Is there a test for the menopause?
By the time you hit the menopause, things should have started to settle down but it’s the 5-10 years leading up to the menopause that you may feel drawn to considering testing so that you can determine if you have started the perimenopause. Food Scientist and Nutritionist Susie Debice explains which tests are available…
The problem for some women is that many of the first signs of the perimenopause such as low mood, anxiety, weight gain, tiredness and changes in periods could easily be associated with other factors. This is why it could take a while to register that the changes you are experiencing are actually an indication that your perimenopause has begun.
To confirm this, testing for levels of FSH (follicle stimulating hormones), LH (luteinising hormone), oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone provide the answers that you are looking for so that you can decide on lifestyle, diet and supplement strategies to best help support you during the time it takes for your fertility to unwind smoothly.
Home test kits
Visit a pharmacy and pick up a SELFCheck Menopause Test Kit which will cost you £20. This is a quick urine test, a bit like a pregnancy test kit, which checks levels of FSH and the results quickly appear as purple lines within 10 minutes. This test is a reliable estimate and if you get positive results then it’s worth going to your GP or healthcare practitioner for further investigation and a full hormone profile.
Testing with a nutritional therapist
Whereas GPs tend to look at your hormone profile from the perspective of the level of hormones that you have circulating in your bloodstream, nutritional therapists tend to work by assessing what’s available to your cells, what’s being utilised and how your hormones are being metabolised which some people consider to provide a more comprehensive way to interpret your hormone activity. These tests often include saliva and urine samples and may even include stress hormones too, providing an insight into why your hormones could be out of balance. Common Menopause Hormone Profiles are available from the Dutch Test and Genova Diagnostic Europe but you’ll be thankful of the expert opinion of a nutritional therapist to help you interpret the results and match you up with a diet, lifestyle and a supplement program so you can focus on hormone balance and support to help you with specific symptoms.
Medical testing with your GP
Ask your GP to arrange for a blood test for FSH, LH, oestradiol, progesterone, and testosterone and sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) this is pretty standard information to collate and helps provide a good overview of your current hormonal picture. The toolbox that GPs have available to them for menopause support hopefully includes some sensible lifestyle advice and secondly as a prescription for medications to help better manage your symptoms. This could go one of two ways – either a prescription for synthetic hormone replacement therapy (HRT) which many women are now unsure of using due to uncertainty about perceived risks and possible side effects. These hormones have a slightly different shape to the natural shape of the hormones that your body naturally produces.
However, there is now an alternative option which a growing number of GPs that, when asked, are prepared to prescribe. In the last couple of years, two types of hormone support that fall into the category of bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) have become available for doctors to prescribe on the NHS. So, rather than HRT you could enquire about the use of an oestrogen gel called Oestrogel and a progesterone tablet called Utrogestan. The hormones in these BHRT medications have the exact same shape and structure as the hormones that the body naturally produces.
Many European countries and America have been using BHRT for supporting hormone conditions like the menopause for years, but for some reason the UK has been slow to catch up with this forward-thinking style of medication. Up until now prescriptions for BHRT in the UK have been limited to some very expensive private health practices but thankfully now they’re available on the NHS it gives access to everyone who shows an interest.
You have officially hit the menopause when you have been free from periods for 12 months if you are 50+ years old and for 24 months if you are under 50 years old. Once you‘ve reached this landmark in your fertility levels of oestrogen and progesterone are likely to be at a pretty constant base-level which is low enough for your cycle to remain inactive, but still hitting a level for which menopausal symptoms are no longer experienced. It’s important that these two hormones remain in circulation after the menopause as they both impact on areas of health and vitality outside of the role of fertility. These hormones have a role to play in cardiovascular health, cholesterol balance, bone health, skin health, libido, memory, mood and metabolism.