Role of hormones

Maintaining the internal balance of your body

Progesterone

In addition to protecting the uterus, progesterone:

  • Is a natural diuretic
  • Normalises blood clotting
  • Helps keep blood sugar levels normal
  • Normalises zinc and copper levels
  • Promotes proper cellular oxygen levels
  • Promotes bone building and protects against osteoporosis
  • Improves premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms
  • Protects against endometrial cancer
  • Helps protect against breast cancer
  • Maintains the lining of the uterus
  • Is a precursor of other sex hormones (oestrogen and testosterone) and cortisone
  • Promotes fat burning for energy (thermogenesis)
  • Acts as a natural antidepressant
  • Aids thyroid hormone action.

Testosterone in Women

Testosterone is the hormone that provides women with muscle tone, sharp cognitive functions and libido. Due to declining ovarian and adrenal function, testosterone production tends to reduce with age, and women begin to experience confusion, weight gain and poor muscle tone, despite regular exercise. During menopause, levels will drop in excess of 33%. Balancing testosterone with oestrogen produces serotonin, which supports emotional balance. Without this, a woman can experience emotional instability, anxiety, irritability and sleep disturbance.

An imbalance of testosterone can result in muscle atrophy, osteoporosis, muscle and joint pain. The role of testosterone in the body is to build muscle and promote muscle tone, increase libido, strengthen bone and, in some, it will improve mood and metabolism. There is an abundant amount of information supporting and rejecting the supplemental use of testosterone in hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for postmenopausal women. Theoretically, it makes sense that there are benefits of replacing all hormones that are decreased during menopause, including testosterone.

Further evaluation is needed to clearly determine the role of testosterone in postmenopausal women. If there is a family history of breast cancer, supplementation is not conventionally recommended, although some doctors believe that there may be a benefit in maintaining normal levels through supplementation. Testosterone supplementation is generally warranted in women complaining of low libido and sexual problems.

Oestrogen

The female hormone

Oestrogen is possibly the most important hormone for a woman. Without it, she has an increased risk for a number of health issues, including: premature ovarian failure, osteoporosis, heart disease, colon cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, tooth loss, impaired vision, Parkinson’s disease and diabetes.

Woman have oestrogen receptors in a number of places throughout the body and brain. As a result, hormonal imbalance produces a variety of symptoms such as bone loss, mood changes, cognitive decline and loss of skin elasticity. When oestrogen levels rise, the amount of serotonin available in the brain increases, which improves mood.

About Oestrogen

The main forms of oestrogen found in a woman’s body are:

  • Estradiol, the main oestrogen made by the ovaries before menopause
  • Estrone, a weaker oestrogen produced in the ovaries and fat tissue. After menopause, this is the main oestrogen
  • Estriol, the weakest of the three main forms of oestrogen.
How Oestrogen functions in the body

Oestrogen stimulates a girl’s development into a woman who is capable of reproduction. Oestrogen travels in the blood to body tissues where there are oestrogen receptors. Oestrogen receptors are found in a number of parts of the body.

The effects of lower Oestrogen levels

When a woman’s oestrogen levels drop there are a number of negative effects. The end of menses is due, in part, to oestrogen levels that are too low to stimulate the lining of the uterus (endometrium).

Oestrogen loss can also cause
  • Hot flushes accompanied by night sweats and disturbed sleep
  • Vaginal dryness and loss of elasticity of vaginal tissue
  • Increased urinary tract infections and problems with urinary incontinence (difficulty holding urine)
  • Loss of sexual desire and function
  • Changes in mood, or depression
  • Memory problems
  • Breast changes, less firm
  • Thinner skin, less moisture
  • Loss of bone density, potentially leading to osteoporosis
  • Higher cholesterol levels.

DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone)

DHEA functions as a precursor to male and female sex hormones, including testosterone and oestrogen. Precursors are substances that are converted by the body into a hormone.

DHEA production peaks in the mid-20s and, in most people, gradually declines with age.

DHEA supplements can be made from wild yam or soy. There have been some interesting studies supporting the positive anti-ageing effects of DHEA supplementation.

DHEA supplementation is believed to increase the level of testosterone and oestrogen, and can have benefits such as:

  • Strengthening the immune system
  • Building up the adrenal gland
  • Slowing down some of the typical ageing factors
  • Increasing energy levels
  • Improving mood and memory
  • Building up muscle strength.