Estrogen Demand Likely Related to Stress Hormones
As women move towards menopause, many of them begin to ponder the need for hormone replacement therapy. This time in a woman’s life is associated with hormonal change. Women are often instructed to initiate estrogen therapy to restore levels and alleviate symptoms. The most common of these symptoms is hot flashes, but this is by no means the only. Other annoying symptoms are vaginal dryness, mental fog, wrinkles and alterations in body composition. So many of these symptoms are blamed on lack of estrogen, but is estrogen the only problem?
A critical, yet rarely considered point is that women’s transition to menopause is influenced by far more than estrogen. Estrogen is under the influence of many other hormones. However, the hormone group that seems to have the most impact on the estrogens are stress hormones. Stress hormones play a vital role in making the transition into menopause smoother. The fluctuation of symptoms commonly associated with menopause suggests a bigger problem. It emphasizes the need to support the systems that are dependent on stress hormones.
Hormone Trade Off
Under an ideal situation, there is a trade off between the ovaries and the adrenal glands. Just as the ovaries are responsible for estrogen production, the adrenal glands secrete the stress hormone cortisol, as well as others, in a pre-menopause state. As a female continues to move closer to menopause, the function of the ovaries continues to decline. This production is replaced by the adrenal glands. Thus as estrogen production continues to decrease from the ovaries, the adrenal glands replace it making the net amount of available estrogen consistent. There is only one problem with this picture. Most women do not have adequate function of the adrenal glands. Therefore when it comes time to transition, there is already limited function of the gland the production of estrogen is being shifted to. As less estrogen is produced from the ovaries, levels continue to fall. With limited of no support from the adrenal glands, estrogen deficiency symptoms are only a matter of time.
If the symptoms that I noted initially sound like you, considering your stress hormones as part of hormone replacement therapy during peri-menopause and into menopause should be a consideration for you. By addressing the stress hormones, especially cortisol, you provide support to the adrenal glands. As these glands get the support they need, they not only are able to produce cortisol, but also a multitude of other important hormones, including estrogen.
Replacing estrogen has merit, but doing so alone only serves to further imbalance the body’s delicate chemistry. Hormones are chemical messengers and when the wrong message is given the outcome is negative. Women often experience this as hormone deficiency symptoms. Supporting a demand for estrogen also means promoting balance. This is best done by supporting the stress hormone cortisol as well as its direct precursor progesterone. Progesterone maintains balance over estrogen and keeps it from acting uncontrollably. Estrogen replacement therapy without sufficient progesterone further imbalances their ratio and worsen symptoms.
Taking a complete approach to the demand for estrogen means not just replacement, but also considering the stress hormone cortisol. The stress hormone cortisol robs from other hormones to maintain its production. Yet pushing more hormone toward this problem to attempt to support the adrenal glands is not the issue. The bigger picture is that one must address the basics of life and minimize stress. This includes adequate, restful sleep, a diet based on unprocessed, living foods, adequate nutrition, and the proper balance of exercise. Once these are addressed, then the demand for estrogen can be met and maintained.