Hormone health is an important topic that can affect everyone throughout their lifetime. Some common symptoms of hormone imbalance are irritability, acne, low libido, unwanted hair growth, unwanted weight gain (especially around the abdomen), uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts, recurrent miscarriage, infertility, endometriosis, and some cancers, to name a few. Hormones can be affected by many things such as stress, diet, chemical exposures, and genetics. Having your hormones in balance, can help you be a healthy, happy, adaptable person.
One hormone that gets a lot of attention is estrogen. Estrogen is a lovely hormone that helps regulate the menstrual cycle, is responsible for breast development, and plays a role in bone health, among others. However, because it generally promotes growth in the body, it can be dangerous if left unchecked. One way to balance estrogen dominance is by increasing progesterone. Another way is to limit exposure to xeno- estrogens in your environment. Lastly, adipose (fat) cells also produce estrogen. So, keeping active and maintaining a healthy weight can benefit your hormones greatly.
A piece of the puzzle with estrogen is also its relationship to another well-known hormone, progesterone. Ideally you want to have 100-200 (some argue 300) times more progesterone than estrogen. So, monitoring this ratio can be pivotal in balancing an estrogen dominance picture. We naturally produce less progesterone as we age. However, there are other factors that can deplete progesterone as well. One known correlation is with cortisol, our stress hormone. If we are always under stress and making cortisol, we steal progesterone from the hormone pool (see hormone cascade below) and end up with progesterone insufficiency. Additionally, as women hit menopause their cardiovascular risk goes up, as does men’s risk. Again, referencing the hormone cascade below, you can see the relationship between progesterone and aldosterone. Dr. Lisa also further details this connection with adrenal health and hypertension in the heart health article within this newsletter. Bio-identical progesterone is one possible treatment to get you feeling better while working on the overarching picture of what lead you here. Lastly, progesterone can also play a big role in fertility and pregnancy maintenance. Low progesterone is one of the most common reasons for first trimester miscarriages. It is also a reason for irregular cycle lengths and spotting.
Testosterone is another famous hormone. Testosterone gets blamed for a lot of negative things, but all humans need testosterone to varying degrees. It is responsible for penis and testes development, facial hair growth, it also helps with muscle size, bone strength, and sex drive. High testosterone is commonly a piece of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) in women. Within the context of PCOS there are some fantastic herbs that can help lower levels, like stinging nettles. Conversely, low testosterone can be related to stress and cortisol production, through the adrenal endocrine pathway. So, using tools to combat stress and promote your parasympathetic nervous system will support hormone balance as well. One of the most accessible ways to do this is through meditation.
Luckily there are many ways to investigate and support your sex hormones and get you back to feeling active, energetic, and engaged. Here are the easy take away points:
- Use an app like Think Dirty to decrease xeno-estrogen and carcinogenic chemicals in your home.
- Exercise regularly to combat stress, balance testosterone, and to avoid more estrogen producing fat cells.
- Avoid animal proteins that aren’t grass-fed, organic, and free of hormones.
- Drink green tea to reduce estrogen levels.
- If you have known PCOS, drink nettle tea to help reduce testosterone levels.
- Partake in restful, restorative activities to reduce cortisol.