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Holistic Hormone Balance

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Figure 81-10

Estrogen secretion throughout the sexual life of the female human being.

months to a few years, the cycle ceases altogether, as shown in Figure 81-10. The period during which the cycle ceases and the female sex hormones diminish to almost none is called menopause.

The cause of menopause is "burning out" of the ovaries. Throughout a woman's reproductive life, about 400 of the primordial follicles grow into mature follicles and ovulate, and hundreds of thousands of ova degenerate. At about age 45 years, only a few primordial follicles remain to be stimulated by FSH and LH, and, as shown in Figure 81-10, the production of estrogens by the ovaries decreases as the number of primordial follicles approaches zero. When estrogen production falls below a critical value, the estrogens can no longer inhibit the production of the gonadotropins FSH and LH. Instead, as shown in Figure 81-9, the gonadotropins FSH and LH (mainly FSH) are produced after menopause in large and continuous quantities, but as the remaining primordial follicles become atretic, the production of estrogens by the ovaries falls virtually to zero.

At the time of menopause, a woman must readjust her life from one that has been physiologically stimulated by estrogen and progesterone production to one devoid of these hormones. The loss of estrogens often causes marked physiological changes in the function of the body, including (1) "hot flushes" characterized by extreme flushing of the skin, (2) psychic sensations of dyspnea, (3) irritability, (4) fatigue, (5) anxiety, (6) occasionally various psychotic states, and (7) decreased strength and calcification of bones throughout the body. These symptoms are of sufficient magnitude in about 15 per cent of women to warrant treatment. If counseling fails, daily administration of estrogen in small quantities usually reverses the symptoms, and by gradually decreasing the dose, post-menopausal women can likely avoid severe symptoms.

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