In any discussion of hormone optimization in women one must include a discussion of menopause and realize that any hormone response is as unique to each person as their own fingerprints. Hormone replacement therapy should not be considered without a thorough understanding of how all of the body’s hormones interact with each other. The normal age range to go through menopause is from 35 to 55. Therefore, a woman may live one half of her life without a menstrual cycle. Cycling AFTER the age of 55 increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer. Many women are place on SYNTHETIC hormone replacement therapy by their physicians to control the symptoms associated with menopause and it is estimated that one half of these women quit taking their SYNTHETIC hormone replacement therapy after one year because they are unable to tolerate the side effects. Synthetic hormones waste energy by giving incomplete messages to cells which then fail to produce a balanced hormonal response. Post-menopausal women should consider BIOIDENTICAL hormone replacement therapy for relief of symptoms, prevention of memory loss, heart health, bone production and growth and repair of tissues. The hormones that regulate growth and repair include INSULIN, GROWTH HORMONE, TESTOSTERONE, ESTROGENS AND DHEA.
Symptoms of menopause include hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, anxiety, mood swings, irritability, insomnia and depression. Women find they have lost sexual interest, notice hair growth on the face, have panic attacks, urinary tract infections and weird dreams. Indigestion, flatulence and osteoporosis are common as are weight gain, painful intercourse and hair loss. Now let us look at the functions of ESTROGEN, the main female sex hormone while keeping in mind the symptoms just described. Estrogen actually has over 400 functions in the body. Estrogen stimulates the production of an enzyme which prevents dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease, increases ones metabolic rate, improves insulin sensitivity, regulates body temperature, maintains muscle mass and improves sleep. It reduces the risk of cataracts, helps maintain the elasticity of arteries, dilates small arteries and increases blood flow. As such, estrogen actually decreases the accumulation of inflammatory plaque on arteries, thereby reducing one’s chances of stroke or heart attack. Estrogen maintains the collagen content of the skin, giving that youthful appearance with decreased fine lines and wrinkles. Estrogen maintains memory in women. As a matter of fact, estrogen is memory, which is why memory declines post-menopausal and dementia accelerates. Estrogen is essential for fine motor skills and reasoning. It reduces the overall risk of heart disease by 40-50%. Estrogen enhances mood, energy, concentration and maintains bone density.Osteoporosis in women becomes prominent after menopause. Estrogen increases sexual interest, decreases the risk of colon cancer, helps prevent tooth loss and aids in the formation of neurotransmitters in the brain such as serotonin which decreases depression, anxiety, irritability and pain sensitivity.
One can have estrogen excess in the body. This occurs if a women is taking too much estrogen, if there is impaired elimination of estrogen in the body, if there is a lack of exercise, with diets low in grains and fibers, exposure to environmental estrogens and elevation of an estrogen metabolite called 16 hydroxy estrone. Don’t be alarmed, we will discuss estrogen metabolism and its effects in the next blog. Symptoms of estrogen excess include cervical dysplasia, increased risk of uterine cancer, increased risk of breast cancer, depression with agitation, weight gain, water retention, headaches, poor sleep, swollen breasts, heavy periods, uterine fibroids, bloating, fatigue hypothyroidism and an increased risk of auto-immune diseases.
Now that we have covered the basics of estrogen function we can move on to a discussion of synthetic versus natural estrogens in the next blog.