When a woman is no longer having a monthly cycle it is usually accompanied by an elevated FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) level. This level of FSH only tells us that the woman is closer to or in menopause. This test does not give us the levels of the endogenous hormones in the body. Testing of the individual hormones in the body can help provide a complete picture. Some practitioners may choose to run blood or saliva levels but in addition much attention must be given to the patient’s symptoms.
Estrogen and progesterone are produced together throughout the reproductive years and need to be balanced to get optimal health. After menopause estrogen is available from the adrenal glands, fat tissue, in our environment and the food we eat. These sources sometimes produce an elevated estrogen level. Progesterone is not found in the environment nor in foods in any significant amount and is needed to balance the estrogen dominance.
There are many symptoms that are clearly linked to estrogen deficiency and sometimes this may require a small amount of estrogen replacement. Estrogen replacement therapy may help alleviate symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness and bone loss.
Progesterone does more than balance estrogen. It is important for the normal functioning of our body. Some of the functions of progesterone have been known to include: increased thyroid function, decreased water retention, increased libido, and assistance in alleviating symptoms of depression, anxiety and insomnia.
The most helpful health care provider is one who inquires about changes in libido, energy level, lack of muscle tone and a decreased sense of well being. Menopausal women can be distressed about these symptoms of testosterone deficiency. With the advice of their health care provider, testosterone can be added to their hormone replacement therapy.
Stages in a Woman’s Life
A woman goes through different stages throughout her life. These stages are often referred to as Pre-menopause, Peri-menopause, Menopause and Post-menopause.
Pre-menopause – is the period of time from the moment menses begins up to the time that it ends.
Peri-menopause – This is the time around the menopause stage and can last between 5 to 15 years. During this time the hormone levels fluctuate hence a period of many menopausal symptoms. This also can be referred to as a time of estrogen dominance.
Some of the symptoms of fluctuating hormones include:
Menopause – Many health care providers feel that a woman is not in true menopause until she has missed twelve consecutive periods.
Post-menopause – This stage is the time after menopause.