Estrogen and Menopause – The Connection Explained
Hormones such as estrogen are the body’s crucial messengers. They deliver their signals via an express route through the bloodstream. These signals alter, start, rev up, slow down, or stop the many physiological, mental, chemical, and even emotional functions and processes in the body. For a woman, the ovaries are a vital source of hormone production, secreting estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone into the female bloodstream. When menopause begins, the number of ovarian follicles decline and the ovaries become less responsive to the effects of two other chemicals – follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) that regulate estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone production.
This is the start of the connection between low estrogen and menopause. At this time, it seems likely that all three hormones produced by the ovaries would go into decline. While that is the case, it is also important to point out that the adrenal glands continue to secrete these vital chemical messengers, although in a very small amount. What happens next is where the biggest problems sometimes come into play.
Even though it seems natural that all three of these hormones would decline at the same level, that is not the case. Estrogen production also takes place in a substance called belly fat. Yes, that is right; belly fat does have a purpose, although not necessarily a good one. It secretes an enzyme known as aromatase. The purpose of aromatase is to convert excess testosterone into estrogen in both females and males. Unfortunately, this can use up too much of the body’s free testosterone leading to Low T and a situation termed “estrogen dominance.” When this occurs, the body’s hormones are way out of their crucial balance, creating a situation of higher levels of estrogen and menopause symptoms.
Benefits of Estrogen for Menopause
Menopausal symptoms can stem from two things:
- estrogen levels that are abnormally high in comparison to progesterone and testosterone
- estrogen levels that are too low
Looking at the connection between menopause and estrogen sheds light on what type of treatment can best help each woman. Someone dealing with low levels of estrogen may suffer from mood changes, low libido, vaginal dryness, urinary tract infections, decreased bone density, mental fog, weight gain, and lack of energy. Of course, hot flashes and night sweats usually tag along for the ride. If none of these symptoms are present, and there is not physical distress, treatment is unnecessary at this time.
The reason for the dominance of estrogen and weight gain in menopause is that as testosterone and progesterone levels decline, and belly fat uses what little testosterone there is to produce aromatase, increased estrogen levels help to signal the metabolism to turn any consumed food into additional fat. For this, doctors often prescribe progesterone or testosterone therapy.
Potential Side Effects of Estrogen for Menopause
Many women fear the potential side effects of estrogen therapy, so they shy away from seeking treatment for the symptoms associated with menopause. For most women, this does not need to be a concern. The issues seen during the Women’s Health Initiative study were due to the use of a combined estrogen and progestin treatment. Progestin is a synthetic hormone and should not be mistaken for natural progesterone. These two substances are very different, and while progestin is not safe to use during or after menopause, progesterone is extremely safe.
The more you know about menopause and estrogen levels, the better equipped you are to make an informed decision about your treatment. Women over sixty should not use estrogen therapy. Progesterone and/or testosterone are the better choices for safe hormone replacement. This is especially important if a concern about osteoporosis exists.
You can get more information about this topic by speaking directly with a hormone replacement therapy specialist right here at Kingsberg Medical. Consultations are always confidential and provided at no charge.