By Angela Counsel, Menopause Coach and Naturopath
The current media around at the moment would have you believe that HRT is a miracle cure that every woman has been waiting for and without HRT you are doomed to a life of misery and struggle.
Is that really true or are we being sold another “miracle” cure that has no real substance and could actually leave us in a worse situation than we are now?
What about the women who are able to navigate menopause with relative ease without taking HRT? Are these women unicorns? Or are they lying and either taking HRT on the side or have loads of symptoms they’re not telling anyone about?
The fact is that woman can, and do, move through menopause with relative ease without needing to take HRT. Given that HRT, in any form, is a relatively new drug to the world, what did women do before HRT was even invented? Did they just shrivel up and die? The answer is no they didn’t.
The first form of HRT that was manufactured was Premarin, a synthetic estrogen made from the urine of pregnant horses. Premarin was first manufactured in 1942 (before the oral contraceptive pill was invented) and was used to manage hot flushes in women.
In 1966 a book called Feminine Forever was written by Robert Wilson who claimed that women needed oestrogen to remain “feminine forever”. Wilson also claimed in his book that menopause could be prevented if women added back the oestrogen that they were naturally losing. He stated that with oestrogen therapy a woman’s “breasts and genitals would not shrivel and she would be much more pleasant to live with and won’t become dull and unattractive.” Wilson’s book became a best-seller and Premarin became the drug of choice for women over 50 who wanted to remain young.
While there were some concerns about the safety of Premarin, these concerns were largely ignored and the pharmaceutical companies ramped up their marketing to doctors and women until in 1992, Premarin was the highest prescribed drug in the US and by 1997 its sales had exceeded $1billion.
In 2002, the bombshell results of the WHI (Women’s Health Initiative) Study made claims that women who took HRT for longer than 5 years were at a substantially higher risk of breast cancer than women who didn’t take HRT. It was also concluded that the proposed cardio-vascular protection of HRT could not be supported. These results sent women running away from HRT in droves.
Today HRT or MHT (Menopause Hormone Therapy) is safer and in a lot of cases is body-identical (this means it is identical to hormones made by the body and is derived from plants) but has the messaging changed?
We are still being told that the only way to have good quality of life as we move through menopause is by taking HRT/MHT. We have been told that we must take extra hormones to protect our bones and our heart. I think it is important to be aware of where these messages are coming from. Do the pharmaceutical companies that sell these drugs really care about your quality of life, or are they simply looking to increase their profits? Menopause is becoming “trendy” and more women are talking about it, so is it just a coincidence that there is a plethora of well-known women who are sharing their HRT story?
But what about women who are unable to take HRT or simply decide that this isn’t the path they wish is follow? Are they doomed to a life of discomfort and struggle? The answer is NO there is another way to move through your menopause transition with ease.
Before I go into what your options are, let’s have a quick look at what hormones are and what they do.
Hormones are chemical messengers to send messages to different body systems and organs to tell them what to do. They also receive feedback messages from different parts of the body. We have hormones that tell our body when to wake up and when to go to sleep. Hormones that regulate our metabolism. Hormones that keep your blood sugar level and hormones that manage your stress response in the body. When we’re talking about your reproductive hormones, they tell your ovaries to release an egg and then prepare the egg for fertilization or release the egg from your body if it isn’t fertilized. Reproductive hormones are also protective of other parts of your body such as your heart, your bones and your skin.
As you can see hormones are immensely powerful and play an important role in the way that your body functions plus, they all work together. Think of your hormones as a big orchestra with each different hormone being a different instrument section. For the orchestra to make beautiful music, all the instruments need to play in tune with each other and it needs a conductor to make this all happen easily. Your conductor of your hormonal orchestra is your Pituitary Gland in your brain. So, what happens when one part of your hormonal orchestra stops playing as loudly or loses some of its instruments? This is where you Pituitary Gland Conductor calls on other hormones to play louder or to take over the role of the diminishing hormones.
Hopefully, you are learning from this analogy that the body has the ability to adjust to decreasing hormones if you allow it to do its job properly. So, what happens when the body is unable to adjust and you start to experience uncomfortable symptoms or you put on weight?
This will happen when hormones such as cortisol and insulin are out of balance with the rest of your hormonal orchestra. Cortisol and insulin (along with inflammation) are big drivers of the symptoms that are often associated with menopause such as hot flushes, joint pain, weight gain, sleep issues and more. The cause of high cortisol and insulin levels are ongoing stress and an incorrect diet.
Your options if you don’t want to (or cant’) take HRT/MHT are:
- Eat a diet that is high in plant foods; you don’t have to adopt a vegetarian/vegan diet, simply add more plants. I generally recommend that you eat a variety of plants, aim for as many different plants as possible each week
- Reduce your intake of red meat, limit to 1-2/week, due to its highly inflammatory nature
- Eliminate processed foods, high sugar foods, gluten foods, dairy, caffeine and alcohol. All of these are highly inflammatory and lead to increased stress on the body
- Move your body every day in a way that you enjoy
- Reduce your exposure to chemicals and toxins, these include personal care and cleaning products as well as sprayed foods
- Reduce the stress in your life, let go of situations (or people) that cause you stress. Take time out for yourself on a regular basis
- Change your attitude to menopause and ageing. If you believe that menopause will be a struggle, it likely will be. Find women role models who are doing menopause well and learn from them
Menopause doesn’t have to be a struggle and you don’t need HRT to give you a better quality of life. You have an opportunity as you move through your menopause transition to create the health and lifestyle that you want for the rest of your life. You have the choice to be in control of your own health outcomes or you can give your control to a drug that may or may not leave you with side effects in the future.
You may also like: Natural Remedies For Menopause – All You Need To Know and How To Have A Happy Menopause Without HRT
Angela Counsel is a Menopause Coach, Naturopath and Personalized Health Coach. She’s on a mission to spread the word that menopause doesn’t have to be a tough time in life, in fact, it can be a time of stepping into your wisdom and falling in love with yourself and your life. If you would like to learn how you can rebalance your hormones naturally, join her free 7 Day Hormone Reset from this link.