Women and Hormones 101
Written by Dr. Lara Armstrong, ND
Recently I was away in New York for the Integrative Health Symposium with the Ladies behind VIVACA™ and the Menomission®. I was there to present about menopause and herbs that can help women through this right of passage. The next few blogs will focus on understanding peri-menopause, menopause and herbs that can be helpful during this time.
If you have looked at the FAQ page on this website you will discover some mention of hormones. This blog is meant to help you to understand how the female cycle works and the hormones that are involved in regulating that cycle.
Hormones are vital for our daily existence. Hormones regulate how we think and feel about things. They regulate our sleep, our appearance and energy levels. Depending on the levels of these hormones, it is essentially what differentiates male from female. Disruption to the balance of these hormones can create a number of issues; most commonly many women will experience issues such as premenstrual syndrome (PMS) during their menstruating years. As a woman ages and hormone levels naturally begin to decline, she will experience peri-menopause and eventually menopause.
A woman will begin ovulating (and experiencing menstruation) anywhere from as early as the age of 10 and possibly as late as 18, with the average age being approximately 12. Once ovulation starts
Menstrual cycle occurring, hormones begin to be secreted at varying levels throughout the month. A woman will have a period approximately every 28 days. The day that she starts menstruating is considered “Day 1”. At this time follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), which is secreted from the pituitary gland, will be high and stimulates the growth of the follicle (egg). The follicle will secrete hormones, both estrogen and progesterone. In the first half of the cycle estrogen will predominate and begins to rise from the first day of the period until ovulation. Estrogen functions to build the endometrial lining of the uterus. At ovulation estrogen levels will reach their peak and should begin to decline after this, as the woman enters into the second half of the cycle and approaches menstruation again. A second hormone that is secreted from the pituitary gland, called luteinizing hormone (LH), is released in order to stimulate ovulation. Once ovulation occurs, progesterone will start to rise and reaches its peak by approximately day 18-21 of a 28 day cycle. Progesterone will block estrogen from having further growth effects on the endometrial lining but will also alter this lining to prepare it for implantation by a potentially fertilized egg. If the egg is not fertilized, progesterone levels will start to decline at approximately day 25 of a 28 day cycle and the endometrial lining will begin to slough off by about day 28, resulting in menstruation. There are many factors that can affect this fine balance that takes place between estrogen and progesterone, many of which have been discussed in previous blogs. If these hormones become imbalanced, a woman will begin to experience issues associated with the menstrual cycle such as PMS, fibroids, endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) to name a few. Imbalance in estrogen and progesterone will also occur naturally as a woman ages and enters into the perimenopausal stage of her life. Again the marked changes in the menstrual cycle, is the key sign that an imbalance between estrogen and progesterone is taking place. The next blog will focus on perimenopause and menopause.