Estrogens and menopause

Importance of estrogen for women

estrogenEstrogen is the most important hormone that influences the life of women. Estrogen is a hormone responsible for female sexual features such as breast development and the menstrual cycle. For young women, puberty starts when the production of estrogen increases in the ovules. The estrogen level remains relatively the same during 25 years, after which it will decrease constantly. Since the number of ovules that mature in the ovary decrease as women get older, the formation of estrogen also decreases. The body tries to fight this problem by producing two other hormones by the hypophyse: the Ovule Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and the Luetinisante Hormone (LH).
However, the decreased levels of estrogen and increased production of FSH and LH create symptoms such as hot flushes or night sweat.
There are three principle forms of estrogen found in the human body estrone, estradiol and estriol. Estradiol is the most commonly measured type of estrogen for nonpregnant women. The amount of estradiol in the blood varies throughout her menstrual cycle. After menopause, estradiol production drops to a very low but constant level.
In men, FSH and LH are necessary for the formation of sperm and the stimulation of synthesis of testosterone. It's then not surprising that men sometimes show the same symptoms as women.

Other functions of estrogen

Estrogen intervenes in other body functions. Estrogens have an important role on skin tension, they stabilize and make the bones stronger, they protect against arteriosclerosis and have an important effect on blood vessels.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)

When the estrogen levels decrease and the menopause starts, then the main risks become osteoporosis and arteriosclerosis. This is the reason why doctors tend to prescribe hormone based products as therapy.

HRT was supposed to be the wonder drug that would improve the quality of life during menopause. However, as the active hormones have other important functions in the body, it is possible to have unwanted effects. Estradial (an estrogen) intervenes in various cancers. High level of estrogen will increase the risk for breast cancer. Conventional hormone therapy is not the only option available. Women who do not wish to take hormones may use isoflavones supplements for managing their menopausal symptoms and other risks.

More literature about estrogen and menopause

The effects of phytoestrogen isoflavones on bone density in women: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Feb;79(2):326-33

Effects of Estrogen-Progestin on Risk of Fracture and Bone Mineral Density. JAMA. 2003;290:1729-1738

Trifolium pratense (Red Clover) Exhibits Estrogenic Effects In Vivo in Ovariectomized Sprague-Dawley Rats. J. Nutr. 132:27-30, 2002
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