Women from puberty to post menopause need hormone balance, whether to deal with PMS, fertility, menstrual irregularities, fibroids and the many symptoms of menopause and beyond.
So how do you know what you need? There are blood tests and saliva tests which can certainly be helpful, but the late Dr John Lee, the pioneer of bioidentical hormone cream usage, always believed that women themselves were the best judge when they listened to their bodies and observed their symptoms.
Our primary hormones throughout life are oestrogen and progesterone and we have been designed so they perfectly balance each other. I hear from many women who have had a hysterectomy and been told that the only hormone they need replacing is oestrogen, but bioidentical doctors know that – aside from the health risks of unopposed oestrogen – if there is very low or insufficient progesterone then there is no protection from oestrogen dominance. The results of which are linked to heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis. That is why women find themselves now being taken off their HRT after the maximum recommended time of 5-6 years.
We need both hormones, and at different times of our life our needs can change. However, unfortunately since the advent of the Pill and HRT, to say nothing of the environmental xenoestrogen factors, women are much more likely now to be oestrogen dominant. This is a condition first identified by Dr Lee where the oestrogen levels are not balanced by progesterone as nature intended.
The effects of oestrogen dominance
These are generally seen from perimenopause onwards, right through to post menopause as women respond to an excess of oestrogen not balanced by progesterone. The risks of unopposed oestrogen are well known but since the rise of synthetic hormone use, coupled with the modern tendency to being overweight in society generally it is now much more of a problem than in the past.
At menopause both hormone levels decline, but the body normally switches production of oestrogen from the ovaries into the fat cells so the more weight, the more oestrogen. If you add in synthetic hormones from HRT the very low levels of progesterone at menopause simply can’t do the job they were designed for. When both levels fall naturally balance is maintained, but when oestrogen is kept artificially high then signs of oestrogen dominance result.
The most commonly experienced are:
* Breast tenderness
* Breasts swollen, increased in size
* Impatient, irritable behaviour
* Water retention particularly of the belly, wrists, fingers, ankles
* Weight gain when nothing has changed in your diet or exercise
When additional oestrogen is needed
And what of the women who do need oestrogen? As I said we need both hormones throughout our lives and at menopause women who are slim are not producing oestrogen from their fat cells so may also be deficient in oestrogen.
At menopause particularly oestrogen levels diminish, the vaginal tissues may lose lubrication and elasticity, making intercourse painful. Vaginal atrophy can also occur and this definitely will need additional oestrogen to help with the condition. Low oestrogen levels may also leave you more vulnerable to urinary or vaginal infections and women certainly notice a difference in urinary frequency, particularly at night.
The mood swings, anxieties and even depression that can feature at menopause are also best helped with a combination of both oestrogen and progesterone, as are the more severe type of hot flushes and night sweats.
The most commonly experienced are:
* Depression and anxiety
* Dull, dry, skin and eyes
* Loss of firmness, fullness and elasticity in the breasts
* Pain or discomfort on intercourse
* Reduced stamina
* Vaginal dryness and/or atrophy
It is commonly thought that if you have low oestrogen you cannot be oestrogen dominant but this is simply not the case if your progesterone levels are even lower.
How to help yourself
The late Dr John Lee, the pioneer of hormone cream usage, was someone who inspired me to find out more about hormone balance when I facilitated his talks in London. One of the things he said that most impressed me was that ‘women know their own bodies best’ and that if they would just pay more attention to that and their symptoms they would be a lot better off.
There is now an overwhelming amount of information available, not all of it accurate or reliable, so it makes even more sense now to be responsible for our own health and find out as much as you can from different sources to best maintain your own health.
If you would like more information on hormone testing then Dr Shirley Bond and Dr Tony Coope are private GP’s experienced in bioidentical hormone usage and who both offer this facility. You can contthem at the links below: