By: Krista Borowski, RPh
One of the key components to minimizing menopausal symptoms is the balance between estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen and progesterone are produced throughout the reproductive years and function best in their proper ratio. When both hormones are present at physiological levels, they balance each other and do not cause symptoms. An imbalance of excess estrogen and inadequate progesterone can occur when women enter menopause. When ovulation stops, progesterone and estrogen are no longer made by the ovaries. Progesterone levels will fall to almost zero, but estrogen levels can often be normal or elevated because the level of estrogen does not fall as quickly as progesterone. Estrogen can be sourced from adrenal hormones converting to estrogen, food sources, and exposure to chemical substances in the environment. In addition, an enzyme present in our fat cells – aromatase – can continue to make estrogen through the conversion of other hormones. Progesterone is not available from our food or the environment, so when ovulation ceases and progesterone levels fall, supplementation with natural, bio-identical progesterone may be necessary.
The most common symptoms of menopause, hot flashes, mood swings, irritability, insomnia, poor concentration, weight gain, bloating and fatigue may actually be a result of excess estrogen and may be relieved with progesterone. The physiological effects of natural progesterone in menopausal women include the following:
- Helps use fat for energy
- Natural diuretic
- Natural anti-depressant
- Facilitates thyroid hormone action
- Restores libido
- Normalizes blood sugar levels
- Prevents endometrial cancer
- Helps prevent breast cancer
- Stimulates osteoblast bone building
- Enhances positive effects of estrogen
When not balanced with enough progesterone, estrogen can be a potent and dangerous hormone. Excess estrogen can increase the risk of breast cancer and reproductive cancers. While progesterone does have an anti-cancer effect, it also provides benefits to all cells in the body including the brain, heart, nerves, skin and bones. Progesterone is needed for the proper function of estrogen receptors, which is optimized when estrogen and progesterone are both present in their proper ratio.
A saliva test will accurately reveal a woman’s hormone levels to determine exactly what natural hormone therapy is needed to restore balance. Balanced hormones are a piece of the puzzle in optimizing good health and well being throughout a woman’s life.