Our hormones are tiny chemical messengers that travel through our bloodstream to deliver messages to different organs. Consider them puzzle pieces that can fit onto an organ’s receptors (or matching puzzle piece), to cause an internal chemical reaction. They influence everything including sleep, energy, fat storage, thirst, and even sex drive. Having the proper hormonal balance can be tricky but should be pursued since it is essential to your overall health. Tons of hormones are working throughout our bodies to make everyday decisions for us without us ever knowing. A few of the most important hormones that impact our reproductive health are outlined below.
Estrogen: Believe it or not, both men and women produce estrogen. For women, most of their estrogen is synthesized within their ovaries. Estrogen is responsible for the development and regulation of the female reproductive system. It also plays a pivotal role in protecting against heart disease, stroke, vaginal atrophy, osteoporosis, and more! Estrogen is vital in orchestrating the menstrual cycle and in balancing other hormones essential to hormonal health.
Progesterone: Progesterone is a female hormone that is released by the ovaries. It is crucial in orchestrating the menstrual cycle as well as creating viable pregnancies. Progesterone and estrogen are generally inversely related, meaning they have a see-saw effect on one another. When one is high, the other is low and vice versa.
Progesterone is naturally created within the body, but it can also be produced synthetically, which is called progestin. Progestins are one of the categories of active pharmaceutical ingredients found within birth control. We’ll touch more on this later.
Luteinizing Hormone: Luteinizing hormone (LH) is produced and released by the pituitary gland. LH can control the ovaries in females and the testes in males. In females, when LH spikes, it initiates ovulation. If the egg becomes fertilized, LH then helps to keep progesterone levels in check. Too much or too little LH can lead to fertility issues.
Follicle-Stimulating Hormone: Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) is another important hormone in the reproductive system. Like LH, it is created in the pituitary gland and works with many sex hormones in the body. FSH is responsible for the growth of ovarian follicles, which produce progesterone in the ovaries. In turn, this helps maintain our menstrual cycles. Again, this hormone is found in both men and women but in different amounts.
Testosterone: Testosterone is generally thought to be a “man’s hormone,” but just like estrogen, it is also found in women. Testosterone in females maintains sex drive, helps maintain bone health, provides pain management, and preserves cognitive health. Too much testosterone can cause “androgenic” or masculine reactions such as excess body hair, balding, acne, deepening of the voice, and irregular menstrual cycles. It is important to keep it in check if you are not seeking these characteristics.
DHEA: Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is the most abundant hormone in the body! It is mostly produced in the adrenal glands that sit above your kidneys. It is pivotal in maintaining our hormone balance, reversing stress, and sustaining the immune system. DHEA helps to keep estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone in check. Unfortunately, DHEA decreases as we age, leading to hormone imbalances, which is why it is often sold as a supplement.
Thyroid Hormone(s): There are several different thyroid hormones. What is important to understand is that your estrogen levels can directly impact your thyroid levels. This can cause hyper- or hypothyroidism, affecting your energy, sleep, metabolism, and more.
As you can see, there are a lot of extremely complicated hormones found throughout the body. No organ or tissue is untouched by our hormones, which is why our hormone balance is so incredibly important for our everyday health. Although hormone imbalances are extremely common, it does not make your hormonal imbalance experience less frustrating or severe. As our hormone levels change throughout our lives, these imbalances can come and go. Sometimes treatment is necessary, and other times it is best to wait and see if your body can correct the imbalance over time. Things like exercise, nutrition, and healthy sleep patterns can sometimes naturally assist in mild hormone imbalances and irregularities. When in doubt, seek medical attention if you believe you are suffering from a hormone imbalance.