center in Pueblo, Colorado, as well as the author of two new textbooks and over 50 peer-reviewed research articles. PuebloChiropracticCenter.com.