What do these two things have in common besides being acronyms for common medical syndromes (Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome)? Recent research suggests that there is a connection between insulin resistance and leaky gut, which may then in turn cause irritable bowel syndrome. Want your gut to be healthier? Cut back on carbs and exercise daily to maintain normal insulin levels. Your hormones will be better balanced and you’ll be less prone to food sensitivities.
For clues as to what may be causing premenstrual migraines, we have to look at what is happening hormonally at that time. On Day 21 of your cycle, progesterone is hitting a peak and estrogen levels are starting to rise a little to come to a second peak around day 23-24. By about day 25, assuming you are not pregnant or on the birth control pill, both levels are starting to fall which is the cue to your body to release the uterine lining and have a period. The peak of progesterone around day 21 is thought to be protective against migraines. The drop in estrogen is also thought to be associated with migraines. In the women that I have worked with who had premenstrual migraines, what has worked beautifully is an approach that optimizes progesterone production and balances estrogen.
1. Headache. 2008 Nov-Dec;48 Suppl 3:S124-30. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-4610.2008.01310.x. pidemiology and biology of menstrual migraine. Martin VT1, Lipton RB.
2. Headache. 2006 Mar;46(3):365-86. Ovarian hormones and migraine headache: understanding mechanisms and pathogenesis–part 2. Martin VT1, Behbehani M.
Irregular periods, acne, hair loss, fatigue, weight gain, sluggish metabolism, at first glance these symptoms seem to point to PCOS. However, blood tests show a different story, in PCOS you would expect to see high androgen levels (testosterone, DHEAs) but this patient has low testosterone, low DHEAs, low estradiol and here’s the kicker – high cortisol! Her doctor had refused to do the cortisol testing which ultimately provided the solution to the puzzle of her symptoms which she has complained to her doctor about for years. It still remains to investigate why her cortisol is elevated. There are herbs that can be used to lower cortisol, but we’ll refrain from that until we can collect more data on why it’s elevated.
It’s easy in medicine to make assumptions and jump to conclusions, but this patient is a perfect example of why doing our due diligence and thoroughly investigating through diagnostic testing is important.
Many of the women that I see every day feel like there is a problem with their hormones, however, they’ve been to their family doctor who has told them that their hormone levels are “fine”. These women are suffering from infertility, hair loss, irregular periods, excessive facial or body hair, acne, peri-menopause, mood swings, low libido and PCOS, all of which are fairly obvious signs of hormone imbalance.
Here’s why you may be told that your hormones are “fine” when they’re actually not:
1. Countless patients haven’t even had the tip of the iceberg measured when it comes to their hormones. They’ve been trying to conceive for 3 years, yet no one has ever thoroughly measured their hormones. They’ve never had testosterone, DHEAs, androstenedione, and DHT measured. These are all hormones that can impact fertility.
2. Hormones vary from day to day and certain ones are really only clinically relevant at certain points of the menstrual cycle, but no one specified what day to have them measured. LH, FSH and estradiol should be measured on day 3 of a menstrual cycle. Progesterone should be measured 7 days post ovulation. If there is a hormone related problem, the relevant hormones should probably be measured more than once to confirm if they’re normal or not.
3. Hormone “normal” ranges are actually “abnormal” ranges. The lab ranges for hormones are particularly unreliable as indicators of good hormonal health. As a lab insider (I worked in one for 20 years), I know how normal ranges are set. Lab technologists average the results from a given number of samples and the average of those samples becomes the “normal” range. The problem with this is that doctors only order hormone blood work from people with a hormone related condition like infertility, hair loss, irregular periods, excessive facial or body hair, acne, peri-menopause, mood swings, and low libido. So if you average the results of an abnormal population and then call that your normal range, what you’ve actually got is an “abnormal range” and abnormal people will fit nicely into it so that their results look “normal” even though they clearly have a hormone related problem.
When I’m looking a patient’s blood work, I use my own optimal range, rather than the lab’s abnormal range to interpret whether the hormone blood tests are normal or not. I also like to see thorough hormone blood work and have it done at specific points in the menstrual cycle.
With so many demands on our time and our thoughts, it’s easy to push health to the back burner. Don’t! Maintaining your health on a daily basis and actively preventing disease is crucial so that you can keep enjoying life to the fullest. Injuries, chronic or recurring infections, low energy, exhaustion, allergies, headaches, these are all your body trying to give you a wake-up call that something isn’t right: you’re not taking care of me well enough or you’re overworking or otherwise abusing me. Will it take cancer, a heart attack or stroke to be the wake-up call you need?
Great health is a habit worth investing in.
Menopausal weight gain is a common, yet upsetting, occurrence.
What causes weight gain at menopause?
As estrogen levels decline at menopause, so does insulin sensitivity. Insulin transfers sugar from the blood stream into the tissue and tells the tissue to make fat from this sugar. This means that the body doesn’t respond to insulin as well as it used to, sugar doesn’t get moved from the blood into the tissue as well as it did, which means a need to make more insulin. Since insulin promotes fat production, more insulin means more fat production. If sugar isn’t getting moved into the tissues well, the tissues are lacking fuel which can lead to carb cravings.
So the solution to menopausal weight gain is to reduce carb intake to minimize the need to make insulin and there are various natural means to promote insulin sensitivity. Exercise is one of the best ones. If you are not already exercising somehow daily, that is essential and can make a significant difference.
Growth hormone levels also tend to decline as we age which means decreased muscle mass. Muscle burns more calories even while you are sleeping. Adding weight training to your workouts can help maintain growth hormone levels.
High levels of stress deplete the function of the adrenal glands, your stress glands that help maintain your blood pressure, blood sugar, balance your hormones and keep inflammation in check. Adrenal glands produce at least half of your testosterone and testosterone helps maintain muscle mass. Supporting healthy adrenal glands can help stabilize blood sugar, give you more energy, help you deal with stress more easily and maintain healthy hormone levels as you age.
In summary, at menopause it is especially important to:
1. Lower your carb intake
3. Weight train
4. Lower your stress level
5. Support adrenal gland function with vitamins, minerals and herbs
Sadly, there isn’t any such thing. Your doctor only gets to read research results that have positive outcomes.
Dr Irving Kirsch, a psychologist, dug out the following information regarding psychiatric drug studies:
They found that out of 38 drug studies showing positive outcomes, 37 were published. 36 studies showing negative outcome, only 3 were published and 11 had their data manipulated to show a more positive outcome.
Many UNpublished studies show little or no difference between taking an anti-depressant and placebo.
More on Dr Kirsch’s study here:
Both hot flashes and night sweats are signs of hormone imbalance, often associated with a drop in estrogen that occurs at menopause.
But, did you know that:
1. Men can have hot flashes and night sweats too? These can accompany a drop in testosterone at andropause.
2. Women as early as their late 30’s can experience them? This is often a sign of an underfunctioning endocrine system as a whole. Supporting the components of the endocrine system (adrenal glands, ovaries, thyroid, pituitary etc) can help resolve these symptoms.
3. Stress can precipitate hot flashes?
4. Hot flashes can be a sign of hormone imbalances other than low estrogen? Low testosterone, low progesterone and low DHEAs can also cause hot flashes.
5. Certain medications can trigger hot flashes? Over the counter sinus and allergy remedies are an example of such medication triggers.
6. The most common time for night sweats is between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m.?
Whatever the cause of your hot flashes, natural medicine has many treatment options including diet changes, vitamins and minerals, herbs and acupuncture.