Before I launch into today’s post, I’d like to give a shout-out to any males who are reading this. While what you’ll be reading doesn’t exactly pertain to you, I’m guessing that most of you either have a wife, daughter, female friend or family member who could benefit from this information. So I hope you’ll continue reading and maybe pass it along.
In this post, we’ll explore the benefits of estrogen. What happens when we don’t have enough. How/why hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has been demonized and the three different types of estrogen and their roles.
Let’s dig in!
The benefits of estrogen-see how many conditions you relate to.
- Regulates weight
- Regulates appetite
- Modulates moods
- Increases insulin sensitivity-role in diabetes
- Keeps inflammation in check
- Affects digestive function
- Prevents gallbladder issues
- Reduces breast/ovarian cancer
- Increases Energy/focus
- Improves Sleep
- Reduces HBP
- Improves bone health-osteoporosis
- Keeps cholesterol levels in check
- Prevents heart attacks and strokes
- Is Neuroprotective (dementia/Alzheimer’s)
- Increases desire for sex
- Keeps urinary tract healthy
- Reduces incontinence
- Retain skin elasticity
How many of these did YOU identify with?
I’ve always asked my female clients how they’re coping with the common symptoms associated with perimenopause and menopause. You know, the hot flashes, night sweats, incontinence, vaginal dryness, low libido and sleep disturbances. If they seemed to be doing okay, then I’d let it go. Until recently.
I now realize I was missing a big important piece for my post menopausal women.
As my clientele, friends and family are getting older, I’m watching some of them continue to lose bone density, can not lose weight or lower their A1C and insulin. Their inflammation markers are not coming down. They feel like they can’t do many of the things they’d like because they are tired and their brain fog is getting the best of them.
Intimacy has become difficult or non-existent. They experience more UTI’s and vaginal dryness. If it runs in their family, they’re worried about heart disease, dementia and Alzheimer’s. And they should worry, as almost 70% more women than men will get Alzheimer’s and post menopausal women are more likely to die from a first-time cardiovascular event than men if over the age of 55.
As I’ve watched some of my 55+ female clients only marginally improve using protocols that most often are very effective and preventative, I knew I was missing something. I’ve been circling around this hormone wagon for years but didn’t think I needed to dive into the world of HRT BUT that has changed!
Juxtaposing all of the above concerns and symptoms with the long list of benefits that estrogen gives, causes one to pause and wonder why so many physicians are not on board with HRT. So let’s take a look at that.
Why estrogen replacement has been so demonized:
It can all be traced back to the Woman’s Health Initiative (WHI) which was approximately an eleven year study. It was originally set up by National Blood, Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to see if Hormone Replacement Therapy helped in the prevention of heart disease and osteoporosis in post menopausal women. It was a large study, including 160,000 women. The results published in 2002, tainted everyone’s view of HRT and it’s been a long road getting that narrative changed.
There were many problems with the study but the biggest one was the type of hormones used-estrogen from conjugated horse urine (aka estrogen waste) which is a pro-inflammatory form of estrogen and progestin which is biochemically different from the progesterone our bodies make.
And the hormones were taken orally which is NOT the preferred route for hormone replacement therapy as much of it is turned into a proinflammatory form of estrogen called estrone.
So what happened with the WHI study was it looked like the use of progestins and estrone from equine urine could increase the cause of cancer in women. Of course, doctors immediately had their patients stop HRT and two decades later both the general public and doctors have, for the most part, stood by the idea that HRT causes cancer and is harmful.
So that’s how HRT unfortunately got its bad rap.
Before we can conclude whether or not estrogen and HRT is beneficial, we need to understand that there are three different types of estrogen, and they are not created equal and they determine the safety and efficacy in hormone replacement.
1. Estradiol-The most abundant form of estrogen circulating during our fertile years and is the form that gives us all of the benefits listed above. It’s made in our ovaries
2. Estrone– Is the inflammatory form of estrogen and while we need a little bit of it, if it’s the dominant estrogen, we can get ourselves into trouble. It’s what xenoestrogens are turned into and what was used in the WHI study.
3. Estriol-This is the weakest form of estrogen produced by the placenta, is highest during pregnancy and has even been shown to have a role in reducing breast cancer.
While all three types are used in HRT, they all have distinct differences, benefits, and risks.
In the next post, I’ll break down the pros and cons of each different type of estrogen used in HRT. I’ll also discuss the different ways of administering hormones; the benefits of using progesterone even if you don’t have a uterus and when to start the use of HRT and for how long.
I think HRT is an important and beneficial therapy for many women and it’s my goal to educate myself and women, to better understand its role in disease and health management and how to ask for what they need in order to continue to live their lives more fully.
As Dr. Anna Cabeca states: Menopause is mandatory/Suffering and marginal health is not