Any women experiencing perimenopausal or menopausal symptoms can understand the deep discomfort that hot flashes and night sweats can offer.
One moment you're fine, and then the next you feel like someone has dropped you into boiling hot water and you're melting. Not cool- no pun intended.
According to allopathy, hot flashes and night sweats are due to the lowering levels of estrogen and progesterone in the body. When they occur, there's a sudden feeling of intense heat, accompanied with flushing of the face and sweating. This is due to the fact that the blood vessels near the skin's surface widen to cool one off, making one break out in a sweat. Some women will also experience an elevation in heart rate or chills.
However, did you know women can also experience these types of hot flashes or night sweats even in their cycling years? It's because the root cause to this problem isn't necessarily the fact that the ovaries are shutting down, thus the body shifting to depending on the adrenals and adipose tissue to predominantly make a woman's steroid hormones. Instead, it's the ratio between estrogen and progesterone, and in many cases, it's what we would call estrogen dominance. Sure, a lesser amount of estrogen and progesterone will be made since an entire organ will stop with the majority of its production, but the ratio between estrogen and progesterone is what is really important to acknowledge here.
It doesn't make sense to conclude that women entering menopause experience hot flashes because of "low estrogen and progesterone" when every single woman goes through that same transition, yet not every woman gets hot flashes or night sweats. It's a biological mechanism of life, just like how we've all experienced puberty. The difference however are the levels these two key hormones are at, for one being too high in relation to the other, specifically estrogen, is what causes these uncomfortable hot flashes and night sweats.
Symptoms of estrogen being too high in relation to progesterone (or as we would call estrogen dominance) are as follows:
- Breast tenderness
- Weight gain
- Adult acne-specifically around the mouth and chin area
- Joint pain
- Water retention
- Hair loss
- Mood swings
- Hot flashes
But did you know you can detect estrogen dominance prior to hitting menopause by just looking to your cycle and keeping an eye out for symptoms that also include the following:
- Heavy periods
- Painful periods
- Intense food cravings before period
- Chronic fatigue
- Yeast infections
Estrogen is a proliferative hormone, and the body doesn't use it solely for fertility, but it's recognized as a hormone of growth. The true feminized hormone is progesterone. This means women fall back on prioritizing the production of estrogen over progesterone in times of stress because if the body isn't constantly "rebuilding" itself (because are always breaking down and building ourselves back up at every single second of the day), it'd cease to exist. This essentially leaves estrogen being seen as a hormone that is particularly stimulated in times of stress to implement growth as a survival mechanism.
Does this mean estrogen is bad? No. This is why we need progesterone to mitigate excess estrogen. Everything is all about finding balance. Estrogen dominance doesn't just lead to these uncomfortable symptoms, but it could feed growths down the line, and even cancer, which is what everyone wants to avoid.
So now I'm sure you're reading this and thinking "Okay, cool info and all, but what do these hormones and hot flashes have to do with minerals?" Great question.
On a hair tissue mineral analysis (HTMA) copper is representative of estrogen and zinc is a mirror into one's testosterone and progesterone levels (specifically for women). In many cases, women experiencing hot flashes or night sweats hitting menopause have something we would call copper dysregulation. We have an entire blog about it here, but let me give you a quick run down.
Copper dysregulation is when we have an abundance of copper circulating the system that isn't considered bio available. Bio availability is what makes it useable within us. The only way we can make copper bio available is if we produce two specific proteins: ceruloplasmin and metallothionein. Ceruloplasmin's job is to attach to copper and help usher it around the body so it can influence our cells accordingly. Without it, copper can accumulate in the tissues and cause a dominoes effect of problems. This is when metallothionein comes in. This protein is meant to increase resistance to copper exposure and balance out the zinc to copper ratio within our cells.
Things that can hinder these two proteins from being produced and causing this cascade of copper dysregulation are adrenal issues and liver issues. Ceruloplasmin is made in the adrenals and liver, where as metallothionein is made in the kidneys and liver. Ironically enough, the liver is also where we produce bile which is required to bind to copper and excrete it out, similarly to how we detox estrogen. If our liver is not functioning, we risk recirculating copper, as well as estrogen, in which can cause estrogen dominance down the line.
In regards to the adrenals however, our adrenal glands are our first line of defense when it comes to how we react to stress. Clearly, if your body is under stress it is going to prioritize certain bodily functions to keep you alive and well. Creating ceruloplasmin and maintaining metallothionein production in the kidneys might not be one of them, especially if the stress is chronic. As a result, the adrenals start producing extra stress hormones, or in some severe cases, slow down the production of stress hormones because there isn't enough energy, and as a result cannot produce adequate progesterone to mitigate the effects of estrogen. This then leaves one with an excess amount of estrogen in relation to progesterone, thus estrogen dominance.
Connecting this to the copper mentioned above, just like how if one is recirculating estrogen, copper is usually building up too, but on an HTMA it is a bit difficult to pin point. Hence, we thought we'd give you a few pointers to try and mitigate this heat inducing reaction whilst trying to balance your minerals.
First off, copper isn't always present at elevated levels on an HTMA because, as we mentioned above, it can accumulate in the tissues. Estrogen can do this too-specifically in fat cells. This is why blood work is a poorly managed test to run for hormones and minerals, because blood is simply a highway for things to get from point A to point B. When reading HTMAs, it's about understanding patterns and how certain elements interact with one another, which is why working with a professional, such as the nutritionists on our team, can we helpful in understanding one's results.
Aside form copper being elevated on an HTMA, other signs that can point to elevated levels of copper in the tissues are:
- High calcium levels, also recognized as a calcium shell. This typically slows the metabolism down, and excess copper ahs been shown to g=aggravate calcium accumulation in the soft tissue.
- High sodium levels. Sodium and copper are synergistic nutrients.
- High Na:K ratio. Sodium typically helps copper rise, and vice versa, where as potassium does the same to zinc. Make sense in knowing what these hormones represent hormonally, for it'd point to elevated copper.
- Low manganese levels. This mineral is a copper antagonist.
- Low molybdenum levels. This is also a copper antagonist.
- Low iron levels. When copper starts accumulating and hiding in tissue, iron will do the same, for iron cannot be used without bio available copper.
- High cobalt levels. This is a sign of liver congestion or the liver being unable to filter at its optimal state.
In addition, some honorable mentions we should make regarding the mineral levels is to point out when someone might be struggling with low progesterone and a normal level of estrogen, still concluding to estrogen dominance:
- High zinc. Zinc is rarely high unless someone is a fast oxidizer on an HTMA. 90% of the population is a slow oxidizer however, and this typically signals a zinc loss and we're unable to retain it in the cell, meaning copper is still higher in us.
- High Zn:Cu ratio. Same process of thinking as above with zinc, it could be a false negative.
- Low sodium. This all depends on other levels and ratios, but if everything coincides, sodium just might be low because of severe adrenal exhaustion and copper is low, which we have read now can be dangerous.
- High potassium, Rarely a sign of excess, more like a sign of a potassium loss, and this could help increase estrogen and testosterone.
- Low Na:K ratio. Assessing other factors, like metabolic type, ratios and mineral levels, if they all coincide, then this could show up as severe adrenal exhaustion, like a burn out, hence would make sense there isn't enough progesterone to mitigate estrogen.
It's important to note all of these levels and ratios mentioned above are relative to the individual's metabolic type. You can read all about fast metabolic types and slow metabolic types by click here and here.
So now some of you are wondering "Okay, this is all fine and dandy, but how do I fix the problem?!"
Well, as we mentioned before with the ceruloplasmin and metallothionein production related to the adrenals/kidneys and liver, we suggest you started there. Focus on re nourishing those adrenal glands and kidneys, hydrate well, remineralize with electrolytes, manage stress, work on detoxification, bile support, evacuating every day, adding more sulfur rich foods, and most importantly ordering an HTMA today through us so you can get some more concrete and specified advice to YOUR specific situation.
Not one person is the same, and it's vital to recognize we all deserve a bio individual approach to healing. So click the link here to get started and get rid of those hot flashes and night sweats!
Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis Practitioner
Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner
Integrative Health Coach