Hormones – we love them, we hate them. They can give us the happiest of days or the saddest days. They really can rule our life and are responsible for so much of how we function physically and mentally on a day to day basis.
Hormones, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, are:
“a natural substance that is produced in the body and that influences the way the body grows or develops”
Hormones are transported through the bloodstream to all areas of the body (another reason it is really important that we well hydrated so this transportation can happen effectively)
Hormones can be related to:
- Physical pain
- Emotions – joy, happiness, anxiety, depression, mood swings
- Breast tenderness
- Irregular bowel movements
- Cancer (ie breast cancer)
- Fertility or lack of
- Skin conditions
- Sex drive
- Body temperature
- Weight gain or loss
….Amongst many other things.
When it comes to women’s fertility, our main sex hormones, estrogen and progesterone are understandably often the focus. If you need a reminder on how these work to regulate our cycles check out this post.
Estrogen: “… secreted chiefly by the ovaries, placenta, adipose tissue, and testes, and that stimulate the development of female secondary sex characteristics and promote the growth and maintenance of the female reproductive system” 1
Progesterone: “a female steroid sex hormone C21H30O2 that is secreted by the corpus luteum to prepare the endometrium for implantation and later by the placenta during pregnancy to prevent rejection of the developing embryo or fetus” 2
As you can tell these are pretty important in the proper functioning of our bodies. When these two main female sex hormones are out of balance there is a lot of possibility for troubles. (Like everything though there are exceptions to each ‘rule’)
When I chat with people on Facebook or with clients, hormone imbalance are often the underlying factor in many of their fertility struggles. A common one is high estrogen and low progesterone.
So how does this work?
We aren’t really looking for an ‘ideal level’ of each hormone but rather a ratio that we are looking for as these levels should be fluctuating from week to week throughout our cycle. Without these changes we wouldn’t have ovulation or periods. The birth control pill for example, plays with our levels and stops us from ovulating. It is not uncommon for those coming off the pill to have confused cycles for a while (or no cycle at all!) while your body readjusts and works it way back to the natural rhythm of your body. If looking at salivary tests (you can worth with a holistic healthcare practitioner for this) your progesterone to estradiol (a form of estrogen) levels should be 1 to 300.
Many women have high estrogen levels due to the food we eat, the less than ideal functioning of our liver, the chemicals in our bath and body products and our cleaning products, the air we breath, the water we drink, etc Our environment is toxic. Those who are overweight may also struggle with estrogen levels as estrogen can be found in fat cells, and therefore the more fat cells you have, the more estrogen you may have.
Although it is impossible to escape it all, (not to mention overwhelming!) there are many ways to help reduce your intake of estrogen and estrogen mimicking toxins, as well as supporting your body so it is more readily able to excrete these. Changing our food habits, ensuring our liver is supported and that we are having daily bowel movements can be very helpful in this situation.
High estrogen levels often mean that our progesterone levels are low (let’s remember we are looking at ratio’s so even if your numbers seem good the ratio is what really counts so high estrogen can automatically make progesterone low) High stress levels can also play a huge role in decreasing our progesterone levels as the pre-cursor (ie the ingredients) we need to create our main stress hormone, cortisol, and progesterone are the same. Unfortunately for our fertility, cortisol will always win this battle. Implementing stress management techniques can be very helpful!
When our progesterone levels aren’t high enough, our bodies have difficulties getting pregnant, and sustaining a pregnancy. Progesterone helps stabilize the uterine lining during the second half of your cycle so it’s quite essential for allowing implantation to happen. If implantation does happen but our levels remain low, early miscarriage is common as the levels aren’t high enough to sustain the lining and the pregnancy. If you have had multiple miscarriages or difficulties conceiving, ensuring your hormone levels are in good standing is really essential!
Have you had your hormone levels checked? Do you know what they mean or how to make the necessary adjustments? Maybe you experience some of the symptoms above. Comment below and let me know your experiences with hormones.