Menopause is a natural progression of ovarian hormone decline, a process that should occur without symptoms and without event. Menopause is not an ovarian hormone problem, not at its core; menopause is an adrenal hormone problem.
Here at Clymer Healing Center, we’ve specialized in the assessment and treatment of Adrenal Fatigue since 1969. We’ve helped over 12,000+ patients to regain their energy and vitality. Over 80% our patients come to us with unpleasant to severe menopausal symptoms. The aim of this article is to give you an in-depth knowledge of the menopausal connection to Adrenal Fatigue. If you don’t have time to read this article and just want to reach out to us for help, then you can start here.
Patients with Adrenal Fatigue are a cut above the rest. By way of more than 300,000 patient interactions, we at Clymer have learned a great deal about our patients. They are conscientious, “Type-A” personalities, caring folks, possessing above-average intelligence. I have been personally assessing and treating adrenal patients for almost 15 years, and I know these characteristics to be true.
In addition to those traits, my patients have educated themselves about their health challenges. If you’ve found this page, I bet you are one of them. Once your GP or gynecologist told you that you were menopausal or perimenopausal, you were probably searching the net the very next hour about how you feel, why you feel it, what you can do about the changes in your body.
#1 My personal journey with Adrenal Fatigue
You may think, Bah! What does Dr. Neville know about menopause? He’s a man!
While that is true, I have spent over fourteen years working in a medical practice where 85% of my patients are women. For thousands of hours, I’ve assessed and treated perimenopausal and menopausal women with Adrenal Fatigue at the root of their symptoms.
Adrenal Fatigue does not only affect the ovarian hormones; it takes its toll on all systems of the body. I have endured my own personal battle with Adrenal Fatigue, and it led to the deterioration of my digestive and immune health, among other symptoms. (In the video at the bottom of this page, I share my journey.)
Like all of my patients, first and foremost, I was exhausted. I could barely keep up with my studies. Certainly, the weekend passed without any social interaction—I spent it sleeping. My body hurt. I was always sick. My GI system was a mess. All my symptoms were there: profound fatigue, gastrointestinal issues, chronic illness. The list went on.
It was only by chance that I discovered my symptoms were the result of something bigger. While I was studying Naturopathic Medicine at Bastyr University, I happened upon a book, Chronic Fatigue Unmasked, by Dr. Gerald Poesnecker, and it opened my eyes.
After graduation, I made my way to Clymer Healing Center to perform my residency with the founder in the field of Adrenal Fatigue, Dr. Gerald Poesnecker. He became my mentor. After his passing, I refined and built upon Dr. Poesnecker’s proven methods for assessing and treating Adrenal Fatigue and its symptoms, many of which involve the reproductive hormones and menopause.
A couple of years ago, I was asked to go out west to train other doctors about how to treat Adrenal Fatigue. Before I went, I dove even further into the research to provide these doctors with the best service I could provide.
What I shared with them, and what I’m sharing with you now is conventional research. What I present to you here is not merely a naturopathic “perspective.” It is all standard endocrinology.
In the video below, I tell my own emotional journey with Adrenal Fatigue.
#2 Why do some countries have no words in their language for the symptoms of menopause?
And why do some women have no symptoms of menopause at all? The answer is all connected to the balance of your ovarian hormones. That balance is controlled by the health of your adrenal glands and your stress response. Menopause is an adrenal hormone problem, not merely an ovarian hormone issue.
Millions of women are going through perimenopause and menopause at this very moment. Some of those women aren’t noticing a single symptom: not a night-sweat, not a hot flash, not a single sleepless night. However, this is the exception, not the rule. The majority of these menopausal women are having a completely different experience.
Most menopausal women in the Western world are sweating through their pajamas to the point of changing their sheets a couple times per night. They’re having embarrassing hot flashes during the day, at work, at home, at the supermarket. They’re moody, irritable, and anxious one moment, emotional, weepy, and sad the next. Their libido is a thing of the past.
Some cultures don’t know what a hot flash is. Did you know that there is no word for hot flash in Japan? Did you know that women of the Mayan Indian culture suffer no hot flashes or other significant symptoms of menopause and actually look forward to the process? Studies in India in the 70s revealed that Indian women suffered no symptoms of menopause other than simple menstrual changes.
Find out how to get your life back with Dr. Neville’s approach to healing Adrenal Fatigue. Start here.
#3 Cultural acceptance
What is the difference then between women who have no symptoms and the women on the opposite side of the spectrum who have to keep opening the refrigerator door to keep their temperature regulated?
Researchers suggest that, in part, the reasoning is the how aging is viewed in these cultures; they simply accept the process of menopause quite differently than we do in the West. In some tribal cultures, this progressive change actually elevates a female’s status in her community to that of “wise woman.”
This is quite different than our view of aging women in the West, where women are taught to fear aging and lament the loss of fertility and youth. Here, we do everything possible to avoid aging. Women grasp at the last vestiges of youth by taking enough synthetic hormones to have their periods return at age 65, or enduring injections and surgeries to stretch skin and to lift body parts, anything to look the younger part.
Of course, genetics play a bit of a role here, as well. When did your mother, aunt or sister go the “the change?” How was it for her? This gets us into the nature versus nurture argument, which is a bigger conversation than I have space for here.
#4 Can you relate?
Many people speak to their GPs or even specialists about their symptoms of menopause. By the time women reach me, they’ve often been given the run-around, seen many specialists, and are working with BHRT, most often with no relief or little relief.
Commonly, I will have women come to me for an initial visit stating that their Adrenal Fatigue started at menopause. I hear things like:
“I haven’t been the same since menopause!”
“Ever since my period started to become irregular, I’ve had all of these adrenal symptoms.”
“My doctor says I can’t be going through menopause yet because I’m barely 40 years old, but I have all of the symptoms!”
In perimenopausal or menopausal women, the symptoms are many:
Not to mention the sometimes less common:
Hair loss or thinning
Weakened or brittle nails
Memory lapse or “Brain Fog”
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Frequent urination or incontinence
If you experience one or more of these symptoms, I suggest that you have Adrenal Fatigue ruled out as an underlying cause, or at least as the major contributing factor to your condition.
#5 What is normal?
I’m here to tell you that miserable during menopause isn’t the way it has to be, nor is it the way it should be. Just because something is common, does not mean that it is normal. It’s like accepting $50.00 per gallon gas prices as “normal.”
What is normal is the process of menopause itself. A woman’s menstrual cycle ceases somewherearound 50 years of age because of a gradual decline in ovarian hormone production during the fourth decade of life. This process is programmed and a completely normal part of life. This is a time for women to ease into a new, different phase in their life.
The symptoms of menopause, however, are not normal. Women have been going through this natural process for thousands of years. The process of menopause should, and is designed to, go off without a hitch, without a symptom.
Yes, you heard me, without a symptom!
Then why is it so common for women to suffer from the signs and symptoms of menopause? So common that we’ve all accepted it as normal? So common that we’ve accepted the modern medical concept that menopause itself is a disease rather than a normal process and rite of passage?
#6 I’ll tell you why…
The adrenals offer fine-tuning support of ovarian function by producing progesterone, testosterone, and estrogen throughout your childbearing years. This support is even more important when you begin the perimenopausal and menopausal years.
During the menopausal years, the ovaries are, of course, going to decline gradually in function. This is a normal, natural, gradual process that should happen in all women somewhere between ages 45 and 55. Your menses is going to cease, and your ovaries are going to be producing only very low levels of hormone. Normal and natural.
Menopause simply happens. But you’re not supposed to have hot flashes, vaginal dryness, anxiety, and insomnia during it.
In Western cultures, a miserable journey through menopause is common. Why? Because if the adrenals are constantly triggered by stress—you’re in “fight-or-flight” all the time—it affects your ovarian hormones.
The ovarian and adrenal hormones are intimately connected. Quite often, well-meaning doctors treat menopause and its symptoms with bioidentical hormone treatment (BHRT) before identifying or addressing the ever-present underlying Adrenal Fatigue.
Before you jump into medicating yourself with gels, creams, suppositories, and oral meds, it’s important to have an understanding of how your symptoms are affected by Adrenal Fatigue.
Find out how to get your life back with Dr. Neville’s approach to healing Adrenal Fatigue. Start here.
#7 The nitty-gritty of ovarian-adrenal connection
First, did you know that your adrenal gland produces every ovarian hormone that you have? Yep, progesterone, testosterone and estrogen is made by your adrenal glands as well as your ovaries. This hormone production occurs during menstruating years but increases during perimenopause.
No one truly knows the answer to why, and the process of anthropomorphizing the intent or thought of a body tissue or organ can be dangerous. But my theory is that your adrenal glands offer some fine-tuning to ovarian hormone production during the time between puberty and menopause, and then take over the majority of hormone production after menopause.
The first part of my theory has been supported in my clinical practice many, many hundreds of times. The majority of my premenopausal female patients with Adrenal Fatigue have some form of ovarian hormone dysfunction leading to symptoms. This includes PMS, PMD, increased cramping and breast tenderness, menstrual irregularity (varying from very heavy to no menses), “estrogen dominance” symptoms, like fibroids and endometriosis, premenstrual moodiness, irritability, anxiety, fatigue, low libido, and even miscarriages or infertility.
I have seen each and every one of these symptoms ameliorated, not by treating the ovaries, but by treating the adrenal hormone dysfunction directly.
This last part of my theory is well-documented in conventional medical research, in case you’re wondering. The adrenal glands increase production of progesterone, testosterone and estrogen during perimenopause and menopause. This is a fact. Yet, it gets little attention.
It would be logical then to assume that the stronger your adrenal function in your 40s the easier the transition through menopause will be. And alternatively, the weaker your adrenal function, the more challenging the process. This plays out strongly in the vast majority of women in my practice over the years. In fact, women with Adrenal Fatigue actually will tend to go through menopause earlier and have more significant symptoms than women whose adrenal function is optimal.
Women who experience symptoms of menopause are many more times likely to be dealing with adrenal fatigue than women who sail through it symptom-free.
It warrants repeating that the symptoms of menopause are caused by adrenal fatigue.
If your adrenals are too weakened to adequately support the decline in ovarian hormone production, you will experience too little of these supportive hormones and then suffer from the symptoms of menopause earlier and worse than your neighbor.
Adrenal Fatigue will cause your body to overuse functions of your lungs, metabolism, cardiovascular system, meanwhile suppressing your immune system, digestive system, thyroid function, and ovarian function.
When the ovaries start to fail gradually, it’s the job of the adrenals to start producing increased levels of those hormones to ease that transition into menopause. If your stress response is already chronically triggered, your adrenals can’t handle another one of those stresses.
For women with Adrenal Fatigue, menopause is yet another job “to do” for the adrenal system, and it just can’t do it. The body cannot produce the estrogen or the progesterone to ease that transition. We see an exacerbated response, then, to menopause in the majority of female patients with Adrenal Fatigue. That’s the connection.
#8 Does your bucket runneth over?
You’ll see this and the next section in all of my articles because they are relevant for all symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue.
I use a metaphor to help my patients understand Adrenal Fatigue.
Our genetic capacity for stress is developed at conception and shaped throughout life, half from mom, half from dad. In utero, our adrenals get an idea of how stressful the outside world is through a shared circulation between mom and baby.
We are all born into the world with a certain size bucket of tolerance for stress any stress world with a certain size bucket of tolerance for stress, any stress.
We only have one bucket to hold all kinds of stress. There is no separation of various stressors from one another.
Whether it be an injury, a chemical toxin, an annoying text message from your brother, or fear of debt, all stressors go into the same bucket, though some may be weighted more than others.
Our bucket holds everything! Until it can’t.
By design, this bucket was meant for extreme, acute stressors, such as a plague, famine, or a predator. If a tiger were to lunge at you, your bucket would immediately and completely fill with “stress.”
If you lived through the experience with the tiger, then your bucket would empty again and be ready for the next time.
The problem with living in our present society is that we now use our stress response bucket quite differently from its designed purpose.
Chronic, low-level stress comprises our world. We no longer have to fear for our safety from predators, no longer have to worry about starvation (most of us at least), and no longer deal with deadly plagues. However, we do fill our bucket with multiple chronic, perpetual stressors.
The list of chronic stressors is long and ever-changing, and you likely know your list better than I do. We are bombarded by so much constant stress these days that we don’t think twice about it, just as you wouldn’t notice a watch on your wrist after only a few minutes of wearing it.
When you remain in this stress response too often—whether your mortgage is past due or you’ve got some tigers in your neighborhood that I don’t know about—your body compensates. But when it compensates for too long, this over-activates the organs of stress and shuts down the organs of relaxation (such as those in your immune system and digestive systems and those of reproductive and thyroid function).
This is Adrenal Fatigue.
#9 The “See Saw”
While the body is busy in a constant state of stress, the response is for it to suppress energy metabolism and the rest-and-digest organs, including but not limited to digestion, the immune system, the thyroid function, and reproductive hormones. Your body does not want an ounce of energy going anywhere else.
In acute situations, this shift is normal, and it returns to balance once the stress is removed. If it is chronically over-activated because of perpetual “all-cause” stress (physical, mental, emotional, toxic, etc.), however, we begin to suffer symptoms of the suppression of those particular organ systems.
I know you’ve read this above (and perhaps before if you’ve perused the other articles on this site), but it is so crucial to your success that it bears repeating. When the body is too often in a stress response, or “fight or flight” state, your entire physiology shifts, as do the sides of an imbalanced seesaw.
On one side of the seesaw, there is an aggressive shift as the fight or flight organs (heart, lungs, metabolism) are activated, and on the other side of the seesaw, as the rest and digest organs (immune, digestion, reproductive, thyroid, etc.) shut down.
The shutdown of the reproductive system is as aggressive as it is thorough. Similar to the adrenals and the thyroid, the ovaries and testes are controlled by the hypothalamus and pituitary glands in the brain.
Stress will suppress production and utilization of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone at every level possible (including the brain, the gland, and even at the cellular level).
The most common resulting imbalance is lower progesterone and testosterone, which happens to be important for both men and women, no matter the age. Estrogen is suppressed, as well, but typically less so with progesterone, leading to symptoms of “estrogen dominance,” commonly seen in my patients.
In women, the hormone system is a bit more complicated; hence, the symptoms we see are more diverse and complex, including—and especially—those of menopause and perimenopause.
#10 The specialist merry-go-round
Conventional physicians—and even many integrative and anti-aging specialists—would have you believe that the symptoms of menopause are a normal process of aging and simply need to be treated with additional hormones. Simple fix, right? While this is true in some extreme cases, these hormones should be used with care and on a short-term basis only.
In fact, in most cases, if we treat the underlying cause of Adrenal Fatigue, hormones can be avoided completely.
Hot flashes and vaginal dryness? Give the patient hormones. Meanwhile, the symptoms broaden, worsen, and they may even multiply.
Doctors are supposed to have an intimate knowledge of the body’s physiology; however, this symptomatic treatment of menopausal symptoms is troublesome:
• You end up on a specialist merry-go-round.
• You never get to the cause.
• You’re left to suffer from an underlying condition that’s only getting worse.
I’ve come to the point where I assume no one has a grasp of Adrenal Fatigue and its myriad effects on bodily systems. I’m occasionally and pleasantly surprised when someone does or even tries. Not only do unbalanced adrenal hormones create ovarian issues, but they’re also going to create thyroid symptoms, digestive system issues, immune system symptoms.
The underlying cause of the problem, the Adrenal Fatigue, is poorly understood, unrecognized, and certainly underappreciated. Well-meaning doctors discover and then treat the symptoms only. Patients may feel temporarily better, but it makes things worse over the long term.
I have seen this same story play out so many times over the years that I have grown increasingly frustrated with the current medical system. Well-meaning doctors, both conventional and alternative, make this crucial mistake every day, and that makes their unsuspecting, trusting patients worse.
It is essential to address a woman’s adrenal health before “treating” the symptoms of menopause.
Find out how to get your life back with Dr. Neville’s approach to healing Adrenal Fatigue. Start here.
#11 The hard truth BHRT
In most cases, if we treat the underlying cause of Adrenal Fatigue, hormones can be avoided completely. Menopause is not an ovarian hormone problem, not at its core.
Bioidentical hormones are identical to our production of hormones; it should follow that using them would, therefore, work all the time. But they don’t. They are estrogens that are foreign to our body.
There are some people that think that periods should not stop. I’ve had 60-year old women come into my office who have been put on bioidentical hormone replacement and their menstrual cycles are back! This is entirely abnormal, and we will see repercussions of this, whether cancers or other ovarian issues. Down the line, those backlashes do occur.
A 50-year old woman should not have the hormones of a 20-year old woman. It’s just not the way it should function.
I am not completely against the use of bioidentical hormones. I am only opposed to the level of which and length of time women are using these hormones. Many of my colleagues use bioidentical hormones; on occasion, I will even recommend them myself. We must also do the underlying work to fix the root cause of these miserable symptoms.
We like quick fixes. I get that. I pray for quick fixes myself sometimes, but I know full well that they just don’t exist. I think most of you who are reading this (and most of my patients) understand that you do have an ovarian hormone dysfunction—would love to take away the symptoms even if temporarily—but you know that you have issues on a deeper level.
Again, I’m not against the use of bioidentical hormones; I’m against the misuse of bioidenticals, meaning too much, for too long.
Most important, I am against recommending them without addressing the underlying Adrenal Fatigue.
#12 Healing from the ground up
The most important treatment for the adrenal-ovarian dysfunction is healing from the ground up.
• Not chasing symptoms without identifying the overall cause.
• Understanding that, if left unchecked, BHRT is not enough.
• Controlling your symptoms while focusing on healing the dysfunction at its root.
By correcting the Adrenal Fatigue, any other treatments that you may be utilizing for your condition will have a stronger effect and be much more beneficial.
Remember, although you’re experiencing hot flashes, low libido, vaginal dryness, etc., the primary cause of these uncomfortable menopausal symptoms lies with the adrenal hormones. Balance those hormones, and you’ll be far more successful in balancing the ovarian hormones.
#13 So, what’s the next step?
In over a decade of seeing thousands of patients both in my office and via telephone or Skype, I have discovered that once someone has Adrenal Fatigue, a physiologic shift occurs. This shift creates debilitating and frustrating symptoms and dysfunctions in all the systems of the body.
Many well-educated and well-intentioned doctors will focus on these individual symptoms: low thyroid, low testosterone, overwhelming menopausal symptoms, fatigue, mitochondrial dysfunction, chronic inflammation and pain, oxidative stress, allergies, chronic infection, irritable bowel syndrome, etc.
It is a mistake for doctors, both conventional and alternative, to focus on only one part of this dysfunctional process.
The primary goal must always be treating the underlying Adrenal Fatigue and chronic activation of the stress response. Failure to do so wastes your precious resources of time, money, and most important, energy.
Since 85% of my patients are women, I have had the benefit of thousands of hours listening to stories, symptoms, and personal histories. This body of knowledge combined with my education and residency with Dr. Poesnecker—not to mention my passion for research concerning the intricate adrenal and ovarian connection—make it a dedication of mine to get this information out there.
No matter where in the world you are, Dr. Andrew Neville can help.