Hormones (Part 2) What are they and why are they so important to your overall health?
This is a complicated topic to cover, especially when it comes to hormone imbalance. In this blog series we will discuss the 3 major female hormones, what they are and what the role they play in the female body. To better understand what hormonal imbalance is all about, including the signs and symptoms, it is very important to learn about the functions of each hormone and how each of them have differing role within your body. So let’s talk about…..
PART TWO - TESTOSTERONE. What is it? Where is it released from? What is its main function? How does it affect you?
Testosterone belongs to a class of ‘male’ hormones called Androgens, but did you know that women also require Testosterone to remain balanced. In women, it is produced in smaller quantities in the ovaries, where it is then released into the bloodstream.
Testosterone, Progesterone and Estrogen are the three major hormones that control the menstrual cycle. Testosterone’s role differs to those of Progesterone and Estrogen in that its main function is to regulate a woman’s sex drive. It also helps women retain muscle mass and support an overall sense of wellbeing. The combination of Testosterone and Estrogen can increase a woman’s libido considerably during ovulation and even during menstruation. If you have noticed your libido has a monthly pattern, it’s likely to be connected to the fluctuations of these two hormones. The rises in Testosterone and Estrogen coupled with the increase in cervical fluid during ovulation could be a pattern many identify with. Something else worth noting is the rise in Estrogen that begins on day 2-3 of menstruation, coupled with the density felt in the pelvis and the natural lubrication that comes with the menses, could also contribute to feeling more aroused. So hey, why don’t you take a moment to check in with yourself? Learn your unique hormonal pattern. Learn to lean into the times when you are feeling sexually confident.
So now, we know the good things Testosterone can do for your body. But what about signals of imbalance? As a woman approaches menopause, Testosterone levels will begin to decline. For pre and post menopausal women, this typically contributes to a significantly lower libido. Testosterone supplementation is sometimes used by post-menopausal women to increase sex drive and also by female athletes to improve their physical performance. As with most hormone replacement therapy - this has its risks.
Too much testosterone can interfere with ovulation and menstruation, a surplus causing high levels of insulin in the ovaries. As well as irregular or absent periods and weight gain (due to the insulin resistance), excessive body hair and acne are also common signs of high levels of Testosterone.
Excess Testosterone has also been linked to infertility and other serious health conditions such as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is an Endocrine condition that affects the healthy functioning of a woman's ovaries and leads to irregular menstruation. The ovaries can also enlarge and grow fluid filled sacs (these however are not cysts, despite what the name might suggest).
PCOS is one common side effect to women suffering from continued high levels of Testosterone. There are often a large number of variables involved in any diagnosis but PCOS is commonly linked to Testosterone and insulin imbalances. If you experience any of the symptoms associated with PCOS, try to get checked out as soon as possible. Many women go years without being diagnosed; leaving it for too long and ignoring symptoms can leave women feeling powerless and depressed.
Listening to our bodies is vital. Learning how to understand it’s changes, normal and abnormal. It may be difficult at first to learn how to listen more clearly and identify signals, but it’s a journey of education and empowerment worth starting.