Anne here. When I first met Susie, a retired 63 year-old, she had been experiencing an average of 8 hot flashes during the day and 4 episodes of night sweats, where she would be fully drenched in sweat. It had been going on for ten years. She had been in menopause for thirteen years and had been suffering the entire time.
Susie hates taking medications and her naturopath had tried all the typical herbal menopausal supplements – dong quai, black cohosh, and wild yam – and none of them had any effect on her temperature fluctuations. Susie was understandably frustrated and exhausted – the night sweats woke her up each and every time and she’d need to get up, splash her face with water, and change her nightgown. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d had a full night’s rest.
Of course, no one had done any hormone testing with Susie and that’s the first thing I suggested. When her results came in, I sat down with her and explained what was really going on.
First of all, we were both surprised to see that her estrogens and progesterone were fairly well-balanced for a woman experiencing the number and severity of sweats she was having. The real reason for Susie’s hot flashes weren’t because of a sex hormone imbalance – it was primary due to her severely dysregulated adrenal function.
No one had ever explained to Susie that when the ovaries stop producing estrogen and progesterone, the adrenal glands are supposed to take over. While the adrenals can’t secrete the pre-menopause level of hormones the ovaries once did, they are designed to fill in the gap post-menopause.
Susie’s cortisol was flatlined. Her DHEA was in the toilet. The signaling from her brain to her adrenal glands was impaired and her poor adrenals were struggling to cope. Prior to retirement, Susie had been a high-powered executive and a single mom. Once she hit menopause, the lack of sleep had further denigrated her adrenal function, creating a vicious cycle of stress and exhaustion.
With clients like this, they first and foremost need our compassion – life is miserable in this type of hormonal storm. They also require our skill and expertise to dig deep into what’s really going on – the true mechanism of dysfunction – and support it at a root-cause level.
Once we recognized Susie’s real issue, we were able to support her appropriately and within three months, everything quieted down – no more hot flashes or night sweats and she’s thrilled to be sleeping a solid 7-8 hours every night.
We all have a Susie in our practice and each of them will present differently. Our work is to identify biochemical weaknesses in each of them and support accordingly.