by Dr. Tina Marcantel
Is hormone replacement therapy really necessary? Even after menopause our bodies need a certain amount of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone to continue to function properly. Dr. Tina Marcantel is a naturopathic doctor in Gilbert, Arizona, who also serves the East Valley cities of Mesa, Scottsdale, Tempe, Chandler, Apache Junction, and Queen Creek, and the greater Phoenix area.
For women in menopause it’s a natural part of the aging process for the ovaries to produce less sex hormones. So why is it necessary to consider replacing the lost hormones?
It’s true that the ovaries will eventually stop producing estrogen and progesterone. However, that doesn’t mean that our bodies don’t still need those hormones to continue to function properly. Nature, in her wisdom, has provided other means for us to get those hormones from other organs in the endocrine system.
An important source for these “back up” hormones is the adrenal glands. The adrenals produce a variety of hormones that help us cope with stress such as cortisol and epinephrine, but they also produce the sex hormones progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone. The problem is that I see so many patients who have so much stress in their lives from so many sources that they are in adrenal fatigue, meaning that their adrenals can’t produce sufficient amounts of hormones to replace those they are losing as the ovaries decrease their output.
With that said, the question of whether or not a woman needs bioidentical hormone replacement therapy really comes down to the symptomology of the patient. Some women go through menopause with very few symptoms, and that’s fine–they may not need bioidentical hormones. If their adrenals are not as compromised from stress they can often make the transition of perimenopause and menopause much more smoothly because the adrenals are able to produce the needed amounts of sex hormones. On the other hand, there are some women who have hot flashes, mood swings, insomnia, low libido, and other symptoms that need to be addressed.
Women going through perimenopause and the beginning stages of menopause usually have imbalances of hormones that can be tweaked with some replacement therapy. We also recommend some adrenal support therapy, as well, to help heal the overworked adrenals.
So, is hormone replacement therapy really necessary? The ultimate goal is for the patient to feel good using the safest and most natural therapies available. Eventually the patient’s body will adjust to the lower amounts of estrogen and progesterone that they are producing. For some, that means we can reduce or even eliminate the amount of hormones they are taking and possibly introduce some botanical compounds that can help them go through menopause; others may want to continue on low doses of hormones and botanicals to maintain their optimum wellness.