What Is the Cause Of Night Sweats?
Is it hot in here, or are you menopausal? Find out what causes your night sweats and resist the urge to throw away your flannel pajamas — it won’t last forever, especially if you follow the advice of menopause expert John Lee, MD.
Night sweats can be one of the most disconcerting issues of "the change." If you tell your doctor that you’ve been awakening drenched in perspiration, and you’re in the right age range to be either perimenopausal (approaching menopause) or menopausal, he or she will almost always write you a prescription for estrogen and progestin replacement therapy — a combination commonly known as hormone replacement therapy (HRT). The doctor will most likely tell you that your night sweats are caused by a lack of the hormone estrogen, and that using HRT to add estrogen back into your system will take care of the problem.
If your doctor is like most, he or she will encourage you to continue taking HRT indefinitely; after all, lack of estrogen has been pegged as the cause of far more health problems than night sweats. You’re led to believe that with each of those HRT pills you swallow, you’re protecting yourself against osteoporosis, heart disease, waning libido, and even skin aging. Then, you begin to notice news stories about the potential dangers of HRT. Now you’re being told that HRT could in fact be increasing your risk of developing breast cancer, and that it really doesn’t protect you against heart disease at all. Who should you believe?
Most women don’t know that they need to balance supplemental estrogens with natural progesterone, not the synthetic progestins used in HRT. Maintaining this estrogen-progesterone balance will help protect against many adverse effects of unopposed estrogen.
Hot flashes and night sweats are caused by true estrogen deficiency. Once the ovaries stop making estrogen (and progesterone), the activity of a hormone called GnRH (gonadotropin-releasing hormone) is not inhibited by raised levels of these hormones as it was before menopause. The GnRH center in the brain in effect begins to "shout," sending stronger messages to try to get the ovaries to release more eggs. This raised GnRH activity activates another part of the brain that affects the blood vessels, and this in turn leads to hot flashes and perspiration.
It does make sense to take steps to increase estrogen levels in the body when you have these challenges. According to menopause expert John Lee MD, however, most women take much more estrogen than they need to — if they indeed need to take any at all — and most take it for longer than necessary. Most women also don’t know that they need to balance supplemental estrogens with natural progesterone, not the synthetic progestins used in HRT. Maintaining this estrogen-progesterone balance will protect against breast cancer and the many other adverse effects of unopposed estrogen.
Before you decide to take HRT, Dr. Lee recommends trying the following tactics to balance hormone levels and alleviate night sweats and other issues caused by estrogen lack:
Exercise and diet changes. In many women, simply adding more exercise and shifting to a healthier, whole-foods based diet (mostly vegetables, fruits, and whole grains) tips hormone balance back far enough to ease night sweats.
Natural progesterone cream. Why add progesterone — the hormone that "balances" estrogen’s effects in the body — to remedy problems of estrogen lack? According to Dr. Lee, the world’s foremost expert on the use of natural progesterone, the careful addition of this hormone can activate dormant estrogen receptors, effectively increasing estrogen activity. Progesterone is also a precursor of estrogen; in other words, it’s the raw material from which estrogen is made in the body. Giving the body more of this raw material can encourage a slight rise in estrogen production. Read more about how to use natural progesterone cream to promote balance during perimenopause or post-menopause on this site.
If you do end up needing estrogen replacement for a short time, keep these things in mind: first, that a natural estrogen such as Estriol is always preferable, in the form of a cream, patch or pill form; second, that any supplemental estrogen should be balanced with progesterone cream to counteract its tendency to cause cancer. Find the smallest possible estrogen dose needed to relieve night sweats and hot flashes, and try tapering off periodically.
©Alternative Medicine Network 2009
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