Hormone Therapy (HT) is a hot topic that has gotten some recent positive attention after years of being vilified. Here at The Women’s Vitality Center, we take a naturopathic approach to HT and this article will cover some of the unique considerations about how we approach hormone balancing from a natural perspective.
The cost of calling your hormone-related symptoms “normal”
For one thing, we believe that issues like fatigue, brain fog, poor sleep, period problems, mood swings, hot flashes, skin issues, etc… are not “normal” simply because they may be common phenomena related to perimenopause and menopause.
Many of our patients come to us seeking treatment because they were told by their doctor that their symptoms are “normal” and they “just have to live with it”. Here at TWVC, we ask: why should suffering ever be considered “normal”? The historical pattern has shown us that if something is deemed to be “normal” then it doesn’t warrant spending attention on developing or delivering solutions.
We also have to wonder: what or who determines the concept of “normal” in our society anyway? Most medical research views men and men’s biochemistry as the norm, and the hormonal difference of women’s bodies is not even considered. And if it is, it’s important to know which women are being looked at to determine our concepts of normal.
As this article on Oprah Daily points out, in our white supremacy culture, the experiences of white women are often centered as the norm when it comes to health research. So where does that leave the experiences of women of color when it comes to these conclusions about normalcy? (Read more in “What Is “Normal” When It Comes to Menopause? Hint: Nothing – Why trying to define what’s normal for all women will likely leave Black women behind.”)
We want to affirm that as a clinic we stand for equity and access to care for all women+, and believe that symptoms related to perimenopause and menopause do not have to just be tolerated, put up with, or managed simply because they are common.
Setting the record straight about Hormone Therapy (HT)
For this reason, we found ourselves getting pretty fired up when the New York Times article came out in February 2023 entitled, “Women Have Been Misled About Menopause”.
The article – which you can listen to as an audio here – reveals how Hormone Therapy (HT) has been sidelined due to studies that showed minimal health risks, which were then wrongly exaggerated, leading to the loss of 20 years of support women could have been receiving.
In reality, these studies showed only very slight increases of risk and only in very particular populations and situations. Sadly, hundreds of thousands of women stopped their hormone therapy AND medical schools basically stopped teaching about hormone replacement as a therapy to offer to patients. As a result, most of today’s doctors who graduated from medical school in the past 20 years have received little to no education about menopause or HT.
This recent attention is a huge step in the right direction to set the record straight and we are so happy that more national attention is being paid to such an important topic!
Naturopathic medicine has been right here over the last 20 years doing our part to provide information about and access to this therapy, in the safest ways possible, for those who could benefit from it. As NDs, we believe in looking at the whole picture when considering if this is a good fit for a person’s overall health optimization, and we work very closely with all of our patients for this very reason.
Customizing with Bioidentical Hormone Therapy
Hormone Therapy allows you to supplement your body’s own hormones and can be very helpful both for managing symptoms (insomnia, brain fog, joint pains, hot flashes, etc) and for long term health (bones, heart, brain, etc). In our practice, we offer a version called Bioidentical Hormone Therapy (bHT) which uses forms of hormones that are identical to your own biology.
Would it make sense to you if everyone in the world had the same haircut, if there was just one style for everyone? As laughable as that might sound, we think it’s a little bit like doctors prescribing one-size-fits-all when it comes to Hormone Therapy (HT).
You are unique, and your hormones are too! If you are going through your perimenopausal transition or wanting to optimize your health after menopause, customization to your body’s unique needs is critical.
We have seen again and again that thorough testing and a personalized approach to treatment is the safest and most effective way to rebalance your hormones. That’s why when a patient with brain fog, insomnia, irritability, vaginal dryness, or low libido comes to us asking about hormone replacement therapy, we always start by getting to know the full picture first.
Once we know where you are starting from, and have discussed your goals and priorities for where you want to go (and what hairstyle you want 🙂 ), we customize a plan specifically for you.
Here are some of the ways we customize Bioidentical Hormone Therapy:
Most commonly, hormone prescriptions are available as patches, pills, creams, vaginal suppositories or mini-inserts. We discuss the pros and cons of each option and help you decide what will work the best for your particular needs and preferences.
We usually start low and go slow with increasing doses. When we order the Rx through a compounding pharmacy, we can also customize the dose exactly for each person. We want to provide an effective dose to relieve any troubling symptoms, and we also make sure to balance the ratio between the different hormones, too.
Another way we customize is by testing for baseline levels before beginning a new HT plan and then repeating tests to monitor and adjust your levels over time. There are three different ways to test (blood, urine, saliva) and each one has its pros and cons (see our blog article on Hormone Testing: What, When and How for more info).
When it comes to balancing your hormones with a naturopathic approach, there are also many steps to take with diet, lifestyle, herbs and supplements.
We also want to acknowledge and state that HT isn’t always necessary or appropriate for every person, and it’s important to talk to a holistic doctor who will get to know your personal history, risk factors, and health goals, and help you make an informed decision.
Patient Success Stories
One of our patients came to us after years of trying everything she could think of to get a decent night of sleep. She had been struggling with insomnia for over a decade, and was so exhausted she could barely take care of some of the most basic things she needed to do in a day. She had tried different herbs, diet changes, and stress management techniques, but was not seeing any real improvements.
She told us that coming to us was her last resort and she really hoped we could help her. Great news! She worked with her Vitality Coach and her Naturopathic Doctor to assess current lab markers and foundational health habits. After just a few weeks on her treatment plan, which included targeted bioidentical hormone therapy, she reported uninterrupted sleep as her new norm, and more energy throughout her day too!
Another patient was shocked to discover that her vagina seemed to have become an inhospitable environment for intercourse when she became sexually active for the first time after many years. How could this formerly satisfying activity now seem reminiscent of sanding dry paint off a porch (as she put it)?
Vaginal dryness is one of the most common symptoms we hear about from our menopausal patients, and it leads to an unfortunate cycle where dryness can lead to urinary tract infections, which are often treated with antibiotics, which can then lead to yeast infections. It’s important to be able to enjoy intimacy and the benefits of a flourishing microbiome!
Thankfully, this patient was relieved to discover that her common symptoms of menopause were a result of the drop of estrogen in her system, and that with bioidentical hormones her estrogen levels could be restored. Within one week of using the bioidentical hormones recommended by her ND, sex became fun and fulfilling again!
In addition, she has reported a reduction in hot flashes, and a feeling of more overall emotional resiliency.
If you are curious to investigate whether bHT might be right for you, book a discovery call today! We are here for you.