As if I weren’t cranky enough from time to time! I can’t imagine how it will be when I go through perimenopause. And then ultimately, when I have gone 12 months without menstruating, officially placing me in the hormonally-imbalanced domain of menopause.
You can’t blame me for being a bit moody. I’m juggling motherhood to 4 precocious, active kids, working in a busy emergency room as a nurse practitioner, and maintaining a health-coaching and functional medicine practice.
The big reason I was attracted to functional medicine is that it addresses the root causes of health issues and promotes overall well-being. In comparison, conventional medicine relieves symptoms but mainstream doctors don’t investigate root causes. Me? I like playing Sherlock Holmes and figuring out what’s holding back someone from living their best life.
Symptoms of Menopause
When it comes to discovering the root causes of menopause, hormonal imbalance is usually the prime suspect. Especially a reduction of estrogen and progesterone production. But as you’ll find out, there’s more to overcoming common menopause symptoms than hormone balancing.
I’ll get to that in a bit. But first, let’s lay out what the most commonly recognized symptoms of menopause are. Most people can name a few right off the bat:
- Hot flashes
- Excessive sweating, especially at night
- Low libido
- Sleep problems
As if those symptoms weren’t difficult enough to deal with, “the changes” can also bring on the following joys:
- Depression and/or anxiety
- Joint pain
- Vaginal dryness
- Bladder/Urinary Tract problems
And let’s not forget mood swings! Ladies: we’re all superheroes for coping with life through the changes!
How Functional Medicine Resolves Menopausal Symptoms
In functional medicine, there’s a saying: “Don’t guess, test!” So even though you might be a lady of a certain age and have common peri- or menopausal symptoms, we can’t assume anything. We first have to get a baseline assessment of your hormone levels.
And to do this, I recommend the DUTCH Plus test, which reveals the levels of your sex and adrenal hormones as well as your cortisol (stress hormone) levels. (If you’re having trouble with sleep, it could be because your cortisol levels are high at night.)
In addition to sex hormones such as estrogen and progesterone (women with severe menopausal symptoms are usually not just deficient in estrogen but also progesterone), depending on the client, thyroid hormone testing may be called for.
To resolve hormonal imbalances, I often use bioidentical hormone therapy creams, which I find to be the most convenient for clients.
But there’s more to resolving menopausal symptoms than rubbing some cream on your skin. Functional medicine emphasizes the importance of a nutrient-dense, whole foods diet. Now, you don’t have to go on a keto or low-carb diet. But I will help you modify your diet so that you’re getting plenty of high-quality, lean protein, healthy fats, and a variety of low-sugar fruits, low-starch vegetables, and fiber-rich foods.
Plus, we can find out if you have any food sensitivities you may not be aware of that may contribute to menopausal symptoms.
Chronic stress ain’t good for nothin’ and it certainly won’t make your hot flashes magically disappear. In fact, chronic stress only makes you feel more flush, says plenty of research studies (like this one).
In addition to being a functional medicine practitioner, my training as a certified health coach can teach you stress-management techniques. Don’t worry, there’s nothing crazy involved like twisting yourself into a pretzel while doing yoga. All it takes is simple breathing exercises you can learn in just seconds flat.
You can’t conquer menopausal symptoms if your liver is sluggish. Functional medicine includes methods to support the liver’s detoxification processes. And one reason the liver becomes sluggish is because of using everyday household products, hair-care and makeup that contains toxins. I can show you which products you’re using that may be clogging your liver, and teach you what to replace those toxic products with.
Getting regular physical activity isn’t a guarantee for avoiding menopausal symptoms. But it sure can help. Some people, however, have no clue about how to get started on an exercise program or may feel intimated about going to a gym. Not only that, I work with some clients who are in chronic pain. Walking down the driveway to get the mail is no small feat for them. So how can they start an exercise program? That’s why functional medicine emphasizes minimizing systemic inflammation in the body before a person starts hitting the gym.
“Take two pills and call me in the morning” is the exact opposite of how functional medicine works. Functional medicine practitioners like yours truly work in collaboration with clients, empowering them to actively participate in their health journey. It’s a team effort, there’s no placing the aloof doctor on the pedestal.
I have a personal fave supplement for menopause, but because everybody is different, I may recommend specific supplements for your unique nutrient deficiencies. That said, I just read a study on a dietary supplement I had never heard of: Siberian rhubarb. In addition, black cohosh, red clover, wild soybean, and omega-3 fatty acids are nutritional supplements that may help relieve menopausal symptoms.
Hot flashes and night sweats driving you crazy? Let’s conquer it together! Click here and scroll to the bottom to contact me. We’ll have a chat and discuss your health goals. I’m looking forward to working with you and helping you live your best life!
Until next time,
Jenna Witt, NP