Welcome to this series on female hormonal health, where we will focus on female hormones, and the health issues associated with dysregulation of these hormones.
- Female hormonal function, signs and symptoms of dysregulation
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome
- Adrenal fatigue
- Leaky gut syndrome
- Weight gain and associated health issues
- Stress, anxiety and depressive disorders.
This week let us start by focusing on the female hormonal system.
Female Hormonal Health
What are hormones?
Hormones are chemical messengers secreted by a special group of specialized cells called endocrine glands. Hormones function to initiate, coordinate or to control:
- Growth and development processes,
- Sexual development,
- Metabolism, as well as
- Mood and cognitive function.
- Oestrogen: Produced by the ovaries and to a smaller degree, by the adrenal glands (endocrine glands situated on top of our kidneys) and adipose tissue (fat cells). Responsible for the pre-ovulatory thickening of the uterine wall (endometrium), in preparation for implantation of a fertilized egg, as well as growth and development of our secondary female sexual characteristics, including breasts development, armpit hair, regulation of the menstrual cycle and reproductive system. Oestrogen also plays a role in vaginal wall thickness and lubrication, prevention of bone loss and cholesterol levels.
- Progesterone: Produced by the corpus luteum (remnants of the ovarian follicle, which produces and releases the egg), levels rise during the second part of the menstrual cycle, and is responsible for preparing the body for pregnancy, as well as maintaining the early stages of pregnancy.
- Luteinising Hormone (LH): Produced by the anterior pituitary gland, the LH is required to stimulate the ovarian follicles to secrete oestradiol. A surge in LH, causes the ovarian follicle to tear and release the ripe egg.
- Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH): Also released by the anterior pituitary gland, the FSH is responsible for the growth of the ovarian follicle, as well as secretion of oestrogen.
- Testosterone and androstenedione, the male sex hormones, are also secreted in small amounts, in women, by our ovaries. Although primarily believed to be male hormones, these hormones not only play an important role in female hormonal regulation, but also the functioning of many organs.
To illustrate the previous statement, let us look at the role of oestrogen, in the absorption of calcium from the digestive tract and the maintenance of calcium within the skeleton. Post-menopausal women suffer from a natural case of decreased oestrogen. This leads to a decrease in the amount of calcium absorbed in our bones. Osteopenia is the result of decreased calcium in our bones which causes brittle bones and if left unchecked, will eventually lead to osteoporosis. This is only one example of the effects of the above-mentioned hormones in the daily functioning of our bodily systems.
What causes a dysregulation in female hormones?
There are several factors that play a role, these include:
- STRESS, high cortisol levels supresses all other female hormonal regulation
- Diet and lifestyle
- Phytoestrogens, which can affect your natural oestrogen levels
- Synthetic xenoestrogens, found in facial products, pesticides, disposable plastic water bottles as well as plastic containers, to name a few
- Weight gain
- Insulin resistance
- High Cholesterol (particularly the unhealthy LDL)
- Synthetic hormones such as OCP
What are some of the signs and symptoms of female hormonal dysregulation?
- Increased facial and or bodily hair
- Weight gain or difficulty losing weight
- Mood swings and PMS
- Heavy menstruation
- Painful menstruation
- Amenorrhea (no menstruation)
- Irregular periods
- Increased abdominal fat
- Ovarian cysts
- Low libido
- Thinning hair
- Low libido
- Anxiety and depression
- Difficulty concentrating
- Low bone density
- Insulin resistance
- Bloating and abdominal distention
- Chronic fatigue
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
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