Monday, December 11, 2006
The Menopause Catch-22
Menopause isn't a disease.

But for the 150,000 American women entering menopause each month, the mood swings, hot flashes and libido changes that often accompany a drop in estrogen can leave them feeling, "I need help."

Consider: 50 percent of all women go to their doctor for menopausal symptoms. But many women have mixed feelings about taking medications for this natural change of life. Do benefits outweigh risks?

The FDA has revised its guidelines, stating that hormone therapy should be used only for the short-term relief of symptoms - and only for low-risk patients (no smokers, no history of breast cancer) because of the risk of breast cancer, heart attacks and stroke.

Yet, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists maintains hormone therapy is effective at relieving menopausal symptoms, and may even ward off osteoporosis and memory loss.

Dr. Louann Brizendine runs the Women's Mood and Hormone Clinic at the University of California, San Francisco, and is author of the book, "The Female Brain." A neuropsychiatrist, she frequently prescribes not only hormone therapy, but anti-depressants such as Paxil, Prozac and Celexa in small doses to ease irritability and restore libido during a patient's seismic shift in her hormonal self.

"There are all sorts of things we doctors can use nowadays that can get you back to feeling your best," says Brizendine, stressing women may not need medication forever but rather just during the transitional period when they feel most on edge.

But what of this notion, 'this is what nature intended' and if we're out of control, we're bad? Dr. Brizendine, the daughter of protestant missionaries, has a ready anecdote.

While treating Sisters of Charity nuns for their menopausal symptoms a decade ago, she asked them whether their Lord would think it's a sin to take medication.

"Oh no," the nuns assured her. "He'd be upset if we didn't use everything provided by Him to help us be our best selves."

The decision to medicate menopause remains a highly personal one, and each woman must be the arbiter of her own risk. But it's important to know there's an arsenal of drugs out there that target menopausal symptoms and if you're feeling bad, your doctor can help.

As Dr. Brizendine is fond of saying: "The change will set you free."

We'll have more from Dr. Brizendine and the "The Brain on Menopause" this week on American Morning.
I'm no doctor, but aren't the hormones used to treat menopause the same as the ones in birth control pills? One doesn't need statistics or "official" reports. One need only look around to their own circle of friends & family to see the epidemic of breast cancer since the 60's. You cannot disrupt the delicate ecosystem of the female reproductive system without consequences somewhere. Might the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have a financial interest in keeping women on these hormones? While (presumably) the FDA is impartial.
My Grandmother lived to 91 years old without all these drugs. I will be following in her footsteps. I live by this, "no drugs"
I went through menopause at 38 and literally thought I was losing my mind due to the hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings. Some days I could not get up to go to work because of the uncontrollable crying. I'm thankful for the medication that was able to bring me back to normal.
I addressed my menopausal symptoms by adding dark leafy greens, including fresh herbs, to my diet. It worked like a miracle. No more migrane headaches, night sweats, etc. I even wrote an article about my experience, called Minimizing Menopause.
I do not believe that HRT is always necessary. We should stop looking at the Medical community to come up with all of the answers. Menopause is a normal change of the female body. We need to take personal responsibility, look at what we are eating, drinking, breathing, and what we are doing with our bodies in the way of moving our body fluids around with exercise of some kind. For me, changing my diet to include soy products, walking each day, taking vitamins has brought me a symptomless menopause. We own our cars, we try to own our homes, we own our pets and we do our best to take care of them and maintian them. Let's own our own bodies, for heaven's sake, and make it priority to learn about ourselves and the right type of "fuel" we need to give ourselves. Everyone is looking for the quick answer, the magic pill, for the man that has all of the answers. We need to wake up, put on our thinking caps, explore, read & experiment, use what God gave us, our ability to think and reason. If you listen, really listen to your body, it will usually tell you what it needs.
I am a female who exercised, no drugs, no smoking and no dysfunctional relationships. Excellent job and love what I do and was absolutely not anticipating any problems with menopause. No family history of problems with menopause. I had no issues with PMS. For years I was very cocky about being a �No Drug� person and I made sure that everyone knew how healthy I was and how I wouldn�t dare take hormones. Ate all the �right� things, even organic soy and other organic foods. I live in a non industrial small country town and was not exposed to pollution.
As much as I feel that the pharmaceutical companies are a bunch of legal drug pushers, I am sure glad for pharmaceutical grade bioidentical hormones because when I went into menopause I lost so much sleep that I started having panic attacks. And if I lived in a time that there were no pharmaceuticals I would have shot myself or someone else would of put me out of my misery during my menopausal years. No, I do not have any psychiatric disorders. I am just a well balanced female that just learned that no amount of preventative lifestyle will guarantee health. And I learned to be compassionate towards others who need relief no matter what form it may be.
I called my GYN asking for non prescription assistance. Estroven OTC 1 once a day eliminated my hot flashes with in one week. Totally herbal (make sure you disclose all other meds to your doctor so he/she can evaluate herb/soy safety). It has also decreased my irritability, short term memory loss, and restored my libido. Seems much safer than hormone replacement (not to mention more cost effective).
there is no debate: sleep deprivation hurts everyone. more generally, the medical industry needs quality control far more than any car or software, yet it has NONE!! docs who argue crap like "hero", be-a-man, stick-it-out, "get out of the hot kitchen" put you, your family, and every ill/injured person in the world at risk of death and lifelong pain. it is a undisputed fact that doctors are a top-5 leading cause of death in the u.s. due to their low-quality treatment of patients.
During this pasted summer I suffered with hot flashes and night sweats so severe I thought I would spontanously combust! I have CAD and was not a candidate for HRT.
I took it upon myself to return to my vegetarian roots and supplement with soy milk and tofu for protein.

I needed to loose weight so I started to exercise with a group of people at a gym in Ellicott City, Maryland that is supervised by a cardiac nurse who is a friend of mine.
My hot flashes are a little less severe, I have lost a little weight, my heart is better off without the HRT. But, most of all I feel I have some control over my "change"which is natural and suppose to occur. I enjoy sex with my husband. Feel sexy and healthy and enjoy my family and friends more than every.

I think the secret is empowering oneself and not depending on the medical community for the natural changes that come with living.

A positive attitude and sense of humor will carry you a long way even when you feel like h--l!!!
I have been experiencing what I believe are hot flashes for the last few months. Although uncomfortable, they are not impossible. After the latest news on HRT, I don't think I'd want to try that at all. I take monthly shots of testosterone for low sex drive caused by antidepressants, which I cannot stop taking. If my symptoms get worse, I'll try anything! Just with the monthly periods would go away, too!
I PRAY for menopause and an end to my estrogen daily. I'm continually cold, with frequent shivering spells. I've had exactly ONE hot flash, and it was wonderful. I stood in my office grinning from ear to ear and dripping sweat. It felt great to be warm.

I also pray for an end to the estrogen because it exacerbates my already hypersensitive hearing. When the estrogen surges, I can hear a pin drop a block away, or at least it feels like that. Even clicking the mouse on my computer is irritating and way too loud when I'm in the middle of an estrogen surge.

I had two wonderful years with my estrogen levels stomped down by Depo-Provera, but the doctor made me stop because my bones are thinning. They could have already been thin for all she or I know, and I've been doing everything I can to get my bones built back up since the day I received my bone scan results. But I want my estrogen GONE. I'd rather have a broken hip.
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