Female Hormone Replacement Therapy
What are the Female Hormones?
The word hormone comes from the Greek word Hormaein – meaning to excite. Hormones are potent chemicals produced from endocrine glands which secrete the hormones into your bloodstream. The hormones serve as messengers from your brain, telling your internal organs how to function.
Hormones are a liquid chemical that are produced by glands, and, much like sweat secreting from our pores, the hormones secrete from the glands. They drip, if you will, into the bloodstream, where they travel to the distant tissues and organs, where they then bind to the tissues’ and organs’ specific cell sites called receptors.
DHEA or (Dehydroepiandrosterone) – Is considered the mother hormone. Because it can convert readily to most other hormones, such as estrogen, testosterone, progesterone, and corticosterone, it can help balance energy levels, enhance immune system, improve libido, and benefit muscle function. When taken orally, DHEA can convert into testosterone, but also estradiol by way of an aromatase enzyme.
Estrogen – Is characteristically referred to as the female hormone, but both men and woman produce it. It is involved in the female reproductive cycle, controls the growth of the uterine lining, and regulates bone development. Not just a single hormone, estrogen represents a class of related hormones with varying properties. The most important hormones that makeup this group are estrone (E1), estradiol (E2), and estriol (E3).
Progesterone – In addition to being an important factor in the balancing of estrogen, this hormone carries anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties. Considered the feel good hormone, progesterone helps menopause symptoms, stress reduction, prevents osteoporosis, and excessive weight gain.
Cortisol – Often times referred to as the stress hormone. Due to constant stress in a person’s life (fight or flight), this hormone can cause adrenal exhaustion and fatigue. Since hormones work together in synchronization, it’s important to evaluate all matters concerning hormone production.
Testosterone – Again, both men and women create this important hormone. In men, testosterone is an important hormone for male sexual health (erectile function, libido, sperm count, and muscle). In woman, testosterone is produced in the ovaries. Muscle tone, skin elasticity, and bone integrity are all associated with healthy levels of this hormone.
Luteinizing Hormone (LH) – Considered a gonadotropin, LH stimulates the secretion of sex steroids in both sexes. In females, LH is responsible for healthy ovulation.
Follicle-stimulating Hormone (FSH) – In men, FSH helps support sperm cell maturation. With females, FSH is important for the development of ovarian follicles. In order for natural reproduction to take place, it’s vital to have a regular pattern of gonadotropin secretion.
Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG) – Mostly controlled and released in the liver by androgens, SHBG has the ability to bind up free testosterone. If left uncontrolled, SHBG can lead to a substantial decrease in androgen production. As we age, SHBG has the ability to even increase, however, a routine blood test can find out if your free testosterone is low. Some common medications that increase SHBG include birth control pills, sedatives, tranquilizers, and various forms of alcohol.
Pregnenolone – An important supplement for healthy testosterone production, pregnenolone has been shown to improve memory function. Pregnenolone not only converts to DHEA, but can also convert into progesterone and other much needed hormones.
Sex Hormones – Women have three different sex hormones in their body, Progesterone, Testosterone and three types of Estrogen. All of these hormones are important to female’s well-being.
Estrogens – Estrogen is primarily formed in the ovaries (although it is also produced by the adrenals and fat cells). It is a combination of three compounds: Estrone (E1), Estradiol (E2), and Estriol (E3). The strongest and most influential of the three estrogen hormones is Estradiol. (E2), next in strength is Estrone (E1).
Estriol (E3), the third major type of estrogen, is the more “benign” compound. It contributes to healthy and youthful skin, keeps the vagina moist and lubricated, prevents hot flashes and night sweats, and probably has a major anticancer role. It exerts a protective and counterbalancing effect against estrone and estradiol, its more powerful sister compounds. In some women increased estriol levels improve mental clarity. But estriol does not appear to benefit the bones or cardiovascular system the way estradiol and estrone do.
Generally speaking, estrone and estradiol are the most influential estrogens in creating the qualities of femininity, the qualities that turn a girl into a woman and affect and protect the mind, the bones and the cardiovascular system. Estradiol prevents the loss of old bone tissue. Estrone is thought to perhaps promote the growth of new bone tissue.
Progesterone – Progesterone plays a major role in the body and has many functions in both males and females of all ages. Progesterone is responsible for regulating blood sugar, developing intelligence, building bones, brain activity and many more. Additionally, progesterone plays an important role in converting fat into energy, regulating thyroid hormone production, and helping to reboot libido. It is also a natural antidepressant, aids in normalizing blood clotting, helps to initiate sleep and is a natural diuretic along with many other vital functions.
Progesterone has a calming effect by activating the GABA receptor sites. GABA is our most calming, inhibitory neurotransmitter and effective against some forms of epilepsy. Progesterone also boosts the immune system. Our bodies make it all the time.
Testosterone – There is a misconception that testosterone is only a male hormone. This is untrue; testosterone is also produced in women by the ovary. Although the level of testosterone in the women is only 10% of the level in men, it rapidly declines during menopause along with estrogen and progesterone.
Although progesterone and estrogen are the two dominant hormones that women produce, it is important to remember that women also produce small doses of testosterone. For women, the production of testosterone peaks at ovulation in order to stimulate a woman’s desire for sexual relations.
Why Do Hormonal Imbalances Occur in Women?
Hormone imbalance is caused by the primary hormones becoming out of balance. This imbalance usually comes from changes in the reproductive cycle in women (such as menopause or perimenopause) but it isn’t the only cause of imbalance in hormone levels – lifestyle, medication, pregnancy, thyroid issues and even diabetes can also throw off your body’s hormone levels at any age. No matter the cause of your hormone imbalance, the symptoms are often related and severe.
Two female hormones (Estrogen and Progesterone) exist in a delicate balance. Variations in that balance can have a dramatic effect on your health, resulting in the symptoms of female hormone imbalance (such as hot flashes, night sweats, and weight gain just to name a few). The amounts of these hormones that the body produces from month to month can vary, depending on factors such as stress, nutrition, exercise, and most importantly – ovulation or the LACK of ovulation.
The ovaries produce many hormones. Chief among them are estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. The ovarian hormones estrogen and progesterone interact to coordinate a woman’s menstrual cycle during her reproductive years. The brain produces follicle stimulating hormones (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) which trigger sex hormone production from the ovaries. When any of the hormones coming from the brain or the ovaries are imbalanced, symptoms may occur. This usually happens during puberty and menopause, but imbalances can happen at any age. Several conditions are well known to be associated with hormonal imbalance including: polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, breast disease, and menstrual irregularities.
In a normal 28-day menstrual cycle, only estrogen is produced for the first 10-12 days (the follicular phase); it peaks around day 12 and begins to fall. Ovulation then occurs around day 14 or 15 and tells the female body to produce progesterone (the luteal phase), which peaks around day 18 and begins to fall. In this scenario, everything is in balance and there are no symptoms of hormonal imbalance. Progesterone sustains the endometrium, so it can receive a fertilized egg if pregnancy occurs. If there’s no pregnancy, menstruation occurs.
Let’s say you have NO ovulation one month, which is a typical perimenopausal event. The estrogen already produced for that month is NEVER balanced by progesterone because progesterone can only be produced with ovulation.
Many women in their 30’s and 40’s are actually in perimenopause and therefore produce estrogen, but LESS progesterone. This is referred to as estrogen dominance; it is a hormone imbalance and causes symptoms similar to menopause. Unbalanced estrogen is dangerous and toxic.
Female bio-identical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) improves your life, increases energy levels, and stops symptoms related to PMS, perimenopause and menopause. Natural bio-identical hormone replacement therapy is the solution to eliminate your female hormone imbalance symptoms (you will see later that natural hormones do not necessarily mean bio-identical hormones).
Female Hormonal Functionality At A Closer Scale
The adrenal glands produce three types of steroid hormones: glucocorticoids (cortisol), mineralocorticoids (aldosterone), and androgens (Testosterone/DHEA/DHEAS). Cortisol enables the body to respond and adapt to the stresses of daily life, both physical and mental. It also helps to maintain blood sugar levels and promote a healthy immune system. Aldosterone works to balance salt and water in the body. Androgens secreted by the adrenals provide the majority of DHEA for both men and women. For women, the adrenal glands are the major source of testosterone. An imbalance of hormones in the adrenal system can contribute to problems with the nervous and immune systems, body composition difficulties (such as weight gain), blood sugar irregularities, and high androgen levels.
Thyroid Function Imbalance
Thyroid hormones control the body’s metabolism. The brain produces thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) which triggers the thyroid gland to produce two types of hormones – T4 and T3. In hypothyroidism, the body has low levels of the thyroid hormones. This often leads to other imbalances, such as estrogen or progesterone. Hyperthyroidism is a less common condition that exists when excess thyroid hormones are present. Because every cell of the body is affected by the thyroid, symptoms of imbalances are often varied and affect multiple body systems.
Insulin is secreted by the pancreas. Insulin “unlocks” the cells to allow glucose (sugar) from food to enter and be converted into energy. When too much glucose is present in the body, the pancreas increases the amount of insulin being produced. High insulin, as well as high glucose, may contribute to multiple symptoms. A number of conditions are associated with insulin and glucose imbalances and regulation problems. These include chronic stress, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes.
Adult Growth Hormone Deficiency
In childhood, human growth hormone (HGH) controls a child’s height. It is normal for human growth hormone levels to decline as a person reaches adulthood, but new research suggests that some adults may have too low a level of human growth hormone. Low levels of HGH are linked to poor muscle tone, increase body fat, low energy levels, and cardiovascular changes. HGH insufficiency is associated with pituitary gland problems, brain injury, autoimmune disorders, and nervous system conditions.
What is Menopause?
Officially, it’s the time when a woman ceases to menstruate. It usually occurs around the age of 51, although it can actually be many years before or after this. What’s happening in your body is that it’s producing fewer fertility hormones – estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. This is the root cause of the symptoms and changes that accompany the menopause. When the menopause has a trial run and occurs at a much earlier age, it’s known as the perimenopause. This condition also has a lot to do with hormone imbalance, as well as factors such as poor nutrition and lack of exercise.
The changes become apparent a long time before menstruation ceases altogether.
What are the Different Stages of Menopause?
- Premature menopause – Premature menopause may occur when there is ovarian failure before the age of 40, and may be associated with smoking, radiation exposure, chemotherapeutic drugs, or surgery that impairs the ovarian blood supply.
- Perimenopause (Pre-menopause) – When a woman first starts to experience menopausal signs and symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats and irregular periods; on average occurs 4 years before menopause
- Menopause – When 12 months have passed since a woman’s last period, marking the end of a woman’s reproductive years
- Post-menopause – The years that follow menopause
- Surgical menopause – Surgical menopause may follow an oophorectomy (removal of an ovary or both ovaries), or radiation of the pelvis, including the ovaries, in premenopausal women. This results in an abrupt menopause, with women often experiencing more severe menopausal symptoms than if they were to experience menopause naturally.
The Effects of Menopause on your Health
Menopause occurs when your ovaries stop releasing eggs and producing female hormones. This change in hormone levels can cause symptoms such as hot flashes, sleeplessness and mood swings. Even if you have no obvious symptoms, it’s important to understand the effects of menopause and aging on your overall health. Loss of the female hormone estrogen can weaken your bones, for example, increase cholesterol levels that contribute to coronary artery disease, cause emotional changes, vaginal changes and urinary tract changes. Preventive care during these menopause years offers a huge opportunity to improve your quality of life as you age.
How to Treat Female Hormonal Imbalance
Natural Steps to Reduce Menopause Symptoms
The simple lifestyle changes to help relieve menopausal symptoms:
- Healthy diet
- Choose a wide variety of foods, including plenty of fresh vegetables, fruits, cereals, whole grains and small portions of lean meat, fish or chicken several times per week.
- Increase fluids and eat low fat dairy foods with high calcium content
- Decrease caffeine and limit alcohol (1-2 standard glasses or less, per day)
- Regular exercise – at least 45 minutes three times per week
- Use vaginal lubricants, especially during intercourse, to deal with vaginal dryness
- Add Calcium and Vitamin D to your diet through food and supplements
- Maintain a regular dose of exercise and sleep
- Explore a range of relaxation techniques, such as meditation or yoga
- Drink a glass of cold water or fruit juice when a hot flash begins.
- Reduce your stress level, which may aggravate hot flashes.
- Keep a thermos of ice water or an ice pack next to your bed during the night.
- Use cotton sheets, lingerie, and clothing that allow your skin to breathe.
- Keep a diary or record of your symptoms to determine what might trigger your hot flashes.
- Avoid smoking
- It’s important to avoid smoking because of the associated risk of osteoporosis, coronary heart disease and lung cancer.
- Regular Pap smear and breast checks
- You should have:
- Yearly Pap smear
- Yearly mammogram