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Women and Hormones 101

Posted on: April 14th, 2012 by Lara Armstrong 4 Comments

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.

Hormones 101:

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


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.

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Written by:

Lara Armstrong, is a licensed naturopathic doctor who currently practices in Ancaster and Hamilton, ON. She received her training in Naturopathic Medicine from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM), graduating in 2004, and started her private practice, Armstrong health in 2005, where she runs a general family practice. In 2007 she started the menopause clinic at Monarch Laser and Wellness in Hamilton. This clinic offers naturopathic treatment for menopause and issues surrounding hormonal imbalance and is run in conjunction with a medical doctor, bringing a very unique and refreshing approach to health care. Dr. Armstrong is very passionate about helping women going through menopause, providing them with education and has been involved in several speaking engagements discussing this topic. Dr. Armstrong has been the recipient of the Diamond Award for “Best Naturopath” in the Hamilton’s Readers Choice for the last 5years. In addition to seeing patients, Dr. Armstrong, is part of a mentoring program with the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine and will have medical students shadowing appointments from time to time. Outside of clinical practice, Lara enjoys the practice of yoga and the health benefits that this provides. She is the mother of 3yr old Jasmine and loves spending time with her and continuing to learn from her. Lara is a member of the OAND, CAND and APND.

4 Responses

  1. Gabriella

    13 May 2012

    I decided I would not take HRT; and loeokd for ways of coping with symptoms; I found that taking vitamin E capsules helped my skin condition the itching, the dryness. I also take Evening Primrose oil to help balance the hormones..The flushes are much more difficult to deal with I have tried drinking sage tea, I have tried Black Cohosh, to no REAL effect. The flushes died down themselves eventually, and now I only have the occasional one.The headaches may be different; after a lifetime of migraines they started to subside; yet I have friends who developed dreadful headaches during menopause. I can recommend a very good book, by Dr John Lee, called what your doctor may not tell you about the menopause In which he focuses on the role of natural progesterone in women of our age.If you never acted on any of his advice, the book is worth reading for it’s sympathetic and commonsense approach to menopause!I have put on weight in the past four years I am 54 but I’m OK with it. I kind of like having a bust, I kind of like my womanly shape!Insomnia is another tough one I have also been there! I found that not taking it too seriously helped. I tried various things, like Valerina, or warm baths, or a massage, or sometimes a nightcap! There were varying degrees of success with all of them, and I think sleep remedies are as individual as you are!

  2. Tomohito

    14 May 2012

    Hi JKHigh blood pressure is not going to be loerwed by estrogen. Depending on your circumstance and other risk factors such as stroke and heart disease it may be felt that estrogen will not help. Whether it is bio identical or synthetic (everything like premarin etc ) you are not going to help lower your blood pressure. Your doctor is going to treat that as a separate issue.Hormones should be used for women that are symptomatic with hot flashes, moodiness, etc. Vaginal dryness that can be a bothersome symptom of menopause can be treated with vaginal estrogen in the form of cream or a vaginal insert called vagifem. I agree that your Dr. is trying to get your blood pressure under control .this is very good as remember heart disease is the number one killer of women compared to any other cancer that is out there. So, I hope this answers your question .your doctor may say no to hormones as he is worried about your family history of heart disease also your age now comes into play here Are you newly menopausal or have you been menopausal for awhile. It is recommended that woman that are symptomatic be treated early in the menopause rather than later for the best outcome. I hope this help. Feel free to email me back at Julie Schnieders NP

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