During our twenties to forties, a woman’s hormones are like music played in a beautiful but sometimes discordant symphony. The different glands in the endocrine system that produce distinct hormones can be likened to an array of musicians that create unique sounds in an orchestra. Each musician must listen to the other so to play in progression. In the same way, if our hormones play too loudly or softly, too fast or slow, and they don’t coordinate with the others, then the ‘sound’ produced may be jarring to a woman’s system.
Controlling many of the body’s crucial functions such as mood, health, and behaviour, hormones are humans’ most sensitive chemical messengers. Our cycle and hormones affect our moods and behaviour because the female body is an ecosystem and hormones nourish and inform the system as a whole.
So how can you ensure the body has optimum synchronicity? One way is to tap into our own biological intelligence, by observing the cycles and rhythms of our bodies. Most women are already aware of certain hormonal shifts within their bodies, but they can amplify that awareness.
In today’s modern world, hormone balance is becoming increasingly compromised by environmental factors such as extreme stress, exposure to harmful chemicals, and Westernized diets. Improving understanding and awareness, especially through the lens of fertility, is essential, and is particularly important during the 20s and 30s, when a woman is setting the stage for overall wellness.
Reproductive health is your health, and maintaining it isn’t any different than exercising or eating a healthy diet. Even if pregnancy isn’t on your radar right now or even in the future, when you’re in your 20s and early 30s, your body is still trying to function as if it’s capable of producing healthy offspring.
In order to understand a female body’s cycle and the hormones most commonly associated with women’s health, the hormones women should focus most attention on are:
- Oestrogen: The primary female sex hormone, which is mainly produced by the ovaries not only plays a crucial role in the menstrual cycle, but also supports everything from maintaining bone density to regulating mood.
- Progesterone: Also made by the ovaries, it serves an important role in early pregnancy
- Testosterone: The body needs this crucial hormone to develop lean muscle mass, burn fat, and boost libido
- Cortisol: The body’s stress hormone; normal levels help to regulate blood sugar and the immune system. But at inflated levels, it can be very damaging. High cortisol levels are associated with everything from experiencing feelings of fear, panic, and depression, to impairing memory and suppressing the immune system.
- Thyroid hormone: Produced by the thyroid glands, it keeps the body in balance by regulating functions such as breathing, heart rate, metabolism, and body temperature.
- DHEA: otherwise known as dehydroepiandrosterone, DHEA is a hormone precursor, which means that it helps to set off the reaction that will produce other hormones, such as testosterone and oestrogen. DHEA serves a protective role against stress and helps to maintain the immune system throughout your life.
Monitor Your Body’s Cycles and Mood Shifts
The rise and fall of hormones during the menstrual cycle trigger a chain of events, influenced by the fluctuations of key hormones such as oestrogen and progesterone, as well as hormones produced in the brain, namely follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH), the former regulating the functions of the ovaries and the latter triggering ovulation when it surges.
- In the first days of our cycle, we tend to feel the happiest and most energized, thanks to a gradual increase in oestrogen and serotonin.
- During the very brief ovulatory phase of our cycle, the release of oestrogen can result in a noticeable increase in libido for some women.
- In the final days of the menstrual cycle, a decrease in oestrogen and a rise in progesterone, is often accompanied by increased anxiety, irritability, and stress.
Recognise Your Triggers
While menstrual cycle phases can help predict women’s hormonal responses, hormones are, by nature, very sensitive and many women experience irregular cycles that can trigger a disruptive feedback loop that can be challenging to reverse.
Fluctuations in mood, anxiety or depression, irregular or painful periods, headaches, insomnia, gastrointestinal issues, and increased hair growth in the face or chest are all be symptoms of hormonal imbalance. The main causes of this imbalance are:
- Hormonal birth control pills,
- Disorders impacting the endocrine glands
- Poor Diet
- Environmental hazards like phthalates and BPA
Learn How to Manage Stress Levels
The longer a woman has consistent hormonal imbalances, the more difficult it can be to correct certain issues. The most effective and natural way to keep hormones in balance is by reducing stress. Higher levels of cortisol are linked to memory loss and brain shrinkage before the age of 50.
The best ways to lower high levels of cortisol
- Regular exercise
- Establish a daily restorative practice such as meditation
- Cut down on excessive use of smartphones
- Eat an anti-inflammatory diet free of processed foods and rich in healthy fats
- Eat plenty of lean protein
- Eat plenty of the following hormone-supportive cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cauliflower, and fermented foods like kimchi
- Take regular Probiotics
- Take regular supplements including B vitamins, Magnesium, Ashwagandha and PMS-alleviating Chaste Tree Berry