Sunday, March 6, 2011

Women, Hormones & MS

The similarities between the progression of MS and women's progressive loss of hormones are obvious, with this coincidence most conspicuous in our ovarian function. Men's levels of testosterone generally decline gradually as they age, but women lose 90% of their estrogen and progesterone production within a short two-year period at menopause. Menopause is also when many women with MS are hit the hardest, and the "progressive" stage of the disease begins with symptoms becoming chronic.
Our ovaries produce "sex hormones," including estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. Tied to our menstrual cycle, estrogen and progesterone are produced in a cyclic fashion. In the first two weeks of the cycle, an egg ripens until approximately day 13, when ovulation occurs and it's released for fertilization. Estrogen levels increase throughout this time and reach their peak when we ovulate. Progesterone is only produced in high levels after ovulation, as it's made by the empty egg sac left behind after the egg is released. Estrogen causes cell proliferation, and progesterone tempers it. So, if you don't ovulate, this balance is thrown off, causing problems as minor as sore breasts and as major as increased risk of neurological problems and cancer.

You're born with your lifetime supply of eggs, so although you start out with about 2 million, by your mid-to late 30s you only have 5,000 to 10,000 left. Every month when you ovulate, you reduce a bit more of this supply. This decrease starts to lower the levels of all of your ovarian hormones as early as your 30s. Is it just a coincidence that the mean age for diagnosis of MS is 32-just as many women experience their first significant drop in hormone levels?

Many women have inherited genetically lower levels of ovarian hormones to start with and tend to lose estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone earlier than women with naturally higher levels, which may explain why some women get MS symptoms earlier than others. All women have genetically programmed levels of hormones, and breast size offers a good clue to individual levels. High estrogen levels cause more stimulation to breast tissue, which is rich in estrogen receptors, and the result is larger breasts. Clinical studies have shown that women with large breasts and narrow waists have much higher levels of progesterone and estrogen than do other women. The voluptuous women in the study had 26% higher overall estrogen levels, and were 37% higher at ovulation.

Progesterone and estrogen ebb and flow during the normal menstrual cycle. The chart below makes it easy to visualize the problem that cycles without ovulation can cause. The production of progesterone requires ovulation, so when you don't ovulate, the healthy, buoyant peaks of estrogen at ovulation and of progesterone in the second half of your cycle don't occur. This lack of ovulation can affect nerve health profoundly, as both estrogen and progesterone are critical in nerve health and remyelination. Most women can attest to the importance of progesterone, as they experience sleeping and mood problems, headaches, brain fog, cognitive difficulty, and sore breasts when they don't ovulate.

All of our sex hormones are important in myelination and overall nerve health. Many studies have shown that they can affect the course of multiple sclerosis, but for some reason mainstream researchers don't seem to have connected the dots yet. Sex hormones in both men and women have a huge effect on MS. The same hormones have different consequences for men and women, although the basic functions of the individual hormones are much the same for everyone. 




Read The Perimenopause & Menopause Workbook (New Harbinger Publications) for more information on this critical hormone connection.

10 comments:

Trace said...

Symptoms from my most recent relapse (2 years ago) crop up every month exactly when I menstruate. My MS neuro told me to go on one of the birth control pills that causes my period to come less frequently except I fall into the small percentage of people that have seizures when I have a relapse and my seizure neuro is not in agreement so as of right now I go through a mini relapse every month which is NOT fun and definitely affecting my quality of life. The topic will be addressed again w/the seizure neuro (sigh) and hopefully a solution can be figured out. Otherwise I'll go the naturopath route. I'm in my thirties and this has made me fear menopause.

Ken D Berry, MD said...

Good post!
I'm so glad that the "hormone connection" with so many diseases and conditions is finally coming to light. Keep up the good work.

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Lisa O. said...

Trace - Don't fear menopause, you can use bio-identical hormone replacement which is completely healthy and natural. Whatever you do, Do not go on birth-control pills. They are not bio-identical and your body does not recognize them as real hormones. They basically shut your production of real hormones by filling in the hormone receptors. They are also dangerous - especially the fake progesterone part. Find a Dr. who will prescribe bio-identicals even now, to keep your hormones at their optimal level. :)

sammy said...

Great Post KEEP IT UP
I've been using HOME CHECK OVULATION TEST KIT for a long time and I still get butterflies when that little smiley shows his face. :) I got one from the internet by searching on Google HOME CHECK OVULATION KIT it was great! You can check my profile if you want to more information

sammy said...

Great Post KEEP IT UP
I've been using HOME CHECK OVULATION TEST KIT for a long time and I still get butterflies when that little smiley shows his face. :) I got one from the internet by searching on Google HOME CHECK OVULATION KIT it was great! You can check my profile if you want to more information

Chronic Fatigue Symptoms said...

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Thanks for sharing with us...

anu verma said...

Great Post KEEP IT UP
I've been using OVULATION PREDICTOR for a long time and I still get butterflies when that little smiley shows his face. :) I got one from the internet by searching on Google HOME CHECK OVULATION TEST KIT it was great!

perimenopause said...

The blog is well informative and the comments are nice too. Gentice problems and inherited problems really make a difference to a normal menopause and perimenopause. Generally if a mother has menopause at the age of 40, her daughter will also have this at the same age.

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