The beginning of the new year is a time when many women want to lose weight and improve their appearance. Why not do this by restoring deficient hormones that occur with aging? It often starts with telltale signs like fine wrinkles around the eyes or mouth and dry, sagging skin. Menopausal women often deny themselves estrogen because they’re fearful of breast cancer. Yet, they’re not informed there are more risks from NOT taking estrogen! Heart disease and strokes kill more women each year (400,000) than the next sixteen causes of death including diabetes, all forms of cancer, AIDS and accidents! Estrogen decreases Alzheimer’s and dementia by 50% and osteoporosis by 40%. I wrote my book, “Outliving Your Ovaries: An Endocrinologist Reviews the Risks and Rewards of Treating Menopause with Hormone Replacement Therapy,” to give women a guidebook for evaluating and selecting the safest forms of estrogen.
Estrogen has over 400 actions on tissues throughout the body. When a hormone has that many actions and suddenly it’s gone, there are likely to be serious consequences.
Weight gain is one of the first changes women notice. They lament that they’re not eating any more but they’re packing on the pounds…and in all the wrong places like the waistline! Estrogen delays the middle age spread by combating insulin resistance. If you are given estrogen, avoid ORAL estrogen that worsens weight gain even further in many women! Instead, choose natural, bioidentical pharmaceutical topical estrogen that can be found in any drug store in the form of patches, gels, creams or mists. Compounded bioidentical hormones do NOT meet the same strict manufacturing standards for quality control and effectiveness.
Another common consequence of estrogen deficiency is degenerative skin changes because estrogen is needed for collagen production. I can look at a menopausal woman in her 50s or 60s and tell you if she’s taking estrogen. Many menopausal women resort to cosmetic surgery, Botox and fillers to look younger. Doesn’t it make more sense to first restore normal estrogen balance? Even if you decide to have cosmetic procedures or surgery, you’ll get better results if estrogen is on board to boost collagen and enhance healing. You can also support healthy skin by having monthly facials, avoiding excessive sun & tanning booths and taking at least 1000 iu of Vitamin D3. Higher doses of vitamin D should be monitored by your physician.
Thinning hair is another sign of deficient estrogen, even in women who used to have lots of hair. In menopause, a woman’s ovaries often continue to produce testosterone. Even small amounts of testosterone without estrogen leads to loss of scalp hair and growth of facial hair. That’s why you often see older women who have thinning hair, whiskers and some even have a deeper voice!
Within six months of losing estrogen, many women notice vaginal dryness and painful sex, leading to a decreased sex drive. No matter how much you love your partner, when your brain receives pain signals every time you have sex, it becomes a big turn-off! Incontinence of urine, urgency and frequent bladder infections occur more often in postmenopausal women who don’t take estrogen. That’s why it’s common to see older women on no estrogen who have to use Depends! The good news is that both problems often resolve with a course of vaginal estrogen.
Don’t cheat yourself by waiting too long to start estrogen. The most protection comes from starting estrogen within 10 yeas of menopause.
Marina Johnson, MD, FACE is a UCLA/USC trained endocrinologist and pharmacist with 30 years of clinical experience treating menopause.