Estrogen….the essence of a woman. It is the hormone responsible for many things that make a woman a woman such as breast development. Men also produce estrogen, but in very small amounts. (To see what can happen to a man that takes extra estrogen shots, rent the move “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”.)
One of the purposes of estrogen in women is making your sex organs ready, willing, (and more importantly) able, to have enjoyable sex.
If you are in your 20’s and 30’s, you don’t need any extra estrogen as your ovaries and adrenal glands are normally hard at work producing enough female hormones to keep you feeling well….and with healthy sex organs that can keep up with your healthy sex drive.
Lack of estrogen in women can:
- increase your cholesterol causing arteries in your heart to become clogged leading to heart attacks
- decreases bone strength causing osteoporosis
- cause “hot flashes” or incredibly annoying times thought the days where you feel as if you will spontaneously combust
- cause sleep disturbance
- cause mood swings including bitchiness, homicidal tendencies, and crying at Hallmark commercials
- cause vaginal dryness, and a tendency to repeat the phrase “honey… not tonight”.
If you are peri or post menopausal, or if you have had a hysterectomy that includes an oopherectomy (removal of the ovaries), or if you take medications for ER positive breast cancer, then your estrogen has been sucked dry….and I mean dry.
Not so many years ago, if you went to your doctor with any of these symptoms, your doctor would have written a prescription for a hormone replacement therapy pill, or HRT pill. Most likely it would have been Premanin. Premarin is produced from pregnant mare’s urine (hence PREgnant-MAre’s-urINe) I don’t know about you, but it’s hard to believe that ingesting the pee from a horse can be good for your body. For a long time it was all there was. (before this pill, women would have to take injections of hormones, so when Premarin was released, every woman wanted it!)
Over the past 10 years or so, physicians have become more knowledgeable about the subject, and bioidentical hormones are now available and widely used.
According to Dr Christiane Northrup, author of “The Wisdom of Menopause”,
……the difference between bioidentical and synthetic hormones. This is so confusing to people, so let me run it—run it up the flag pole for you again. “Bioidentical” to me is not a marketing term, despite what you might have heard. It simply refers to a molecule that matches exactly what’s found in the female human body, so that that molecule folds the way your own body’s hormone would fold so that it fits on an estrogen receptor exactly right. The synthetic hormones—now by the way, I don’t care where it’s made. All hormones, pretty much, are made in a couple of labs, sold in bulk to the pharmaceutical industry, some go to compounding pharmacies, some go to regular pharmaceutical people and all of them are then packaged in different ways. The natural bioidentical hormones cannot be patented, which is why they haven’t been available till recently.What has been patented in conventional pharmacies are the delivery systems. So we have all the patches are bioidentical.
Estrogen may also be known as its components: estradiol, estriol, or estrone. When you see one of these names in the preparation your are using, it means it is an estrogen product.
The other female hormone is progesterone. The main function of progesterone is for fertility and aiding in pregnancy, but progesterone is the building block for other hormones in the body’s general system having to do with health. Bioidentical progesterone is also widely used and is produced from wild yams and soy.
Based on your symptoms and your hormone levels, your doctor can determine which hormone and how much will get you on the road to feeling better. Some time a combination of estrogen and progesterone works well. The hormones can be mixed based on dosage that is individually made for you based on your blood levels. This is usually in the form of a patch or cream that is rubbed into your skin and gets absorbed into your body.
In Suzanne Sommers book “Breakthough” she describes her own hormone regimen. She basically takes estrogen for 3 weeks and then adds progesterone for the last 2 weeks to simulate what your body does naturally in your 20’s. (a brief word on Suzanne Sommers……I know…thigh-master….Chrissy on Three’s Company etc etc….but she beat breast cancer without chemo…and she looks amazing. Her book “Breakthrough” isn’t a collection of her opinions, but a collection of interviews with the top “anti-aging” doctors around the world. It was very fascinating reading…. OK?)
The risks of HRT are controversial. Most of the studies were done with synthetic hormones, not bioidenticals. Synthetic hormones (premarin) do not work “in tune” with your body and therefore, produce more problems. Some risks associated with HRT are cervical cancer and breast cancer as well as blood clots. However again, these studies are mixed and more studies are needed testing with the bioidenticals.
My only problem was the kitty….she was old and shriveled and dried up–think of going from a plump juicy grape to a 5 year old raisin that’s been left out of the box. and I barely recognized her. My history of bilateral mastectomy, and chemotherapy for stage III breast cancer fried my ovaries and my hormones. Then 3 years after that, I had a hysterectomy with an oopherectomy (everything including ovaries removed) because of a benign tumor. This left my body missing every part that made me a female of the species! I was officially an android.
I really thought I just had to “deal with it” and there was nothing I could do…but I was wrong.
Women with a history of breast cancer…specifically estrogen receptor positive breast cancer (those that are on Tamoxifen or Fermara etc) should not have anything to do with estrogen because of the increased risk of stirring up those cancer cells that react to estrogen. However, using estrogen directly on the vaginal tissue is extremely safe.
One study which was published in a medical journal (Climacteric 2003; 6:45-52) followed 1,472 breast cancer patients who routinely used vaginal estrogen and were found to have a LOWER recurrence rate than women who did not use vaginal estrogen.
The vaginal wall tissue is like a sponge when it comes to soaking up estrogen preparations. This has a direct effect on the vaginal wall tissue and actually brings it back to life. It changes the appearance, the plumpness, the color, and the ability to lubricate. It really was amazing to see and experience the change! Remember that scene in E.T where E.T touches the dried up dead plant and it turns into a beautiful colorful living flower? you get the idea….
I have the cream prepared in a compounding pharmacy because then I can get the estrogen made without all the chemical preservatives that the drug companies use in their preparations. (I don’t use parabens or petroleum products because of evidence that they cause breast cancer) The cream is inserted into the vagina several times a week for 6 weeks, then a couple of times a week to maintain.
Be aware that not all compounding pharmacies know what they are doing. It is important that you find a compounding pharmacy from your doctor that has lots of experience with these types of preparations.
There are many things you can do to improve your menopausal symptoms without taking hormones. They are:
- exercise–production of endorphins relieves mood swings, controls weight gain, and helps insomnia
- try acupuncture and/or Chinese herbs. See a licensed acupuncturist for therapy. They might have you try Maca, ginseng, or dong quai
- try taking Kelp capsules or seaweed preparations to help “dryness” in the body
- eat soy products–soy is metabolized into something that the body responds like estrogen. This is why soy rich diets decrease heart disease in women. Try soy milk, edamame, or tofu ( oh,,,stop wrinkling your nose)
- get enough iodine—since table salt is not used as much, women may be deficient which can cause thyroid issues and dryness
- take Omega-3 pills and foods high in omega -3 fats (nuts, salmon…) as deficiency makes the body dry and “old”
- have regular sex or at least a regular orgasm. The old saying is very true with your sex organs: if you don’t use it, you lose it.
Please click here for the entire transcript interview on Oprah with Dr Northrup where she answers many questions about hormones and women’s health.
Thanks for reading!