Estrogen is a steroid compound that assists with many vital operations within the body. Among other purposes, estrogen helps to:
- Promote bone growth
- Protect the eyes
- Protect the heart and cardiovascular system
- Regulate mood
Estrogen has over 400 functions within the human body, affecting nearly everything from skin elasticity to brain function. While too little estrogen can negatively affect metabolism, an excess of the very same hormone leads to increased risk of breast and certain other cancers. For this reason, hormone replacement therapy may not be the right treatment for everyone, meaning those experiencing symptoms should consult with a gynecologist to discuss whether estrogen replacement therapy is right for them.
Signs of Estrogen Deficiency
An antioxidant is a type of molecule that protects cells from damage. Estrogen, among other things, has many anti-oxidizing properties. As such, the symptoms of an estrogen deficiency can often mimic many of the signs of aging in women, including:
- Menopausal symptoms (hot flashes)
- Vaginal muscle weakness
- Vaginal dryness
- Dry skin
- Brittle bones
- Loss of bowel and bladder control
- Excessive fatigue
- Homeostasis (body temperature) difficulties
- Decreased sex drive
For those experiencing any of the related symptoms, bioidentical estrogen hormone therapy may be an option.
Causes of a Deficiency
For women, most cases of an estrogen deficiency occur around the onset of menopause. However, other conditions that can create an estrogen deficiency include poor diet, thyroid problems, genetic disorders, pituitary gland diseases, or excessive strenuous activity.
Your doctor will be able to test you for an estrogen deficiency through a urine or blood sample. Although women have three different types of estrogen, only two must be taken into consideration when testing for a deficiency.
- Estrone (E1) – The most dominant type of estrogen in women after menopause, and also the most prevalent in men as well. It is considered less potent than estradiol (the second type).
- Estradiol (E2) — The most prominent kind of estrogen in virile women prior to menopause. Men have this form of estrogen too, but in a lesser amount than estrone.
- Estriol (E3) — This is the most prevalent form of estrogen in pregnancy. In reality, it is a very weak breakdown product or a metabolite of estradiol and is most effective in treating vaginal dryness.
Estriol (E3) is the major constituent of Biest, a therapeutic form of estrogen replacement, which was once thought to be a protective against breast cancer but now known to be ineffective.
Bioidentical Estrogen Treatment
Bioidentical hormones, including bioidentical estrogen, comes from plants, primarily soy and yams, and as their name indicates they match the chemical structure and function of human hormones. Once these identical hormones enter the body they are processed in the same manner as that which is being internally produced; the body simply cannot tell the difference. Numerous studies show that bioidentical hormone therapy is indeed safer. In every study, the benefits of estrogen replacement have been noted, but none of the studies show an increase in any of the health issues observed when using synthetic hormones.
Other Benefits of Estrogen
Not every woman experiences the same menopausal symptoms and with the same intensity. For some, the lack of mental clarity can occur slowly over several years. However, this is not the only benefit from including bioidentical estrogen. Natural hormone supplementation can also eliminate hot flashes and night sweats and significantly decrease your chances of developing colon cancer, heart disease, diabetes and macular degeneration.
Types of Therapy
There are three forms of estrogen replacement therapy. The simplest and most limited is vaginal topical estrogen in the form of a cream, tablet or ring. It is ideal for women who only wish to treat dryness and urinary frequency or recurrent bladder infections. It has no systemic effect or benefits.
The second form is topical estrogen given as a patch, cream, gel or spray. This is the most common method of application. It treats all aspects of deficiency but unless monitored generally does not achieve optimized levels. It is excellent for symptom relief.
The third form of replacement is by pill, tablet or troche. When properly monitored high levels in the optimal range can be achieved. The unique advantage of oral vs. topical estrogen is that the former has been shown to reduce the risk of fatal heart attack and stroke by almost 50% This is not achieved by the topical route.
As always, systemic estrogen replacement by any route should be accompanied by progesterone therapy, however, vaginal estrogen does not.
Dr. Jacobson is a board-certified OB/GYN with experience in bioidentical estrogen treatments. For thirty years he has been treating women in Greenwich and the surrounding areas. He prefers the holistic approach to achieving a hormonal balance which involves testing several hormone levels including estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, and thyroid. The results of the test are compared to levels typically found in women in their twenties. To learn more or discuss whether estrogen hormone therapy in Connecticut is right for you, schedule a consultation today.