Kate Wells, MBA
CEO Parlor Games
Everyone knows about the hormone changes related to puberty—especially those of us who experienced the joys of teenage daughters in the house! Estrogen, a major hormone, starts to surge and cause breast cell growth and growth of the uterine lining. That’s one of the primary roles of estrogen—it makes cells grow. The other major hormone associated with women’s health is progesterone which is released during the second phase of the cycle after ovulation. Progesterone is important for stopping the overgrowth of cells and helping cells mature. Throughout our reproductive years the dance of estrogen and progesterone determine our cycles. For women who experience PMS, the cause is often related to an imbalance between these two hormones.
However, hormones do so much more than regulate our reproductive cycles. Estrogen and progesterone have hundreds of functions within the body. Here are just some of the major roles that these hormone play in the body:
|Key Estrogen Functions||Key Progesterone Functions|
|Stimulates the calming neurotransmitter GABA||Promotes normal sleep patterns|
|Increases Serotonin||Stimulates the calming neurotransmitter GABA|
|Maintains collagen and connective tissue – for example, the ligaments that hold the uterus and the bladder in place||Improves Thyroid function by decreasing the protein which binds to Thyroid hormone and stops it working|
|Supports healthy vaginal tissue, reduces incontinence and repeat UTI’s||Acts as a diuretic to drain excess fluid from cells and the spaces in between cells|
|Aids in transporting glucose (energy) into the brain||Improves estrogen receptor sensitivity, allowing estrogen to have a stronger effect in the body|
|Supports and maintains nerve growth||Protects scalp hair follicles and helps retain healthy hair|
|Lowers fibrinogen, a protein that can cause blood to clot||Helps to burn fat for energy|
|Helps keep blood vessels open and smooth so blood can flow easily||Helps keep blood vessels open so blood can flow easily|
|Decreases low density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol) and increases high density lipoprotein (good cholesterol)||Decreases low density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol) and increases high density lipoprotein (good cholesterol)|
|Reduces osteoclasts – the cells that reabsorb bone||Promotes production of osteoblasts, the cells which build bone|
|Improves insulin sensitivity to it can transport glucose into cells to generate energy||Improves insulin sensitivity to it can transport glucose into cells to generate energy|
|Supports memory and word recall||Supports the natural death of cells that have finished their purpose|
|Supports formation of new memories, especially short term memory||Provides protection against some forms of cancer cell growth|
|Helps maintain the strength of skin cells||Reduces inflammation|
Perimenopause is that time in life when the regular patterns of estrogen and progesterone start to change. These two hormones become imbalanced, and it is typically the decline in progesterone that causes the most troublesome symptoms. Too much estrogen in relation to progesterone often results in mood swings, tender breasts, hot flashes, short periods, long periods, bloating and swelling, foggy thinking, headaches, weight gain, and anxiety. While these are all common, they are not normal, and there are solutions.
SYNTHETIC PHARMACEUTICAL HORMONE REPLACEMENT THERAPY
Synthetic pharmaceutical hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has been available for a long time and has helped a large number of women with painful and distressing symptoms related to this imbalance. But synthetic hormones do not have the same chemical structure as those made in the body, and as a result, can come with some potentially dangerous side effects, such as an increased risk of stroke. For this reason, there is a consistent message for practitioners to “use HRT to help with symptom relief but get women off it as soon as possible.”
What is missing from the previous message are three important points:
- The first is that there are alternative options for hormone supplementation other than synthetic hormones. Bioidentical hormones are a class of hormones which have the exact same chemical structure as the hormones made by the body. These hormones are safe to use for long periods of time, especially when monitored by the right kind of hormone testing and when used in balance with each other. But watch out! You can have too much of a good thing when it comes to hormones.
- The second point is that, as the chart above shows, hormones have so many roles in the body, and just because women have completed that reproductive phase of their lives, they haven’t necessarily finished needing hormones. Women still have bones to maintain; brains to keep healthy; cardiovascular systems to support; food to digest; vaginas and urethras to keep in working order; skin to stay strong, and on and on. Post-menopause, most women have completed their parenting roles and often their working roles. During these years, post-menopausal women can have a freedom for play, exploration, and ways for contributing that haven’t been possible up until this point. Many women begin another career, explore new interests, and find new ways to give back to their communities. Women are in a powerful phase of their lives during post-menopause.
- Assuming that the average age of menopause is around 51, these days, women can live 30, 35, or 40 years of their lives in post-menopause. It is no coincidence that there is a steady increase in things that start to go wrong in the body after menopause. Post-menopausal women who are not on hormone supplementation frequently show increases in inflammation, decreases in bone strength, slow, but steady, increases in pre-cancerous cells, increases in vaginal atrophy, increase incidences of cardiovascular disease, increases in incontinence, bladder and uterine prolapse, decrease in memory function, and thinning skin.
Eek! The list goes on. Instead of the post-menopause years being a time of opening and expanding into 60 years of wisdom building, these years can be painful and debilitating.
Now let’s think about another major hormone: Dehydroepiandrosterone or DHEA. DHEA is the most abundant hormone in the body and can be converted into other hormones, such as testosterone and estrogens. In addition to being the base “ingredient” for making other hormones, it has multiple functions in the body all on its own: it helps with memory, inflammation, stress, libido and arousal, immune function, REM sleep, and for some women, most important of all—a sense of motivation and wellbeing. Our DHEA levels peak in our late 20’s and decline steadily each decade thereafter. By age 50, we will likely have half the level of DHEA we had at 25, and by age 80, as little as 10-15% of those peak levels.
It is no coincidence that decrease in function and health accelerate post-menopause. The loss of key hormones, such as estrogen, progesterone, and DHEA play a significant role in the decline of a healthy body and brain. Yes, our bodies are designed to gradually age and lose function with the passing of the years, but we can take action to help them remain healthy and well for as long as possible. Ensuring optimal levels of key hormones are a part of that action plan. Along with exercise, healthy food choices, sleep, stress reduction, meaningful activities in our lives, and plenty of clean water, bioidentical hormone supplementation can help the body stay robust and healthy for many years.
Kate Wells is a small business owner with 38 years of work experience including 20+ years working with bioidentical hormone products and hormone and genetic testing. Co-founder of Parlor Games and professional entrepreneur, she has a passion for helping women to find health solutions that work.
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So informative. Thank you!
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Great post on a subject I don’t believe even many women take seriously enough. I’ve talked to women, including my sisters, who think post-menopausal life is just freedom from their monthly menses without realizing how the loss of hormones truly affects our bodies. I’ll definitely be sharing this post. Thank you!
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Felicia, I so agree. When I think about all of the older women in my family and the ailments (big and small) that they’ve suffered, I now wonder if it is, in large part, due to a lack of hormones. We are so ignorant about all of this.
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I took a shot at bioidentical hormones years ago, but didn’t realize how important they are in later years. I will be looking into it again now after learning all this. Great info.
Wow, makes perfect sense now why I’m falling apart 🤣.