We are focusing on women’s health this month and it’s the perfect time to talk about women’s health and hormones. This is obviously a big topic, and we can’t tackle it all here, but we can start today by talking about two of the most important and influential hormones in a woman’s body: estrogen and progesterone. What do they do in the body when they are working properly? What happens when they’re out of balance, and what can be done about that? Let’s find out.
Estrogen and progesterone in harmony
Estrogen is primarily produced by the ovaries and is responsible for the growth of the uterine lining during the first half of a woman’s menstrual cycle. Progesterone is also produced by the ovaries and its primary role is to prepare the uterus to receive life. Both are present throughout the menstrual cycle in different degrees. In a normal cycle, estrogen dominates the first half, and progesterone the second.
When in proper balance, these hormones aid fertility as well as mood. It’s a delicate balance, and one that can naturally be put out of balance by the experiences in a woman’s life.
Imbalance after childbirth
During a woman’s regular menstrual cycles, as said above, progesterone is produced primarily in the ovaries. However, in pregnancy, progesterone comes from the baby’s placenta. It produces progesterone at levels much higher than the ovaries. After it’s expelled in childbirth, the body no longer has that source of progesterone. In addition, the ovaries have “turned off” for the last several months of pregnancy, and now have to turn back on and start producing progesterone again. If they don’t do this quickly or efficiently, the result is low progesterone in comparison to estrogen, a condition called estrogen dominance.
This can be a problem in women after childbirth because it can lead to “baby blues.” Progesterone in the right amounts and in the right balance elevates the mood, so when it’s out of balance, mood suffers and depression, anxiety, and panic attacks can ensue. Other symptoms of estrogen dominance include breast tenderness, fluid retention, headaches, and severe menstrual cramps with clotting.
Furthermore, estrogen dominance is related to other hormone issues, including hypothyroidism (which we’ll talk about next time in more detail) and adrenal fatigue. All combined, these hormones are responsible for mood and energy levels, which are adversely affected with estrogen dominance.
The solution I’ve prescribed in the past with success to many patients – including my own five daughters – is to start taking bioidentical progesterone beginning the morning after giving birth. I’ve seen that this simple preventative measure helps stave off fatigue and postpartum depression.
Estrogen dominance after menopause
Childbirth is a time of big changes in hormones in a woman’s life; menopause is another. As we age, hormones decline. Rather than decline at the same rate, though, estrogen and progesterone decline at different rates. Progesterone levels fall more quickly than estrogen, leading to – that’s right – estrogen dominance.
One reason estrogen dominates progesterone is that the ovaries aren’t the sole source of it in the body. Fat cells also produce estrogen. This means that women who are overweight or obese will produce more estrogen and may experience the effects of estrogen dominance even more compared to women who aren’t.
Again, the answer to estrogen dominance during and after menopause that I favor is bioidentical progesterone to get the hormones back into balance with each other.
Hormones and women’s health – learn more
I hope this brief overview helped you get a better understanding of what estrogen and progesterone do in the body and what happens when they’re out of balance. I hope you also realize there are natural alternatives to consider, including bioidentical progesterone, that can treat the symptoms of estrogen dominance if you’re experiencing it. Next time we’ll look at something you probably never thought had much to do with women’s health in particular: thyroid hormones.
You can always learn more by getting in touch with a Wellness Consultant at the Hotze Health & Wellness Center. Call 1-888-447-4058 or visit our website. Find out more about how to get on the path to optimal health and wellness.