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14 Things Every Woman Needs To Know About Oestrogen

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The decline of oestrogen and the resulting symptoms is when a busy woman will set time aside to learn more about it. Oestrogen isn't just about fertility, a woman has oestrogen receptors all over her body and in her brain which supports the way she thinks, feels and how her metabolism works.

Here are 14 things you should know about oestrogen. If you have the information you can make some decisions about managing when levels fall. Let's start!

1. Oestrogen does more than support fertility

Female sex hormones include oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone. Oestrogen is responsible for the development of breast development, the widening of hips and helps to regulate the menstrual cycle for reproductive development. However, a woman has estrogen receptors throughout her body. Baby making is just one aspect of this powerful and protective hormone.

Oestrogen protects a women's health

Oestrogen plays a crucial role in women's health. Oestrogen helps to regulate cholesterol levels and protect the heart and blood vessels protecting a woman from cardiovascular disease. Oestrogen also helps to maintain bone health and bone mass, and as oestrogen levels drop, the risk of osteoporosis or 'brittle bones'can increase.

Oestrogen supports collagen production

Oestrogen supports healthy skin, hair, and collagen production, and is believed to have anti-aging effects. High levels of oestrogen are linked to high collagen levels. Studies show that women's skin loses about 30% of its collagen during the first five years of menopause. After that, the decline is more gradual. Women lose about 2% of their collagen ever year for the next 20 years. A common symptom of this is itchy skin.

Oestrogen affects how you think and feel

Lastly, this critical hormone also supports brain health and cognitive function. Oestrogen supports body temperature regulation, blood flow to the brain, memory function, sexual desire, and moods. Oestrogen plays a huge part in stimulating mood boosting serotonin and is involved in the production of endorphins. These are the ‘feel good’ chemicals your body uses to counteract stress.

2. Your ovaries aren't your only source of oestrogen

Oestrogen is produced in a woman's ovaries along with progesterone and testosterone. Fat cells and adrenal glands also produce oestrogen, though in a less potent form. Postmenopausal women rely on oestrogen from fat cells and adrenal glands in post menopause.

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3. Oestrogen is multifaceted

Oestrogen is multi dimensional and production levels vary throughout a woman's life. The three main types of estrogen hormones at work in a woman's lifetime are estradiol, estrone and estriol. When the ovaries stop producing enough oestrogen women experience perimenopause and menopause symptoms.

Estradiol - the dominant oestrogen

Estradiol is the most abundant and potent form of oestrogen produced by the ovaries. Estradiol is made in the follicles of the ovaries, the adrenal glands, fat cells, breasts, liver and brain. Levels fluctuate in perimenopause and steadily decline in menopause before dwindling to a trickle in a woman’s post menopause phase.

Estrone - higher in menopausal women

Estrone is a weaker form of oestrogen and is found in higher quantities in menopausal women. Estrone may act as a back up oestrogen as it can be converted into the more powerful estradiol. Evidence is still sketchy but it is thought in premenopausal women, around 50% of estrone is produced by the ovaries. The remaining 50% is produced by the adrenal glands and fat.

Estriol - the weakest form of oestrogen

Estriol, derived from estradiol, is produced in small amounts by the ovaries and placenta during pregnancy. Estriol is the most important estrogen for maintaining bone density, regulating the menstrual cycle, supporting reproductive health and protecting a woman against cardiovascular disease. Some studies suggest it can help to reduce menopausal symptoms of vaginal dryness, poor bone density and hot flashes.

4. Oestrogen levels can be super low in your thirties

The effects of lower oestrogen levels are commonly experienced in a woman's forties, in perimenopause but estrogen levels can drop much sooner. Early menopause or primary ovarian insufficiency is when periods stop in young women naturally before the age of 45

The lack of a normal menstrual cycle and fertility difficulties are a common indicator of a lower than normal estrogen level. This affects around 5% of women. Certain medications can cause early menopause. Early menopause is also associated with an increased risk of osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease.

5. Oestrogen levels change daily and as you age

Estrogen levels vary throughout the day when she is in her reproductive years and steadily fall as a woman gets older. Perimenopause ( average age when symptoms start is 46), menopause (average age for the menstrual cycle stopping is 52) and symptoms postmenopausal women have differ based on oestrogen levels.

6. Low oestrogen levels can increase your health risks

The most common symptoms of low oestrogen levels are hot flashes, heavy bleeding, night sweats, weight gain, fatigue, emotional instability, mood swings, vaginal dryness and bladder problems. As hormone levels fall symptoms can range from mild to pretty debilitating.

Low oestrogen levels are also associated with heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes in women due to weight gain. Women gain weight when low oestrogen levels affect sleep patterns, stress levels, motivation, confidence, libido and mood.

7. Oestrogen supports bone health

Broken bones are more common in women than in men. One of oestrogens most important task is to keep bones strong. One in 2 women over the age of 50 will break a bone because the growth of bone becomes slower than the loss of bone resulting in osteoporosis or brittle bones. You can counteract this with strength and weight bearing exercises - body weight, resistance bands, hand held weights.

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8. Oestrogen changes your body shape and body fat

The female body has strategies to adapt to lower hormone levels. As women age, natural changes in body composition means more fat is stored and muscle mass decreases resulting in less definition and softer lines.

The body also changes WHERE it stores fat as a woman ages which is thought to be affected by oestrogen. Fat storage moves from the hips and thighs in child bearing years switching to building up fat reserves around the midsection in menopause.Paired with lack of sleep, fatigue, higher stress levels which produce cortisol, weight gain is common in midlife. How to target menopause weight gain in 7 days.

9. Lower oestrogen can cause higher blood sugar

Oestrogen also plays a part in protecting women against Type-2 Diabetes by helping to manage blood sugars. ZOE researchers found higher levels of inflammation and blood sugar in post menopausal women after eating concluding that the ability to bring down sugar surges after eating is less efficient when oestrogen levels start to fall. Cutting your sugar intake will help to keep weight gain and inflammation down.

10. Oestrogen protects your heart health

The theme for For Menopause Day 2023 was Cardiovascular Disease. The British Heart Foundation issued a statement which warned about the risk “All too often women don’t prioritise their own health. As we women approach menopause, it is a perfect opportunity to reassess our risks of future cardiovascular disease and to take steps to protect our hearts."

Twice as many women die of coronary heart disease than breast cancer. Before menopause women have a lower risk of CHD than men but after menopause the risk dramatically increases.

Heart disease includes conditions that can constrict or block blood vessels which can cause blood clots, lead to a heart attack, a stroke and other conditions that affect your heart's muscle or cause abnormal heart rhythms.

Diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are associated with developing heart problems. Oestrogen helps to keep veins free from fatty plaque deposits and working on the cells that line the arteries.

11. Hormone replacement therapy hrt isn't a silver bullet

Hormone replacement therapy increases both oestrogen and progesterone levels, sometimes testosterone. Surgically menopausal women who have no uterus don't need progesterone in their hormone therapy regime.

For women under 60 years of age who are in good health, the benefits of HRT far outweigh any risks. Hormone replacement therapy hrt can help to treat symptoms of low oestrogen but as hormone levels change symptoms can resurface and the level of estrogen replacement will need to be increased to have the same effects.

12. High estrogen ( oestrogen) levels aren't good for you either

Progesterone helps to balance oestrogen ( estrogen), keeping levels at just the right amount to keep a woman's body functioning well. However, progesterone also declines as a woman ages. This balance of hormones can start to falter in perimenopause. When oestrogen levels surge this can cause symptoms which include breast tenderness, hot flashes, weight gain, mood swings, worse PMS, headaches and a low libido.

Oestrogen levels can increase in menopausal women if digestion is compromised and oestrogen is reabsorbed instead of being eliminated with regular bowel movements. This can make menopause symptoms worse.

13. Replacing oestrogen can increase your risk of breast cancer

Hormone replacement therapy is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. According to the NHS, all types of hormone therapy can increase the risk except for vaginal oestrogen.

If you take HRT for less than 12 months there is no increased risk. If you take hormone replacement therapy for longer than 12 months your risk of breast cancer increases. Your risk falls if you stop taking HRT but you'll still have a higher risk than someone who has never taken HRT.

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14. A balanced diet is a powerful ally when battling low oestrogen levels

Eating a healthy, balanced diet can help to counteract common menopause symptoms, increase energy, lift mood and keep your weight within a normal range. A healthy weight will help to decrease health risks associated with low oestrogen levels such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Improving gut health will help to regulate hormones, increase serotonin levels to improve your mood reduce bloating, reduce inflammation and boost immunity. A Mediterranean diet is perfect for menopausal women. It's high in vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds and healthy fats like omega 3 and extra virgin olive oil. Processed foods, red meat, dairy salt and sugar are kept to a minimum.

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