If you are a woman in your peri-menopausal or menopausal years, I am sure that questions around hormone replacement therapy have come up for you. Is this something I need to do? Will it improve the quality of my life? Is it safe for me to do? What are the pros and cons? What exactly does bio-identical hormone replacement therapy mean?
And what if you have noticed a decline in your focus, mental sharpness, recall, and memory? Or your Mom, Dad, or another relative had or has Alzheimer’s Disease? Does this change the risk-benefit ratio for you when it comes to doing bio-identical hormone replacement therapy? Perhaps. You see, hormones are important to a sharp brain! Maintaining good hormone levels are important in preventing cognitive decline. In women, maintaining healthy estradiol levels is very important to preserving good brain health.
Research demonstrates that estrogen (specifically estradiol) protects multiple brain structures. Estradiol receptors are found in areas of the brain associated with memory and cognitive function including the hippocampus and hypothalamus, just to name a couple. And estradiol has been found to decrease beta amyloid levels. Beta-amyloid is chemically “sticky” and gradually builds up into plaques. Over time, plaques may block signaling of neurons leading to mild cognitive impairment or AD.
Estrogen also carries glucose to the brain. Your brain requires glucose to function. In fact, your brain is pretty greedy when it comes to glucose consumption! You have probably noticed that when you don’t eat for a long time you hit a wall and can’t think anymore. That means low blood sugar. When your estrogen levels are low, you eat but there is not enough estrogen to get glucose to the brain, so your brain does not work right. You may be unable to focus, be forgetful, and/or irritable.
Does this mean that you need to start bio-identical hormone replacement therapy right away? No, absolutely not. BHRT may not be right for you, depending on multiple factors including genetics. However, if you are experiencing brain decline or have high risk for dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease, then it is a GOOD idea to get your hormone levels tested! And not just estradiol, as other hormones are also super important to good brain health.
Once you know your hormone levels, make diet and lifestyle changes first to support optimal hormone levels. You may also want to work with a practitioner to determine the best supplements to support your hormones. In fact, you may just need to clean up your gut or support your detoxification pathways to balance out your hormone levels and feel sharp again! The health of your gut and liver play a critical role in the metabolism of your hormones. If you have overgrowth of yeast and other not so friendly bacteria, parasites, and lack of good bacteria, your hormones will be affected and this will impact your brain. Likewise, if your liver detoxification pathways are not optimally supported, your metabolism of hormones will be off and this can certainly cause an imbalance in your hormones. If your hormone levels do not respond to diet, changes in lifestyle, and supplements, then work with a practitioner to determine if bio-identical hormone replacement therapy is right for you.
TIP: If you are currently drinking a glass or two of wine or other type of alcohol in the evenings, take note! Did you know that your estradiol levels increase when you drink alcohol but then decline sharply after the alcohol is metabolized? Often leading to hot flashes and night sweats. This is because your liver increases certain enzymes to metabolize alcohol, and then these same enzymes metabolize estrogens resulting in a rapid drop of estradiol.