What Is Hormonal Imbalance?
We're all familiar with the concept: "Change is inevitable. How you react is your choice." There are times when you respond flawlessly. You feel great and move on.
When it has to do with health, it's not always so easy. There's little argument that biological changes in women can be more challenging (and rewarding!) than they are in men. The female body is more complex. It’s a fact.
Fast forward to Aging Well as a woman.
Understanding Hormonal Imbalance And How To Feel Better
Hormonal imbalance occurs when age or something else disrupts your body's set point for hormone levels. Sometimes the imbalance is temporary and your body is capable of correcting it on its own. Often, however, it is not temporary and your body cannot correct it on its own. Even when it is biologically possible for your body to restore homeostasis, it may need help.
Here's why: As your body ages it becomes less efficient at creating certain hormones. This is most obvious in the ovaries. They become less efficient at producing the body's three estrogens: estradiol, estriol and estrone. Wonderful experiences like pregnancy and stressful times can upset estrogen levels at any age.
Illnesses, over the counter medications, prescriptions and birth control pills can also throw any of your hormones out of line. In fact, birth control pills may cause Low T (Low Testosterone) in women. Progesterone, another female hormone produced in the ovaries, is also susceptible to body changes.
Circumstantial fluctuations like stress and pregnancy, may require medical help to restore balance. Side effects of hormonal imbalance like anxiety, depression and low libido can interfere with your body's natural ability to reset itself.
Remember, the body is as powerful as it is delicate. Mental, physical, emotional, biological are all intertwined.
If something is causing you distress, then you owe it to yourself to feel better.
It's common for women to put EVERYONE else ahead of themselves, but science, psychology and general medicine prove there's a better way to have your cake and eat it too. If you don't believe that then think about the airplane emergency rule: "Place the mask over your own mouth and nose before assisting others.”
Put yourself first and watch how everything else falls into place.
Estrogens And Androgens
There are two classes of sex hormones: Estrogens and Androgens. Female and male bodies create both.
Estrogens are mainly responsible for female secondary sex characteristics and androgens are mainly responsible for male secondary sex characteristics. However, each group plays a role in both genders.
All sex hormones derive from androgens. Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and testosterone are examples of androgens. Through a series of chemical processes, the specific androgen testosterone is produced.
The ovaries transform much of that testosterone into the three estrogens: estradiol, estriol and estrone. The amount of each estrogen created depends on age, health and other unique physiological characteristics.
How Hormonal Imbalance Occurs
As ovarian function is disrupted due to age or other, testosterone levels may build up and the levels of estrogens decrease.
Women's strongest estrogen, estradiol, is especially vulnerable during the 10-year period leading up to menopause (perimenopause) and postmenopause. The average age of menopause in the US is 51.
In postmenopausal women, estradiol falls below 30 pg/mL.
From the age of first menstruation (menarche) through a woman's mid 20s estradiol may be high as 350 picograms per milliliter (pg/mL).
Estradiol and estriol production stops postmenopause, leaving the body essentially with just estrone, unless your sex hormones are replaced with hormone treatments.
Commonly, vaginal dryness is the first sign of hormonal imbalance. Not only is it distressing, but if left untreated, it leads to other symptoms and conditions, frequently grouped under the diagnosis Female Sexual Dysfunction (FSD).
One possible physiological outcome of untreated FSD is vaginal atrophy. Symptoms include pain during sex, tears in the vaginal lining and itching in and around the vagina. Lack of vaginal lubrication also upsets vaginal pH, paving the way for yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis. Emotional distress strains romantic relationships and psychological wellness.
Hormonal Imbalance Can Be Rough!
- You may feel depressed and confused because you don't understand why you feel different.
- Hormonal shifts can cause acne.
- You may blame yourself for mood changes and think you're becoming "crabby."
- Fatigue may make you think you're lazy.
- Brain fog can trick you into thinking you're going crazy.
- Low libido, vaginal dryness, pain during sex and sexual dissatisfaction can rob you of your primal needs.
- There are over 30 symptoms of hormonal imbalance in women.
Treat your body well and you will be rewarded.
Just because your hormones have dropped, it doesn't mean they have to stay there. They are ways to boost them and improve your physical and emotional well-being. It's called Active Aging. Diet, exercise, new ways of thinking, and medications like peptides* and growth hormone boosters* can help. Additionally, bioidentical hormones are available and they come from nature.
What Is Active Aging?
- Active aging means you take control of your health and optimize opportunities to enhance your life.
- Active aging means retaining the things you have always loved about your life and even discover new joy.
- It's possible to retain your sexuality, social engagement, physical strength and your brain power as the years pass.
If you're a Gen Xer, this is something you may want to jump on, especially since Gen X embraced having children past 35 and into their 40s. This means you're between perimenopause and menopause and your kids may still be in elementary or middle school. You want your quality of life to remain with you for many years to come, and it's possible!
What Are Bioidentical Hormones?
Bioidentical hormones are plant based. They are designed in laboratories but not actually created there because they are made by nature. In the US, the only legal bioidentical hormones are made from diosgenin, an extract of the wild yam. Diosgenin must undergo a 3-step laboratory process to produce bioidentical hormones. Studies show that eating the wild yam is not effective for HRT.
The body does not distinguish between bioidentical hormones and hormones made by the body (endogenous hormones). Bioidentical hormones should not be confused with plant compounds that may boost hormone levels.
Some examples include soy, black cohosh and sesame seeds which are rich in estrogen-like compounds, called phytoestrogens. A few natural sources that are popularly labeled "testosterone boosters" are ginger, fenugreek and onions.
Along the same lines, the cannabis plant, hemp, contains phytocannabinoids. Although they are not similar to sex hormones, phytocannabinoids (one of which is CBD) are similar to cannabinoids made by the body, endocannabinoids. Hemp is popular among researchers as a way to help women manage symptoms of hormonal imbalance.
How Can HRT Help Me?
HRT, whether through estrogen, progesterone, or prescriptions that contain a combination of the sex hormones (DHEA) and estrogen, can help balance your hormones, Custom compounded hormone treatments are available in just about any form. Choose among vaginal creams, pills, body creams and injections.
Estradiol (generic Estrace) delivered vaginally as a cream is quickly absorbed and measurable within minutes. Maximum bioavailability may occur within half an hour.1 Full benefits may take 3-4 weeks.
There are over 50 sex hormones in the body and the majority naturally derive from the hormone pregnenolone.2 Replacing pregnenolone provides the body a key "ingredient" to restart sex hormone biosynthesis. Imagine a medication that meets you where you are, one that adjusts to your body. It may be possible with pregnenolone replacement therapy. Pregnenolone has shown potential for hormone therapy to protect against ovarian cancer.3
Doctors may prescribe topical estradiol with DHEA to treat symptoms of menopause including vaginal dryness, pain during sex, thinning of vaginal walls, low libido, mood swings, and hot flashes. DHEA may help increase testosterone. Balancing testosterone has been shown to stabilize mood and help reduce hot flashes. 4,5,6
Hormone replacement treatment with estradiol and estriol (Bi-Est): Studies demonstrate that estradiol may prevent cardiovascular conditions in premenopausal women. The approach may differ for postmenopausal women. To reduce their higher risk for cardiovascular disease, studies are underway on estrone's protective properties.7
What You Need To Know About HRT
Optimizing your health with HRT can be a major step forward. Some tips for your best possible outcome:
- Get expert medical advice.
- Be vigilant about over-the-counter, so-called sex hormones. They may be harmful.
- It's important to be monitored by a trained medical professional when you are on HRT. Get regular lab tests and remain consistent with your treatment.
- Tell your physician about any side effects.
Remember, put yourself first and everything else will fall into place.
1Krause M, Wheeler TL 2nd, Richter HE, Snyder TE. Systemic effects of vaginally administered estrogen therapy: a review. Female Pelvic Med Reconstr Surg. 2010;16(3):188–195.
2,3 Ye Young Shin. Pregnenolone as a potential candidate for hormone therapy for female reproductive disorders targeting ERβ. Molecular Reproduction & Development. Volume 86, Issue 1, January 2019, Pages 109-117. First published November 8, 2018 https://doi.org/10.1002/mrd.23086
4,5 Seaman, Andrew. DHEA vaginal suppository good alternative to estrogen creams. Health News. Reuters. Jan. 5, 2016. Online: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-menopause-dhea/dhea-vaginal-suppository-good-alternative-to-estrogen-creams-idUSKBN0UJ0B720160105 Last visited Jan. 16, 2020.
6 DHEA: MedLinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health. Online: https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/natural/331.html Last visited Jan. 16, 2020.
7 Antonio de Padua Mansur, Tereza Cristina B. F. Silva, Julio Yoshio Takada, et al., “Long-Term Prospective Study of the Influence of Estrone Levels on Events in Postmenopausal Women with or at High Risk for Coronary Artery Disease,” vol. 2012, Article ID 363595, 6 pages, 2012.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Please consult your physician before starting any exercise or nutritional supplement program before using this or any products if you are pregnant or have a serious medical condition.