Hormone Imbalance and Adrenal Fatigue
Most women dread menopause. It’s understandable. They’re told the “change” will wreak havoc on their lives. They’re NOT told that these so-called “normal” menopausal symptoms more likely indicate Adrenal Fatigue, a stress response dysfunction. This issue thankfully can be treated and cured. The relation between menopause and Adrenal Fatigue isn’t simple, and one can mask symptoms of the other. Menopause and hormone imbalances stabilize when the adrenals are operating at full capacity. Then painful symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats will vanish.
Women make up eighty percent of the Adrenal Fatigue patients I treat. Sixty-five percent of them are also undergoing perimenopause or menopause when they come to me. The patients who exhibit so-called “normal” menopause hormonal imbalance (hot flashes, night sweats, a drop in sex drive, mood changes, or sleep issues), are in fact experiencing side effects of Adrenal Fatigue. Out of balance adrenal glands can reflect these symptoms, which shouldn’t be considered normal.
However, properly treated Adrenal Fatigue promotes both a healthy ovarian hormone function and a strong stress response system. The result is an excellent recipe for a quiet, pain-free transition through menopause.
Can Menopause Cause Chronic Fatigue?
No. Menopause is not the root cause of chronic fatigue or many other painful symptoms people associate with it.
Menopause is a transitional process that optimally should unfold symptom-free. It’s a naturally occurring phase in a woman’s life when the ovaries slow the production of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. These hormones, generally associated with reproduction, also serve cardiovascular health as well as foster strong bones and muscle.
The Adrenal Fatigue and Menopause Connection
There’s an intricate connection between Adrenal Fatigue and menopause. During perimenopause, as the ovaries slow their estrogen and progesterone production, the adrenal glands take over hormone production. However, since many of us live with round-the-clock stress, the adrenal glands can become exhausted, and their ability to produce these hormones decreases.
The adrenal glands take over hormone production during perimenopause, and they boost hormone production. However, if the adrenals aren’t working at their full capacity, they can’t generate the full complement of hormones, leaving women feeling ragged and symptomatic.
The transition could be pain-free if the adrenals were in balance before perimenopause began.
Adrenal Fatigue and Night Sweats
Night sweats, hot flashes, and insomnia (dreaded menopausal symptoms) often signal Adrenal Fatigue. We live in stressful times. People text and phone us at all hours expecting a response, the 24/7 news cycle never quits, and we’re surrounded by a constellation of environmental toxins that increases our body’s stress level. These aspects of contemporary life weigh on us. Chronic stressors can exhaust our adrenal glands which manage our response system.
Life-threatening situations trigger our stress response system. Once kicked on, the adrenals redirect our energy away from the “rest-and-digest” function and send it into survival mode. For instance, if a tiger appears, our adrenal glands shoot cortisol throughout the body, which helps us run faster. And once we’re safe, our body resumes its normal stance.
In today’s world, the stand-in for the tiger might be an illness or a death in the family, or even something mundane like getting caught in traffic. Incidents such as these trigger the body’s flight or fight response as if a tiger were on the prowl. It sounds extreme, but our bodies simply can’t discern degrees of any particular stress. Instead, our fight or flight response is triggered every time, flooding our bodies with adrenaline and overriding the essential “rest-and-digest” process. These continual calls for “fight or flight” eventually exhaust the adrenal glands, leading to dysfunction and disease.
Most Doctors Neglect the Menopause & Adrenal Fatigue Link
Many of my patients who struggle with menopausal symptoms also have low ovarian hormone levels. A lab test measures the hormone levels of estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) & luteinizing hormone (LH), and thyroxine (T4) in the bloodstream.
Most doctors simply look at these hormone levels and stop there. Conventional physicians convince women that the symptoms of menopause are part of a “normal” process of aging. Even many integrative and anti-aging specialists miss this link between hormone imbalance and adrenal fatigue. Instead of addressing the root cause, they recommend additional hormones or Hormone Replacement Therapy.
These doctors are simply putting a proverbial band-aid on the situation by rushing to prescribe gels, suppositories, pellets, and patches. But the hormone imbalance and adrenal fatigue persist. Without addressing it at its root, the patient will never find true balance. She may feel better for a temporary period, but in the long-run, she may experience other difficulties.
Adrenal Fatigue and Hot Flashes
Adrenal Fatigue is a misunderstood factor in the menopausal process. If a woman having hot flashes or other painful menopausal symptoms considered the adrenal fatigue connection, she might find a much easier way toward relief.
Adrenal Fatigue follows a progression. If it’s not treated early on, it can become debilitating. Not only do unbalanced adrenal hormones spark ovarian issues, they can also prompt thyroid symptoms, digestive system issues, and a weakened immune system.
Menopause and Hormone Imbalance: Is HRT Necessary?
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) shouldn’t be needed to ease menopausal symptoms, not if you’re treating the root cause of hormone imbalance and adrenal fatigue.
Why? Because at its core, menopause is not an ovarian hormone problem. Replacement hormones may bring some relief but won’t totally eradicate miserable menopausal symptoms.
The fact is a fifty-year-old woman doesn’t have the hormones of a twenty-year-old — nor should she. It’s not the body’s normal progression to go backwards in time, tricking its organs into thinking they’re younger than they are. This tact can almost always provoke repercussions down the line, such as cancers or other ovarian issues.
I confess I’m not totally against the use of bio-identical hormones. When a patient needs immediate relief, I occasionally recommend them in moderation.
Still, I feel it’s imperative to treat the root causes of hot flashes, low libido, or insomnia instead of just responding to the symptoms. And more often than not, the culprit is Adrenal Fatigue.
Adrenal Fatigue & Menopause Hormone Imbalance: Early Signs
Many of my patients, even before the onset of perimenopause, have experienced some form of ovarian hormone imbalance that often indicates the presence of Adrenal Fatigue. They may have experienced one or more of the following:
- PMS or PMS-D
- Breast tenderness
- Increased cramping
- Menstrual irregularity (varying from very heavy to no menses)
- Irritability and anxiousness
- Low libido
- Miscarriages or infertility
- Estrogen dominance, which can cause a fibroid or endometriosis
Ovarian hormone imbalance and the accompanying weaknesses can present as menopausal symptoms when they are likely spawned by Adrenal Fatigue. “Quick-fixes” such as prescribing progesterone, herbs, or HRT can lead to other complications. It’s important to control the symptoms while investigating the root cause of the matter for complete healing.
If a forty-year-old woman has strong adrenal function, her transition through menopause will be smoother. Whereas those women with weaker adrenal function may face a more challenging transition.
The good news is that adrenal hormone dysfunction is responsive to treatment so women can stop dreading “the change” and look forward to feeling more energized, alert, and in control of their bodies.
Healing Menopause and Hormone Imbalance
It’s never too late to address adrenal fatigue through holistic means and find true, lasting balance. The key is to limit all stressors for a period so your body can re-learn how to deal with them. How do we do this? By cultivating a stress-less diet, using meditation or breathing practices, encouraging sleep rituals, and other lifestyle changes. Supplements can help speed up the process. But understanding the connection between menopause and adrenal fatigue is a huge step in the right direction. If you commit to a holistic journey to heal the root issue of hormone imbalance and adrenal fatigue, you will be giving yourself the gift of true, balanced health that can stay with you the rest of your life.