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Dispelling Hormonal Myths: In-Depth Insights from Dr. Meena Malhotra

Apr 29, 2024 ● By Carrie Jackson
Headshot of Dr. Meena Malhotra, M.D.

Dr. Meena Malhotra, M.D. Photo credit Heal N Cure.

Hormones are small, but mighty molecules that travel through our bloodstream and act as messengers to target cells or organs. For women, the sex hormones play an integral part in
overall health, from menstruation to pregnancy and beyond in menopause. Dr. Meena Malhotra, M.D., is the medical director at Heal n Cure, an integrative facility in Glenview that specializes in functional medicine. She says that fluctuations in hormone levels are normal, but they can sometimes change drastically and keeping hormones balanced is key to overall wellness. A number of myths surround women’s hormones, and better understanding them empowers women to make informed decisions about their health. Malhotra helps to clear up some common misconceptions and offers tips for optimal wellness.

Estrogen causes breast cancer 

For a long time, we thought that estrogen causes breast cancer, but that has been found not to be true. These beliefs stemmed from the Women’s Health Initiative, which began in 1991 to address major health issues in women. During the study, a number of women that were given estrogen later developed breast cancer. However, it was later shown that it was actually the synthetic hormones used in the study, and not true estrogen, that caused the rise. While synthetic and natural hormones look the same, they are much different on a molecular level, and bioidentical estrogen is safe to take in a variety of forms. Besides genetic predisposition, the biggest risks for breast cancer are obesity, a high percentage of body fat, alcohol use, liver damage and insulin resistance.

Estrogen is the only women’s hormone that matters 

Estrogen is often thought to be the prevalent sex hormone for women, but the truth is that women need all three of the main sex hormones. Testosterone, which is produced in the adrenal glands and ovaries, plays a crucial role in women’s health. It helps to regulate libido, bone health and density, muscle mass, mood and energy. If a woman is low in testosterone, there are several treatment options that can provide relief. Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy is one such option, which involves the administration of testosterone through topical gels, creams, oils or pellets. Progesterone helps to regulate menstruation and helps with sleep and anxiety. While it is often thought that women who have had a hysterectomy do not need progesterone, this essential hormone is crucial for calming feelings and a good night’s sleep.

Hormone balancing can be done at home

Hormone balancing is key to regulating many processes in the body, including appetite, sleep, cognitive function, metabolism, mood and sexual function. While over-the-counter kits and creams do exist, proper hormone balancing should be done with the supervision of a trained medical professional. Your doctor can test your hormone levels and make the best suggestions for hormone replacement therapy (HRT) if needed. The dosing of HRT is crucial and should be monitored. Hormones can be administered topically, via pellets or injected and a doctor can best make that determination. It’s also critical to use bioidentical hormones, without synthetic ingredients that the body sees as foreign molecules and may reject. Patients should discuss their goals with their medical professional in advance. Most women are looking to boost brain health and memory, maintain healthy skin and hair, strengthen their libido and increase overall energy. Hormones work together like a web, and they have to be tested, treated and monitored cooperatively. 

Hormone balance is out of our control 

There are a number of proactive steps women can take to optimize their hormonal balance. Food is one of the most powerful tools we have. Healthy fats from nuts, seeds and avocados help to raise testosterone levels. Plant-based foods that contain phytoestrogens, such as fruits, seeds and grains like wheat germ, naturally boost estrogen levels. It’s crucial to avoid non-organic dairy products, including cheese, milk and yogurt. These are often made with milk from animals that have been given rBST and other genetically engineered hormones and are laced with synthetic ingredients. White flour and other refined carbs should also be avoided, as they can contribute to insulin resistance. Additionally, women should strive to maintain a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular moderate exercise. While too much body fat can cause a surge in estrogen, too little can cause hormones to dip and lead to anxiety and insomnia. Finally, it’s important to remember that it’s never too late to begin hormone balancing, and small changes can make a significant difference in a woman’s overall quality of life.

Heal n Cure Medical Wellness Center is located at 2420 Ravine Way, Ste. 400, in Glenview. For more information, call 847-686-4444 or visit

Carrie Jackson is an Evanston-based freelance writer and frequent contributor to Natural Awakenings. Connect at