Most people know estrogen as the female hormone most closely associated with menopause, as menopause results from decreasing estrogen levels. What people don’t often realize is that estrogens (including estrone, estradiol, and estriol) are multi-function molecules that exist in women, men, and animals and impact all systems of the body. Estrogen does facilitate major functions within the reproductive and endocrine systems, but this powerful hormone carries many more far-reaching implications for overall health.
Menopause can be uncomfortable or even unbearable for some women due to the profound impact of falling estrogen levels. However, the symptoms of low estrogen are typically easy to treat—primarily, by replacing the body’s natural estrogen with hormone-based medications. These treatments (including bioidentical hormone replacement therapy) can bring life-changing relief to women who struggle with hot flashes, mood swings, and sexual discomfort. From symptoms to treatment, it all starts with understanding estrogen.
Understanding Estrogen in the Female Body
In the female body, estrogen is produced primarily by the ovaries, and secondarily by fat cells and the adrenal gland. Estrogen performs its first major task during puberty, when the ovaries begin producing more hormones and preparing the body for fertility. This process causes the growth of breasts and pubic hair and influences fat distribution. It also marks the beginning of the menstrual cycle—a process driven by both estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen regulates monthly periods, rising and falling to signal the body’s natural cycle of ovulation and menstruation. This hormone also plays a significant role in the development of a healthy pregnancy.
Estrogen has significant influence over a woman’s sexual and reproductive health, helping your body to maintain a healthy vaginal wall, produce a thick uterine lining, and produce vaginal lubrication. But estrogen is more than just a sex hormone. These molecules also help the body break down and rebuild bones in a powerful metabolism. Estrogen helps with blood clotting. And, perhaps most importantly, it has been found to have significant impacts on the brain. Mood regulation is the first and most obvious role of estrogen in brain health, but recent studies have shown that estrogen may help control inflammation, impact learning, influence memory, and even help with brain recovery after injury. As such, this remarkable hormone can play a significant role throughout life.
The Relationship Between Estrogen and Menopause
Menopause, one of the most significant hormone shifts in the life of the female body, occurs as the result of diminishing estrogen levels. As you age, your ovaries gradually stop producing estrogen until menstruation finally stops. The decreased amount of estrogen can produce uncomfortable side effects that, depending on the woman, can last over ten years surrounding the cessation of their cycle, including the years after menstruation has stopped entirely. Meanwhile, women who undergo surgery to remove their ovaries prior to natural menopause typically experience a sharp and sudden drop in estrogen that can produce even more acute effects.
Whether the drop in estrogen is caused by natural menopause, ovarian dysfunction, or surgery, the symptoms of low estrogen are common:
- Hot flashes
- Vaginal dryness and sexual discomfort
- Depressed mood, anxiety, or irritability
- Low sex drive
- Night sweats and insomnia
- Frequent UTIs or incontinence
- Skin dryness and hair loss
- Slowed metabolism and weight gain
While these symptoms don’t usually require immediate medical attention, the stress and discomfort many women experience is enough to bring them to seek treatment. And, because estrogen has such wide-reaching effects in the female body, its absence also puts women at a higher risk for certain diseases that can be treatable or preventable. Osteoporosis and bone fractures become increasingly common for women as estrogen levels fall. Lack of estrogen also increases your risk of developing heart disease. These conditions should be closely monitored by medical professionals and addressed with appropriate interventions.
Hormone Replacement Therapy Can Help Restore Estrogen
In addition to reducing the risks associated with menopause, there is a sophisticated treatment designed to lessen the daily discomfort of menopause-related symptoms: hormone replacement therapy. Hormone replacement therapy is known to be the most effective and widely-available option for women struggling with the effects of natural or induced menopause. By replenishing your estrogen levels, HRT can reduce or eliminate a plethora of symptoms caused by diminished estrogen levels. While it is recognized as the most effective treatment for hot flashes, HRT may also minimize vaginal discomfort, raise libido, improve mood, and increase energy. For many women, this translates into a renewed sense of physical and emotional well-being.
A wide variety of estrogen- based medications have been created to help restore the body’s natural hormone balance. Traditional drugs include hormones derived from horse urine, but other medications are produced synthetically in a lab. Today, however, a plant-based alternative called bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) is becoming increasingly popular due to its potential for improved efficacy and tolerability.
BHRT: A Powerful Alternative for Women Seeking Hormone Therapy
BHRT medications include hormones that are chemically identical to those produced by the human body, which may allow them to effectively address menopause symptoms with fewer side effects than traditional therapies. Furthermore, while conventional drugs come in limited preparations and doses, BHRT medications are formulated and compounded specifically for each individual. This personalized approach ensures that your treatment is designed with your unique needs in mind.
If you’re interested in starting bioidentical hormone replacement therapy to help with your menopause symptoms, the first step is partnering with a certified hormone health practitioner. They will conduct a thorough evaluation of your symptoms and perform a variety of tests to get an accurate snapshot of your hormone levels and overall health. Your practitioner will use these data to craft a custom hormone medication which could include estrogen, progesterone, or any number of other bioidentical hormones in a ratio that perfectly suits your needs. Your prescribed medication may be taken orally or come in the form of patches, pellets, creams, or injections, which makes it easy to find a medication that works for your symptoms and your lifestyle.
There’s no need to suffer through menopause symptoms that disrupt your quality of life. With hormone replacement therapy, you can find relief and get back to living again.
Your journey toward hormone health starts with BodyLogicMD—a network of expert practitioners who are specialists in BHRT and integrative medicine. BodyLogicMD-affiliated practitioners are passionate about providing relief for women experiencing menopause through bioidentical hormone replacement therapy and holistic treatment plans that are customized to each individual’s needs. With hormone medications, nutrition advice, and lifestyle counseling, your practitioner will work with you to reach your highest wellness goals. Contact a local practitioner in your area to begin treatment, or take the BodyLogicMD Hormone Balance Quiz to learn more about how estrogen and menopause affect your body.
Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. All content on this website is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent diseases.
Charlotte is a patient care coordinator specializing in bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. She is committed to helping patients who struggle with the symptoms of hormonal change and imbalance explore their treatment options and develop effective strategies to optimize wellness.