18 Jul Oestrogen and the Perimenopause
Known as the ‘female hormone’ oestrogen is actually made from male hormones, and men produce it too in small amounts. There is not one single hormone called oestrogen, our bodies produce three different types – oestradiol, oestrone and oestriol.
Oestradiol is the strongest oestrogen and is produced by the ovaries, it is dominant from puberty through to the menopause. Oestriol is the main oestrogen during pregnancy and at the Menopause Oestrone is produced not by the ovaries, but by the adrenal glands, more about that below.
As well as helping develop our sexual characteristics at puberty, oestrogen helps to thicken the womb lining ready for pregnancy, increases vaginal lubrication by producing cervical mucus, increases bone formation and aids bone density. Oestrogen also helps maintain our cholesterol levels and plays a big part in lifting our mood.
In the absence of regular ovulation oestrogen levels begin to fall and as that happens we start to experience some of the symptoms of the perimenopause; vaginal dryness, weakening of the bladder, hot flushes, night sweats, poor memory and an increased risk of osteoporosis. Our skin starts to change as less collagen and elastin are produced by the dip in oestrogen production which also affects the blood flow to our genitals impacting our libido.
At the menopause, our adrenal glands produce a form of oestrogen to help protect our bones as the production of oestrogen from our ovaries declines. This is the time to manage your stress levels and protect yourself and your adrenals from releasing the stress hormones that will damage vital oestrogen production.
Our bodies use oestrogen and then get rid of it. Too much oestrogen in our bodies can lead to a myriad of health issues, breast cancer being the main one. It is vital that our bodies eliminate excess oestrogen and it does that through the liver. The liver controls the amount of oestrogen circulating in our bloodstream so we need to be kind to our liver so it can do this important job efficiently. Our Liver only has a certain capacity to detoxify, if it is working had to get rid of the toxins we are knowingly putting into our bodies, it is not getting rid of the naturally produced toxins that our bodies no longer require.
The Emotional Impact of Oestrogen
Without Oestrogen to gloss over life’s imperfections, you may well start to see your life and your relationships differently, hence why the Menopause can be life-changing for so many reasons. You may view the physical changes a downside of the Menopause, but the mental clarity is, so I’ve been told, enlightening.
Oestrogen brings out the carer in us, so when it starts to wane, our tolerance for putting up with other people and their crap goes with it. You could find yourself resentful for all the care you have given to others over the years and in turn, neglected yourself. Now is the time to put yourself first.
Oestrogen is also the hormone that makes us strut our stuff, it’s our confidence. In the middle of our cycle, just before ovulation, it’s at its highest and we are at our sassiest because know it or not, we are trying our hardest to find a mate. As we age, and our subconscious primaeval body is no longer looking to procreate, our oestrogen starts to decline so does our swagger. Preferring to stay in and play scrabble with a pot of tea, a slab of cake and a couple of good friends, rather than getting dressed up and hitting the town doesn’t mean you are old and boring, it just means you are listening to your body and honouring what it wants to do. It’s great to go dancing, but the joy of getting older means you have the confidence to say no, and not do anything you don’t want to do. You don’t have to prove anything to anybody, you just have to be kind to yourself. Look after yourself now and postmenopausal you’ll be a rocket again!
But ladies, this is not a bad thing. This is a natural cycle that your body is going through. It wants to lose the oestrogen and the symptoms caused by its decline can be managed through diet, exercise and self-love. We need to learn to surrender to mother nature, easier said than done I know.