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Estrogens and Mental-Emotional Wellbeing

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“Suddenly I can’t remember where I put my keys and I have sticky notes all over my house.”

“I never used to cry at AARP commercials, what is happening to me?”

These are some pretty common complaints from women going through ‘the change’.  Hormones and neurotransmitters including estrogen, progesterone, serotonin, cortisol and more play essential roles in maintaining optimal cognitive function in women.  There is a well-known and well-documented relationship between hormones and cognitive function. Unfortunately, the most disregarded of these hormones is estrogen whose essential role extends beyond treatment of hot flashes and night sweats. Estrogen influences many processes of the brain by increasing nerve density, decreasing cellular oxidation and directly affects neurotransmitter levels.These are some pretty common complaints from women going through ‘the change’.  Hormones and neurotransmitters including estrogen, progesterone, serotonin, cortisol and more play essential roles in maintaining optimal co

 The decline of estrogen that takes place during the time surrounding menopause throws a woman’s neurochemistry and hormones into an unstable state and results in cognitive and mood disturbance. Estrogen has neuroprotective activity against oxidation, as its chemical structure provides free radical scavenging in neurons.

Estrogen’s Effect On The Brain:

  • Estrogen receptors are abundant in the hippocampus where long-term memories are stored. Estrogen also regulates production of new synapses and dendritic density in the hippocampus, making estrogen a key player in learning and memory.
  • Estrogen increases the enzyme choline-acetyl transferase and stimulates synthesis of acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter related to learning and memory. In studies, women taking estrogen replacement therapy have been shown to have better cholinergic function than those who had never taken hormone replacement.  Studies have shown acetylcholine production is greatly decreased in Alzheimer’s patients.
  • Serotonin is a neurotransmitter derived from tryptophan that is commonly thought to contribute to happiness and feelings of well-being. With short term administration, estrogen up-regulates serotonin receptors.
  • Serotonergic tone may be increased in post-menopausal women taking hormone therapy when compared with controls.  The skinny of it is less mood stabilizing medications like anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds.

Is Estrogen Safe? 

Estrogen when taken properly with progesterone has been shown to not only be safe, but also reduces the risk of bone loss and is cardio protective, i.e. less heart disease which incidentally is the leading cause of death in women.

Concerned about breast cancer, but feel you might benefit from hormone therapy?  Talk to Dr. Schulz about your risk factors and discuss alternatives if necessary.  It is well documented that bio-identical estrogen when dosed appropriately does not cause breast cancer, however if a tumor is present it can increase tumor cell growth.  If you are interested in learning more please contact Dr. Schulz.  References are available by request.

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