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Considering A Hysterectomy?

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Thirty-seven percent of Canadian women will have ahysterectomy by the age of 60. Take caution and explore natural alternatives before considering this often-unecessary medical procedure.

Thirty-seven percent of Canadian women will have ahysterectomy by the age of 60. Take caution and explore natural alternatives before considering this often-unecessary medical procedure.

Over the past 50 years, we have seen a dramatic increase in estrogen-dominant conditions, the most common of which include endometriosis, PMS, uterine fibroids, breast cancer, fibrocystic breast disease, ovarian cysts and menorrhagioa (heavy periods).

These conditions now affect about 50 percent of women over age 35 in industrialized countries many of whom feel compelled to seek out harmful and/or radical treatments.

Estrogen-dominant conditions involve relatively high levels of the hormone estrogen in relation to normal or low progesterone levels. Endometriosis (overgrowth of the lining of the uterus) and premenstrual syndrome (PMS) affect about 15 and 30 percent respectively of premenopausal women. Uterine fibroids (nonmalignant fibrous cysts of the uterus) are a concern for 25 per cent of women aged 25 to 50. Breast cancer is continuously on the rise; one in eight women are affected, while one in four will die from it. Other conditions associated with too much estrogen include fibrocystic breast disease (nonmalignant breast cysts), ovarian cysts, menorrhagia (heavy periods), low sex drive, risk of stroke and heart disease, osteoporosis, weight gain, hypothyroidism, infertility and ovarian, cervical and uterine cancers. A new study published last year in American Family Physician reported that estrogen increases the risk of seizures, while progesterone has an inhibitory effect. Many of these female conditions eventualy lead to a complete or partial hysterectomy (removal of the uterus); therefore, it is very important to understand the effects and prevalence of this surgery.

More than 60,000 hysterectomies are performed each year in Canada; our hysterectomy rate is one of the highest in the world, second only to that of the United States, and almost double that in most European countries. Thirty-seven percent of Canadian women will have a hysterectomy by the age of 60.

Effects of Hysterectomy

The allopathic profession typically views the uterus as useless once a woman is past childbearing age; hence, the exceedingly high numbers of so-called "harmless" hysterectomies. However, a growing body of research totally refutes the idea of a "useless" uterus. For starters, this operation seriously interferes with sexual fulfillment, which may be a surprise to those who think that the sensations of intercourse are limited to the clitoris and vagina. Sexual desire is usually completely lost or severely diminished after hysterectomy. In fact, for most hysterectomized women, libido and sex life-even if the ovaries have been left intact are worse than after menopause. Hysterectomy results in shortening, narrowing and drying of the vagina, loss of sensitivity, decreased blood flow to the ovaries, as well as damage to nerves that enter the ovaries, and frequent pain caused by pressure from any source on scar tissue that develops after the operation.

The uterus is also vital for immunity. Evidence indicates that it produces a variety of prostaglandins (hormone-like substances) that regulate the female immune system, even after menopause. Many women lose most ovarian function when the uterus is removed, even when the ovaries are conserved. Current studies indicate the uterus may regulate ovarian hormone production via prostaglandins. Studies also show that hysterectomized women, even those who retain their ovaries, have a much higher risk of cardiovascular disease and depression than women who have never had a hysterectomy. They are also more prone to osteoporosis at an earlier age and develop osteoarthritis more frequently than women who go through menopause with all their parts intact. It is obvious that nature never makes an organ that loses its usefulness at a particular stage of life.

The number-one reason for hysterectomy according to a Mayo Clinic study is prolapse (downward displacement) of the uterus. The second most frequent reason is sterilization and the third is medical treatment of conditions related to the most common estrogen-dominant conditions: menorrhagia, ovarian, uterine and cervical cancers, fibroids and endometriosis.

Why Are Estrogen-Dominant Conditions Rising?

Scientists have discovered that nutritional deficiencies, stress, lack of exercise and environmental toxins all wreak havoc on hormonal balance. Now a new and more serious alarm bell has been rung. Estrogen mimickers in our environment called xenoestrogens (pronounced "zeno" estrogens) found in plastics, pesticide- and herbicide-laden foods, cosmetics, hair dyes, bleached feminine hygiene products, plastics, some prescription drugs, dry-cleaned clothing and nail polish are further disrupting our hormonal balance. These factors, along with the use of birth control pills and other hormone therapies, cause a severe disruption in estrogen/progesterone balance.

Progesterone is produced mainly in the ovaries at ovulation and, to a lesser degree, by the adrenal glands. Birth control pills prevent ovulation, thereby decreasing the production of progesterone. Increased stress levels also cause progesterone to be shunted to the stress hormone pathway. The resulting hormone imbalance caused by all these factors is creating a much greater risk of the entire range of estrogen-dominant conditions for women of all ages.

Because of the hormone connection, medical therapy for many of the estrogen-dominant conditions varies but has typically concentrated on altering a woman's hormonal chemistry with drugs. These drugs include various pain medications for PMS cramping, hormone-altering medications such as Danazol and Nafarelin, birth control pills, synthetic estrogens and
progesterone hormone replacement therapies (HRT). Sometimes these drugs are successful in controlling symptoms, but not without side-effects. None of these drugs cure the disease. Usually after the drug is stopped, symptoms return. The following wholistic approach to treatment, wherein the body heals itself and the underlying cause is addressed, is safer and more effective.

Hormone Balancing

Dietary and lifestyle changes, and naturopathic treatments with nutritional, botanical and homeopathic support can reduce women's risk of developing estrogen-dominant conditions and prevent unnecessary emotional and physical pain, hysterectomy and other surgeries.

Ensure the fats you eat are those rich in essential fatty acids including unrefined cold-pressed flax seed oil, ground flax seeds, fish oil, hemp oil, and other nut and seed oils. Primrose and borage oils containing gamma-linoleic acid (GLA) are important both as possible pain inhibitors and immune strengtheners. All products are available at your local health food store.

Eat plenty of vegetables, especially those from the cruciferous family (broccoli, cauliflower, kale and brussels sprouts), as they contain plant compounds called indole-3-carbinol that can reduce harmful estrogen load.

Choose, whenever possible, organic fruits and vegetables, and hormone- and antibiotic-free animal products to reduce your exposure to xenoestrogens.

Eliminate your intake of refined sugar; it suppresses the immune system.

Supplement your diet with a multi- vitamin high in B vitamins and with minerals.

Support your liver in its role to detoxify harmful estrogens. Curcumin, indole-3-carbinol, calcium D-glucarate, milk thistle, green tea extract, lycopene and dandelion can assist in this process.

Support the adrenal glands with Siberian ginseng, rhodiola, ashwaganda or adrenal glandular products to help combat negative effects of stress on hormone balance.

For those women on the "pill", take vitamin B6, folic acid, vitamin C and a multi-mineral containing iron, zinc and copper.

If the condition requires temporary hormonal treatment, choose safer hormone replacement treatments available through compounding pharmacists. To find a compounding pharmacist, contact the International Academy of Compounding Pharmacists at 1-800-927-IACP or e-mail iacpinfo@iacprx.org.

Hormonal health depends completely on the overall wellness of the individual on all levels-physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. I encourage all women to take more responsibility for their own bodies with optimal health as the goal.

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