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  • Writer's pictureRedwood Naturopathic Medicine

Breaking Down Hormones Involved in Your Menstrual Cycle

Hormones, the chemical messengers secreted by our endocrine glands, control various physiological processes, including ovulation, metabolism, the circadian rhythm, and the body's response to stress. It may seem impossible to make sense of the body's intricate communication system, but by paying close attention to the signals it sends and receives, we can learn much about our body. This article will break down the main hormones involved in the menstrual cycle and precisely what role it plays!


Estrogen

Estrogen is mainly produced in the ovaries, while adrenal glands and fat cells also produce some. Menstruation, menopause, and reproduction are all regulated by estrogen. Estrogen plays a crucial role in the health of the bones, blood, and sex organs. This hormone normally fluctuates in levels throughout a woman's lifespan.

During menstruation, estrogen levels are at their lowest point. After menstruation, estrogen levels rise, and the uterine lining thickens in preparation for pregnancy. Estrogen levels surge right before ovulation and drop after the egg is released. There is a small spike during the luteal phase and a fall again just before menstruation. If a pregnancy does not occur, the cycle begins again.

Because of our continuous exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), which interfere with our hormone production and metabolism, estrogen dominance has become a more regular occurrence in our more toxic world. This is owed to the fact that EDCs impair hormone production. Plastics, in particular, have been proven to contribute to estrogen dominance, which is a driving element in many typical menstrual cycles problems such as endometriosis, fibroids, and heavy, painful periods. Plastics have been shown to contribute to estrogen dominance. Gaining excess weight, experiencing PMS, and having fibrocystic breasts are other symptoms of having too much estrogen in the body.

On the other hand, a lack of estrogen can create symptoms similar to those associated with menopause, such as irregular or absent periods, thinning hair, hot flashes, disturbed sleep, decreased libido, vaginal dryness, and mood swings.

Progesterone

The uterine lining is maintained with the assistance of progesterone; if estrogen is responsible for constructing the foundation, then progesterone is the cement that binds everything together. Throughout the cycle, progesterone begins to rise right after ovulation, peaks during the middle of the luteal phase, and begins to drop in preparation for menstruation (if an egg is not fertilized).

In addition to these benefits, progesterone improves sleep quality, helps control the length of the menstrual cycle, and soothes the nervous system. The action of progesterone on cancer cells is anti-proliferative, and its presence counteracts the effect of estrogen, which is proliferative. Regular ovulation plays a significant role in reducing the risk of breast cancer by guaranteeing adequate progesterone production during the post-ovulatory phase of the menstrual cycle. This is accomplished by ensuring that a sufficient amount of progesterone is produced following regular ovulation.

Spotting in between periods, an uneven duration of the menstrual cycle, anxiety and sleep difficulties, particularly in the second half of the menstrual cycle, brain fog, and difficulty achieving pregnancy are some of the symptoms that low progesterone levels can cause.


FSH

The follicular phase of the menstrual cycle begins on day one of your period and continues until ovulation. This phase is distinguished by the shedding of the uterine lining, followed by the recruitment of several ovarian follicles. Ovarian follicles contain immature eggs that begin the maturation process in preparation for ovulation. Ovulation marks the end of the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle. The follicle-stimulating hormone is the one that kicks off this process (FSH). When the follicles reach their full maturity, they start to secrete estrogen, which is the root cause of the surge in estrogen levels that occurs right before ovulation. As the other follicles are eliminated, the primary follicle will continue to develop into an oocyte, another name for an egg that is prepared to be released during ovulation.

LH

The "LH surge" results from increased estrogen levels, which can be noticed between days 6 and 13 of the menstrual cycle. This rise in estrogen levels stimulates the pituitary gland to release luteinizing hormone (LH), which in turn causes the "LH surge." This surge of LH is what causes ovulation, which typically takes place between 36-48 hours after the peak of the surge. It does this by stimulating the ovaries to eject the egg that has been forming from the ovary and into the fallopian tube. Ovulation typically occurs between 36 and 48 hours after the surge's peak.

Ovulation and the rise in progesterone that follows it, may


not occur if the brain is not releasing enough LH due to dietary deficiencies or disease inside the pituitary gland itself, resulting in irregular menstruation and symptoms of low progesterone. Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) often have elevated levels of luteinizing hormone (LH).



Testosterone

The hormone testosterone is an essential component of the body's endocrine system, although it is frequently disregarded in people with female bodies. Ovaries are responsible for producing this hormone, which plays a role in developing, upkeep, and repairing bone mass and reproductive tissues. It is also vital for energy, maintaining a balanced mood, and the creation of neurotransmitters.

Fatigue, decreased libido, depression, osteoporosis, cognitive troubles, and weight gain are some symptoms that low testosterone levels can cause.

Acne, male pattern baldness or male pattern facial/body hair growth, irregular menstruation, infertility, high blood pressure, and other symptoms can be caused by elevated testosterone levels. High testosterone levels are associated with conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).



How Can a Naturopathic Doctor Help?

The goal of naturopathic medicine in restoring hormonal balance is to first identify the root cause or source of the imbalance and then work to correct it at that level. Once this objective has been accomplished, restoring hormonal balance is primarily a matter of letting the body's natural processes work their magic. When your body is balanced, your bodily systems function optimally, and the hormones typically balance themselves.

When you consult a naturopathic doctor, they can assist you in determining whether or not you have a hormonal imbalance and what actions you need to take to improve your hormone health. Your concerns will be carefully listened to by a naturopathic doctor, who can suggest hormone testing to diagnose hormonal problems. Treatments for hormone imbalance concentrate on the following areas:

  • Diet & Lifestyle Intervention

  • Nutrient and Herbal Recommendations

  • Supplementation

  • Stress Management

  • Improving Sleep


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