Oestrogen – what is it & why does it cause menopause symptoms

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Menopause Advisor
@EileenDurward
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19 June 2017

Read the full video transcript below

Today's topic

Hello, and welcome to my weekly video blog. And today, in A.Vogel Talks Menopause, I'm going to be discussing oestrogen. And it actually occurred to me recently that just about every single week, I'm talking about oestrogen and the effect it has upon us in the menopause, but I've never explained what oestrogen is.

What is oestrogen?

Now, what is oestrogen? Oestrogen is a hormone, and a hormone is a chemical messenger that tells cells or tissues to behave in a certain way, and sometimes at a certain time.

Now, we have lots of different hormones in our bodies. We have hormones that help to regulate our metabolism, we have hormones to regulate strength of our bones, we have hormones that regulate our blood sugar levels, we have hormones that help to regulate and support our nervous system. And then we have the sex hormones which includes your oestrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. 

Why does oestrogen do?

Now, at puberty, young girls' ovaries start to increase the production of oestrogen, and this does a number of different things. It helps to stimulate the growth of the vagina. It helps to stimulate the strength of the vagina wall, but also to help to keep it flexible. And it also helps with the production of mucus in the vagina which is slightly acidic, and this is really important because that helps to keep any infection at bay.

It also helps to strengthen the fallopian tubes. And the fallopian tubes are the tubes that the eggs move down in order to get to the womb to be fertilised. It also helps to increase the breast size and also the pigmentation of your nipples. Oestrogen helps to strengthen the womb wall. 
 
And the other thing that oestrogen does is it plays a big part in the monthly period. Now in the first two weeks of the month, the production of oestrogen goes up, and up, and up. And mid-month, when oestrogen gets to the peak, that's when it triggers ovulation, and then it slowly start to decrease.

Your progesterone then comes along and helps to thicken the lining of the womb in preparation for the potential of a fertilized egg. Now if nothing happens that month, then both your oestrogen and progesterone fall, and that triggers a period, and then everything starts all over again. 

What else does oestrogen do?

But oestrogen does so much more in our bodies. Right, are you ready for this? It stimulates body temperature. It helps to control our body temperature. It helps to prevent memory loss. It helps to modify the production of endorphins in our brains, especially mid-month. And endorphins are our feel-good chemicals. And nature is very clever, because at the moment when the egg is ready to be released, that's when we feel our happiest.

Oestrogen also helps to protect our nerves from damage. It helps to improve the collagen in our skin, and collagen is what keeps our skin nice, and firm, and smooth. It helps to keep our tissues moisturised.

Oestrogen helps to keep our bones strong, it helps to support our heart function, it helps to support liver function, especially in the production and control of cholesterol which can help to prevent us getting hardening of the arteries.

What happens when oestrogen levels fall?

So, as you can see, oestrogen does such a lot in the body. And knowing what it does when we are in the menstruation ages, actually, then allows us to see what is likely to happen when oestrogen falls as we approach the menopause. And that, hopefully, will give you a better understanding of all the symptoms that you may get in the menopause or the symptoms that, at the minute, you are experiencing.

So, if you think about, falling oestrogen can affect the bones, the joints. It can affect our mood, it can affect our nerves. It can interfere with our temperature regulation, can interfere with the heart giving us stress and palpitations. It can cause vaginal dryness, it can cause the lining of the vagina to get thinner and more brittle. So, all these menopause symptoms are in the main ultimately caused by your falling oestrogen.

Is there a happy ending?

But, I know it sounds a bit depressing, but take heart because there are several nice endings, if you like. The body does adapt, and for the majority of you ladies going through the menopause, there is an end to all this. And the body can take a few years to sort of rebalance and recuperate from the lower levels of oestrogen. And once you are through the menopause, in a way it's so much better.

You're not getting the monthly periods, you're not getting monthly PMT, you're not getting the roller coaster moods, you're not likely to get heavy periods or high oestrogen symptoms such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome or fibroids or endometriosis.

So, although when we're going through the menopause, losing oestrogen can be quite hard on us, once we're through the menopause, we don't really miss it. And if we also take care of ourselves as well and do some other little things as a follow on, then there's no reason why we can't feel as good or even better afterwards.

What can I do to help?

Supplements

Now, the things to look at are taking some kind of phytoestrogen supplements. So, that might be things like our menopause support or black cohosh. It's also looking about supporting the nervous system.

Water & diet

Remember the water because that can help with just about everything. And also, look at the foods you're eating. There is a huge group of foods that all contain phytoestrogens and can help your body get that little bit extra on a daily basis. And the foods that you want to be looking at are things like your dark-green, leafy vegetables. There are whole grains in moderation. Things like your lentils, and beans, and pulses. Your nuts and seeds are a great source. Having a portion of those every day is a really good idea for the menopause.

Fruits

We look at fruits. Things like your berries, your apples and plums. Flaxseed is another really great phytoestrogen food. And a great thing about flaxseed is take it on a daily basis, it can help with those sluggish bowels which is really common in menopause too. Green tea is another one. Again, a nice idea to substitute some of your cups of tea and coffee with green tea. And also, licorice. A nice little licorice supplement will go a long way, but not the sweets.

Preparation for a good life after menopause

So, as you can see, oestrogen plays a huge part in women's lives, basically from puberty onwards. It helps to prepare us for womanhood and prepare us for the possibility of pregnancy. But as it decreases, it can also help to prepare us for a good life after the menopause. And especially if we give our bodies that little bit extra help as well. 
 
So, hope you found this interesting. And in future, I'll do a little video blog on progesterone and testosterone, and how it can affect you during menopause as well. So, I will look forward to seeing you next week on A.Vogel Talks Menopause.

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Did you know?

You won’t get the menopause the minute you turn 50! The average starting age is actually between 45 and 55 and it can often depend on a number of factors including hereditary, weight and health, however every single woman will have an individual menopause.

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