As second-year medical students, my classmate and I attended Gynecology class listening to our topic of the day, “Menopause.” Our teacher was a wonderful Naturopathic Doctor who started her medical career as a Registered Nurse. As we discussed hot flashes, low libido, mood changes, vaginal dryness, fatigue, sleep disturbance and treatment options, my classmate raised his hand and asked what turned out to be a regretful question: “Aren’t these just normal symptoms of menopause?” Immediately our professor slammed her book down on the podium and in a stern voice demanded. “Class: There is ONE normal symptom of menopause. What is it?” Alarmed, we looked to see who knew and finally one brilliant student stated, “The absence of menses.” This was the correct answer.
Hot flashes, night sweats, low libido, vaginal tissue changes, sleep disturbances and any other symptoms other than absence of menses mean something important about your body. Understanding the meaning behind a symptom is the single most important factor to your health, male or female.
When menopause occurs, hormonal shifts and adaptations reestablish homeostasis in the body. The adrenal, liver, and thyroid systems are all shifting to accommodate this new normal. Menopause is a great revealer of imbalance within these systems.
Adrenal fatigue and functional liver imbalances are often two big reveals with menopause. The adrenal glands are found above the kidneys and are known for producing the catecholamines (epinephrine, norepinephrine and dopamine) and the glucocorticoid, cortisol. Stress is a cortisol and catecholamine bomb in the body. When stress happens constantly, for days, weeks, months, the adrenal glands begin an adaptation by which cortisol shuts down its own production. This is known as Adrenal Fatigue. Symptoms include fatigue, sleep disturbance, mood changes (irritability and/or depressed mood). Cortisol does influence bone density negatively, and osteopenia is often concomitant to Adrenal Fatigue. As you can see, the “symptoms” of menopause are very similar.
The adrenal glands are the secondary place producing estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone. Cortisol is actually created from progesterone. When cortisol has been in mass-production the precursor to progesterone called pregnenalone is depleted. Pregnenalone is a precursor to Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), which is converted to estrogen and testosterone. Symptoms of low progesterone, estrogen and testosterone include vaginal tissue changes, vaginal dryness and pain, and low libido. The hormonal depletion from adrenal fatigue exacerbates the menopausal imbalances. These symptoms are also shared with the menopause list.
Symptoms matter, and you don’t have to suffer! Learn what menopause-related symptoms mean and how you can get relief.
Learn more at Dr. Nelson’s free talk, “Natural Menopause Relief” on Monday, April 17. RSVP and info here.
Amy Nelson, ND* received her Naturopathic Doctorate from the National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, OR where she studied nutrition, homeopathy, herbal and functional medicine. In addition, Dr. Nelson was the Associate at The IBS Treatment Center in Santa Monica where she treated irritable bowel syndrome and complex food allergies. Dr. Nelson utilizes her experience in natural medicine to address female and male hormonal imbalances, mental health, and digestive disorders.
*Naturopathic doctors are not currently licensed in the state of Texas.