Don’t let ‘the change’ get the best of you

Robin, age 50, is like many women who suffer from classic symptoms of low estrogen and progesterone. So she asked her doctor to check her hormone levels. The problem? Her primary care physician simply “does not believe” in hormone balancing. Her doctor told Robin that menopause is normal at her age, and to feel bad from it is just part of life.

Acceptable? Not in my book! Let me share what I’ve come to learn about menopause, and the benefits of natural hormone replacement.

Many women – and doctors – don’t know this about menopause

Here’s what you probably already know about menopause: It’s the natural cessation of the menstrual cycle, and the beginning of rapidly fluctuating and waning sex hormone levels. Moreover, the symptoms are numerous and vary from person to person, sometimes becoming more tolerable a few years after the start of menopause, but not always.

Now, here’s what you probably didn’t know: You don’t have to accept this change sitting down. You can stand up to menopause… and take your life back.

First, you can replace the drastic dip in sex hormone levels by using safe, physiologic replacement doses. The small amount of estrogens, progesterone and testosterone that your adrenal glands will continue to produce after menopause is simply not enough to feel well for most women.

Secondly, there are long term health improvements that are now being proven from the use of hormones made from plants (a.k.a. bio-identical hormones), even though the synthetic hormones were previously proven to increase your risk of heart disease and cancer.

I think it would be interesting for you to know all the important functions of estrogen in a woman’s body. I am not referring to ethinyl estradiol or other synthetic forms. Rather, natural estrogen that does the following:

  • Enhances energy
  • Increases sexual interest
  • Improves sleep
  • Improves mood by increasing brain serotonin; this decreases depression, anxiety, and irritability
  • Keeps skin thick & soft; maintains skin collagen; decrease wrinkles; reduces tooth loss
  • Regulates body temperature (you may get hot flashes when estrogen is low)
  • Helps maintain muscles and prevents muscle damage; helps fine motor skills
  • Helps maintain memory; protects from Alzheimer’s disease (via acetyltransferase stimulation), and improves reasoning, concentration and creative ideas
  • Decreases the overall risk of heart attack by 40-50 percent because of the following:
    • keeps arteries elastic to prevent high blood pressure,
    • decreases bad cholesterol (oxidized LDL) and increases good cholesterol (HDL)
    • inhibits platelet stickiness to decrease arterial plaque accumulation
    • decreases lipoprotein-a
    • reduces homocysteine (the real culprit behind atherosclerosis)
  • Improves insulin sensitivity and lowers metabolic syndrome (pre-diabetes)
  • Maintains bone density (lowers osteoporosis)
  • Decreases risk of cataract and age-related macular degeneration
  • Decreases risk of colon cancer

Now I ask you, why would anyone (especially a doctor) want you to continue with low estrogen levels, knowing all these benefits of this natural hormone? I’ll tell you why — it’s because they don’t know that natural estrogens, supplied by transdermal routes, have shown very different and better health effects compared to the oral synthetic estrogens.

Also consider that, according to the Center for the Advancement of health, menopause symptoms of hot flashes and night sweats affect Japanese women far less than their North American counterparts. 1  Only about 10 percent of women in China and 22 percent of women from Japan report hot flashes, compared to an estimated 75 percent of women in the U.S. over age fifty. 2 3 4

Wondering why this is? For years I blamed it on diet: U.S. women eat far more meat, approximately 4 times more fat and less than ½ the fiber than women from Asian countries. But what I’ve learned more recently about the prevalence of xenoestrogens (hormone-mimicker molecules found in personal care products, plastics, pesticides, food preservatives, and more), I’m convinced they’re a significant cause of disrupted hormone metabolism.

Menopausal symptoms

Without sufficient estrogen any woman will likely feel some adverse symptoms. Here are symptoms and signs of the deficient estrogen state of menopause:

  • Weight gain; abdominal fat
  • Hot flashes; night sweats
  • Vaginal dryness/itching/painful sex
  • Mood swings; depression; anxiety, irritability; panic attacks
  • Breasts that shrink, sag or lose plumpness
  • Breast soreness
  • Eyelid wrinkles; dry eyes
  • Insomnia; strange dreams
  • Loss of sexual desire
  • Facial hair growth; hair loss (head)
  • Urinary leakage; urinary tract infections; frequent urination
  • Lower back pain
  • Bloating, gas, indigestion
  • Aching joints (ankles, knees, wrists, shoulders, heels)
  • Heart palpitations
  • Varicose veins
  • Dizzy spells
  • Memory lapses
  • Migraine headaches
  • Vertical lines above mouth

What about that other female hormone, progesterone?

Progesterone is primarily manufactured in the adrenal glands and ovaries, though some is produced in the brain. Even years before menopause, progesterone levels typically decline.

What does progesterone do for a woman? Progesterone regulates the menstrual cycle and prepares the uterus for pregnancy.  We know that pregnancy requires high levels of progesterone. Moreover, progesterone is calming and provides for restful sleep.

Low progesterone causes symptoms too, and this begins long before menopause. Symptoms of low progesterone include irregular, heavy, or painful periods; breast tenderness; mood swings or irritability; insomnia; migraine headaches; and bloating (puffy face and extremities).

Therefore, progesterone supplementation becomes very useful for many women long before menopause.

There’s good news coming in my next article. I’ll explain the safety and effectiveness of using natural (bio-identical) estrogen and/or progesterone replacements.

To feeling good in health,
Michael Cutler, M.D.

[2] Utian WH. Psychosocial and socioeconomic burden of vasomotor symptoms in menopause: a comprehensive review. Health Qual Life Outcomes. 2005;3:47
[3] Melby MK. Vasomotor symptom prevalence and language of menopause in Japan. Menopause. 2005;12(3):250-257.
[4] Ho SC, Chan SG, Yip YB, Cheng A, Yi Q, Chan C. Menopausal symptoms and symptom clustering in Chinese women. Maturitas. 1999;33(3):219-27.


Dr. Michael Cutler

By Dr. Michael Cutler

Dr. Michael Cutler is a graduate of Tulane University School of Medicine and is a board-certified family physician with more than 20 years of experience. He serves as a medical liaison to alternative and traditional practicing physicians. His practice focuses on an integrative solution to health problems. Dr. Cutler is a sought-after speaker and lecturer on experiencing optimum health through natural medicines and founder of the original Easy Health Options™ newsletter — an advisory on natural healing therapies and nutrients. His current practice is San Diego Integrative Medicine, near San Diego, California.