Finally, A Woman’s Solution
Hello. I’m Dr. Susan Sklar, Founder and Medical Director-Change from Sklar Center for Women’s Wellness to Sklar Center for Restorative Medicine . I am a physician (trained in Obstetrics and Gynecology) who has worked with women for the past 34 years.
After more than 30 years of working with women, I want to share my observations about women and their hormones. Over the years, I recall many, many women patients asking me if their symptoms were due to “hormones.” Most of the time I said “no” because there was a tremendous lack of knowledge about all the ways hormones act on our bodies.
With the knowledge we have in Anti-Aging Medicine, I know that the answer most of the time is “yes.” Much of what goes on with women physically, mentally, and emotionally is based on hormones.
Men have a lot going on hormonally also, but their situation is much simpler. Women have estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and thyroid hormone problems (which are ten times more frequent in women than men). Women also have at least five different types of hormone changes throughout their lives.
The Many Layers of Hormone Changes
As I see it, women have five different hormonal layers resonating through their lives, many times overlapping. It’s no wonder that understanding women and their hormones is complicated, not only for them but also for their partners, loved ones, and also for their healthcare practitioners.
I’m going to tease apart these layers so that you can understand the forces at play in women’s hormonal lives:
1) The first layer is the MONTHLY CYCLE with undulating levels of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, as well as other hormones.
Even women with regular monthly cycles can suffer the effects of hormone imbalance including Premenstrual Syndrome, heavy and painful menstrual periods. I commonly see women with a variety of uncomfortable symptoms in the week or two before their menstrual period starts.
These symptoms can be physical ones like bloating, breast soreness, fluid retention, and migraine headaches or emotional symptoms such as irritability, anxiety or depression. All of these are due to insufficient progesterone.
2) The second layer is pregnancy.
The hormone changes of pregnancy and breast feeding are drastic and there some changes take a long time to reverse when the pregnancy is over. During pregnancy, estriol and progesterone levels are very high.
During breastfeeding, levels are very low, mimicking menopausal levels and menopausal symptoms such as vaginal dryness and painful sex.
I have treated a number of women whose libido (sex drive) never returned after childbirth. Unfortunately, they were told that it was due to the responsibilities of being a new mother or the demands of family and work.
For some of these women, their problem was due to enzyme changes that affected their levels of DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) a hormone which has a major role in desire.
Restoration of this hormone resulted in restoration of their libido and renewal of their relationship. So, you can see how important hormones are for your health, your relationships, and your life.
3) The third layer is the PERI-MENOPAUSAL AND MENOPAUSAL transition change.
The first step is lower amounts of progesterone. This can result in increased Premenstrual Syndrome symptoms, heavier and more irregular and prolonged menses.
Following this, estrogen levels start to become erratic. Sometimes levels are high with resulting breast pain and swelling and symptoms similar to pregnancy. Sometimes estrogen levels are low with resulting hot flashes.
This change can start as early as the mid-30’s for women. Some of the changes occur in even younger women due to our current toxic and stressful environment.
4) The fourth layer is the STRESS effect on hormone functioning.
The more stressed we are, the more depleted we are in some hormones, like progesterone and DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone). Men also experience hormone decline with stress.
5) The fifth layer is the ENVIRONMENTAL effect.
The estrogenic type compounds (PCB) found in plastics have contaminated much of our drinking water. In addition there are hormones added to beef and chicken, which further increases the level of undesirable hormones from the environment.
6) The sixth layer is the gradual decline with age, which occurs in men as well as women.
We are hormonally optimized in our 20s. It’s downhill after that.
Isn’t this a dizzying array of events?
It’s no wonder that women may start to feel the effects of these changes as early as their 20s. In Anti-Aging Medicine, we take all of these factors into account when treating, restoring and rebalancing hormones.