Our body maintains a specific balance of estrogens, progesterone, and testosterone throughout our various life cycles. Our hormones are regulated by a complex set of feedback loops which communicate between our brain, ovaries and adrenal glands that orchestrate the “symphony” that maintains our hormonal balance. The ratio and balance of our hormones are like a symphony changing from note to note or day to day depending on the phase of your menstrual cycle and your hormonal “age” so to speak. When one instrument begins to play out of tune it changes the balance of the entire musical score, leading to hormonal imbalance and its associated undesirable symptoms. Image of Phase of the Menstrual Cycle
The above graph shows the normal hormonal fluctuation seen with menstruation. Day 1 of the cycle correlates with the first day of menstrual bleeding. The first phase of the menstrual cycle is called the follicular phase. Estrogen and progesterone levels are at their lowest as the uterine lining sheds through menstruation. The follicular phase lasts 10 – 14 days, or until ovulation occurs. Just prior to ovulation estrogen and FSH (follicule stimulating hormone) rise, and LH (luteinizing hormone) surges to stimulate the release of an egg from the ovary. The luteal phase begins when ovulation occurs. Progesterone is exclusively released from the developing egg. Both estrogen and progesterone work in concert together to prepare the uterine lining for pregnancy. If fertilization does not occur, estrogen and progesterone levels decrease causing menstruation to occur.
The only way our bodies produce progesterone is with ovulation. If a woman is having annovulatory cycles no progesterone is released creating an imbalance between the normal estrogen-progesterone ratio. Conversely, estrogens comes from poor dietary choices, environmental toxins and can be produced by the fat cells in our body, further compounding the affects of estrogen dominance. Estrogen dominance, resulting in changes in the ratio of estrogen to progesterone are the underlying cause of many of the symptoms seen with PMS (pre-menstrual syndrome) and peri-menopause. Some of these symptoms include;
This month we will discuss various strategies to re-balance hormones. In many cases, the first thing women ask for is hormonal replacement therapy. While this is certainly an option for some women, I find that making the appropriate lifestyle changes and taking the proper nutritional suppements will relieve symptoms in many women. I will also review various natural products for symptoms of hormonal imbalance, discuss the pros & cons of hormonal replacement therapy, and review the benefits of bio-identical hormone replacement. So hang on to your hats…. we’re not done yet!
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