It might appear impossible for any of us to understand, decades beforehand, when our hormone levels will fall and we’re at last left infertile. But, in actuality, we could make a darned good guess. And it’s well worth the effort. Research and experience are leading physicians to suspect there’s a window of time 10-20 years prior to the obvious start of menopause once the balance of complementary hormones begins to go off-kilter.
These hormonal imbalances can trigger an assortment of life threatening conditions and set the stage for lifelong health issues we’d just as soon skip if we had the option. WHEN WILL IMBALANCES START? We know that 95 percent of women enter menopause by age 55. About 25% get there early (by age 47), and another 50% get there between 47 and 52. We also understand that many women stop ovulating and eventually become infertile about a decade be-fore menopause.
What does happen?
Perhaps the most significant thing that occurs between the time we stop ovulating (ages 37-45) and the time we experience menopausal symptoms (ages 47-55) is the reduction of progesterone. Normally, the ovaries make progesterone during the second half of each menstrual cycle, at the identical ovarian follicle in which the egg developed and developed before its release. When we do not ovulate, we do not make progesterone. Unlike other sex hormones which are also produced in organs apart from the ova-ries, there’s absolutely not any backup source for fertility.
Aside from promoting a healthy pregnancy, progesterone is largely responsible for moderating the possibly harmful effects of powerful estrogens on tissue cells each month, whether we conceive or not. Progesterone is also essential to the normal functioning of virtually every organ and system within the body. If you look at an”org chart” showing the hierarchy of hormones, you will discover progesterone up near the top. Progesterone is made of cholesterol. Yes, cholesterol is critical for hormone production! All the other sex hormones (the 3 estrogens and testosterone), in addition to the corticosteroids, can be reached from the breakdown of progesterone in the body.
So it’s apparent that progesterone is important for much more than making babies. But what happens when we begin to lose it? Anovulatory cycles (cycles without ovulation) may occur randomly throughout many women’s reproductive years. On those months when ovulation doesn’t occur, the uterine lining built up by estrogen has no progesterone to soft-en it and can’t drop as fully as it should during puberty.
The breasts don’t develop the amount of ductal cells that they generally would under progesterone’s influence, leaving the secretory cells assembled by estrogen to fill with fluids which have too few outlets to empty those fluids. Various cells and cells deprived of the hormone suffer. For instance, bones and muscles which depend on testosterone and progesterone to reconstruct and subtract mass dropped to normal remodeling processes start to experience slightly more demolition than rebuilding during the anovulatory cycle.
When it only occurs once in a while, we might undergo a light period fol-lowed another month by an extra-heavy one, possibly with more conspicuous PMS and cramping, but the injury to tis-sues is largely reversed when that next cycle releases an egg and restores normal progesterone levels. Consider what could happen if we understood that for the next 10 years all authorities, authorities and supervisory agents of any sort will be on a mission to Pluto. At first, the majority of us would go on about our law-abiding lives.
But then one day we might opt to conduct a specially long red light when no other cars were around. We may pay our taxes late, or lie about our earnings. Eventually, a number people may even steal or hurt people in case a situation appeared to war-rant it. Estrogen is similar to the law-abiding taxpayers in this situation. It’s a significant and beneficial hormone. It’s critical jobs to perform for both reproduction and basic health. Specifically, it boosts cell growth and promotes blood flow.
These are desired functions, but when allowed to run wild they induce uterine tissue to develop too much (possibly resulting in DNA mutations and cancer), and clotting too harshly (possibly resulting in blood clots and strokes), among other things. Progesterone is the law- and – rule-enforcement officer in our situation. It puts the brakes on estrogen’s wild behavior. During that 10-year window before menopause, when our bodies are still making a great deal of estrogen but are generating little if any progesterone month after month, estrogen’s unchecked wild side can do some serious damage.
How To Know?
HOW DO I KNOW WHEN IT’S HAPPENING? There are a few strategies to find out whether you’re ovulating in any given month. The first is more reliable, but more expensive, than the second, which only takes time, patience and a thermometer.
- Hormone testing. You may get your progesterone level tested, either by visiting your physician to order a blood test at a nearby laboratory, or by ordering a house test kit on the internet that uses a saliva sample. You may also use any of the fertility/ovulation forecast products on the marketplace, though none really measure progesterone.
- Basal body temperature (BBT). By taking your temperature each morning before getting out of bed, you can graph signs of both ovulation and subsequent progesterone production. Your BBT will typically be on the lower side throughout the first half of this month (when estrogen dominates). An excess dip even lower around day 14 can indicate that ovulation has occurred. During the second half of this month (when progesterone dominates), the BBT will run toward the higher side. If you chart your BBT daily for many months and find no small down-ward blip in mid-cycle and no overall altitude in the second half, then you have reason to suspect you’re not ovulating.
- Your BBT evidence together with symptoms (irregular intervals, severe PMS, breast tenderness) may be sufficient to warrant a trip to your physician. WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT IT? Here’s where things can get sticky: not all physicians will agree it is necessary or even beneficial to supplement a woman’s hormones simply because they are low. They resist doing this when we are obviously menopausal, and they’ll be even more reluctant to do this while we are still marginally fertile. Yet the”estrogen window” hypothesis implies that by supplementing progesterone when women first begin skipping ovulation on a regular basis they may stop breast cancer, and possibly other estrogen-dependent cancers also. And we hit a snag because most physicians are not familiar with bio-identical progesterone.
What to do if…?
WHAT IF MY DOCTOR WON’T GIVE ME PROGESTERONE? If a test clearly shows your level of free progesterone is reduced (by reproductive-age criteria ) and your estrogen levels are substantially higher, my ad-vice here must be: Find another physician. You may get progesterone products over the counter (OTC), but a few might not actually include USP (pharmaceutical-grade) progesterone, while others are extremely weak or might not include it in a form your body can absorb and utilize. And in any case, even OTC hormone replacement ought to be monitored by a qualified health care practitioner.
WHAT ELSE CAN I DO? There are a variety of simple tricks you can use now to create the next half of your life considerably fitter. 1 killer of women). Increase your consumption of omega-3 oils (from fish and certain nuts/seeds) and de-crease the quantity of omega-6 oils (fried foods, cooking oils, fatty meats, nuts and seeds). These wonders of nature contain substances which not only prevent cells from mutating in cancer, they could make cancer cells self-destruct. One substance, known as indole-3-carbinol (I3C), can affect your body to metabolize estrogen into a benign form, as opposed to into one that can lead to cancer. Includes broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cabbage.
Neutralize your body’s pH to enhance bone health. Eat smaller portions of animal protein (including milk ) and bigger portions of fresh produce. Animal proteins metabolize into acids, but the body needs a nearly neutral atmosphere. So once you eat protein, the body pulls calcium and other minerals from your muscles and bones to neutralize the acidity (just as we pop a Tums to neutralize stomach acid). Vegetables and fruits, on the other hand, metabolize into neutralizing foundations and can deliver a lot larger usable payload of bone-building magnesium and calcium than milk.
- Reduce the quantity of plant estrogens you eat. Soy is possibly the largest nutritional contributor to estrogen dominance. You may eventually require the excess estrogen in soy in menopause when ovarian estrogen levels plummet, although estrogen remains high and progesterone is low, it is best to not make the imbalance worse.
- Reduce the number of xenoestrogens you consume. Microwave foods in glass containers instead of those plastic storage containers or old margarine tubs, which may contain estrogen-like chemicals.
- Reduce your consumption of hormone-enhanced meats. You do not necessarily need to resort to free-range meats, simply consume meat. Taking these steps-with or without progesterone supplementation-can enhance your life expectancy and general health considerably, particularly if you combine them with other audio health and dietary practices and get regular checkups.
If ever we had 20/20 hindsight ahead of time, it is during (and before) that 10-year window of time when possibly harmful hormonal imbalances start to take their toll. That’s when we can really make a difference that matters!