Your hormones. You can't see them or touch them, yet somehow, they can make our lives heaven or hell. When your hormones are in balance you are energized, confident & balanced.
But when your hormones are out of balance you are more prone to weight gain, menstrual problems, mood swings, sugar cravings & other unpleasant symptoms.
As women we have learnt to fear our hormones. After all, we've all seen someone with premenstrual range, crippling period pain, or unexplained weight gain. Maybe you have experienced these symptoms too. It can often feel like our hormones are out of our control, or that being 'hormonal' is a part of being a woman. This is where our limited hormonal education has failed us and our societal taboo of sex, blood and libido has held us back.
I truly believe that all women should know and understand their hormones, so they can be empowered by their hormones rather than disillusioned by them. I hope that with further education we can help women heal their hormones rather than using last ditch resorts like hormonal contraceptives or organ removal.
So, welcome to hormones 101. Here, you will learn the basics of your hormones, how to identify if your hormones are out of balance, and other helpful insights to help you get back in touch with your body.
Your Hormones Are Your Best Friend, Not Your Enemy
Hormones are more than the baby and menstrual making chemicals we know them as.
Your hormones keep your skin glowing, weight stable, libido and mood high. They also control how well your sleep, your blood pressure, bones, immune system, energy levels, metabolism and even how we think and feel every day.
Your hormones effect your whole body, which is why it is important that we work with them, rather than against them to live the biggest, fullest juiciest life we can.
Hormone Balance Is More Than Just Estrogen and Progesterone
Your Main Sex Hormones
Oestrogen: Oestrogen is the main female sex hormone. Your body produces most of your oestrogen levels during the first half of your cycle (follicular phase). Oestrogen is responsible for getting your body ready for ovulation by preparing your eggs & thickening your uterine lining. Oestrogen also plays a role in sex drive, skin, mood, bone health, inflammation, energy and sleep.
Progesterone: Progesterone is our feel-good sex hormone. You produce progesterone after ovulation to prepare the body for potential pregnancy. Additionally, progesterone balances out estrogen, acts as a natural anti-anxiety and anti-inflammatory.
Testosterone: Although testosterone is the main male sex hormone, women need testosterone too. For women, testosterone supports energy, endurance, muscle growth and libido. In excess, it can create symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome and excess facial hair.
Thyroid Hormones (TSH, T3, T4): Thyroid hormones are not technically considered a sex hormone! Yet, they play a crucial role in ovulation, female hormone balance, fertility, pregnancy and menstruation.
Your Main Stress Hormones
We can't talk about hormone balance without talking about stress hormones. Like the thyroid hormones we discussed earlier, stress hormones also play a crucial role in our female hormone balance.
Stress hormones are produced from your adrenal gland, a little gland that sits on top of each kidney. Our stress hormones help us deal with stress from all sources; mental emotional, physical, environmental, infectious or toxic. They also influence the production of estrogen, progesterone, testosterone PLUS can influence whether you ovulate or not.
Your adrenal glands also help produce small amounts of sex hormones, particularly after menopause.
DHEA: DHEA is a building block hormone that helps us create testosterone and other hormones like estrogen and progesterone.
Cortisol: Cortisol is our stress & energy hormone. It peaks during times of stress, but also in the day time to keep us alert and awake, to control our energy, blood sugar, immune system, inflammation and mental clarity.
Adrenaline: Similar to cortisol, Adrenaline is our fight or flight hormone and helps us cope with short term stress. It is associated with rapid heartbeat and anxiety.
The Contraceptive Pill Does Not Fix Your Hormones
Despite popular belief, the contraceptive pill does not fix your hormones.
Hormonal contraceptives contain synthetic progesterone which tricks your body into thinking it has already ovulated - so you don't ovulate!
Taking synthetic progesterone throughout the month stops you producing natural progesterone, having a menstrual cycle or experiencing the normal fluctuations in your hormones throughout the month.
It also stops hormonal symptoms.
Why? If you have a hormonal imbalance your natural hormonal fluctiations throughout the month can produce symptoms like acne, PMS, mood swings, heavy, painful menstruation among others. The contraceptive pill stops these fluctuations & thus stops your hormonal symptoms.
Sound too good to be true? It is!
Hormonal contraceptives do not address the root cause for your hormone imbalance- they only suppress symptoms. Once you stop taking hormonal contraceptive's you will begin to experience fluctuations in your hormones again and the same hormonal symptoms you previously experienced.
Hormonal Symptoms Are Not Normal
Despite what you are taught to believe, period problems, heavy bleeding, premenstrual tension and mood swings are not a normal part of being a woman.
Here are some signs of hormonal imbalance to watch out for:
Period Problems; Irregular, Heavy, Scanty or Missed Periods
Painful Menstrual Cramping
Low Energy, Fatigue, Anxiety, Depression, Low Mood
Dark Facial & Body Hair Growth
Night Sweats & Excessive Sweating
Sensitivity to the Heat or Cold
Premenstrual Symptoms; Moodiness, Irritability, Sugar Cravings, Sore Breasts,
Bloating, IBS Symptoms, Diarrhea, Constipation
Difficulty Losing Weight, Unexplained Weight Gain
If you are experiencing hormonal symptoms, it's time to dig deeper!
Every Woman Should Know Her Hormones
Since our hormones play a vital role in how we think and feel every day, it is important to know if our hormones are in balance.
Testing your hormones is a great way to start. This information can give direct insight into how your hormones are functioning so you can better understand your hormonal levels. Testing takes the guess work out of your hormones so you can identify the root causes for your hormonal symptoms quickly & effectively.
Blood Testing Cannot Give You The Whole Picture
A standard blood test may detect severe hormone imbalances, in some cases. But blood testing it is not comprehensive or sensitive enough to detect mild-moderate hormone imbalances which effect most women. This means that most women get told by their doctor that their hormone levels are normal - yet their hormone imbalance has gone undetected due to inadequate testing.
There is another option - Dried Urine Comprehensive Testing (DUTCH).
DUTCH testing is the most comprehensive & accurate testing for hormone levels. Unlike the standard blood test which only picks up on a few hormones, dried urine testing can detect 41 unique hormones ( 11 adrenal hormones, melatonin, 4 creatinine markers, 2 progesterone's, 9 oestrogen metabolites and ratios, 8 androgens and testosterones, 3 neurotransmitter metabolites 3 and nutritional organic acids).
This, giving a much clearer & accurate representation of your hormone levels.
If you're interested in hormone testing, please contact me here for more info
You Can Heal Your Hormones
Hormone imbalances can be confusing & overwhelming - but they aren't impossible to treat.
If you're having trouble deciphering your hormones & treating them yourself - I'm here to help!
I understand - I too struggled with polycystic ovaries and premenstrual symptoms for YEARS until I was able to find the root cause and treat it naturally.
My training as a Naturopath has given me the opportunity to help hundreds of other women balance their hormones naturally too.
If you're interested in finding a natural solution for your hormone imbalance, I'd love to chat! I offer a free 15-minute phone consultation to answer any of your questions.
Meet the Naturopath
Storm is a Qualified Naturopath & Herbalist.
After being diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome she is now passionate about helping women find their root cause, balance their hormones and feel at home in their bodies. She provides support both online, and in-person from her clinic in Palmerston North, New Zealand.