What is a hormone? This is a good place to start. There are a ton of hormones in your body that work symbiotically to help you thrive. Many of them you may have heard before like cortisol and estrogen. And maybe some you have heard a lot about but still don’t quite understand like progesterone and prolactin. We created this female hormone cheat sheet to help you better understand them. These hormones are like self-driving cars – following destinctive instructions. If the light is green, they will go, and if the light is red, they will wait. And, if for instance, the light never turns green, your hormones won’t budge. Like A.I., you aren’t able to communicate with your hormones rationally, which is why you have to communicate to them through proper care and balance. This is a quick guide to better understand your body, your hormones and how they work together.
So, what is a hormone?
Hormones are molecules that are sent out as messengers by the Endocrine Glands, giving certain organs instructions or creating chemical reactions to influence a major bodily function. Too little or too much of a hormone can cause the stages of life to pause, intensify symptoms or cause an overgrowth of cells that can increase the chances of developing a tumor.
The Endocrine Glands
These are a collection of the many functioning glands in your body and brain (like the hypothalamus in the brain or the ovaries) that secrete hormones in order to send messages to particular organs. These hormonal responses will influence things like your heart rate, metabolism, energy, appetite, mood, sex-drive, growth, sleep, etc. In other words, hormones play a huge role in balancing important parts of your life that you need in order to thrive.
6 Main ‘Mones: The Female Hormone Cheat Sheet
1. Cortisol: The Stress Hormone
This hormone is one we want to be very sensitive to as it plays a role in blood pressure, heart rate and anxiety. Though, it is also integral to regulate metabolism, reduce inflammation and enhance memory. High cortisol levels mean the body is in a stressed state and will signal to some of the body’s systems that aren’t necessary when dealing with a stressful dilemma (like reproduction and hunger) to temporarily shut down. For women, it can change libido levels, fertility and menstrual cycles. Low cortisol levels are damaging to the heart and metabolism. Caffeine, alcohol, trans fats and processed sugar – many of the foods incorporated in today’s diet – will spike cortisol levels. Lemon balm, ginseng and licorice root are some of the herbs that can help to naturally lower cortisol and stress levels.
2. Estrogen: The Female Sex Hormone
This is one of the most important female hormones, a main ‘mone driving your monthly cycle and triggering all of your stages as a woman. This hormone encourages puberty, rises for ovulation and falls to instruct menstruation, keeping it regular. During menopause, this vital hormone needs to be in harmony with progesterone to maintain your health, as an imbalance will cause severe menopausal symptoms. Too much can cause an increase in stress, blood pressure, obesity and hair loss, while too little will induce headaches and intensify hot flashes. Estrogen, when it is not balanced, is also a culprit of a low-sex drive, mood swings, irregular menstration, fatigue and insomnia. You can regulate your estrogen by being conscious of eating/using organic products, monitoring your fiber intake and consuming more hops and garlic to increase and rosemary to decrease estrogen.
3. Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH): The Egg Drop Hormone
FSH prepares and regulates a woman’s menstrual cycle and her production of eggs. Toward the end of a woman’s cycle, her hormones drop. This hormonal shift engages the hypothalamus to produce FSH. This particular hormone then stimulates the growth of ovarian follicles in the ovary in preparation to release an egg, more commonly known as ovulation. After releasing an egg, progesterone levels rise to increase fertility. When FSH is out of whack, women can experience more intense or pre-menopausal symptoms, fatigue, irritability and anxiety besides infertility. If FSH levels are high, increasing estrogen and progesterone may help regulation. Lowering stress and adding herbs like basil and lavender could greatly help the harmony of your hormones.
4. Luteinizing Hormone: The Ovulation Hormone
This hormone controls the production of estrogen and testosterone and is the main hormone tested to evaluate ovulation. When the FSH rises, so does the luteinizing hormone. A rise in the luteinizing hormone causes ovulation, when the ovaries release an egg. If fertilization occurs, luteinizing hormones will send out signals to preserve high levels of progesterone which will sustain the pregnancy. The Luteinizing hormones significantly increase after menopause because there are no more eggs to produce. High levels of this hormone before menopause causes infertility and irregular menstruation and puberty in females which is why it is crucial to regulate. Imbalance may mean that other hormones are not working properly due to ovarian complications or thryoid, autoimmune or adrenal diseases. Lady’s Mantle is an herb used to regulate fertility and female hormones which is why we use this amazing herb in many of our teas.
5. Progesterone: The Baby-Making Hormone
After ovulation, the progesterone hormone rises for implementation of the embryo and is sustained if the fertilization is a success in order to carry the pregnancy to childbirth. If fertilization is not successful, progesterone lowers which triggers a woman’s next menstruation to release the old egg and prepare your body for another chance at reproduction. Really low levels of progesterone can cause sever PMS symptoms which is why it is recommended to increase this hormone during menstruation. High levels can cause isomnia, fatigue, mood swings and depression. Boost progesterone with yams, zinc and magnesium. And be aware of your estrogen levels as progesterone and estrogen have an opposite correlation. For example, if you want to raise progesterone, you would want to lower estrogen. Ylang ylang and neroli are common essential oils found to reduce stress and cortisol which is believed to correlate with progesterone.
6. Prolactin: The Lactation Hormone
You guessed it – this hormone promotes lactation in mothers. Prolactin has also been found to regulate mood, the immune system and metabolism. This hormone is regulated by two other hormones, dopamine and oestrogen, which then signal to the Pituitary Gland whether to release prolactin or not. Prolactin has a delicate balancing act. Dopamine restrains the production of prolactin, while the secretion of prolactin releases more dopamine which, if you do the math, means you will make less and less prolactin. But then, oestrogen levels increases prolactin and to sustain a perfect balance, we don’t want too much of either dopamine or estrogen unless pregnant in order to trigger lactation.
Remember, that this is just a quick female hormone cheat sheet highlighting just a few of your many, many hormones. It is important to understand your body in order to promote your natural health. With this knowledge, you can try different herbal remedies to regulate hormones, subside symptoms and feel more like yourself. More hormonal guides to come!
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