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hot flashes

  • Menopause is the term used to describe the progressive cessation of menstruation in a woman over time. Menopause typically occurs after a woman’s child-bearing years, between the ages of 45 and 50. Some women, however, experience it as early as 35 and as late as 60 years old. The process of menopause can last for two to six years, during which time a woman’s hormone levels change due to the reduction in the production of estrogen and progesterone in the ovaries as they cease to produce eggs. Physiologically, menopause marks the end of a woman’s childbearing capacity and is a part of her natural aging process.

  • Menopause is a natural process that for some women brings on a myriad of uncomfortable symptoms. These symptoms usually come from imbalances your physiology that usually stem from poor choices in diet and lifestyle.

    Common perimenopausal complaints include:

    • Weight gain
    • Fatigue
    • Hot flashes
    • Headaches
    • Loss of libido
    • Dry skin
    • Vaginal dryness
    • Mood swings
    • Anxiety
    • Depression
    • Memory problems
    • Insomnia or sleep difficulties
    • Joint and muscle aches and pains

    After menopause, the risk of osteoporosis and heart disease also increase dramatically.

    The Western Approach to Menopause
    To combat perimenopausal symptoms, Western medicine developed synthetic feminine hormones. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was promoted as the fountain of youth. It was said to lower the risk of heart disease, strokes, Alzheimer’s, and osteoporosis. But several studies in the early 2000’s, including the Women’s Health Initiative, found mostly the opposite is true: women who take HRT have an increased risk of heart disease, strokes, blood clots, gall bladder disease and invasive breast and ovarian cancer. HRT does help osteoporosis, but not any more than a little weight bearing exercise and a diet high in calcium can.

    The Eastern Approach to Menopause
    Traditional systems of medicine, including Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine, say that menopause should be a time of gentle and easy transition. The hormonal changes at menopause are part of the natural progression of life. Symptoms only arise if you are out of balance—which usually develop from poor diet and lifestyle choices. Therefore, the best way to improve and control menopausal symptoms is to restore balance to the physiology through healthy diet and lifestyle choices. Then, if any symptoms are still present after you have made these changes, herbs and supplements may be added. If you don’t correct your habits that are creating the imbalances first, then herbs and supplements usually don’t work very well. It’s like trying to mop your floor dry, but forgetting to first turn off the faucet.

    The Natural Prescription
    Begin by cutting out the junk foods especially processed foods, sugar, red meat and excess alcohol. Instead favor organically grown fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and omega- 3 fatty acids. Also, it is important to

    • Exercise regularly—even as little as 30 minutes of brisk walking every day can have profound benefits.
    • Get the most out of your sleep by going to bed by 10 p.m. and get up before 6 a.m.
    • Minimize stress by practicing an effective stress-reducing technique every day such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing.

    Herbal Support
    In addition to these healthy diet and lifestyle changes, there are a variety of herbs that can help to alleviate uncomfortable symptoms. For example, research shows that a standardized herbal root extract, called EstroG-100, can effectively reduce many of the symptoms associated with menopause. This formula is composed of three different well-studied plants from China and Korea.

    • Cynanchum wilfordii is a key component of a famous Chinese herbal tonic that has been used for over a thousand years to enhance vitality. It is also been used in traditional Korean medicine to promote healthy aging.
    • Phlomis umbrosa root has been also been used in China for thousands of years to support liver health and detoxification. Because of its strong anti-inflammatory properties, it is useful for a variety of other health conditions including pain relief.
    • Angelica gigas root, also called Dang Gui, is an herb traditionally used in Korea to improve gynecological, cardiovascular and immune system health.

    There have been number of studies, both in-vitro as well as in-vivo, that have confirmed the safety and efficacy of EstroG-100.

    According to tests conducted by Chungbuk National University in South Korea, the herbs in EstroG-100 do not work through estrogen pathways.

    A 2005 prospective randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial1 was conducted in South Korea with a total of 48 perimenopausal women who were followed for 12 months. At the end of 3 months, the women taking an herbal supplement containing EstroG-100 had significant improvements of their symptoms—in fact, five times better than the placebo group. At the end of 12 months, the herbal group also showed changes in bone markers, which are associated with improved bone density, as well as improvements in the levels of serum triglycerides and human growth hormone.

    In another randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial2 conducted in California in 2012, 64 women pre-, periand post-menopausal women were assigned to either taking EstroG-100 (31 women) or a placebo (33 women). At the end of 12 weeks the Kuppermam menopausal index (KMI) score, which evaluates 11 symptoms, was significantly reduced in the EstroG-100 group compared to the placebo group. Improvements were seen in hot flashes, insomnia, nervousness, melancholia, dizziness, fatigue, and joint pain. There was also a statistically significant improvement in vaginal dryness in the EstroG-100 group.

    A third randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled multi-center study of EstroG-100 has just completed with equally impressive results.3

    No Need to Suffer
    There’s no need to suffer with menopausal symptoms. This natural transition of life is meant to go smoothly. Making a few healthy diet and lifestyle changes can dramatically improve or resolve symptoms. There are also herbs that can bring some great relief. Be sure to choose an herbal supplement that has been proven by research to be effective, such as EstroG-100.


    1. Ki Ho Lee, Duck Ju Lee, Sang Man Kim, Sang Hyeun Je, Eun Ki Kim, Hae Seung Han, In Kwon Han, “Evaluation of Effectiveness and Safety of Natural Plants Extract(Estromon®) on Perimenopausal Women for 1Year,” J. Korea Soc. Menopause 2005: 11(1). 16–26
    2. Albert Chang, Bo-Yeon Kwak, Kwontaek Yi, Jae Soo Kim, “The Effect of Herbal Extract (EstroG-100) on Pre-Peri- and Post- Menopausal Women: A Randomized Double-blind, Placebocontrolled Study,” Phytother. Res. 2012(26): 510–6
    3. Duck Joo Lee, Tak Kim, Seok-Kyo Seo, “The Evaluation of the Efficacy and Safety of Herbal Extract (PAC-EX01: EstroG-100) on Menopausal Symptoms: 12 weeks, Multi Center, A randomized, Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Study.” Submitted for publication.
  • The venerated father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, has had many of his wise sayings immortalized over the past two millennia. Most of us know a version of the following: “As to diseases, make a habit of two things—to help, or at least, to do no harm.” However, there is one quote attributed to Hippocrates that has all but disappeared from a list of his most quotable quotes. Hippocrates poised the rhetorical question, “What is Woman?” to which he supplied the answer: “Disease!”


    1. Learn to love or at least like flax seeds and high lignan flax oil. Their estrogen-modulating effect is well documented, but what is not well known is their possible connection to hypothyroidism. So, here’s the glitch: While lignan-rich flax seeds are extremely healthy, they do contain a substance known as cyanogenic glycosides, which metabolize into thiocyanate, a chemical that has the potential, over time, of suppressing the thyroid’s ability to take up sufficient iodine. This biochemical occurrence raises the risk of developing goiter.

    These are two easy ways to avoid this problem. One is to consume a maximum of three to four tablespoons of milled flax seeds per day. The other is to lightly bake or toast your flax seeds, which deactivates and decomposes the cyanogenic glycosides but preserves the beneficial omega-3 properties. To toast them, spread flax seeds on a baking sheet or pan and bake in the oven at 250 degrees F for 15 to 20 minutes or until crispy. (Please note: Using any temperature above 300 degrees F will damage the seeds’ oil and convert it into the unhealthy trans form.)

    Flax oil, on the other hand, is free of cyanogenic glycosides.

    If optimum breast health is a goal, then you may want to know about “quark.” According to researchers in Germany, the sulfur-bearing amino acids in dairy combined with the essential fatty acids in flax oil are a potent breast cancer fighter.

    Which one is preferred—seeds or oil? Keep in mind that the seeds, regardless of whether they are golden yellow or brown, provide the highest amount of lignans, as well as lots of soluble fiber and protein, which are not typically found in the oil. The high lignan flax oil on the market contains lignans, which have been added back into the original oil, unlike regular flax oil. Regardless, flax seeds still contain significantly more lignans than their high lignan flax oil counterpart.

    If you do choose seeds over high lignan flax oil, you should know that it takes about three tablespoons of milled flax seeds to equal one tablespoon of oil. Flax seeds should always be ground up or cold milled because whole seeds contain a tough outer layer that is hard to digest unless chewed extremely thoroughly. You can grind them yourselves in a coffee grinder—after they are lightly toasted—or buy them already cold milled. The ground seeds allow the complete range of nutrients, especially the omega-3 component to be readily absorbed.

    For those who do not care for the taste of flax seeds or oil, about nine flax oil capsules is the equivalent of one tablespoon of oil.

    Flax oil should be kept in the fridge after opening and away from heat, air and light, which can oxidize the oil, promoting nasty free radicals—which you don’t need at ANY stage of life.

    While flax seeds can be used in baking, flax oil should only be used in no-heat recipes or drizzled onto foods after they are cooked—as in smoothies, oatmeal, baked potatoes and all veggies.

    2. Concentrate on choline. With enough estrogen, this powerful B vitamin can accelerate fat burning, as well as decongest a fatty liver. As I mentioned before, egg yolks and lecithin are my top choices, but if you do choose to supplement, make sure your choline is accompanied by a full array of the other B vitamins which all work in harmony.

    3. Consider a natural topical progesterone body cream. I personally prefer the use of transdermal creams, which can bypass the liver. A bio-identical progesterone body cream that is identical to the progesterone molecules your own body produces can help thwart hormonal weight gain, revive vitality, relieve PMS symptoms, rid you of hot flashes and spark your sex drive by balancing your progesterone/estrogen levels. There are many high-quality products on the market today. But before they were so prevalent, I developed ProgestaKey cream for my own use over 20 years ago and have used it ever since. One full press of the pump dispenses the recommended 20 mg of natural USP progesterone from wild yam.

    Frequency of application depends upon your age and stage of life, so very specific recommendations are provided for menstruating, perimenopausal and menopausal (and beyond) women. The application should be directed to the hands, chest, inner arms, inner thighs and thyroid area on a rotating basis to target the body’s progesterone receptor sites.

    Note: As therapeutic as progesterone can be for most women, it may be contraindicated for some. I recommend testing especially if you have a family history, or if you are BRCA 1 and 2 positive for breast cancer. My office offers state-of-the-art salivary hormone testing which can assess biochemically active progesterone as well as five other hormones. The test results from a certified lab are accompanied by an explanatory letter from my office.

    4. Get enough Fiber. Try for at least 35 grams a day from your veggies, nuts, seeds, and legumes. Add flax seeds and/or chia in your smoothies and salad dressings, as well as use them to create a “bread-like” crust to replace wheat. Chia seeds are the world’s most fiber-rich food. Once a sacred food of ancient cultures, chia seeds contain nearly 50 energizing nutrients in one small seed. They have twice the protein of any seed or grain, eight times more omega-3s than salmon, three times more antioxidants than blueberries, and eight times more calcium than milk!

    5. Curb the copper. Foods like chocolate, nuts (especially cashews), seeds (especially sunflower), soy, shellfish, and black teas are naturally copper-rich. Unbound copper is closely associated with estrogen dominance so women cooking with copper-lined pots and pans, drinking water out of copper pipes or using copper IUDs or birth control pills are at higher risk for this condition. Also, prenatal vitamins can contain a high amount of copper (higher than the 2 mg of the RDI). I wouldn’t take these after your baby is born. You can check out your tissue copper load through a hair tissue mineral analysis.

    6. Wash fruits and veggies thoroughly to remove estrogen-mimicking pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides. I use the Chemist Formula for my fruit and veggie wash. It was created by my friend Larry Ward, a biochemist. The recipe makes one quart of soak that should be prepared fresh each day. The ingredients are 18 drops of grapefruit seed extract with four ounces of three percent hydrogen peroxide and one teaspoon baking soda per quart. Blend and soak all produce (can soak eggs as well) for at least 15 minutes, then rinse well, at least three times.

    7. Get rid of BPA. Do not reheat food in plastic containers and choose a water bottle made of glass or stainless steel to circumvent BPA (bisphenol-A), an estrogen-like substance. Choose wax paper instead of plastic food wraps. And, wash your hands after handling gas, cash register, or ATMs receipts which have surprisingly been found to contain high levels of BPA.

    8. Check the labels. Avoid personal care products that include endocrine disruptors like parabens and phthalates.

    9. Spice it up! Season soup, stews, chili, or other bean dishes with two to three cardamom seeds. Cardamom is a digestive aid with the unique ability to cleanse and detoxify the liver, which is essential for hormone balancing.

    10. Optimize estrogen metabolism by supporting your liver. Beets can’t be beaten for thinning out toxin-removing bile. They can be shredded, steamed, or juiced in a blend of two ounces carrot juice, two ounces celery juice, and two ounces cucumber juice. Also consider an ox bile supplement (like Biotics Beta Plus) and a gallbladder cleansing product like Liver-Lovin Formula, which also contains taurine to clean up bile ducts.

    Lots of cruciferous veggies (preferably in the cooked state to avoid the goitrogens that interfere with iodine uptake by the thyroid) like Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and kale contain a compound called indoles, which helps facilitate estrogen metabolism. The product DIM (Diindolylmethane) a stronger substance than the indoles, can also help break down estrogen build up.

    Next month we will look at the hormones progesterone and testosterone.

  • Millions of women each year seek relief for hormonal issues, including hot flashes, night sweats, hormonal migraines, PMS, ovarian cysts, fibroids, endometriosis, fibrocystic breasts, weight gain, foggy thinking, and heavy bleeding. These symptoms are lumped together into the hormonal imbalance pigeonhole. In the case of menopause, HRT or Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy is the conventional cure. For menstruating women, oral contraceptives are most often prescribed.

    When resolving hormonal problems, women are led to believe all that is required is tweaking their hormonal levels or, in the case of oral contraceptives, a complete shutting down of ovarian function. However, hormonal imbalances, rather than merely aberrations of a wayward reproductive system, are, in fact, symptoms of deeper root cause issues. For long term hormonal balance and optimal health, understanding and addressing these deep problems is a critical piece of the hormone puzzle!

    The Adrenals and Hormones
    The adrenals are involved in manufacturing numerous hormones; blood sugar regulation; the regulation of the body's minerals; modulating the immune system; producing and maintaining the body's energy levels in conjunction with the thyroid; and producing stress-monitoring hormones. The adrenals, considered to be the body's shock absorbers, are the core of the endocrine stress response system. Two of the most important hormones produced by the adrenals, adrenaline and cortisol, are responsible for the fight-or-flight response. Adrenaline deals primarily with short-term stress while cortisol is produced as a result of both acute and long-term stress.

    Prolonged stress, whether as a result of emotional, environmental or physical causes, is disastrous for the adrenals. Initially, it results in chronically elevated cortisol levels, resulting in weight gain (especially around the midsection), blood sugar imbalances, thinning skin, muscle wasting, memory loss, high blood pressure, dizziness, hot flashes, night sweats, excessive facial hair, and other masculinizing tendencies.

    Overworked adrenals eventually crash, leading to adrenal exhaustion, where the body is unable to maintain adequate adrenal hormone production. Symptoms of overtaxed adrenals include extreme fatigue (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), irritability, inability to concentrate, frustration, insomnia, addictions to either sweet or salty foods, allergies, nervousness, depression, anxiety, PMS, sensitivity to cold, diabetes and headaches. Chronic low blood pressure can be a key symptom of seriously exhausted adrenal glands.

    Since the adrenals produce about 35 percent of premenopausal female hormones and almost 50 percent of postmenopausal hormones, compromised adrenal function directly impacts hormonal balance.

    Progesterone is the primary raw material for producing cortisol. When the glands are in overdrive, the body will divert progesterone to the adrenals to support cortisol production. With reduced progesterone, the body may experience estrogen dominance, i.e., PMS, hot flashes, night sweats, migraines, fibroids, heavy bleeding, breast tenderness, weight gain, etc. Excessive cortisol also blocks progesterone receptors, further contributing to low progesterone. These two imbalances are the primary reasons why adrenal exhaustion leads to estrogen dominance.

    Restoring adrenal function is a pre-requisite for restoring and maintaining hormonal balance. Nutrients that have special importance to the adrenals are the B vitamins (especially B5), vitamin C, proteins, magnesium, manganese, zinc, potassium, plant enzymes, adaptagenic herbs, adrenal extracts and the amino acids tyrosine and phenylalanine. Rest is essential to rejuvenate the adrenals. Individuals who suspect adrenal exhaustion can determine whether the body is producing healthy levels of adrenal hormones through proper testing. Cortisol levels can be measured with a saliva test that collects at least four samples over 24 hours.

    The Thyroid and Hormones
    Overtaxed adrenals can lead to hypothyroidism, which has a direct effect on women's hormonal health. By age 50, one in every twelve women has a significant degree of hypothyroidism. By age 60, it is one woman out of every six.

    The thyroid, which regulates metabolism, may tune down its hormonal activity in an attempt to reverse adrenal overdrive. Some symptoms of hypothyroidism include fatigue, weight gain, fibroids, endometriosis, ovarian cysts, heavy bleeding, fibrocystic breast disease, depression, PMS, migraines, lack of concentration, cold hands and feet, menopausal symptoms, miscarriage and infertility.

    Birth control pills and estrogen increase thyroid-binding proteins in the bloodstream. This means that thyroid blood test results may be unreliable. Even though they may show normal thyroid hormone levels in the blood, there may be insufficient thyroid hormone in the tissues.

    Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal axis activation due to stress causes decreased production of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), and blocks inactive thyroxin conversion to the biologically active triiodothyronine (T3), which has the greatest effect on the body.

    Effective natural approaches help in regulating the thyroid. Natural progesterone balances the thyroid-inhibiting effect of estrogen dominance, as does supplementation with thyroid glandular extracts, enzyme therapy, minerals (Iodoral, selenium and magnesium), vitamins and herbals.

    The Candida-Hormone Connection
    A serious digestive concern is the yeast-fungal infection known as candidiasis. Approximately 75 percent of women suffer from at least one yeast infection during their lives. This toxic yeast overgrowth is caused by eating large amounts of sugar and/or prolonged or repeated use of antibiotics, birth control pills, estrogen therapy, and cortisone.

    Candida produces 79 different toxins known to wreak havoc with the immune system. A long list of potential symptoms associated with Candida overgrowth include depression, anxiety attacks, mood swings, lack of concentration, drowsiness, poor memory, headaches, insomnia, fatigue, bloating, constipation, bladder infections, menstrual cramps, vaginal itching, muscle and joint swelling, pain, hypothyroidism, and skin problems.

    However, it is rarely understood that Candida also contributes to hormonal problems. A Candida waste product produces a false estrogen, which tricks the body into thinking it has produced adequate levels, signaling a reduction of its own estrogen. Similar messages can also be sent to the thyroid, reducing thyroxin production and initiating or worsening a hypothyroid problem.

    Elevated estrogen levels also increase vaginal candidiasis incidence. Estrogen will literally feed Candida growth, which is why birth control pills and estrogen replacement therapy put women at a greater risk of developing Candida. The botanicals pau d'arco, oregano oil and olive leaf extract can be used along with a sugar-free and low carb diet to reduce the effect of this harmful yeast overgrowth. Probiotics are another key player to re-establish the beneficial bacterial in the colon.

    Get Hormonally Balanced by Getting Healthy It is commonly believed that conditions of hormonal imbalance somehow just happen to us. For some reason, our culture has taught us that when diagnosed with a hormonal issue such as PMS, endometriosis, fibroids, hot flashes or night sweats, the answer lies in a pharmaceutical intervention such as some form of contraceptives or some variation of hormone supplementation with HRT or Bioidentical Hormone Replacement.

    If we really want to regain hormonal harmony, it is vitally important that we understand that all hormonal problems are symptomatic of underlying dysfunctions occurring in our body. Learning to understand the message our body is trying to give us, will direct us to the real source of the problem so permanent healing can occur.

    All hormonal imbalances are a message that our body is out of balance. A big piece for resolving hormonal issues requires understanding the significant role of ensuring the health of our adrenals, thyroid and colon. Getting healthy is the key to getting our hormones back on track!