12 Female Hormones Facts – Understanding your Hormones Today

Posted: June 28, 2018 at 5:43 am

The key stages of female hormones and how hormonal imbalance affects your body.

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You inhabit an amazing body that performs a myriad of functions every second of the day. This incredible feat is controlled by your brain and co-ordinated by your hormones. Millions of women are affected by hormonal changes throughout their lives but have little idea about how or why. Hormonal imbalances can lead to:

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Hormones are essentially chemical messengers secreted by endocrine glands in the body that are designed to adjust metabolic functions in cells. They do this by regulating the production of a specific protein or by activating enzymes.

There are two basic types of hormones, steroid and peptide. They travel to their target organs in the bloodstream and work in complicated harmony to maintain balance at all times. Steroid hormones are fat soluble compounds that can easily pass through cell membranes.

Some of these include:

Peptide hormones are water soluble compounds that are able to dissolve in the blood in order to be transported around the body. Some of these include:

Hormones are secreted by the endocrine system which is largely controlled by the pituitary gland – in the brain – under the direction of the hypothalamus.

Hormone balance (Homeostasis) is maintained by a key regulatory mechanism called negative feedback which either opposes the release of certain hormones or causes hormones to act antagonistically by opposing each others actions.

For example if blood sugar (glucose) levels are too high the brain sends a signal to release insulin which lowers blood glucose. If blood glucose levels drop too low the brain triggers the release of glucagon which raises blood sugar.

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Hormones co-ordinate many diverse areas including:

When the correct balance of hormones is maintained most daily challenges are met and the body thrives, but if levels are too high or low it can lead to health problems such as thyroid disease, polycystic ovaries, endometriosis, infertility, fibroids, depression and acne.

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Female hormones exist primarily to promote growth and reproduction and have a significant effect on a womans development throughout her life. The two main female hormones, oestrogen and progesterone are produced predominantly in the ovaries but also in the adrenal glands which sit just above the kidneys.

At puberty oestrogen is responsible for the development and maturation of the uterus, fallopian tubes, breasts and vagina. It also plays a key role in the growth spurt and deposition of fat around the buttocks, hips and thighs.

There are at least six different oestrogens, however only three are synthesised in significant amounts:

Beta-estradiol, Estrone & Estriol.

Progesterone is involved in regulating the menstrual cycle and is vital for supporting a healthy pregnancy. It is also particularly important for balancing and controlling oestrogen performance, opposing some of the powerful effects of excess oestrogen. For instance oestrogen triggers release of the stress hormone cortisol while progesterone counters it.

Oestrogen stimulates cell growth, while progesterone ensures growth is maintained at healthy levels. Low progesterone levels lead to uncontrolled oestrogen which results in hormonal imbalances. Low levels of progesterone may affect:

Women also produce a little testosterone (normally considered a male hormone) from their ovaries, which helps to promote muscle mass and bone growth. These levels naturally decline post menopause.

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Puberty:

During this stage the ovaries are stimulated by luteinising hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) which are secreted by the pituitary gland under the influence of the hypothalamus.

These hormones bring about the physical changes associated with puberty. Menstruation usually occurs around the time that a womans growth spurt slows down. The whole process takes around 4 years.

Pregnancy:

This is a time when a womans hormones change dramatically:

Menopause:

The lead up to the menopause (the peri-menopause) starts around the age of 40 and ends on average at age 52. Whilst there are considerable hormonal changes that occur during puberty and the childbearing years – the menopause and post menopause seem to be the most problematic. This life stage can be extremely challenging for some women.

Oestrogen plays a vital role in protecting the heart, bones, bladder and vagina as well as maintaining the breasts. Lack of oestrogen and progesterone during the menopause can create hormonal imbalances which have significant consequences for health with an increased risk of osteoporosis and heart disease and can also result in a range of distressing symptoms.

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The ratio between oestrogen and progesterone is critical for the maintenance of homeostasis. Often the effects of high oestrogen are due to a combination of mildly high oestrogen levels together with a mild progesterone deficiency.

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An increase in the ratio of oestrogen to progesterone can lead to:

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Hormone function can be disrupted if too much of a hormone is produced or too little. This may be due to a number of factors including:

Malnutrition

Undereating, a poor diet, insufficient calories and nutrients, reliance on stimulants and junk food can lead to a nutrient deficiency which will ultimately affect hormone production. For example, Studies have found that B6 supplementation has positive effects on some PMS symptoms. It is likely that B6 helps to balance oestrogen and progesterone levels mid cycle. B6 is also a co-factor in the synthesis of serotonin.

Being underweight with insufficient fat reduces cholesterol which is needed to produce sex and stress hormones. During the menopause oestrogen is produced in the abdominal fat cells as ovarian function diminishes.

Poor liver function

Oestrogen has to be metabolised by the liver and excreted in bile. If the liver is not functioning efficiently oestrogen levels in the blood may remain relatively high.

Overloading the liver with alcohol, drugs, caffeine and chemicals in food may lead to poor liver function.

Certain Foods

Too much sugar, alcohol, chocolate, fried foods, trans fats and refined carbohydrates can affect liver function which could contribute to higher oestrogen levels.

Constipation

Before used oestrogen can be eliminated via the stool it has to be modified by intestinal bacteria and bound to fibre. This bulks out the stool and encourages normal bowel movements.

Good levels of healthy gut bacteria and plenty of dietary fibre are essential for this process otherwise the used oestrogen may be recirculated.

Chemicals in food

Certain chemicals such as pesticide residues found in non-organic dairy and meat products can mimic oestrogens in the body.

Oestrogens are also included in cattle feed to fatten them up.

Environmental factors and xenoestrogens

There are many petrochemical products that affect the balance of hormones in the body. These include:

Alkylphenol ethoxylates in detergents and emulsifiers; nonylphenol ethoxylates used as spermicides and plasticisers; bisphenols used in certain industrial and chemical processes and dental fillings, the birth control pill and HRT

Genetics

There may be a family history of early menopause or low thyroid function.

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12 Female Hormones Facts – Understanding your Hormones Today

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