Archive for Women’s Health

Menopausal? DON’T PANIC

Menopausal? – DON’T PANIC

Menopause – we all dread the thought of it, but in reality many of us know very little about it, until we are smack in the middle of a hot flush or a mood swing and then we panic that the best part of our life is over.

Instead of panicking, let’s get a grip and look at menopause from a different angle. Forget all the horror stories you have heard about menopause and what you have learnt from the previous generation. Times were different then. Topics such as menopause were not discussed openly (even with the family doctor!) and women carried the burden on their own, usually with absolutely no understanding of what was happening to them. No wonder many of them (and their families) had such a difficult time!

We baby boomers are lucky enough to have a very different life. Information on menopause and peri-menopause is everywhere and these days we can go into the menopausal years relatively well informed. Whereas our mothers’ generation waved handkerchiefs over their sweaty brows and bodies and cried about the loss of reproductive power, our generation is more likely to wrap our handkerchiefs around our foreheads and head off to the gym or the Zumba class.

An important fact to remember is that menopause is not a medical condition. It is a natural process in a woman’s life and instead of being viewed with trepidation, menopause can be approached with a sense of excitement and joy at the prospect of entering a new phase of life.

Menopause is defined as the end of your menstrual periods. For most women this occurs between the ages of 45 and 55. For several years before the periods stop women experience the symptoms of peri-menopause, which is the time when the hormones start wildly fluctuating causing the periods become irregular and a multitude of symptoms to occur.

The most common symptoms are hot flushes (70% of women) and emotional changes including depression and mood swings (40% of women). Other symptoms include vaginal dryness, bladder irritability, reduced or no interest in sex, insomnia and fatigue. Sounds awful, doesn’t it!! Don’t despair, help is here!

Next time that you feel like Krakatoa getting ready to blow; that you feel puffy, flushed faced and damp, and everyone else looks slender and cool as a cucumber; or that you’re jotting your name down and you have to pause for a moment, to think what it is; you may decide it’s time to explore your options.

Natural medicines have a long history of being used to improve the transition through menopause into the next phase of life. There are many herbal medicines in particular, that are very effective in not only relieving the symptoms of menopause but also in managing the underlying cause of the symptoms, the hormonal fluctuations and depleted adrenal function.

Optimal health is important for the years surrounding menopause. This is especially true for the adrenal glands. These tiny walnut sized glands that sit on top of the kidneys play an essential role in managing the stress response, energy maintenance and in the production of sex hormones when the ovaries begin winding down production in the peri-menopausal years.

The one factor that damages the health of the adrenals more than anything else is stress! So, it is not surprising that many women approaching menopause have depleted adrenal function which in turn leads to more problems during menopause. An important factor about the use of natural medicines is that they can be tailored to suit each individual woman.

The common medical treatment for menopausal symptoms is hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Although HRT can alleviate the symptoms in many women it is often delaying the inevitable. Once HRT is discontinued the symptoms often return, sometimes with more severity. If you think about it, the symptoms of menopause are in response to lowering hormone levels and when HRT is stopped you are back to square one. It makes more sense to manage the symptoms, improve adrenal health and general health with natural medicines to ensure long-term freedom from symptoms and increased vitality and zest for life.

HRT is not without its problems. Long-term clinical trials have shown that extended use of HRT may increase the risk of breast cancer, blood clots, hypertension and other medical conditions. If HRT is to be taken, it should be prescribed selectively and not taken indefinitely.

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Natural Strategies for Dealing with PMS

Premenstrual syndrome is very common. According to research, 75% of menstruating women experience some symptoms of PMS that can range from physical to emotional, and mild to severe. PMS physical symptoms include breast tenderness, bloating, water retention, sugar cravings, headaches and lack of energy. Emotionally, women can go through mood swings, feeling easily irritated, frustrated and not being able to cope.

The major cause of PMS is hormonal imbalance, particularly during the last half of the menstrual cycle (the luteal phase). These imbalances can be quite subtle but can have profound effects. Some researchers suggest PMS may also result from a woman’s increased sensitivity to natural fluctuations in hormone levels at this time of the menstrual cycle. It is interesting that the most common times of emotional difficulties for women are at times in their lives when hormonal fluctuations occur, for example in the premenstrual time, after giving the birth and around the menopausal years.

Women also need to be aware of a severe form of PMS called Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD), even though it is considered to be less common and affects only 3% to 8% of women with regular menstrual cycle. PMDD is distinguished from general PMS by more acute signs of depression, moodiness, anxiety, tension and irritability. This form of PMS can be quite disruptive and destructive to women’s lives in general and relationships in particular.

Battling PMS Symptoms Conventionally

Unfortunately not many women know how to deal with these issues or are not even aware that there are natural solutions that can relieve the PMS symptoms and help them ‘sail through’ this time of the cycle without feeling miserable. Medically PMS is usually managed with hormone therapy or antidepressants. These are effective in some cases but both treatments can have side effects and neither address the underlying cause of the PMS.

Dealing with PMS Naturally: The Power of Herbs and Nutrients

Natural treatment with herbs and nutrients is another option that is very effective, without the side effects of drug treatments. For example, Chaste Tree is a fantastic herb, quite commonly used for PMS treatment. In some trials, Chaste Tree was shown to help regulate hormones. According to research Chaste Tree has a beneficial affect on brain neurotransmitters, which in turn regulate hormones. These neurotransmitters are also linked to the feelings of pleasure and reward. During PMS this function can be reduced, which can result in reduced motivation, attention, memory, desire, ability to cope and increased anxiety.

Remember, to be effective, Chaste Tree needs to be prescribed in right doses, tailored to the individual requirements. More so, Chaste Tree on its own is often not enough. It is also important to treat the symptoms throughout the whole cycle (before, during and after PMS). It is most likely that to achieve the desired results, we usually combine Chaste Tree with other herbs that are needed to nourish the nervous system and improve your body’s response to stress, reduce mood fluctuations and help you deal with water retention and bloating.

Nutrients are just as vital and are usually a necessary part of the treatment process. As an example, Zinc levels often drop in premenstrual times and this alone can reduce your immunity. This could explain why some women are more prone to various infections in the premenstrual time: from colds and flus to herpes flare-ups. Magnesium is another key nutrient as it helps balance neurotransmitters and hormones. B complex vitamins, calcium and vitamin C are also necessary to improve the nervous system and adrenal function.

Eat Well

Do not skip breakfast and eat regular meals with healthy snacks in between, as this will help prevent your blood sugar dropping, hence lessen the cravings. Avoid refined sugars, an excessive amount of starchy carbohydrates and saturated fat as well as processed foods. Include more lean protein in your diet such as chicken breast, turkey, fish and avoid having red meat more than twice a week. For healthy fats e.g. Omega 3 enjoy salmon (grilled or baked) coupled with vegetables. Make fresh fruits and vegetables a daily must-have. For example, bananas are full of potassium, known to alleviate PMS symptoms. Combine it with vitamin B rich nuts and you will have a tasty and nutritious snack. Drink plenty of water, as it will help lessen bloating and ease water retention. Don’t think that by drinking less water you will ease bloating.

Sleep Longer for Feeling Better

Many people underestimate the importance of sleep. Sleep helps us restore our nervous system, improve hormonal balance, maintain healthy weight and ultimately improve longevity. Get seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Make it a priority throughout the whole cycle. Exercise for energy. Research suggests that regular aerobic activity throughout the cycle can reduce the symptoms of PMS such as bloating, fatigue and irritability at the premenstrual times. Exercising releases endorphins, which means you will feel happier and energetic afterwards. If you are experiencing a severe form of PMS (or menstruation), take a milder form of aerobic activity e.g. walking or easy jogging. Several yoga poses are considered to be particularly beneficial in relieving the cramps and helping you adapt better to stress and anxiety.

Apart from getting the right herbal prescription and adjusting your lifestyle habits, what else can you do to cope better and reduce stress premenstrually?

PMS usually intensifies the feelings you already have. During PMS women often don’t feel supported or validated. My advice would be to think through the things that you find particularly stressful during PMS and try to improve the situation or address it beforehand. Here is a good example: women tend to overload their schedules and ‘squeezing things’ in already tight agendas. If that sounds familiar, learn to say ‘No’ and don’t make any hasty promises if your schedule is already full, particularly if the additional activities coincide with your premenstrual time. BE GENTLE WITH YOURSELF.

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Menopause – a new lease on life!

Menopause – Not the End but a Brand New Lease on Life

 

When we women hear the word ‘menopause’, we generally run and hide or simply sigh with acceptance. Most of us have heard so many terrible stories about menopause or perhaps we have observed family members going through ‘the change’ when we were younger.

Should the thought of Menopause strike fear into our hearts? Are the stories of hot flushes and out of control hormones true?

The good news is not all women experience menopausal symptoms. Those who do have symptoms will experience some or all of the following: night sweats, hot flushes, fatigue, irregular periods, emotional turmoil and insomnia. For these women the most common menopausal symptom, reported by approximately 70%, is hot flushes. Emotional changes are also very common with approximately 40% suffering  from depression.

The average age for women to reach menopause is 50-51yrs with most Australian women being between the ages of 45 and 55 years. Some women are diagnosed with menopause much earlier, perhaps in their 30’s or 40’s. From a holistic viewpoint, and certainly from my own clinical experience, such early menopause is often caused by adrenal fatigue contributing to premature ovarian failure. I have had a great deal of success in treating these women with herbs and nutrients that support the nervous system and the adrenals. In most cases normal menstruation can be re-established and all signs of menopause disappear.

Optimal adrenal health is fundamental for a smooth transition through menopause. In the years leading up to menopause the ovaries gradually reduce their production of female hormones until they stop completely. It is the adrenal glands that take over the role of hormone production at this time. So, the healthier your adrenals are going into menopause the easier it will be for you. One of the most significant factors that deplete adrenal functioning is stress, something that most of us have had a lot of by the time we get to our late 40s!

If you are trying to gauge when your own transition into menopause will end a long-term study called “The Melbourne Women’s Midlife Health Study” could help.  More than 400 Australian women were involved in this research which followed them over 10-15 years. One finding from the study was:  if you have had at least three months without a period, then your last period is likely to come within the following year.

Come out of hiding, there are ways to alleviate or potentially eliminate transitional menopausal symptoms. Say good bye to fatigue, insomnia, hot flushes and emotional ups and downs with the holistic approach offered by natural medicine, which has a very high success rate. Natural medicines can be used in conjunction with conventional medication or on their own.

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Vitamin D Deficiency is Common

Vitamin D Deficiency is Common

 

In Brief

  • Vitamin D deficiency is common in Australia
  • In many cases Australians do not receive adequate vitamin D from casual sun exposure
  • Vitamin D is essential for healthy, strong bones and is protective against cancer
  • Postmenopausal are at greatest risk of osteoporosis and vitamin D deficiency significantly increases the risk
  • Many women I see in my clinic have low levels of vitamin D
  • All adults should be checked routinely for vitamin D deficiency, particularly those in the high risk groups discussed below
  • Vitamin D supplementation may be necessary

 

 

What is vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, also called calciferol and sunlight vitamin. Although small amounts of Vitamin D can be obtained from some foods (see below), the majority of our vitamin D is produced by the body when UV radiation in sunlight hits our skin and reacts with a cholesterol-like substance in the skin. It is the only vitamin that is manufactured in body and is also considered a hormone. After being produced in the skin vitamin D enters the circulation and travels to liver and kidneys where it is synthesised into its active form.

 

Prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in Australia

The prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in Australia varies, however according to an article in the Medical Journal of Australia it is much higher than previously thought. Studies have shown that vitamin D deficiency is common in the elderly with up to 76% having a marginal deficiency. Other studies have shown that up to 43% of younger adults have inadequate vitamin D levels. The highest rates of severe deficiency occur in dark-skinned, veiled, and pregnant women with a deficiency incidence of up to 80%.

 

The importance of vitamin D

Adequate levels of vitamin D are essential for healthy, strong bones. Therefore its importance increases in menopausal and postmenopausal women, who are already at risk of developing osteoporosis due to decreased oestrogen levels.

 

Vitamin D is necessary for calcium absorption and for regulating calcium and phosphate concentrations in the blood, which ensure normal mineralisation of bone. Without sufficient vitamin D bones can become weak and the incidence of fracture may increase.

 

Ensuring healthy bones is not the only job of vitamin D. It also plays important roles in the health and functioning of the immune system, neuromuscular function and in the reduction of inflammation. In addition, vitamin D plays a role in the prevention and treatment of type 1 and type 2 diabetes, hypertension, glucose intolerance, autoimmune thyroid disease and multiple sclerosis.

 

Vitamin D deficiency and increased cancer risk

Vitamin D has potent anticancer properties and vitamin D deficiency may be associated with an increased incidence of a number of cancers, particularly those of the gastrointestinal tract.  According to a study published in 2008, low vitamin D status may increase breast cancer risk in post-menopausal women. 4 Vitamin D may also play a role in the outcome for cancer patients.

 

Vitamin D deficiency in children

In recent times vitamin D deficiency has re-emerged as a significant health issue in children. This can result in seizures (due to low calcium), limb pain, fractures and rickets.

 

Vitamin D deficiency in pregnant women will result in a deficiency in their infants. Therefore all women considering pregnancy should have their vitamin D levels checked before conception and during pregnancy.

 

What causes vitamin D deficiency?

The major cause of vitamin D deficiency is inadequate exposure to sunlight. This is a difficult issue because we also know that too much sun exposure can lead to skin cancer and malignant melanoma. It is quite ironic that scientists now believe that vitamin D is protective against skin cancer. Therefore we may be putting a little too much effort (and money) into protecting ourselves from the sun.

 

Although you may often read that most Australians get enough sun exposure to ensure adequate vitamin D levels, especially in the more northern parts of Australia, this is not the reality and certainly is not what I see in my clinical practice. Almost every woman I have seen who has had a blood test for vitamin D levels has either been on the low side of normal or outside the normal range, exhibiting a deficiency.

 

How much sun is enough (but not too much)?

It is difficult to find a definitive answer about the optimal amount of sun exposure which ensures adequate vitamin D levels without causing a risk of skin cancer etc. In actual fact the answer will be quite different for different regions of Australia and for different individuals.

 

Sun exposure should be limited to the early morning and late afternoon and the amount of exposure needs to suit the individual skin type. Very fair skinned people can tolerate less sun that those with olive skin or darker skin. Indeed people with fair skin actually need much less sun exposure for the production of vitamin D because the UV rays penetrate the skin much easier.

 

In 2006 the Medical Journal of Australia published information on recommended sun exposure times (at 10am or 3pm) for fair skinned individuals aged 19-50 years with 15% of their body exposed to the sun eg face, arms and hands. As you would expect exposure time varied greatly depending on locality. For example in Townsville as little as 10 minutes in summer and up to 15 minutes in winter, whilst in Hobart up to 13 minutes in summer and as much as 166 minutes in winter may be needed to ensure sufficient vitamin D levels based on current recommended daily allowances.

 

These recommended times are only estimations and are subject to many variations including seasonal differences in UVB levels from one year to another, altitude, skin type, level of cloud cover etc. It is also worth noting that many researchers have suggested that optimal vitamin D intake has been underestimated and that official recommendations are too low.  If this is the case recommended sun exposure times may be too short, however excessive unprotected sun exposure may increase risk of skin cancer.

 

The best way to ensure that you have adequate vitamin D is to have yearly or twice yearly blood tests to check your vitamin D status. Try to ensure adequate sun exposure without overdoing it. You need to be careful and take your skin type, your location, time of day and season into account. If the exposed area begins to redden slightly it is time to get out of the sun.

 

 

Those at most risk of vitamin D deficiency

Older adults

As we age the skin is less able to produce vitamin D and the kidneys are less efficient at converting it into the active form. The risk of vitamin D deficiency is increased for older people who spend most of their time indoors.

 

People with limited sun exposure

People who are homebound and women who wear veils and/or long robes are very likely to have vitamin D deficiency. Many people get very little or no sun exposure during winter, particularly on their working days. Vitamin D supplementation may be necessary during the winter months.

 

People with dark skin are also at increased risk of vitamin D deficiency because the increased pigment in the skin (melanin) reduces penetration of UV rays and the production of vitamin D.

 

Obesity

Being overweight, particularly if you have a body mass index (BMI) of greater than 30 you are at increased risk of vitamin D deficiency. This is not because vitamin D production is decreased but because the subcutaneous fat decreases the release of vitamin D into the circulation. Even when vitamin D is taken orally through food or supplementation the amount of available vitamin D in the circulation is reduced in obese people.

 

 

Dietary sources of vitamin D

Very few foods contain significant amounts of vitamin D. The richest sources are oily fish such salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel. Other foods containing some vitamin D include milk, meat, eggs, cheese and fortified foods.

 

Most experts agree that it is very difficult to obtain sufficient vitamin D from foods alone and that sun exposure and/or supplementation is essential to prevent vitamin D deficiency.

 

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Want to Stop Using HRT?

by Berris Burgoyne – Naturopath – www.berrisnaturopath.com
Suite 8/1177 Logan Road, Holland Park, Brisbane 4121

Is it possible to stop HRT?
Yes it is definitely possible to stop taking HRT, however it is not a good idea to do so suddenly. We have had a lot of experience at helping women wean off HRT and the best way is to do so gradually. However, before making the decision to stop HRT, it is important to consider the reason that HRT was initially prescribed and how relevant it is to your long-term health and wellbeing.

It is important to understand that the uncomfortable symptoms of menopause are caused by the reducing levels of female hormones, particularly oestrogen. By taking HRT it is really only delaying the inevitable. If HRT is stopped suddenly, particularly without any other support being offered, the body once again has to go through the withdrawal process, producing the original symptoms.

It is the adrenal glands that produce oestrogen after menopause therefore it is important to improve adrenal function prior to starting to reduce the dose of HRT. When we consider this function of the adrenals it is hardly surprising that so many women experience symptoms during the perimenopausal and postmenopausal time. The number one factor that depletes the adrenals is stress, particularly over a long period of time.

There is a very fundamental difference between HRT and herbal medicine for the treatment of menopausal symptoms. It needs to be remembered that menopause is not a disease process but a natural occurrence in the life of all women who reach a certain age. Herbal medicines provide the support for the body to do what it should naturally be doing. That is, produce hormones in the adrenal glands. HRT does just the opposite. By putting hormones into the body you actually shut down this natural process in the body.

There are a number of herbal medicines and nutritional factors that quickly improve adrenal function so that the body can increase the natural production of female sex hormones. Depending on the continued level of stress, we will often prescribe herbs that help the body deal with stress and generally tonify the nervous system, which further takes the load off the adrenals.

Once adrenal function has improved the dose of HRT can gradually be reduced until it is no longer required. What this means is that we have restored the body to a natural state of health.

During this process we also use herbal medicines that are specific for any symptoms that may arise during the weaning off period. Where necessary we support the nervous system because stress is a major cause of adrenal depletion.

So, you can see, it is easy to come off HRT if desired. All you need to do is take it slowly and use the appropriate herbs and nutrients for each stage of the process.

If you are using HRT and are not sure if you wish to continue, why not give us a call.

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Breast Cancer Rates Have Declined

by Berris Burgoyne – Naturopath – www.berrisnaturopath.com
Suite 8/1177 Logan Road, Holland Park, Brisbane 4121

Breast cancer rates have declined significantly
Research presented at the 29th Annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium showed a significant drop in the incidence of breast cancer in 2003 – a dramatic fall that never before has been observed in a single year. In women aged 50-69 years of age there was a 12% decline in oestrogen dependent cancers and a 4% decrease in non-oestrogen dependent cancers. It appears that the decreased use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may be responsible, at least in the case of oestrogen dependent breast cancers.

Another research team reporting in a recent issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology came to similar conclusions, “Hormone therapy use dropped by 68% between 2001 and 2003, and shortly thereafter we saw breast cancer rates drop by 10% to 11% and this drop was sustained in 2004, which tells us that the decline wasn’t just a fluke”.

Why did the use of HRT decline?
The use of HRT declined significantly after the results of two long-term studies were published in 1998 and 2002. The most significant of these was the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study which involved almost 162,000 women between the ages of 50 and 79 years. The role of the WHI is to focus on defining the risks and benefits of treatments that could potentially reduce the incidence of heart disease, breast and colorectal cancer, and fractures in postmenopausal women.

The duration of the study was planned for 8.5 years and included assessing the benefits and risks of women using either combined HRT (oestrogen/progestin) or oestrogen alone. However, after just 5.2 years, in mid 2002 an independent monitoring board recommended stopping the combined HRT trial because they considered the risks to health of taking combined HRT outweighed any benefits.

There were a number of negative outcomes resulting from this trial and although some of the risks are relatively small, they do exist.

The bad news –
• Increased risk of breast cancer
• Increased risk of ovarian cancer
• Increased risk of heart disease
• Increased risk of stroke

• Increased risk of blood clots/deep vain thrombosis (DVT)
• Increased risk of pulmonary (lungs) embolism
• Increased risk of dementia
• Possible increased risk of cognitive decline
• Increased risk of urinary incontinence

In relation to breast cancer the WHI trial found that relatively short-term combined oestrogen/progestin use increased breast cancers, which were diagnosed at a more advanced stage compared with placebo use.

The good news –
• Decreased risk of fracture (osteoporosis)
• Decreased risk of bowel cancer

Despite the early termination of the WHI oestrogen plus progestin trial, the oestrogen-alone trial was continued with ongoing careful scrutiny by the monitoring board. However, in February 2004 the National Institutes of Health (NIH) decided to terminate the oestrogen-alone trial after 6.8 years, rather than allowing it to run the full 8.5 years. They determined that oestrogen therapy did not offer significant benefits compared with the possible risks.

As with combined HRT, oestrogen alone therapy also reduced the risk of fracture although it did not have the same protective effect against bowel cancer that combined HRT appeared to offer.

So, what does this mean for you?
There are a number of different reasons why women either choose to take HRT or are prescribed HRT by their doctor. Each individual woman has to decide, with the help of a health care professional, how important the use of HRT is for her.

HRT has been traditionally prescribed not only to alleviate the symptoms of menopause but also to protect against conditions such as heart disease, dementia and osteoporosis. We now understand from extensive clinical trials that HRT does not carry the protective effect previously assumed for heart disease and dementia. In fact, the use of HRT (particularly combined HRT) increased the risk of these conditions.

For some women however, HRT may be important to help prevent or reduce the occurrence of osteoporosis. This is particularly the case where there is a strong family history of the disease and the woman has a significant number of risk factors. For example, slight build, therefore less bone mass; little weight bearing exercise; sedentary life style; diet high in salt and caffeine, (which leach calcium from the body); history of eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia; and drugs such as corticosteroids.

Are there effective alternative treatments for menopausal symptoms?
The answer is a very big YES. In most cases menopausal symptoms are extremely easy to treat with natural therapies and women have a significant improvement in a relatively short period of time. The type of treatment used depends on the individual woman, her lifestyle and the symptoms experienced.

Is it possible to stop HRT?
Yes it is definitely possible to stop taking HRT, however it is not a good idea to do so suddenly. We have had a lot of experience at helping women wean off HRT and the best way is to do so gradually. However, before making the decision to stop HRT, it is important to consider the reason that HRT was initially prescribed and how relevant it is to your long-term health and wellbeing.

It is important to understand that the uncomfortable symptoms of menopause are caused by the reducing levels of female hormones, particularly oestrogen. By taking HRT it is really only delaying the inevitable. If HRT is stopped suddenly, particularly without any other support being offered, the body once again has to go through the withdrawal process, producing the original symptoms.

It is the adrenal glands that produce oestrogen after menopause therefore it is important to improve adrenal function prior to starting to reduce the dose of HRT. When we consider this function of the adrenals it is hardly surprising that so many women experience symptoms during the perimenopausal and postmenopausal time. The number one factor that depletes the adrenals is stress, particularly over a long period of time.

There is a very fundamental difference between HRT and herbal medicine for the treatment of menopausal symptoms. It needs to be remembered that menopause is not a disease process but a natural occurrence in the life of all women who reach a certain age. Herbal medicines provide the support for the body to do what it should naturally be doing. That is, produce hormones in the adrenal glands. HRT does just the opposite. By putting hormones into the body you actually shut down this natural process in the body.

There are a number of herbal medicines and nutritional factors that quickly improve adrenal function so that the body can increase the natural production of female sex hormones. Depending on the continued level of stress, we will often prescribe herbs that help the body deal with stress and generally tonify the nervous system, which further takes the load off the adrenals.

Once adrenal function has improved the dose of HRT can gradually be reduced until it is no longer required. What this means is that we have restored the body to a natural state of health.

During this process we also use herbal medicines that are specific for any symptoms that may arise during the weaning off period. Where necessary we support the nervous system because stress is a major cause of adrenal depletion.

So, you can see, it is easy to come off HRT if desired. All you need to do is take it slowly and use the appropriate herbs and nutrients for each stage of the process.

If you are using HRT and are not sure if you wish to continue, why not give us a call.

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Reduce Breast Cancer Risk with Simple Test

by Berris Burgoyne – Naturopath – www.berrisnaturopath.com
Suite 8/1177 Logan Road, Holland Park, Brisbane 4121

You can reduce your risk of oestrogen dependent cancers such as breast cancer by using a simple test to monitor oestrogen metabolites in the urine. You can read more about this test and the importance of oestrogen metabolites below but basically there is a ‘good’ metabolite and a ‘bad’ one. High levels of the ‘bad’ metabolite is a risk factor for breast cancer, however there are things you can do to change this. The right diet can be very beneficial. For example components in vegetables in the cabbage family, particularly broccoli, help to reduce the dangerous metabolite and increase the protective one. Sometimes food is not enough to correct the imbalance initially so supplementation with products containing high levels of these compounds may be needed. Once the correct balance is achieved diet alone is often enough to maintain it. There are other nutritional factors that also have a favourable effect on the metabolism of oestrogens. Many herbal medicines also improve the way that oestrogens are metabolised.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women. In many cases breast cancer is hormone dependent, meaning that the naturally occurring female hormones (usually oestrogens) cause it to grow. Although there are many factors involved in the development of cancer, in oestrogen dependent cancers excessive oestrogen and/or improper metabolism of oestrogen plays a role.

An excess of oestrogen can occur when the body produces too much or when it is not removed efficiently from the body once it has done its job. Taking hormone containing drugs such as the oral contraceptive pill or HRT can also upset the body’s natural balance.

Although oestrogens are extremely important female hormones they need to be at the correct levels and to be in balance with other hormones. The liver is the main organ that ensures excessive oestrogens are removed from the body, so it is very important that the detoxification pathways in the liver are working efficiently.

Oestrogens can be metabolised in two ways and these need to be in balance if oestrogen dependant conditions, including cancers, are to be prevented. One pathway produces a metabolite called 2-hydroxyoestrone (2-OHE1) and the other produces a metabolite called 16a-hydroxyoestrone (16a-OHE1). For the sake of simplicity I will call these 2 and 16 from now on. These metabolites can be measured in the urine or blood, however urine is the best method. In the blood these metabolites fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle making it difficult to know the true levels. This is not the case in urine where the levels are consistent throughout the menstrual cycle.

So what does all this mean for you? Very simply type 2 is protective against breast cancer and other oestrogen dependent cancers whilst 16 is proliferative and increases breast cancer risk. We will always have both of these metabolites because that is the natural result of oestrogen metabolism. However, it is the level of each of these metabolites and the ratio between them that is very important and must be kept in balance.

The ideal ratio between 2:16 is 2.0. A low ratio, indicates low levels of the protective 2 and a state of oestrogen excess, increasing the risk of oestrogen dependent cancers. If the ratio is very high it can indicate low oestrogen levels and an increased risk of osteoporosis.

So, you can see it is worthwhile having this simple urine test so that any problems with oestrogen metabolism can be fixed. This not only applies to mature women but also to younger women. It seems that we are seeing an increase in the number of young women being diagnosed with breast cancer so perhaps all women should be tested from time to time. This is particularly true for women taking the oral contraceptive pill and for women taking HRT.

The test is very simple and easy to perform. Upon your request the test is sent to you directly from the laboratory and contains instructions and everything you need. All you need to do is collect a sample from your first wee of the day and send it off as per instructions. You do need to stop eating at 10 pm the night before and for women who have a regular menstrual cycle the sample should be collected between days 18-25 of the cycle. Do not collect urine during menstruation.

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