Part 2 of 3: AGING
In the first edition of this series, we introduced the fact that hormones get wrecked for one of three, very different reasons: disease, age or stress. This edition will deal with the second cause: aging.
As you get into middle age, your body stops making the hormones that help you reproduce. In women, this process is called menopause. We now know that men go through a similar change, called andropause.
This change happens when the ovaries and testicles make much smaller amounts of hormones, like estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. This drop in hormones is neither from a disease nor from stress. It is a normal, biological rhythm. Even though it is a normal rhythm, it can cause symptoms, such as fatigue, hot flashes, poor libido, slower recovery from exercise, drier skin and hair loss. No fun!
This is clearly not in our best interest, so why would our bodies ever create so much misery on purpose? Well, it is not in our best interest, but since it is our genes that run the show, it is in their best interest. I'll explain why.
This whole thing about survival of the fittest does not mean the fittest person; it means the fittest genes. Genes survive by reproduction. The fittest genes lead to the most offspring who are, in turn, able to survive and have the most offspring. Once we have aged past the typical years of reproduction, it no longer matters to our genes whether we are healthy or not. By this time, they have shifted their focus to the next generation. In fact, some researchers feel that our genes' interests are best served when we pass on soon after our babies are able to care for themselves, so we free up the food supply for the next generation. Aging is not disease, and it is not stress; it is planned obsolescence. Have you ever heard of a blender that gives out right after the warranty expires? That is what aging does to our hormones.
If aging is normal and the effects it has on our health are awful, what is the solution? Hormone replacement may be part of the solution for some people. A well-trained and experienced doctor can restore your body to more youthful hormone levels. Let's talk about a few things to consider with hormone replacement. You and your doctor should be sure there are no reasons you should not use hormones, like hidden cancers or clotting disorders. You should only use plant-based, bioidentical hormones. You should be monitored regularly with blood tests to be sure you're getting the best amount of hormones. You should also be monitored to be sure you are not making harmful by-products out of the hormones, like DHT out of testosterone or estrone out of estrogen. Finally, your overall hormone picture should be taken into account. Changing your hormones, even in good ways, will shift the balance of your other hormones. A good doctor should anticipate this and work proactively to keep you on track.
The most important thing you can do to help manage the problems of aging is to keep your adrenal glands healthy. When they are working well, they help your body adjust to the changes in testicular and ovarian hormones. Those who breeze through menopause or andropause with the least symptoms are those who have the healthiest adrenals. We will learn more about them in the next and last edition of this series.