Post-menopausal women often experience a multitude of hormonal symptoms that can have an extreme influence on their physical and psychological well-being. In order to address these post-menopausal symptoms, many women are turning to bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) to support healthy hormone levels and relieve post-menopausal symptoms. Even though synthetic estrogen-only hormone replacement therapy is still promoted by conventional medicine as a first-choice hormone therapy, it is human-identical progesterone that has a significant impact on functionality, symptom relief, and quality of life while safely restoring the ratio balance between estrogen and progesterone. Let’s talk about some of the benefits of bioidentical progesterone in post-menopausal women in relation to brain health, collagen production, and uterine health.
Benefits of Bioidentical Progesterone in Post-Menopausal Women
Throughout the fertile years, a spike in progesterone happens each month after ovulation. This progesterone spike supports pregnancy by preparing the uterine lining for implantation of a fertilized egg. However, the role of progesterone goes way beyond fertility. In fact, some of these benefits include the regulation of skin, mood, sleep, thyroid function, and even libido. The sudden drop in progesterone experienced during and after menopause can leave you looking and feeling differently than what you would like. Fortunately, using a high-quality bioidentical progesterone is often the best and safest answer.
Bioidentical progesterone, unlike synthetic progestin often recommended by conventional medicine, is chemically indistinguishable from the progesterone your body naturally makes. As such, it is perfect for supporting overall health as well as reducing those pesky menopause symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, and sleep issues. Other significant health benefits of bioidentical progesterone in post-menopausal women include supporting better brain health, stimulating collagen production, and minimizing the risk of uterine cancer in women who use or have used estrogen-only therapy or who have higher than normal estrogen levels, usually called estrogen dominance.
The body’s need for progesterone is enormous, especially when it doesn’t have enough of it. If you find yourself overly stressed, most likely you need progesterone to help cortisol levels. Regulation of the menstrual cycle, balanced estrogen levels, healthy stress levels, and a healthy libido all require healthy levels of progesterone and, in fact, underlines the importance of making sure your progesterone levels are in the correct ratio with estrogen levels.
Progesterone and Brain Health
Even though many symptoms of menopause are physical, low or decreasing progesterone levels can also affect brain health. A growing body of evidence indicates that progesterone has a great impact on the central nervous system, where it plays a paramount role in regulating such things as mood, cognition, and neurogenesis. The clinical drop in progesterone that happens in the post-menopausal years can, therefore, lead to cognitive and emotional changes that many women find troublesome.
Did you know that adequate levels of cholesterol, the same cholesterol we are constantly told is bad, is needed by your body to make sufficient amounts of hormones such as pregnenolone which is produced in the adrenal glands? And it is pregnenolone that is used as a building block in the production of testosterone, progesterone, cortisol, estrogen and other hormones.
A 1999 Duke University study of healthy young women found that those with low cholesterol were more likely to have symptoms of depression and anxiety. Researchers suggest that because cholesterol is involved in making hormones and vitamin D, low levels may affect the health of your brain.
To guard against these symptoms, you may want to counteract diminished progesterone levels by using bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT). Bioidentical progesterone can support nerve cells to remain healthy, enhance mood, and cognition. Researchers have found that bioidentical progesterone can have neuroprotective effects that may lessen the risk of dementia and improve neurological resilience.
Progesterone and Collagen Production
Changes in your skin such as lines, wrinkles, and loss of elasticity are a natural part of the aging process. These changes begin long before you enter menopause due to a variety of biological phenomena as well as toxins in our environment, food, personal care products, etc. During the post-menopausal years, most women notice more pronounced changes in the look and feel of their skin. This is because progesterone, which is often low in the post-menopausal years, plays a main role in collagen production. With low progesterone levels, your skin has difficulty in maintaining its pre-menopause level of elasticity. This can result in increased wrinkles, reduced skin density, and thinner and dryer skin.
Adding bioidentical progesterone can help reverse some of these changes by promoting new collagen production, helping to plump skin, increase elasticity, and reduce wrinkles. This can be an important part of feeling and looking your best as you age.
Balancing Estrogen to Protect Uterine Health
One of the many jobs of the natural progesterone your body makes is to help protect your uterus from excessive amounts of estrogen. Inadequate levels of progesterone during the post-menopausal years are a result of natural declining progesterone levels, unopposed estrogen therapy, and toxic exposure to xenoestrogens found in our air, water, food, personal care products, etc. All have a part in undermining uterine health. It’s important to underline the fact that the use of unopposed estrogens is a significant risk factor in the abnormal thickening of the endometrial lining and bioidentical progesterone should be used to counter this estrogenic effect.
While both synthetic and bioidentical estrogen-only therapy can help address post-menopause symptoms such as vaginal dryness, hot flashes, diminished libido, and bone loss, it is estrogen-only therapy that can also increase the risk of endometrial cancer especially when human-identical USP progesterone is not included to balance the estrogen.
Fortunately, the risk of endometrial cancer and high estrogen levels — estrogen dominance — can be mitigated by being mindful to make sure your hormones levels are balanced. This can be done by proactively getting your hormone levels saliva tested before experiencing symptoms that could be caused by serious health concerns.
Support for the Post-Menopause Years
The benefits of bioidentical progesterone in post-menopausal women are not often discussed in the doctor’s office. For those women who want to relieve the symptoms of menopause while protecting their overall health and well-being, bioidentical progesterone can be your best friend. As far as hormone needs, every woman is unique, and bioidentical hormone replacement therapy should be based on individual needs and preferences. I highly suggest working with a functional medicine doctor or Naturopath who specializes in bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. With the right support and information, you can feel and look your best as you go through the season of post-menopause.