My journey through Middle Age, Menopause, and the Great Hormone 2-Step
I’ve spent a total of about 9 years studying what all of the codes and numbers on my blood work (labs) actually mean. I like research and I like collating information. I like going into a doctor’s office prepared to ask questions.
The one thing that I’ve learned most recently — say in the past week — is that the interplay between Estrogen, Progesterone, Testosterone, Cortisol, Adrenals, Thyroid, Uterus, Ovaries, Mental Health, Your GUT, and Liver is an incredibly complicated, highly particular series of overlapping systems that do not always reveal that there is an issue. The results are “normal”.
I’ll give you an example.
For many years, (before Infertility, Peri-Menopause and Menopause), I was told that all of my blood work was “within normal ranges”. I have been particularly concerned, over the past 25 years, about my liver because I am bipolar and I took a handful of very powerful medications every single day (four of them, in fact) while living in the USA for a number of years.
The more I read about “combination therapy”, (which is the term used to describe the process of being prescribed multiple medications for the same issue), the more concerned I become. I’ve discovered that anti-depressants, for example, have to be individually tested. However, they are not tested in any real way as a combination therapy — meaning — no one is required to find out the long term health risks of taking Wellbutrin and Prozac together (two of the meds I was prescribed as part of my combination therapy).
Companies are not required to find out what will happen to say, my liver, when I am prescribed Lithium, Wellbutrin, Seroquel and Prozac (yes, all of them — at the same time). Which is really odd. The day that I was prescribed Lithium (and the rest of it), I was also warned that within 6 months of being on the combination therapy, I should expect to gain the “Lithium 50”. So, someone knew that my liver would likely be affected, but, take the pills anyway.
Breakthrough — if you GAIN weight while you take medication, chances are that medication is slowing down your filtration system — your LIVER. And if you take that medication long enough, it might permanently affect your liver function — or at least affect it until you figure out how to clean it up.
How is all of this liver talk relevant to hormone challenges? Well — I am taking a liver cleanse protocol today — right now — tonight in my Dubai hotel room — because my Singapore doctor believes that there were long-term, negative effects on my liver from years of prescriptions. Despite “normal” results, she looked at my tongue and told me — your liver is “sluggish — it’s slow”.
Now, what’s the connection between Peri-Menopause or Menopause and your liver? Good question.
“Your liver performs about 200 vital functions, most of which are vital for good health. Detoxification of the blood, protein synthesis, excretion of bilirubin, hormones, cholesterol, drugs, and production of bile, (an alkaline compound which helps in digestion through the emulsification of lipids), are just some of the important functions that the liver performs.”
Let’s understand the organ that does more than just detoxing. The liver is the largest organ of the body. Do you know…
The years of “normal” lab results did not reflect what was happening to my body. And I knew that to be true. I didn’t feel normal. I certainly didn’t look “normal” (yes, I know — but you get the context) because I’ve lived with varying levels of obesity my entire life. Western Medicine saw me as a series of numbers that all said “normal”.
Chinese Medicine — Eastern Medicine — took one look at my tongue and knew that things were off.
It isn’t enough to measure your sex hormones and declare you’re in Peri-Menopause or Menopause. The intricate balance between so many other systems (Liver, Thyroid, Kidneys, Gut and Mind) directly and indirectly affects sex hormones.
I have been tested for digestive enzymes, parasites and all manner of digestion-related possibilities. Results — NORMAL. And yet, I am currently being treated for leaky gut which affects hormones. Yes, your gut!
The condition of your gut impacts far more than you might realize. Researchers connect nearly every disease including…
So, get your labs. But, be very specific about when they take the tests. What part of your cycle is involved? (Tests vary from week to week.) Are you particularly stressed? How is your sleep? What’s your diet? How’s your gut?! Do you have a fibroid? Endometriosis? What time of day is the test? All of those small things can affect the results.
And then find a doctor who looks at your lab results, and SEES all of you, and says, “well, the report says ‘normal’…but you don’t look like your best self”. Find a doctor brave enough and smart enough to say that instead of telling you how “normal” you appear.
I’ve developed some basic guidelines for how I approach lab results.
Rule #1 — Get the lab results emailed in advance of meeting the doctor and do as much research as you can so you have your questions ready. That might sound obvious, but not all doctors like to email lab results. Some act like it’s some sort of top secret information. The truth is — they’re your results. You have a right to have a copy.
Rule #2 —Organize the information. I created (and still maintain) an Excel spreadsheet that has just a few columns — (I’ve created a sample below with random results)
Rule #3 — Make sure that the report lists the “range” for every test. Something I learned (and still don’t always understand) is that a doctor is very reliant upon the lab itself to provide the “range” for every test. (See photo).
I’ve met countless doctors that cannot read a lab report unless the range for that test is also provided — so they cannot look at TSH and tell you if 2.22 is good. They need the ranges to also be provided. It just seems like to me that these are numbers that should be known — like shoe sizes where a 10 is a 10 is a 10 — but they’re not.
Rule #4 — Get precise instructions about any “prep” the day or night before your test. If you’re having your cortisol tested (which is an important test when your body isn’t cooperating), there are two approaches and both require some detailed protocols. Don’t have a “small snack” after midnight if you’re told to fast (apparently people do this). I was told NOT to brush my teeth before any tests because tooth paste has all sorts of sugar, etc., in it that can skew results.
Rule #5 — Try to sleep before blood tests. Restorative, wonderful, deep sleep resets the body and blood levels. So, get some rest before your lab day.
Finally, if you don’t feel great. If you KNOW that something is off, then don’t let anyone tell you how “normal” your results are — keep pushing forward and fighting to be seen AND heard.
Next up — Lumps and Bumps — How fibroids, cysts, and pesky bits affect Peri and Meno.