Harmful effects of hysterectomy
As I was reading through one of my recent medical journals, one article in particular really caught my eye.
According to the medical researcher, women who underwent a hysterectomy are fraught with concerns about the harmful effects of this procedure.
While these findings are not "news" to me, I was impressed that the journal printed them, as this publication is geared toward the conventional medical community. Negative side effects after a hysterectomy are all too common.
In my own practice, I've seen that there are many nonsexual side effects that often occur after a hysterectomy, which I'll talk about later.
Nearly 600,000 hysterectomies are performed every year in the U.S. Some of the most common reasons for a hysterectomy include fibroid tumors, endometriosis, heavy menstrual bleeding, and cervical, uterine, and endometrial cancers. Others may be due to hastiness or lack of awareness on the part of the physician.
The reason for the hysterectomy often dictates the type of hysterectomy performed.
The first is known as a simple hysterectomy, where only the uterus is removed.
The second is a complete hysterectomy, where the uterus and the ovaries are removed.
While a simple hysterectomy is less drastic, both surgeries can cause your hormone levels to fluctuate or diminish. With a complete hysterectomy, hormone production is severely compromised and you will most likely experience menopause-related symptoms. With your ovaries gone, your hormone production is now dependent upon your adrenals.
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Plus, the shock of the surgery itself may reduce your adrenals' ability to produce hormones even more. As a result, menopause symptoms are often experienced almost immediately following this type of hysterectomy.
Fortunately, a hysterectomy doesn't have to be a foregone conclusion. I've worked with many women over the years to reverse whatever problem was causing them to consider a hysterectomy by using a combination of nutritional supplementation, dietary changes, and stress reduction.
However, prevention and alternative therapies are not foolproof, and there are cases where you cannot reverse the condition through preventive means and a hysterectomy is inevitable. If you are one of these women, or if you know someone who is, I'd like to discuss how to lead a life full of energy, zest, and joy after a hysterectomy.
How to Restore Balance After a Hysterectomy
A common complaint after a hysterectomy is that the problems prompting the surgery in the first place haven't resolved.
Even more surprising are some of the other problems that commonly crop up: bladder or bowel control problems; high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease; weight gain; loss of bone and muscle strength; pain in one or both hips and/or legs; vaginal bleeding for up to three years after the surgery (as reported in BJOG, An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology); and thyroid dysfunction. I've also seen women who have suffered from fatigue that lasted six to nine months after the surgery.
Other symptoms include mental and emotional imbalances such as depression, mood swings, anxiety, and irritability; dizziness; headaches; insomnia; loss of memory; and unexplained allergies. All of these problems, it turns out, can be linked to four effects of the hysterectomy:
1) the loss of hormonal balance, even if the surgery was done after menopause;
2) damage to the blood vessels that supply adjacent organs;
3) damage to nearby nerves; and
4) direct trauma to other tissues during the surgery.
First, I'll clarify why a hysterectomy so often trades one set of problems for another. Then, I'll outline how to help restore your health, happiness, and well-being after the surgery.
Hysterectomy Is Major Surgery
Having a hysterectomy is a very big deal.
First, it's major abdominal surgery. Hemorrhage and post-surgical infection are its most common short-term complications. And, even if you were already menopausal before the surgery, a hysterectomy removes functional parts of your body that still have positive value—even after menopause. Their removal can be a huge shock to your system.
Your body was designed to work with all of its parts present, connected, communicating, and participating in your whole-body functioning. Remove one, and the whole system can go out of balance. Remove more than one, and your body may not be able to adjust without help. For example, your uterus, ovaries, and cervix have important jobs, many of which have nothing to do with making babies.
Your body doesn't take the loss of those functions lightly. If more than one of these parts is unnecessarily removed, the result is a significant jolt to your body's ability to maintain equilibrium.
Why your body doesn't take the loss of those functions easily
Here are some examples of why that's true:
► After menopause, your ovaries still secrete up to 50 percent of your androgens (the "male" hormones).
Androgens are responsible for, among other things, sex drive, the building of new bone, and the ability to heal. Those functions are impaired if you remove your ovaries.
► Your diminished supply of estrogens after menopause must be kept from dropping any further to help prevent the excessive breakdown of bone and to maintain healthy skin, pelvic floor muscles, bladder control, free-flowing circulation, strong metabolism, normal blood pressure, and emotional stability.
That estrogen comes from other locations in your body, which chemically convert the androgens from your ovaries and adrenals into fully functional estrogens. Remove the ovaries, and one major natural source of the androgens, which are estrogen precursors, is lost (as reported in Fertility and Sterility).
► The ovaries also produce other chemicals, such as the neuropeptide substance P and the neurotransmitter and "good mood hormone" serotonin. The uterus, meanwhile, secretes prostacyclin and angiotensin.
All four of these substances are vasodilators, which work together to help keep your blood pressure within safe limits. Remove the uterus and ovaries, and your blood pressure can rise dangerously, which may require medication to keep it down.
► The cervix secretes a protective mucus that contributes to vaginal lubrication and keeps bacteria from leaking through the surgical stump into the abdominal cavity. The cervix also contains prostaglandin hormones, which have many diverse physiological effects that are only now beginning to be understood—including involvement in the body's inflammatory process (some are pro-inflammatory, some are anti-inflammatory) and interaction with various other hormones and systems in the body.
Without the cervix, that resource is gone forever. Fortunately, even if one or more of these organs has been removed, all hope is not lost. You can get your hormones back in balance using the steps I out-line in the remainder of this artic
Getting Your Hormones Back in Line
Whether you are recovering from a recent hysterectomy or you had one years ago, now is the time to balance your hormones and feel like your old self again.
First, determine your hormonal profile with salivary hormone tests.
I recommend the Expanded Post Menopausal Hormone Panel by Diagnos-Techs, Inc. (www.diagnostechs.com). Your physician will need to set up an account with the lab, or you can call the lab (800-878-3787) and ask for the name of a health care provider near you who already has an account.
I also recommend having Genova Diagnostics' (www.genovadiagnostics.com) Comprehensive Thyroid Assessment blood test.
Once again, your physician will need an account with the lab, or you can call 800-522-4762 and ask for a referral to a nearby physician who already has one.
Thyroid function is linked to estrogen levels, and when thyroid hormone levels are out of balance, your risks for depression, atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, weight gain, and premature death skyrocket. The lab report will help clarify whether you need supplemental thyroid hormone, or whether your thyroid gland simply needs targeted nutritional support.
Once your hormone levels post-hysterectomy have been determined, there are several supplements you can take to restore a balanced state.
However, you should work with your physician to determine what is right for you, based on the results of your lab work. In general, if you've had a simple hysterectomy, I recommend trying natural phytoestrogens to boost your estrogen levels.
Specifically, you can take one or more of the following nutrients daily: 50-150 mg of soy isoflavones; 400-2,000 IU of natural vitamin E; and 80-160 mg of a standardized extract of black cohosh (this dose should contain a total of 2-4 mg of the active component triterpenes, calculated as 27-deoxyacteine).
Another good product is this product by Everbloom, which contains various nutrients including black cohosh and a proprietary herbal blend designed to balance your hormones and reduce menopausal symptoms.
If you had a complete hysterectomy, you may need additional support since phytoestrogens are usually not strong enough to reduce menopausal symptoms. Instead, you'll most likely need a slightly stronger form of estrogen.
In this case, I suggest using estriol—the weakest (and therefore safest) of your body's three natural estrogens. I suggest using 1-2 mg of bioidentical estriol a day in capsule form. Estriol must be prescribed by your physician and is available from a compounding pharmacy.
You will also need to elevate your progesterone levels with natural progesterone in either cream or spray form.
A typical dosage of the cream is 1/4-1/2 teaspoon applied to any clean area of the skin once or twice a day. (Be sure it contains 400-600 mg of progesterone per ounce.) A typical dosage of the spray is 5-10 sprays per day.
No matter which kind of hysterectomy you've had, it's also important to support your neurotransmitters, which promote alertness and zest for life, as well as your mood.
I suggest taking 50-100 mg of 5-HTP once or twice a day and 1,000-2,000 mg of tyrosine per day. Take 5-HTP with a carbohydrate snack to facilitate uptake into the brain. If you experience side effects such as sedation or nausea, lower your dosage for the first few weeks as your body adjusts.
Additionally, don't take tyrosine in conjunction with MAO inhibitors, and taper off if you start having headaches.
Finally, it is crucial that you support your adrenal glands, as they are your sole source of hormone production. Plus, they help you feel more energized. I recommend taking 1,000-3,000 mg of mineral-buffered vitamin C each day with a meal, 25-100 mg of a vitamin B complex a day, and an additional 250 mg of B5 (pantothenic acid) twice a day.
Taking glandulars is also effective. One good brand that you can purchase online is Adreno Trophic from Progressive Labs.
I also like the glandular products from Standard Process, but these require a prescription from your physician or naturopath. It is absolutely not necessary for you to suffer side effects and health problems as a result of a hysterectomy. You're the one with the power to make these important choices. The sooner the better—and remember, it's never too late. ■
Wishing you a wonderful week filled with love and warmth!
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