As promised, here is a brief introduction to hormones you should know that are very important in maintaining a woman’s health status, period, and fertility. Knowing these hormones will be a good starting point before attempting to balance them.
Think of your hormones as friends. It sounds cheesy, but hear me out. If you don’ t get to know your friends, your relationship suffers. If you don’t check in with them, know what they like or dislike, or neglect to care for them, well, they will most likely neglect you in return, go a little haywire, or even MIA. Putting in the effort to get to know your hormones will ultimately empower you to optimize your relationship with them. 😉
Estrogen is one of the major female sex hormones, alongside progesterone. They actually counter one another, with estrogen dominating the first half of your cycle, and progesterone the second half. Estrogen is produced mainly in the ovaries, but it’s also secreted by the adrenal glands and fat cells. It is responsible for the development of our female characteristics (mainly our breasts and pubic hair), but did you know that estrogen also plays a role in nurturing bone health, our cardiovascular system, and brain function?
Estrogen peaks during ovulation (which ramps up your sexual desire and drive). Yeehaw! While this sounds appealing, it is also when women in their reproductive years are most likely to conceive. This is why your body is making you want to have sex during these 3-4 days. This hormone is crucial for reproduction, but if deficiency or excess is present, it can also cause nasty side effects that are not fun to live with. I will write an article laying out low estrogen vs. estrogen dominance and their side effects soon.
Progesterone (also known as the pregnancy hormone) is a major female sex hormone that counterbalances estrogen. It peaks during the luteal phase of your cycle, right before you menstruate. If you are pregnant, progesterone is secreted from the placenta. If you are not, this hormone is secreted from the corpus luteum (the empty ovarian follicle) in the ovaries. It’s main function is to thicken and maintain the endometrium. As levels decline, this is when you shed your uterine lining and menses begins. Low levels of progesterone can cause missed periods. More on this later.
Cortisol, as many of you may know, is a hormone released in response to stress. It has been proven that stress negatively impacts health and is a risk factor for many diseases, including PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome), anovulation (missed periods), infertility, and other endocrine disorders.
Cortisol is released from the adrenal glands, along with adrenaline, when an individual experiences stress. Not only is this correlated with increased blood pressure, but your body begins to make sugar in our liver to help “feed” our stressed body (which it believes to be in need of). This process called gluconeogenesis (meaning “creation of new sugar”), influences our blood sugar. This leads me to our next hormone…
Insulin. We’ve all heard of it. We know diabetics take it to maintain their blood sugar too, but do you actually know how it works? Let me break it down for ya.
- An individual eats carbohydrates.
- Blood sugar rises.
- Insulin is secreted by the B-islet cells of the pancreas.
- Insulin carries glucose into cells to “feed” them and produce energy.
That was the simplest way I could explain it. 🙂 Now, we want to produce healthy and sufficient amounts of insulin to transport glucose, no more or less than we need. We want to be insulin sensitive because that means our body can detect and produce enough insulin to uptake glucose (sugar). Insulin resistance is what happens as a result of many health conditions, including pre-diabetes, diabetes, obesity, and more. It is crucial to your health to maintain a normal range of blood sugar. Self-monitoring devices are available to measure this at home, but you can also get tested by your doctor.
Yep! Women produce testosterone too! -only in very small amounts though. Testosterone is made in the ovaries with estrogen, and it actually works in unison with estrogen for growth and muscle and tissue repair. So it’s beneficial for females, in normal amounts. However, excess testosterone can cause a myriad of abnormal physical side effects, including unwanted facial hair, thinning hair on your head, acne, infertility and more.
Once again, I will share how to begin balancing your hormones in future posts. I simply wanted you to meet and get acquainted with your hormones first! See them as friends, not foes! They are here to stay, so you might as well to know them and make the best of your relationship and interaction with one another. ❤