A Natural Approach to Menopausal Symptoms
by Dr. Greg Fors, DC – Board Certified Neurologist DIBCN Posted On: 08/16/2010
Perimenopause and Menopause are natural events that affect every woman at some point in life. It is a natural process and not an illness, however, approximately 2/3 of all women will develop menopausal symptoms. The most bothersome of these are the vasomotor symptoms of hot flushes and night sweats. For a long time hormone therapy was considered the first line of treatment for these symptoms. This is changing given the results of the Women’s Health Initiative. Now, many women are reluctant to use exogenous hormones for these symptoms. A vast number of women are turning to the use of botanicals and dietary supplements for relief. But to be effective one must understand estrogen and estrogen metabolism.
Before Menopause manifests there is a period of time known as Perimenopause, literally meaning “around menopause”, that can bring on very troublesome symptoms in women. Perimenopause is generally expressed in women between 35 and 50 years of age. This phase can last 2 to 10 years before the total cessation of a woman’s menstrual cycle. If a woman does not properly metabolize estrogen, she can develop common Perimenopausal symptoms. These symptoms are caused by fluctuations in estrogen levels along with higher levels of toxic estrogen and a deficiency of healthy estrogen metabolites. This is a signal that a woman should aggressively address how her body is handling endogenous estrogens as well as estrogens found within our environment. These symptoms are signaling that future health problems may arise from these toxic estrogens.
Most people think that estrogen is just one hormone, but actually there are three biochemically distinct molecules produced by both males and females—estrone (E1), estradiol (E2), and estriol (E3). These three estrogen molecules have very different activities in the body, and their activity determines whether they will have beneficial effects or cause deleterious symptoms and even cancer. Complicating this picture further is the fact that these three estrogens are further metabolized into different estrogen metabolites—daughter compounds—called 2-hydroxyestrone, 4-hydroxyestrone and 16-hydroxyestrone. In general, the 2-hydroxy is the “good” metabolite of estrogen and the 16-hydroxy is the “bad” variety. Which metabolites of estrogen become dominant depends on three factors: genetic makeup, lifestyle/diet and environment. Research has demonstrated that the overproduction of 16-hydroxy estrogen is caused by obesity(1) and all the “estrogenic” environmental chemicals we are exposed to.(2) Over a quarter century ago, researchers discovered that women with breast and uterine cancer made too little of the 2-hydroxy and too much of the 16-hydroxy.(3)
If you understand estrogen metabolism and the actions you can take to affect it, you can significantly reduce Perimenopausal and Menopausal symptoms as well as the risk of breast and uterine cancers. The breakdown of these three estrogens primarily occurs in the liver and their excreted metabolites flow out in the bile or urine. Therefore, it is vital to have healthy liver detoxification, gallbladder function and gastrointestinal elimination to reduce symptoms and consequences of toxic estrogen metabolites. Specific nutraceuticals such as DIM (3, 3′-Diindolylmethane) can be a major player in creating a healthier balance in estrogen metabolites. Proper diet along with clinically significant supplementation of DIM, as found in Biospec’s Estro-Ease, can shift estrogen metabolism away from producing dangerous 16-hydroxy in favor of beneficial 2-hydroxy metabolites. This improves estrogen metabolism and helps resolve toxic estrogen dominance and the symptoms that arise from it.