If you are a woman, you may be considering estrogen supplements to prevent bone loss, keep your mood stable or relieve discomfort related to menopause. Estrogen production can start to diminish in perimenopause, the years leading up to menopause, and extend into postmenopausal years, often causing symptoms severe enough to seek medical help.
Estrogen supplements prescribed in HT, or hormone therapy, often combined with progesterone, restore hormonal balance that could improve your quality of life.
Prevent Bone Loss
Estrogen maintains the ability to absorb dietary calcium, which contributes to preserving bone strength, decreasing the risk of bone fractures and development of osteoporosis. Bone loss is usually greatest in the spine, hips and ribs. Throughout your life, bone tissue is continuously being broken down and rebuilt. When estrogen production slows during menopause, bone tissue is broken down faster than it can be formed. In September 2009, the “Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences” published a report of an animal study that demonstrated how estrogen treatment reduced bone loss by slowing the function of osteoclasts, the genes responsible for breaking down bone.
Reduce Hot Flashes and Night Sweats
Low levels of estrogen in your body can cause hot flashes, a sudden intense flushed feeling accompanied by sweating, dizziness, nausea or weakness. These can occur during the day or night and disturb quality of sleep. Increased fatigue contributes to feelings of irritability and mood swings. According to a study published in the June 2010 issue of “Menopause International,” hormone replacement therapy is an effective treatment for hot flushes in 80 percent of cases. Non-hormonal treatments are available, but they do not provide the same degree of relief that estrogen does. Fears concerning elevated cancer risks associated with HRT, and the fact that not enough is known about the exact causes of hot flushes, limits development of additional alternative treatments.
Help with Depression
To restore a feeling of well being, estrogen supplements may help by re-balancing your essential mood-boosting hormones such as serotonin. These hormones regulate and minimize depression, anxiety and panic attacks. Researchers from the National Institute of Mental Health tested the effect of estrogen replacement for treating perimenopausal depression. The results of their study appears in the August 2000 issue of the “American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.” After receiving estrogen therapy for three weeks, 80 percent of the subjects exhibited a positive response versus a positive response seen in 22 percent of study participants given a placebo.
With age, your skin becomes thinner, less elastic and prone to wrinkles. Estrogen helps maintain adequate production of collagen and elastin, the supportive and elastic proteins in the skin. However, according to the September 2007 issue of “Clinical Interventions in Aging,” estrogen displays beneficial as well as harmful effects in different tissues. For example, in postmenopausal women, estrogen protects bone tissue against the ravages of osteoporosis. It is also beneficial in reducing the potential for heart disease. The mechanisms by which estrogen replacement may delay skin aging are still not fully understood and research in this area is still in its infancy.
The December 2009 issue of “Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology,” published a review of studies testing the effect of estrogen therapy on postmenopausal memory. According to the report, there is no conclusive evidence that estrogen therapy improves memory in midlife and beyond. Estrogen therapy, before or after the age of 60, has no substantiated effect on memory. The studies reviewed did not address whether estrogen therapy begun in middle age would have an effect on memory in old age. However, the studies indicate estrogen therapy begun in old age increases the risk for dementia.
Because there still exist many pros and cons related to estrogen replacement therapy, consult your doctor to determine if HRT is right for you.
- Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences: Estrogens Maintain Bone Mass by Regulating Expression of Genes Controlling Function and Life Span in Mature Osteoclasts
- Menopause International: Hot flushes: are there effective alternatives to estrogen?
- American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology: Estrogen Replacement in Perimenopause-Related Depression: A Preliminary Report
- Clinical Interventions in Aging: Effect of Estrogens on Skin Aging and the Potential Role of SERMs
- Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology: Aging, Estrogens, and Episodic Memory in Women