Menopause

What is Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT)?

Bioidentical hormones (BHRT) are hormone supplements made from natural, plant-based substances. They are identical in structure and function to those produced in the body. Bioidentical hormones are available by a doctor’s prescription through a compounding pharmacist who can tailor hormone supplements to meet individual needs. Natural progesterone, for example, is a bioidentical hormone as opposed to progestin, which is the synthetic version (denoting the “pro” in PremPro). Progesterone is available in a topical form over the counter. Progesterone is also available by prescription when combined with natural estrogens and other hormones by compounding pharmacists. To locate a health care practitioner or compounding pharmacist in your area who is familiar with ZRT testing, click Find a Provider.

Why do women experience vasomotor symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats?

These symptoms typically result from an estrogen deficiency and/or an imbalance between progesterone and estrogen. This type of imbalance is common in the perimenopausal years.

I am referred to as “postmenopausal” in the comment section of my saliva test report but I do not believe I am in menopause. Am I classified this way because my hormone levels suggest that or because I had a hysterectomy?

You were labeled postmenopausal based on the hysterectomy. Once a woman has had a hysterectomy, the surgery, regardless of her age, has forced her body into menopause. If the ovaries are also removed, hormone production from that primary source stops overnight. Regardless of whether the ovaries are removed, it is often the case that removal of the uterus significantly reduces blood flow to the ovaries, which in turn shuts down ovarian function within a few years of the surgery.

What about phyto (plant) estrogens for menopause relief?

Phytoestrogens are part of the family of plant phytochemicals. These compounds have been shown to have health-supporting effects in the body. Phytoestrogens have weak estrogen-like activity. They can bind to and turn on estrogen receptors. But, since their binding power is much weaker than more potent estrogens like estradiol, their effect is more subtle and they do not carry the risks of estrogen replacement therapy. Many women searching for safe alternatives to HRT, like Black Cohosh and Dong Quai, are successfully using the phytoestrogens found in soy products and herbs for relief from the hot flashes and night sweats of menopause. However, it is important to consult with a qualified health care provider before using these plants medicinally over a prolonged period. Also, many of these herbs are contraindicated during pregnancy. 

What about using soy products for menopause relief?

Soy needs to be used wisely. While soy contains phytoestrogens that can help balance your hormones, soy also has other phytochemicals called “phytates” that can block the absorption of necessary nutrients like zinc and iodine. This can disable necessary enzymes. The best way to eat soy is in its fermented form such as miso, tempeh, or tofu (especially in combination with fish proteins and seaweeds rich in minerals). Fermentation reduces the nutrient blocking effect of soy.

Other ideal plant sources that aid menopause relief are cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. These foods contain a substance called indole-3 carbinol, which encourages healthy estrogen metabolism. Onions, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, and citrus fruits also have properties that promote hormone balance.