Estrogen and progesterone; these hormones are not just needed for fertility but for overall health. I feel like the word “hormone” more often than not, immediately makes us think about the negative symptoms associated with hormonal issues. The truth is we need our hormones, it’s the hormonal imbalances that are an issue. It’s when we have too much or too little of something; that’s where the bad reputation of hormones come from; the imbalance and not the hormones itself.
Hormones = good 👍
Hormonal imbalance = not good 👎
Let's start with estrogen, the hormone that rises in the first half of our cycle. I wanted to talk about estrogen because there is a lot of of talk about estrogen dominance and how it may be contributing to your health issues and concerns; so you might be wondering what this hormone is all about.
Estrogen is everything! (Maybe not everything but it sure does many many things…)
In the first half of the cycle estrogen builds up and supports the growth of the ovarian follicle which contains the egg, when the follicle is big enough ovulation is triggered - this is when an egg/ova is released from the follicle in the ovary.
🌸 Estrogen is also important for:
urinary tract health
mucous membrane, gut health and immunity
circulatory and heart health
healthy skin hair and bones
health of pelvic muscles
⬆️ What happens when we have increased estrogen levels?
High estrogen levels can be caused by increased production and or/impaired removal from the body.
Excess estrogen leads to:
heavy painful periods or irregular periods
headaches and migraines
breast tenderness and fibrocystic breasts
mood swings, PMS
abdominal weight gain
⬇️ What about low estrogen?
Estrogen has many roles, as mentioned above, so its not surprising that low estrogen can cause:
anxiety, moodiness and sleep disruptions
recurring urinary tract infections
vaginal dryness and low libido
headaches and migraines
short and/or light periods
If you notice that you are starting to experience the above symptoms of increased or lowered oestrogen levels (most common in your late 20s and 30s) this is because our bodies have been through quite a bit by now and in turn it affected our hormones. This phase of our life means that we may have been through university, pressure of our first jobs, starting businesses, living abroad, getting married, having kids etc As much as these are milestones worth celebrating, they can be stressful experiences for our bodies!
Estrogen and progesterone; these hormones are not just needed for fertility but for overall health.
And now I want to talk about progesterone because this is the hormone that keeps us sane in the second half of the cycle!
Progesterone levels peak after ovulation and should maintain high until your period- it is this hormone that helps the uterine lining hold on until your hormones drop before your period 🩸
When levels are low during this part of the cycle (the luteal phase), anxiety and sleeping problems arise 😫 This is because one of progesterones major job is to maintain a healthy brain and regulate our mood. Because of progesterones’ anxiety properties, if you do not get the rise about two weeks out from your period you can experience anxiety leading up to menstruation. You may notice a fluctuation in your mood due to unstable levels of progesterone, rising and falling.
Progesterone is critical for thyroid health vice versa. If you have insufficient progesterone levels this will affect your thyroid hormone levels and can lead to thyroid issues like fatigue and “unexplained weight gain” 😑. If you chart your cycles, you should see a sustained increase in temperature after ovulation - this is because temperature increases as progesterone and thyroid hormones increase.
When progesterone is low, chances are, you will have a high estrogen to progesterone ratio and experience estrogen dominance/excess symptoms which I mentioned above. Progesterone is like the counter-balancer of estrogen; for example while too much estrogen causes heavy periods, progesterone is an anti-inflammatory and lighten heavy periods. If “estrogen is everything” then progesterone is the hormone that ensures we only get the good things from estrogen and not the things/symptoms from too much or too little estrogen.
If you really start to notice menstrual symptoms about 2 weeks out from your period like mood instability, anxiety and sleepless nights you may need some support with your progesterone levels. Remember, we should not label oestrogen’s or any hormones for that matter as villains because they do good for us! But do remember that hormonal imbalances need to be addressed if you want to optimise your health; and look and feel you’re best.