Dr. Marcantel discusses the crucial role of the adrenal glands in the production of hormones, how adrenal fatigue can affect menopause, and natural alternatives to hormone replacement therapy.
Q: Why is it that some women have only mild symptoms as they enter and go through menopause and others experience hot flashes, insomnia, irritability, and other menopause related symptoms and thus may need hormone replacement therapy?
Dr. Marcantel: A lot of it has to do with the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands help us handle stress by releasing hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, but they also release other hormones like estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and DHEA. During the pre-menopausal years the adrenals are releasing small amounts of sex hormones, but the ovaries are releasing large amounts of them.
When a woman goes through menopause her ovaries slowly stop production of the sex hormones. At this point, the sex hormones produced by the adrenal glands should theoretically be sufficient for a woman to go through the transition of menopause without significant unpleasant symptoms. However, if a woman has had a lot of stress in her life before she enters menopause, then the adrenal glands may be fatigued (from constantly producing stress hormones). Her adrenals may not produce as many sex hormones during menopause as someone with healthy adrenal glands who has not had as much stress or has learned to deal with stress better.
Thus, when a woman comes into menopause and she’s in a state of adrenal fatigue or adrenal insufficiency, she’ll have a bumpier time going through menopause because the adrenals can’t take up the job of supplying the hormones lost when the ovaries quit producing. She will probably need some support through menopause either through bioidentical hormone replacement therapy or a botanical like maca, which helps to support the adrenal glands to produce estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.
Of course, it’s also crucial that we work on healing the adrenals and learn how to deal with constant stress. That’s part of a holistic approach to wellness care.