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How to improve symptoms of hormonal decline in women


How to improve symptoms of hormonal decline in women

Main female hormones include progesterone and estrogens. In a healthy woman in reproductive age, progesterone and estrogen are in harmony performing their important tasks. However in addition to progesterone and estrogen, other hormones such as pregnenolone, DHEA, and testosterone are also necessary to keep everything in the right balance. All steroid hormones are derived from cholesterol in a metabolic pathway. The first hormone in the line is pregnenolone, which is then converts into all other steroid hormones. Although these hormones are correlated, each provides unique set of physiological properties.

What are the functions of progesterone and estrogen?

Progesterone is essential for ovulation, implantation, healthy pregnancy, breast health, and plays a role in the brain by regulating cognitive functions, mood, social behaviour, as well as providing neuro-protective and anti-inflammatory benefits. Progesterone metabolites demonstrate anti-anxiety effects, therefore low progesterone levels may contribute to the increased incidence of anxiety and mood disorders seen in early menopause. Progesterone also has shown to be effective in relieving the menopause symptoms with less estrogen related adverse effects.

Estrogen naturally appears in multiple forms in the human body. Main forms of the estrogen are including estradiol, estrone, and estriol. Estrogen is mainly produced by ovaries and in a smaller amount by the adrenal glands. After menopause adrenal glands become the important source of estrogen.

Estradiol is the dominant estrogen during the reproductive age. It is important in releasing egg from ovaries during each cycle. It is also beneficial for other organs such as heart, brain, large intestine, and bones. majority of the menopausal symptoms are due to lower production of Estradiol.

Estrone in the main form of estrogen after menopause, and it is produced by the fat tissues. Estrone is metabolized to several metabolites such as 2-hydroxyestrone, 4-hydroxyestrone, and 16-alpha-hydroxyestrone, which then have to be cleared from the body. Some studies link the higher levels of 16-alpha-hydroxyestrone with abnormal cell growth. Certain phyto-nutrients help to convert the 16-alpha-hydroxyestrone to the 2-hydroxyestrone which actually prevents the cellular over growth.

Finally, estriol is the main estrogen during pregnancy, and it is produced by placenta. Estriol has been studied for its possible immune modulator benefits in relation to auto immune diseases such as M.S.. It has also been studied for its benefits in reducing menopausal symptoms. 

Other necessary hormones for women's health 

Other hormones including pregnenolone, DHEA, and testosterone play an important role in both men and women health.

Pregnenolone is produced mainly in adrenal glands, gonads, brain, and other tissues in the body. Pregnenolone is derived from cholesterol. Pregnenolone is the precursor to all the other steroid hormones. It means pregnenolone can subsequently be converted into all other steroid hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and DHEA. Pregnenolone production declines by aging, and that is found to be related to age related sleep and cognitive problems. Pregnenolone deficiency is found to be related to reduced brain function and dementia to some degree.

DHEA is produced by adrenal glands, gonads, and the brain and its age related decline in production impacts both men and women. DHEA is found to affect nervous system, immune health, inflammation rate, musculoskeletal health, metabolic health, sexual health, and energy level. Reduced DHEA in post menopause has been associated with mood disturbance, insulin resistance, lower immune function and more.

Testosterone is produced in women body at tiny level; but no matter how small its level is in females, lower testosterone level during menopause and in post menopausal women impacts cardiovascular health, sexual health, mood, bone and muscle mass. Testosterone therapy in women has been found to improve all the impacted functions.

What are the common health concerns related to female hormonal decline?

As new studies are providing better understanding of the role of each hormone and its tight relation to the hormonal network, it has become more evident that any hormonal deficiency in fact could disturb multiple biological and physiological functions in the body.

Decreased female hormones due to menopause has shown to be associated with an increased risk of several health conditions such as Osteoporosis, Heart disease, Inflammation, Metabolic syndrome, Insulin resistance, liver disease, Neuro-psychological conditions like Alzheimer disease, and dementia.

Lower bone density and bone loss conditions are associated with menopause and pre-menopause which can lead to osteoporosis and increased risk of fractures. Insufficient estrogen signals disturbs the balance between bone formation and bone breakdown and cause bone loss.

Evidence show that the frequency and the number of coronary heart disease in women increases sharply after menopause. Heart disease risk factors in postmenopausal women include higher blood pressure, lower HDL, higher levels of blood lipids including high LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, triglycerides, and high homocysteine levels. In addition, increased chronic inflammation markers and metabolic disturbance are commonly seen in post menopause. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels drop significantly after menopause.

Estrogen is found to play a role in maintaining the integrity of the vascular endothelium, where atherosclerotic changes begin.

Neurological conditions are also increased due to the hormone deficiencies. As it's been found that estrogen encourages the brain removal of toxic beta amyloids. Pregnenolone and DHEA are also perform neuro-protective functions. They play an important role in learning, memory, stress, and mood by participating in regulation of certain neurotransmitters. Additionally, sleep disorders are commonly known condition due to hormone deficiency.

Progesterone metabolites are found to provide anti anxiety property; thus lower levels of in menopause is suggested to be the cause of mood disorders such as depression, anxiety, and sleep problems.

What is the HRT and its associated risks?

In theory HRT( Hormone Replacement Therapy) is employed to replace the loss of hormone production due to ageing, in order to prevent the symptoms of hormonal decline. But with everyday advancement in science it has become apparent that the hormonal system is actually more complex. Steroid hormones are working in an intertwined network while performing their unique tasks. Therefore, for HRT to actually work according to the biological system, it should be able to harmonize the network of the continuous hormonal signaling system throughout the body.

There are multiple problems found with the classical HRT. Synthesised estrogen triggers higher estrogenic signals in some parts of the body when compared with the normal estrogens produced by a woman’s body and that is a potential risk factor to the adverse effects. Usually the synthesized estrogen is given in conjunction with a synthetic progestin which stimulates progesterone signaling. Unfortunately this type HRT fails to replicate the female natural complex hormonal signaling network and their metabolites.

Another issue with classical HRT is that in fact the process used in synthesizing hormones, includes other hormones, such as androgens and progestins that act differently from those naturally produced by the body, and in different proportions than those made by the body. Therefore it consequently leads to different and improper amounts of hormonal metabolites. For example one of the metabolites from synthesized estrogen is found to be responsible for increased blood clotting risk as a common adverse effect.

Data analysis however, suggest that the bio-identical HRT has shown to impose lower risks when compared with classical HRT. So it is considered a preferred form of HRT at this time.

How nutritional supports and Phyto-hormones can assist to improve symptoms of female hormonal deficiency?

Symptoms associated with hormonal deficiency can greatly benefits from a healthy lifestyle, physical activity and nutritional supplements. Optimizing performance and the health of tissues and cells help to minimize negative impacts of hormonal deficiency, improve healthy metabolism and mood. Nutritional supplements also complement hormonal treatments and help to achieve better results.

Phytoesrogens are natural plant hormones with similar structure to the estrogen. Although many plants are identified to provide variety of phyto-estrogens, just a few phyto-estrogens have been well studied and researched. Most studied of these phyto-strogens are isoflavones and lignans. Plant estrogens are naturally in-active, but the are metabolized by the bacteria in the digestive tract and turned into the active form which can be identified by the body. These activated phyto-estrogens attach to the estrogen receptors in the body and modulate the estrogen activity.

The estrogenic performance of the Phyto-Estrogens is much weaker than estradiol, and if estradiol is present, they compete with it at the binding sites. Statistical studies suggests phytoestrogens reduce menopausal symptoms and may decrease the risk of some chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and breast cancer. Studies suggest the benefit of the phyto-estrogens is due to the fact that they bind with Beta receptors of estrogen which has less stimulating effects, while estodiol binds with Alpha types receptors with much more stimulating effects. This particularly helps to minimize the risks associated with unwanted stimulation of the receptors at tissues and therefore make them much safer to use. In addition, Phyto-estrogens have shown to provide strong anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative function, which may contribute to cardiovascular, brain and neuro-protective benefits.

Proven phyto nutrients and nutritional support for healthy female hormone metabolism

Findings from multiple animal and in vitro studies has shown brain protective properties from phytoestrogen genistein. Genistein has demonstrated anti-apoptotic activity, protecting cultured brain cells from self-destruction over time.

Results from clinical trials indicate that phytoestrogens, mainly from soy foods and isoflavones, can enhance bone mineralization, enhance bone formation, improve bone metabolism and reduce bone resorption. Therefore it may help alleviate bone loss due to menopause.

Great number of studies suggest that natural phytoestrogen genistein mitigates frequency and severity of menopausal symptoms including hot flashes.

Black cohosh root (Actaea racemosa / Cimicifuga racemosa) is one of the well studied with long history of use for treating gynecologic disorders. Randomized controlled trials support its efficacy and safety for relieving menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, low libido, sleep disturbance, and related physical and emotional symptoms.

From Traditional Chinese medicine Dong quai (Angelica sinensis) is known as female ginseng and has been used for gynecological symptoms such as painful menstruation or pelvic pain, recovery from childbirth or illness, fatigue, low vitality. Trials have shown that combination of dong quai and some other phytonutrients, can relieve symptoms of menopause. In addition, an animal study found dong quai to be as effective as estradiol at preventing bone loss.

Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) exerts provides estrogen-like effects by activating estrogen beta receptors. Findings from a randomized clinical study showed treatment with licorice root extract decreased frequency and severity of the hot flashes within 2 months when compared with placebo group. Also in vitro studies suggests Licorice root extract may reduce risks of osteoporosis and cardiovascular conditions.

Formulas with the extract from Vitex agnus-castus (Vitex/ Chasteberry) are known to effectively improve menopausal symptoms including sleep disturbance, hot flashes, and mood. Vitex, has been used for long time for treating female hormone disorders. It is shown to modulate hormonal and neurotransmitter signaling and to relieve premenstrual symptoms. In vitro, vitex compounds bound with estrogen receptors and showed to be able to modulate hormone-responsive genes.

Also studies found supplementation with phyto nutrients such as Dong quai (Angelica sinensis) and licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) root can improve healthy female hormone metabolism and complement the actions of bioidentical HRT.

Cruciferous vegetables such as, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, and Brussels sprouts contain compounds such as I3C that may help to clear the system from estrogen metabolites associated with abnormal cell growth. I3C prevents the conversion of estrogen to the 16-alpha-hydroxyestrone (harmful metabolite of estrogen), while increasing conversion 2-hydroxyestrone which is beneficial metabolite of estrogen.

EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) polyphenol from Green tea is shown to down regulate the cancer related estrogen receptors. It also limits the blood supply to the tumor, while promotes the self destruction of the affected cells.

Studies suggest that high levels of omega-3 fatty acid, improves cellular health. Omega3 reduces oxidative stress and suppresses production of many inflammatory mediators that contribute to abnormal cell growth.

Vitamin D helps to promote healthy estrogen metabolism and it has been shown cancer fighting properties. Vitamin D also helps with the absorption of calcium and helps to improve bone density. Vitamin D3 along with vitamin K2 and minerals such as calcium and magnesium improve bone health and prevent osteoporosis. Vitamin B complex helps with the metabolism of fat and carbohydrate. Vitamin B12 and folate helps to lower the homocysteine level and improve cardiovascular health. Taking antioxidant supplement helps to protect against the free radicals and unwanted metabolites.

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