What Are Some Benefits of Estrogen Therapy?
I never anticipated at the end of 2012 that 2013 would become what I have now dubbed, “The Year of Estrogen.” I actually had other plans for my blogging topics in 2013. But, as Fox News anchor, Shepard Smith always says at the beginning of his program, “This is the “B” block, unless breaking news happens…”
So, you roll with it.
Since estrogen is clearly “in” this year, why don’t we talk about some of the benefits of estrogen therapy to treat perimenopause and menopause symptoms? Lord knows we are all very aware of the risks. But, what about the benefits?
How can estrogen therapy actually help us?
Since it was the Women’s Health Initiative study which caused all of the estrogen brouhaha in the first place, why don’t we go back to the scene of the crime and extract something positive as well? One result of the study which has not filtered down completely into the pool of common knowledge yet is that the study revealed that the major risks associated with estrogen (and it was synthetic estrogen which was not used in conjunction with progesterone, just FYI), were notable according to age.
For women in their 50s, for example, estrogen therapy showed the benefit of a decreased risk of heart disease and mortality. But, among women in their 70s, those same risks were increased. The study also noted that a decreased breast cancer risk was associated with estrogen use, regardless of age.
I know that this last statement is completely contradictory to what we many of us have heard about estrogen and breast cancer risk, but I’m just going to be the messenger here. You decide how you feel about that claim.
Other benefits of estrogen therapy include restoring elasticity and lubrication to vaginal tissue. Not only can vaginal atrophy and dryness drop kick your libido right out the window, but urinary incontinence (associated with lack of tone with vaginal tissue) and increased risk for infections can become a problem as well.
Another benefit of estrogen therapy which doesn’t get much air play, is that “good" cholesterol, high density lipoprotein (HDL), tends to decrease with the loss of estrogen, and "bad" cholesterol, low density lipoprotein (LDL) tends to increase, which raises the risk of heart disease.
It is low estrogen levels which are associated with those dreaded hot flashes and night sweats during perimenopause and menopause. During my own years in perimenopause, I addressed hot flashes and night sweats by drinking soy milk every day, which contains phytoestrogens (plant based).
It worked quite well for me, though not necessarily for everyone.
In proper balance, estrogen also helps with mood disorders. There is plenty of evidence which shows that too much estrogen, or estrogen dominance, contributes to raging mood swings. However, when properly balanced with progesterone, estrogen stabilizes mood swings and irritability by raising serotonin levels in the brain.
These are just a few of the benefits of estrogen therapy, but there are certainly many, many more which I would like to address in the coming weeks. If we’re going to be in “The Year of Estrogen,” then let’s go all in ladies.
I also plan to address the known risks of estrogen therapy as well, taking yet another cue from Shep Smith. Fair and balanced.
Magnolia Miller is a certified healthcare consumer advocate in women’s health and a women’s freelance health writer and blogger at The Perimenopause Blog.