hormones, oestrogen, womens health -

Hormones (Part 1) What are they and why are they so important to your overall health?

PART ONE - 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 start at the beginning….

Oestrogen is the main female sex hormone; it is responsible for a woman’s breasts, hips, vocal chords and sex organs. It is fundamentally the hormone that transforms the girl into a woman. And whilst men produce Oestrogen too, it plays a far bigger role in a woman’s body.

Oestrogen is produced by your hormonal (endocrine) system and moves through your bloodstream and entire body. The role of Oestrogen is to maintain blood sugar levels, protects us against many things including heart disease, tooth loss, colon cancer, incontinence and osteoporosis. It is needed for puberty, menstruation and pregnancy. PHEWWW, that's a pretty big job!

Fluctuations in your Oestrogen levels can be totally normal and will vary based on your menstrual cycle and age. For example, your Oestrogen levels are likely to be highest in the middle of your cycle (ovulation) and lowest during your period. Alternatively, during menopause your Oestrogen levels will start to dramatically fall.

Now, there are 3 ‘stages’ of a woman’s life and in each stage our production and use of Oestrogen differs, as does the type of Oestrogen we produce:

  • When we enter our childbearing years, aged 12 – 51 years, defined physiologically from when your menstrual cycles begin to when they end we produce Oestradiol. The ovaries are responsible of the production of Oestradiol during this phase.
  • During pregnancy, Oestriol is the main form of Oestrogen produced and this is done mostly in the placenta.
  • After menopause, our adrenal glands and fatty tissue produce what is called Oestrone, which is the only type of Oestrogen produced in the female body after the commencement of menopause.
Outside of the standard phases, hormonal fluctuations can and do occur. For example, by the age of 35, typically a woman’s Oestrogen levels will started to fluctuate and increase. This occurs due to a slowing of ovulation, which in turn results in a drop in Progesterone levels and a spike in Oestrogen to compensate.

Symptoms of high Oestrogen levels can include:

  • bloating.
  • swelling and tenderness in your breasts.
  • fibrocystic lumps in your breasts.
  • decreased sex drive.
  • irregular menstrual periods
  • increased premenstrual symptoms (PMS).
  • mood swings.
  • headache
  • anxiety and panic attacks
  • weight gain
  • hair loss
  • poor circulation (resulting in cold hands and feet)
  • troubled sleep
  • fatigue
  • decreased memory

If you feel like you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, you may be suffering from excess Oestrogen production. This is cause for concern, as on top of the emotional and physical symptoms you are already experiencing, you are also at higher risk of developing thyroid conditions, blood clots, stroke and even breast and ovarian cancers. 

Stay tuned for PART TWO, Progesterone…

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