Estrogen and progesterone are hormones that play a significant role in women’s health. These two hormones are most commonly understood as they relate to menstrual cycles, but they affect so many other areas of wellbeing, especially as women age.
Both estrogen and progesterone are primarily produced by the ovaries. From adolescence until perimenopause, estrogen and progesterone levels rise and fall related to a woman’s menstrual cycle.
Progesterone and Estrogen Changes During Perimenopause and Menopause
As a woman ages and enters perimenopause, both estrogen and progesterone levels change. In the early stages of perimenopause, progesterone production declines, resulting in estrogen dominance. During this time, many women feel they are in a constant state of pre-menstrual syndrome, experiencing:
- Mood swings
- Tender breasts
Estrogen production declines in the second phase of perimenopause. This drop in estrogen levels often results in symptoms such as:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Memory problems
- Heart palpitations
- Sleep disturbances
- Vaginal dryness
Eventually, both estrogen and progesterone decline to very low levels and most symptoms are relieved, although some women continue to experience discomfort through menopause.
As estrogen and progesterone production decline, symptoms can range from easily manageable to negatively life-altering. Additional changes that result from the varying levels of estrogen and progesterone include:
- Reduction in skin thickness and elasticity
- Increased risk of heart attack due to increased rigidity of the blood vessels in the heart
- Reduced calcium absorption leading to decreased bone density
- Increased bladder infections
Although these lists of symptoms may sound daunting, having a sound relationship with your physician can make all the difference!
Healthy Aging IS Possible
Confusion and stress often accompany the wide variety of symptoms related to estrogen and progesterone imbalance. The inevitability of aging combined with limited information and treatment options add to a sense of frustration and helplessness. However, healthy aging is possible and women should not only survive this time of transition, but can actually thrive.
General recommendations regarding a healthy diet and adequate exercise are more important than ever as estrogen and progesterone production declines. Fresh, leafy greens, colorful fruits and vegetables, healthy fats and lean protein support the body as it adjusts to new hormone levels. Additionally, regular weight-bearing exercise builds muscle to support aging bones, while cardiovascular workouts strengthen the heart and lungs and improve circulation.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and bioidentical hormone therapy are common treatments for the side effects of estrogen and progesterone decline. HRT is not without risks, however. A thorough health history review is necessary before beginning treatment and continual monitoring is required during treatment.
Vitamin and mineral supplements, topical estrogen, focused nutritional therapy and prescription medications have all been shown to support healthy aging and offer relief of symptoms related to estrogen and progesterone imbalances. The correct combination for each woman is best determined over time in collaboration with her doctor.
The concept of hormonal pathways, including thyroid and adrenals, has to be understood to seamlessly get through this transition phase. While the scope of menopause is much more extensive than this article allows for discussion, Dr.Raman teaches, counsels, and treats once each women has understood why she is experiencing the symptoms she is.
Dr. Raman is focused on holistic care and good health maintenance. Patients at her Concierge Medical Practice may benefit from bioidentical hormone therapy and a medically supervised weight management program to help ease the symptoms associated with progesterone and estrogen changes.