Marla Ahlgrimm explains that the primary culprit for most of these changes is estrogen. Estrogen is also responsible for the major changes that pubescent girls experience, including pubic hair, breasts, and the beginning of her menstrual cycle. In addition to estrogen’s known necessity to childbearing, it also protects the bone, affects mood, and works to keep cholesterol controlled. Estrogen is also found in tissues throughout the body, including the skin and heart.
Marla Ahlgrimm explains that the primary source of estrogen is the ovaries. This is where eggs are made. Estrogen is also produced by the adrenal gland, a small gland located at the top of each kidney. Marla Ahlgrimm notes that estrogen moves to the bloodstream and impacts every cell in the body. Although estrogen levels change throughout the month, they are highest mid-menstrual cycle and lowest once a woman’s period begins.
At menopause, usually between ages 45 and 55, a woman’s estrogen levels drop. Marla Ahlgrimm says this may also happen if the ovaries are surgically removed. A few symptoms that women can expect to experience with lower estrogen levels include decreased sexual desire, vaginal dryness, insomnia, night sweats, irregular periods, skin dryness, and an unpredictable mood.
Some women have too much estrogen, and there are many unpleasant side effects to this as well. Marla Ahlgrimm notes that excessive weight gain, typically around the thighs, hips, and waist, may point to high estrogen levels, particularly in women who are not prone to an apple shape naturally. Excessive estrogen can also increase a woman’s risk of fibrocystic breasts, uterine fibroids, depression, and severe PMS.
Estrogen is not the only hormone women have that can wreak havoc on the body in her mature years. Progesterone is another. The steroid hormone works with estrogen to get the body ready to accept a fertilized egg. Each month, progesterone is produced by a temporary endocrine gland known as the corpus luteum. If pregnancy does not occur, the corpus luteum naturally breaks down, which results in lower progesterone levels until the next month.
Low progesterone is often the culprit behind infertility and is also responsible for many unfortunate instances of preterm delivery or miscarriage. Low progesterone can also cause a woman to miss her periods or experience painful or frequent nonviable pregnancies. Marla Ahlgrimm says that a woman with low estrogen may also experience abnormal (heavy or light) uterine bleeding along with gallbladder problems and weight gain.
Marla Ahlgrimm goes on to explain that the above hormones, along with thyroid hormone and others, can all change as a woman ages. She encourages women to speak with their primary health care physician about hormone replacement therapy if the changes are unmanageable or significantly impact quality of life. This, along with lifestyle and dietary changes, can help combat the signs of aging, at least where a woman’s hormones are concerned.