Hormones are extremely important to the overall health of women. The most well-known female hormones are estrogen and progesterone, but that’s not all that women need to stay healthy and feeling normal. Let’s review some of the most important female hormones and how they impact the female body.
Female Hormones to Watch
Estrogen: Estrogen has been labeled “the angel of life,” because it makes cells grow, developing the uterus, breasts, pregnancy and the egg within the ovary – and “the angel of death,” because estrogen in excess (estrogen dominance) can become toxic to the body. As they say, too much of a good thing can be dangerous, and too much estrogen can over-stimulate cells to multiply out of control, a recipe for breast cancer. Knowing and confirming the symptoms of estrogen dominance through hormone testing is a smart move since an imbalance that goes undetected for too long is not a risk worth taking.
Progesterone: Progesterone is primarily made in the ovaries and produced only upon ovulation. When our bodies, for a variety of reasons, don’t ovulate, we can’t produce enough progesterone to keep estrogen levels in check. This leads to estrogen dominance, which can cause weight gain, water retention, PMS, mood swings, fibrocystic breasts and heightened risk of breast cancer.
progesterone deficiency = estrogen dominance
Testosterone and DHEA (androgens): Testosterone and its precursor, DHEA, generally decrease in women at menopause, and may be particularly low after surgical removal of the ovaries. This is when symptoms of “androgen deficiency” start to become apparent. Along with the most noticeable effect of low libido, testosterone and DHEA deficiency can also lead to depression as well as decreases in bone density, lean muscle, stamina, strength, and metabolism.
Cortisol: Cortisol made in the adrenal glands is the master of your stress response. Plus, it also keeps our immune defenses primed and ready for battle against infection. In healthy individuals, cortisol should be at “get up and go” highest levels in the morning and at the lowest “ready for sleep” levels at night. When this normal pattern is disrupted, we may find ourselves feeling “tired and wired” all the time, relying on sugar and caffeine to keep going through the day and sleeping pills to get through the night. Allergies, asthma, chemical sensitivities and susceptibility to every cold and flu bug can also start happening in people with out-of-whack cortisol levels.
Testing all the above female hormone levels at the same time can help identify which imbalances are behind your most troublesome symptoms during menopause, and what you can do about it.
Female Hormone Replacement Therapy Options
Female hormone levels fluctuate throughout a person’s life. For some women, this fluctuation can lead to hormone imbalance during certain phases of life. Medical News Today reports, some factors that may influence the levels of hormones in a woman’s body include the following:
If you find that your female hormone levels are out of balance, if left untreated, it can lead to health problems including severe menopause symptoms, hair loss, bone loss, and infertility. The following are a few of the most common HRT options available today.
The most commonly recommended form of HRT is typically a low dose of estrogen for women who’ve had a hysterectomy or women who are experiencing severe menopausal symptoms. The most common form of estrogen therapy is the estrogen pill. Other estrogen therapy options include the estrogen patch, vaginal estrogen, and topical estrogen.
Often referred to as “combination therapy,” this type of HRT combines doses of estrogen and doses of progestin, a synthetic form of the progesterone female hormone. Progesterone is more commonly used as a form of birth control, but it can also be beneficial for women experiencing severe menopause symptoms. The most common form of progesterone HRT is taken in pill format. Low does intrauterine devices (IUD) are also sold, but this type of treatment is not approved in the United States.
Female Hormone Bio-Identical Therapy
When using a substance that is foreign to the body, the therapy is called non-bio-identical. Substances that are foreign to the human body will increase risk for adverse reactions. Bio-identical hormone therapy refers to utilizing hormones with the exact same chemical structure as hormones found in the body.
Bio-identical means that the female hormone has the same chemical structure as the internal body hormone, and thus, it is indistinguishable from the hormone produced by the body. For years, the standard hormone replacement therapy protocol included the use of substances that are foreign to the human body. More recently, bio-identical hormones have been available in manufactured drug choices; but if you want to achieve optimal patient outcomes, there is much more involved than simply selecting therapy agents.
There are no standard doses that can be applied across the board to women in general, so therapy must be individualized for optimal outcomes. Click here to learn more about the history of Hormone Replacement Therapy.
Hormone fluctuation is normal throughout the lifespan but female hormone imbalance can lead to health problems mentioned above. If you are struggling with hormone imbalance, we recommend seeking medical guidance to get your hormone levels tested and discuss Hormone Replacement Therapy options with a medical professional. We offer hormone treatment at Galleria Women’s Health and can help you determine the best course of action and/or provide a second opinion on hormone replacement recommendations.