Typically, when patients ask if we work with hormones, they are talking about sex hormones; Estrogen, Progesterone, and Testosterone. These sex hormones are what we will concentrate on in this section.
About every 28 days, the ovaries (which hold the eggs) get a signal from the brain that it’s time to get some eggs ready for fertilization. Anywhere from just a few to a few hundred eggs begin to mature inside sacs called follicles. After 12 days, one egg has moved to the outer surface of the ovary, and the follicle bursts releasing the egg into the fallopian tube for its journey to the uterus. Estrogen is the dominant hormone during this phase of the cycle and signals the uterus to also start the buildup of tissue and blood so that it will be prepared for the egg.
After 12 days, estrogen levels peak and then begin to taper off, just before ovulation. After ovulation, the empty follicle becomes what is known as the corpus luteum. The corpus luteum is the site of production of another very important hormone, progesterone, which dominates the second half of the cycle. If pregnancy does not occur within 10-12 days after ovulation, both progesterone and estrogen levels fall, leading to a shedding of the uterine lining, and the cycle starts anew.
Pre-menopause, is the period of time that the follicles start to decrease their output of eggs. It can last anywhere from 6-13 years, usually starting in the mid-thirties to early forties. Remember, the corpus luteum produces a lot of progesterone. During this time, many women become very progesterone deficient for a variety of reasons and enter an estrogen dominant state (if they were not already in one). This causes a lot of the menopausal issues we tend to hear about.
For most women living in Industrialized cultures, the gap between estrogen and progesterone levels during pre-menopause and menopause is quite large. Even before actual menopause and the dropping off of estrogen levels, many women experience bloating, weight gain, and mood swings. Hormone balance is intimately connected to stress levels, nutrition, and environmental toxins. Depending on these variables, the ratio of estrogen to progesterone can be very high (bad) or actually rather low (good). Due to these variables, estrogen can also become erratic, with periods of very high estrogen levels and low estrogen levels.
The female reproductive cycle is a beautiful and amazing dance of fluctuating hormones. At any point in a woman’s life, one small change can begin a butterfly effect, altering levels of all the hormones involved (and many that were not listed here). Let us help you get your hormones back on track, naturally. We schedule complimentary consultations for anyone interested in learning more. Please call the office today and get the help you deserve!