Hormonal fluctuations and imbalances can cause us to feel unwell. The 2 key female hormones are estrogen and progesterone. Health conditions associated with estrogen imbalance include fibrocystic breasts, PMS, breast cancer, uterine cancer, endometriosis, fibroids and infertility. Estrogen production occurs in various areas of our body. The primary source of estrogen formation is the ovaries. Secondary estrogen production occurs in adrenal glands, liver, breast tissue and fat cells. Estrogen is a hormone that gives tissues a signal to grow. In so doing, it can stimulate the lining of the uterus and vaginal walls, breast tissue, bone formation and libido.
There are 3 naturally occurring types of estrogen: Estrone (E1), Estradiol (E2) and Estriol (E3). Estrone is the base structure for estrogen. It is the most common form of estrogen in menopause. E2 is the strongest and most active of the three forms. It is present predominantly in our reproductive lives. E3 is the mildest form of estrogen and its levels are highest in pregnancy. It is most important that E1 and E2 are metabolized in a healthy way to avoid their detrimental effects. Estrogen metabolism depends on good liver and adrenal function.
Before supplementing or modifying any hormonal levels, it is important to test to get baseline levels of the circulating hormones and their metabolites. Blood tests for hormones are not the most accurate at indicating these baseline levels. More accurate testing is available by testing urine metabolites of each of the hormones and salivary hormone testing. You can ask your naturopathic doctor if this testing is suitable for your specific health concerns.
There are health conditions where the supplementation of hormones is necessary for quality of life and management of symptoms. Bio-identical hormones have a reputation of being safer than using synthetic hormones. This is because bio-identical hormones are the exact molecular structure as the hormones produced by our bodies, and they behave at the receptor in an identical way to our endogenous hormones. Bio-identical hormones are immediately metabolized after being used and they are prescribed in physiological doses. Studies have shown that bioidentical progesterone has a protective effect on breast tissue and a protective effect on the risk of breast cancer compared to synthetic progesterone (progestins). It has also been found to have a protective effect regarding risk of cardiovascular disease.
Women are at risk of hormone related conditions at any stage of their menstrual life. Fearing hormone therapy is not the solution to managing one’s symptoms. Making an informed choice on what is best for one’s health is key to the management of symptoms and quality of life.
Dr. Alene Falomo, ND
The information above is intended for informational purposes only. Always consult with your health care provider if this is suitable for you.