Menopause and Estrogen
As we age, is the loss of estrogens what causes the onset of peri-menopause and finally, menopause? For women, menopause is a direct result of the loss of estrogens in the female anatomy. The ¨E¨, as it is called in medical circles, is a group of female hormones produced in the ovaries. These female hormones are responsible for regulating the function of reproduction in the female body. Estrogens determine a woman’s body shape by distributing fat to different areas of the body, aid in the development of the uterus, and construct tissues in the brain and bones. Safe levels of estrogens in the body help maintain proper blood flow, control cholesterol levels, and act as an antioxidant filtering harmful chemicals from the body.
Menopause is known as the final phase of menstruation. As a result of aging, fewer eggs are produced. When menopause arrives, the ovaries stop producing estrogen altogether. Instead they produce minute amounts of testosterone (a male hormone) which is stored in body fat. A loss of estrogen contributes to stopping the female anatomy’s daily routine of maintaining homeostasis (holistic balance in the body) and has effects on the brain as well. Studies have shown that estrogen helps improve blood flow to the brain and prevents Alzheimer disease by blocking the production of chemicals contributing to it. It also increases the level of serotonin – a chemical in the brain known to improve mood. As you can see, losing estrogen can have a profound effect to a woman’s mental and, as a result, emotional balance.
Estrogen is not the name of one hormone, but the name of three special female hormones that unite to form one. They are known as E1, E2 and E3. E1, the first set of estrogen hormones in the series, is also known as estrone and is the primary source of estrogen in the body. E2 (or estradiol) is the most important estrogen developed by the ovaries and E3 (estriol) are special estrogens that are produced during pregnancy when high levels are present. During menopause, E1, E2, and E3 are all affected, and after its aftermath, low levels of estrone is the only source of estrogen remaining in the female body. It is important to note that this female hormone serves a helping function as well, transporting vital enzymes throughout the system, maintaining positive levels of cholesterol, and sparking calcium activity.
Post menopause brings even lower levels of estrogen in the body. This officially marks the end of monthly periods, the malfunctioning of ovaries, and the ability to reproduce. Since the ovaries stop producing estrogen and progesterone at the same levels it used to, having a child is nearly impossible. During this full transition, periods can also be affected. This loss of estrogen can cause irregular periods for some women, often with a lighter flow. It can also causes emotional problems like depression and aggression toward people for no ‘apparent’ reason. As stated before, a lack of this hormone means you lose ¨balance¨.
In retrospect, estrogen loss is directly responsible for the on-set of menopause. When the woman has her last menstrual cycle, it is a marker for a new chapter in her life. She learns to accept that child bearing is no longer an option, although possible in extreme cases as some women continue to ovulate during this transition In time, we come to understand how this change is a necessary part of life and how we can renew ourselves and begin our new phase