ENCINITAS — The conversation around hormone therapy for women is an important one.
Women in the perimenopause and post-menopause stages of their lives can face a range of issues, and it’s important that they have the knowledge necessary to make informed decisions about preventative care and treatment. “We are here to support women through this transition,” Dr. Ari Calhoun of North County Natural Medicine said.
What might surprise some women is that they can begin to experience perimenopause up to 15 years prior to menopause, although it varies.
“You start to experience symptoms far before you enter menopause,” Dr. Calhoun said. “Menopause is clinically defined as the cessation of menstrual cycles for at least one year. Perimenopause is the time leading up to that, when your hormones start to fluctuate and decline.”
While typically women enter menopause around age 51, hormone fluctuation and decline begins much earlier.
Hormone therapy for women began making headlines following the release of a 2002 Women’s Health Initiative study. Hormone therapy was linked to an increase in breast and uterine cancers.
“It caused a lot of fear,” Dr. Calhoun said. “There was a dramatic reduction in women seeking treatment. But we have come to know a lot more since then.”
One drastic change is the understanding surrounding the use of bioidentical hormones.
“The hormones we use in our practice are chemically identical to those your body produces, so the results are much different than those in the study,” she said. “Within our practice, we ensure breast imaging is clear and bio-identical hormones are used in an appropriate balance, to mitigate all risk of breast and uterine cancer.”
Dr. Calhoun stressed that the benefits to risk ratio for women is higher for women under 59. And she advises beginning hormone balancing prior to menopause to be most beneficial.
“It is our preference to start balancing before menopause,” she said. “The risk to benefit ratio favors early treatment.”
While symptoms and their severity will vary by individual, hot flashes, sweats, anxiety, sleep issues, weight gain, vaginal dryness, urinary incontinence and brain fog are some of the most common symptoms women experience. But treatment goes far beyond alleviating the symptoms.
“Hormone balancing can help prevent major diseases that occur in post-menopausal women,” Dr. Calhoun said. “And again, the earlier we can assess you and begin treatment the more effective it will be.”
Heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and osteoporosis are a few major concerns for menopausal women. Estrogen plays a huge role in the health of our blood vessels, brain, and bones, making the balancing of its levels vital.
“At North County Natural Medicine we work with women to support them and decrease their symptoms as well taking preventative measures,” Dr. Calhoun said. “Multiple risks are associated with low or no hormones, and balancing can decrease that risk.”
In every case, Dr. Calhoun said they evaluate patients carefully. “As naturopathic doctors, we operate from a preventative standpoint,” she said. “Our oath to do no harm, we take that to heart. We always use the safest and most effective treatments available.”
The goal in hormone balancing is simple.
“We want to allow post-menopausal women to live an enjoyable life free of symptoms,” Dr. Calhoun said. “Every woman should be able to feel confident, sleep well and get out of depression. That is why we do the work we do.”
North County Natural Medicine is located at 815 N. Vulcan Ave. in Encinitas. To learn more or to schedule a consultation, visit northcountynaturalmedicine.com or call (760) 385-8683.