Women produce more growth hormone than men, but growth hormone production is linked to estrogen levels. If a woman has low estrogen levels, she will also have low growth hormone. This typically occurs when women are in menopause, so growth hormone replacement therapy should include bioidentical hormone replacement of estrogen and progesterone.
Most women begin to experience the signs of approaching menopause in their 40s, but it can start in a woman’s 30s or even earlier. Perimenopause, which means “around menopause,” occurs when the level of estrogen begins to rise and fall unevenly. Menstrual cycles may lengthen or shorten and menstrual cycles may occur without the release of an egg (ovulation). Some women also experience menopause-like symptoms, including mood swings, decreased libido, vaginal dryness, urine leakage, difficulty sleeping, weight gain, and of course hot flashes. These symptoms typically last around 4 years but can last just a few months or as long as 10 years, Menopause is unpredictable and women never know what to expect, usually guessing their perimenopause will last as long as their mother’s did. After 12 consecutive months without a menstrual period, perimenopause is over, and a woman is said to have entered menopause
Blood tests cannot accurately evaluate hormones during perimenopause, due to erratic fluctuations of hormones. But women know the unpleasant and sometimes debilitating symptoms when they occur.
Some women find short-term relief through birth control pills, but over the long run hormone replacement therapy is the preferred course of action. Traditionally, a combination of estrogen-progestin has been used, with products such as:
- Premphase, Prempro, Activella in pill form
- Combipatch (patch)
- Mirena (an intrauterine device used with estrogen-only, used with progestin bills)
- Provera, Prometrium, Micronor, Nor-QD, and Aygesti (oral progestin pills used with separate estrogen).
Estrogen-progestin hormone replacement therapy poses some risks which most women have heard about: breast and ovarian cancers, blood clots, increased risk of dementia, and increased risk of heart attack or stroke, particularly in women 10 or more years past menopause. Furthermore, there is no guarantee conventional estrogen-progestin HRT will work. Estrogen may reduce the frequency or severity of hot flashes, but quite often it does not, and estrogen is associated with weight gain. Progestin can worsen mood changes or cause depression and have other side effects, such as headaches, diarrhea, and breast tenderness.
The Women’s Health Initiative, a 15-year study of more than 161,000 women, concluded that the risks of estrogen-progestin combination hormone therapy outweighed the benefits. It stopped the estrogen-only study in the interest of safety due to health risks.
Likewise, unwanted side effects and risks are associated with medications designed to treat specific symptoms of menopause, such as osteoporosis. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning to doctors that bone-building drugs such as Fosoamex, Actonel, and Reclast may actually make bones weaker while increasing the risk of serious side effects.
Progesterone vs. Progestin and Menopause
Progesterone is the natural hormone produced by the ovaries. It maintains sex drive, works as a natural anti-depressant, calms the mind, and improves sleep. Bioidentical progesterone is created is by extracting diosgenin from yams or soy and converting the diosgenin molecules into pregnenolone and then to progesterone. The body recognizes bioidentical progesterone and there are no adverse reactions if the correct balance is maintained. Progesterone is available as over-the-counter supplements and creams, but these products are not regulated by the FDA so formulations are unreliable.
According to a British report, OTC Progest cream, for example, was found to contain 100mg progesterone per ounce rather than the 465 mg claimed by the manufacturer.
Also, women are not aware that products containing “wild yams” do nothing to increase progesterone because the human body cannot synthesize progesterone from the diosgenin contained in yams. Prescription progesterone is far more reliable and is available in as a cream or gel, in pill form, and as an injectable. Injectable progesterone is the most effective and most controlled form of hormone replacement therapy for menopause. Progesterone has no known side-effects and is considered safe enough to be used during pregnancy. Unlike progestin-estrogen therapy, progesterone combined with estrogen is a viable treatment for the symptoms of menopause.
Growth Hormone As A Treatment For Menopause
Human growth hormone (HGH) controls numerous other hormones, directly and indirectly affecting every cell in the body. Growth hormone is produced by the pituitary gland and declines as women age, along with estrogen and progesterone. There are two forms of pharmaceutical HGH (recombinant DNA HGH): somatropin (indistinguishable from human HGH in blood and urine tests) and somatrem (a synthetic form with an extra amino acid, sometimes called 192aa.) Somatropin has a short half-life in the bloodstream (30 minutes or less) but acts upon the body’s cells for up to 17 hours. Very little research has been done on growth hormone as a treatment for menopause, because most studies have focused on older men. Nonetheless, the general benefits of growth hormone include benefits that counteract the most pronounced effects of menopause, including mood changes, increased body fat, and loss of bone density.
At 52, I started taking Humatrope and the menopause symptoms stopped and my monthly cycle became regular. I found I didn’t need the other hormone replacement therapy (estrogen and progesterone) so I stopped them except for DHEA. No more night sweats and no more hot flashes, thank God. I’ve been on HGH since 2001.
Menopause and Low Thyroid
According to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, millions of women with menopause systems may be suffering from undiagnosed thyroid disease. Symptoms frequently associated with menopause, including mood swings, depression, fatigue and sleep disturbance, are also signs of hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormones). Only 1 in 4 women who discuss their menopause symptoms with their primary care doctor are tested for thyroid disease.
Menopause and Low Cortisol
If the adrenal glands are stressed to the point that they can no longer produce sufficient cortisol, adrenal fatigue results. The adrenals produce the precursors for estrogen and progesterone, so cortisol deficiency will trigger a decline in estrogen and progesterone, causing menopausal symptoms such as chronic fatigue, weight gain, and irritability. Further, adrenal fatigue is associated with low growth hormone because the pituitary hormone ACTH regulates production of cortisol. A number of people who lack ACTH also lack growth hormone.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has released a warning that people should be tested for ACTH production prior to growth hormone replacement therapy, because a lack of ACTH can lead to adrenal crisis.
Menopause and Low DHEA
The adrenals also produce DHEA and androstenedione, which are precursors for estrogens and testosterone required throughout life for optimum functioning. Women need testosterone in small amounts, and testosterone is also converted into estradiol, an important female sex hormone. During stress, production of these hormones rises dramatically along with cortisol, causing issues such as bone loss. Mainstream medicine does not conduct adrenal testing to determine the stages and severity of adrenal gland stress.
With adrenal fatigue, DHEA production drops off – as it also does with age – so the transition into menopause is worsened by the absence of estrogen and testosterone precursors and menopausal symptoms such as mood instability and hot flashes increase.
DHEA functions in conjunction with the adrenals (cortisol), and a deficiency in one can manifest as an excess of the other. In postmenopausal women, DHEA is the precursor for androstenedione, and thus for testosterone, estradiol, and estrogen. Low DHA levels are associated with low libido. Supplementation with DHEA has been shown to improve libido, hot flashes, depression, and can help with androgen deficiency symptoms such as vaginal dryness and decreased bone density.
Testing salivary DHEA/DHEA-S and cortisol levels can identify how effectively women are responding to stress. A woman with high cortisol and DHEA (a normal response to stress) would not need the same treatment a a woman whose adrenals are in the exhaustion stage. Hormone therapy not only requires balancing of DHEA and cortisol, it requires supplementation of the vitamins and minerals needed to support the hormones involved in menopause:
- Vitamin C – supports epinephrine and norepinephrine synthesis
- Vitamin B1, B5, Magnesium – needed for DHEA and cortisol synthesist, carbohydrate metabolism and conversion of fats and sugars in adenosine triphosphate molecules (ATP), which are used by cells for energy
- Vitamin B6, Tyrosine – support epinephrine and norepinephrine synthesis
Melatonin And Menopause
Melatonin, a hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the brain, is called the “Vampire Hormone” because it regulates circadian rhythms and sleep. Light disrupts the production of melatonin so people who stay up late and sleep late usually have melatonin imbalances. Melatonin also helps control the timing and release of female hormones, including when a women enters menopause. Finally, it is a strong antioxidant and strengthens the immune system. Melatonin supplementation is extremely useful in overcoming the sleep disorders of menopause. Small doses can even ease the anxiety of nicotine and benzodiazepine withdrawal. It has no known serious side effects, unless injected at mega-doses. Melatonin is available as OTC pills or creams, but these forms do not function like the body’s own melatonin. In pill form, it causes a burst in the brain and rapidly leaves the body. Creams may not be properly absorbed. Small amounts (around 1 mg) are best for most purposes, including falling asleep, but as part of a medically supervised hormone therapy program, melatonin can be given via injection or patches at larger doses along with other hormones.