What is Estrogen?
The first hormone touted for its anti-aging effects was estrogen, way back in the 1960's. Estrogen is produced by the ovaries, the adrenal glands and body fat stores. It is a potent antioxidant, promotes good cholesterol, reduces clots and strokes, stimulates the brain, tones the skin, and helps maintain bone mass.
Estrogen also reduces the risk of colon cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer's disease.
In combination with natural progesterone, it may reduce the risk of breast cancer.
Estrogen is the major hormone responsible for the characteristics typically thought of as female. Required for proper development of sexual organs, completion of skeletal system, regulation of the menstrual cycle and maintenance of pregnancy, estrogen is extremely important in the growth and development of the female body. During the menstrual cycle, it is secreted by the developing egg follicle and aids in thickening of the endometrium.
Also one of the major hormones of pregnancy, it supports the production of fluid in the reproductive tract which enhance the survival of sperm by slightly neutralizing cervical secretions. Towards the end of pregnancy, it promotes the growth of milk ducts within the breasts and enhances the effect of prolactin (major hormone responsible for lactation in the female).
As a woman ages and she enters Menopause, her estrogen levels begin to decline. For that reason, some physicians may prescribe estrogen replacement therapy, to minimize some of the symptoms experienced. Estrogen is also the main hormone found in the birth control pill. Each pill is different, containing varying amounts of estrogen and/or progesterone.
Side Effects: Estrogen side effects definitely exist, and one should understand the difference between natural estrogen and synthetic estrogen. The most commonly prescribed synthetic estrogen is Premarin, currently manufactured by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals. According to the manufacturer, the most frequent estrogen side effects for Premarin are -- vaginitis due to yeast or other causes, vaginal bleeding, painful menstruation and leg cramps. Wyeth also makes a Premarin vaginal cream -- its most commonly reported side effects include vaginal discomfort or pain, breast pain, vaginitis and itching.
The synthetic estrogen prescription drugs are not the same as natural estrogens occurring in the body. Since substances occurring naturally cannot be patented, drug companies alter the molecular structure and create a new substance that is patentable. However, the body treats synthetic drugs differently than natural substances, usually in the form of unwanted estrogen side effects.
The three main estrogens occurring in the body are estradiol, estrone and estriol. Natural estrogens are identical to those occurring in the human body and are easily available in the form of estriol creams and tablets.
According to Harvard-trained family physician Dr. John R. Lee in his book What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause, the estrogens tend to increase cell division in tissue that is hormone-sensitive such as breast and uterine tissue. Estradiol is about a thousand times stronger in its effect on breast tissue than is estriol. He references studies from the 1970's that showed that overexposure to estradiol increases the risk of breast cancer.
Besides estrogen side effects from synthetic estrogens, unhealthy excess estrogen is regularly obtained from other sources. Birth control pills, household chemicals and pesticides, certain foods that have been sprayed or given chemicals and many construction materials used in homes are all sources of estrogen which leads to estrogen side effects in the female body. Doctors call this hormone imbalance condition of excess estrogen in the body "estrogen dominance". What are these estrogen side effects or symptoms of estrogen dominance? The symptoms include low sex drive, bloating and weight gain, headaches before the menstrual period, mood swings, irregular periods and excessive menstrual bleeding.
In the normal menstrual cycle and a healthy woman, estrogen is the dominant hormone that is produced for the first 10-12 days following the previous menstrual flow. At ovulation the female body begins producing progesterone, which happens for the next 12 days or so. If there is no pregnancy, progesterone and estrogen levels will drop at around day 28, allowing menstruation to begin. However, if there is no ovulation, progesterone will not be produced by the body that month. This event is called an annovulatory cycle, and it is a typical occurance today for women in their 30's and 40's - no ovulation, no progesterone. This leaves the woman with a deficiency of progesterone, an excess of estrogen and resulting estrogen side effects. And if a hysterectomy has happened, surgical menopause means the woman no longer produces progesterone, resulting in hormone imbalance.
If estrogen side effects from synthetic estrogen are a problem, consider using the safer natural estrogen form which is estriol.
Emerita's Phytoestrogen Cream