Female Sex Hormones: Types, Roles & Imbalance

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Female Sex Hormones: Types, Roles & Imbalance

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Female Sex Hormones: Types, Roles & Imbalance

Every woman deals with unique hormones. Understanding what the female hormones are and how they play a role in your body is critical to maintaining the hormone health in a woman’s life.

Not only will we discuss the nature of the female hormones, I will describe how to spot a hormone imbalance — and how to naturally remedy irregular hormones.

Types of Female Sex Hormones

Estrogen

Estrogen is the most well-known female hormone.

The bulk of estrogen production occurs in the ovaries. However, estrogen can also be produced in the adrenal glands and adipose tissue (fat cells).

There are four major estrogens in any given female:

  • Estrone is a weak estrogen that serves mainly as a precursor hormone.
  • Estradiol is the main estrogen, responsible for many classically female characteristics.
  • Estriol is a weak estrogen, mainly produced when pregnant.
  • Estetrol is also weak estrogen made during pregnancy — produced solely by the fetal liver.

Progesterone

First described in 1934, progesterone is a hormone found in both women and men.

Progesterone stabilizes the menstrual cycle and prepares your body for a healthy pregnancy.

Progesterone can be produced in the ovaries, adrenal glands, and the placenta. Like other female hormones, progesterone levels are at their highest during ovulation and pregnancy.

Testosterone

Testosterone is primarily known as the male sex hormone. However, testosterone is also important for female health. 

Healthy testosterone levels play a part in menstrual regulation, libido, bone strength, and muscle strength. Testosterone helps women with mental clarity, energy and it helps you burn fat more efficiently. 

The adrenal glands and ovaries are responsible for producing testosterone in females.

Different Roles of Female Hormones Over Time

Puberty

Females usually enter puberty between age 8 and age 13. Puberty occurs when female hormones kick into high gear.

The pituitary gland produces luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone. This promotes higher levels of estrogen, as well as progesterone and testosterone.

Puberty-related hormones cause several important physical changes:

  • Increase in fat cells, especially in the hips and thighs
  • Breast development
  • Pubic, leg, and armpit hair growth
  • Widened pelvis and hips
  • Maturation of ovaries, uterus, and vagina
  • Beginning of the menstrual cycle
  • Growth spurt

Menstruation

Menstruation usually begins at 12 years old. Female hormones regulate this menstrual cycle in three phases:

  • Follicular phase — As blood and tissue evacuate the uterus through the vagina, there is a reduction in the levels of female hormones. Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) are produced, stimulating new egg growth. As one egg in the ovary emerges as dominant, this increases estrogen.
  • Ovulatory phase — During ovulation, luteinizing hormone and estrogen levels peak, and the dominant egg is released from the ovary. An egg can survive up to a full day after release. Egg fertilization can happen only during this time frame.
  • Luteal phase — The egg enters the uterus through the fallopian tubes. This releases progesterone, thickening the uterine lining in preparation to receive a fertilized egg. An unfertilized egg, however, lowers estrogen and progesterone levels. The unfertilized egg leaves the body, along with the uterine lining.

Although a normal menstrual cycle is defined as every  21- 35 days, irregular periods are quite common — especially for young women just starting their cycles and for peri-menopausal women nearing the end of their cycles. 

Libido

Testosterone, progesterone, and estrogen all play into sexual desire and arousal. Also known as libido, female sexual desire is typically highest just before the ovulatory phase of a menstrual cycle.

Usage of hormonal contraceptives can lead to adverse side effects, such as decreased libido. Libido can also decrease after menopause.

Surgery to remove adrenal glands or ovaries will decrease female hormone production, likely resulting in decreased libido.

Pregnancy

The moment a fertilized egg implants into the lining of the uterus,  the placenta starts to grow. The uterine wall thickens and fills with important embryo-sustaining nutrients.

Pregnancy-related hormones include:

Enhanced progesterone production during the first weeks of a pregnancy tells the cervix to thicken and form the mucus plug, which is important to protecting the embryo from infection.

Rapid increases in estrogen and progesterone can lead to nausea, vomiting, and frequent urination — common symptoms of early pregnancy.

After a pregnancy ends, female hormones slowly go back to the lower levels from before the pregnancy. The drop in hormones levels may contribute to postpartum depression.

Breastfeeding can decrease estrogen and may prevent ovulation. Breastfeeding alone is not considered to be an effective form of birth control.

Perimenopause and Menopause

Perimenopause is the period leading up to menopause. On average, it can last between two to eight years.

During perimenopause, female hormone production fluctuates and decreases. Perimenopause can cause irregular periods or may stop them altogether.

Menopause is defined as one year without a period. The average age is 51, but that can vary greatly.

Symptoms of perimenopause and menopause include:

  • Insomnia
  • Hot flashes
  • Changes in mood
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Vaginal dryness

The low levels of hormones during menopause can lead to women’s health issues like osteoporosis (thinning of the bones) and cardiovascular disease.

Correcting Female Hormonal Imbalance

Most women experience hormone imbalance. There are several root causes that may surprise you. Fortunately, naturally correcting a female hormonal imbalance can be as simple as getting enough sleep and exercise.

Common Root Causes of Hormone Imbalance

Common Symptoms of Hormone Imbalance

  • Unexplained weight gain/weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Sensitivity to hot or cold
  • Frequent bowel movements or urination
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Increased hunger/thirst
  • Breast tenderness
  • Depression
  • Bloating
  • Decreased libido
  • Infertility
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Irregular periods
  • Excessive hair on the face (called hirsutism)
  • Excess acne
  • Hair loss, thinning hair
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Vaginal atrophy
  • Night sweats
  • Pain during intercourse

Natural Methods for Correcting Hormonal Imbalance

Correcting hormone balance goes beyond looking just at your estrogen, testosterone and progesterone. Below we will look at the many factors that can impact these hormone levels and your overall health.  Addressing all of these issues will not only help you achieve hormone balance, but will also lead to improved quality of life. 

Number one, get enough sleep. Try to get 7-8 hours of sleep which provides your body with an opportunity to rest, including your endocrine system. Sleep disturbance affects hormones and may lead to obesity, diabetes, and issues with appetite.

Most technology emits blue light. Turn off any screened devices an hour before bed, because the blue light can disrupt your natural circadian rhythm of sleep.

Exercise is paramount to general health. Even short sessions of exercise can properly regulate hormone levels. Sometimes losing as little as 10 percent body fat can normalize menstrual periods.

You may have noticed that chronic stress can lead to hormone imbalance. Find ways to reduce your daily stress. Even listening to music can lower levels of stress. Meditation, yoga, prayer, quiet time, writing in a gratitude journal all help lower stress levels.

Quit smoking. Obviously, tobacco is a known carcinogen and an addictive substance. However, tobacco smoke can impact your thyroid and pituitary gland function. It can also raise cortisol levels, a steroid hormone linked to stress.

Excess alcohol can harm your liver which produces several hormones. So, it’s wise to protect the liver and keep alcohol consumption moderate. 

If these lifestyle changes fail, you can always turn to hormone therapy. Many are looking to bioidentical hormone therapy, which uses hormones that are chemically identical to the ones already in your body. 

This option may provide a safer and more natural way to manage hormone changes, particularly after menopause.

Hormone-Balancing Diet

Eat healthy fats and lots of fiber. Both contribute to the regulation of the hormone insulin, among other hormones.

Fish are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Fatty fish may help prevent depression and anxiety. Omega-3 fatty acids also reduce inflammation, which many believe can contribute to hormone imbalance.

Avoid sugars. Excess sugar leads to type 2 diabetes, obesity, metabolic disease, and so much more.

Probiotics and adaptogenic herbs encourage balanced hormones, as well as immune health and gut health.

Meals should be consistent.  Try to eat your meals around the same times throughout the day. Consistency allows for stabilization of your blood sugar. Declines in your blood sugar level may cause you to feel tired,  jittery, clammy, and even indecisive because of brain fog. Therefore, eat consistently throughout the day. 

In Summary

  • Estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone are all produced in the female body and each is important to several natural bodily processes:
    • Puberty
    • Menstrual period
    • Libido
    • Pregnancy
    • Menopause
  • There are natural methods to correcting a female hormone imbalance:
    • Get enough sleep.
    • Reduce daily stress. Meditate, Deep Breathing. Brain Dump into a journal at night.
    • Exercise regularly.
    • Quit smoking.
    • Avoid excess alcohol.
  • Eat a hormone-balancing diet:
    • Stay away from sugar.
    • Healthy fats and lots of fiber promote healthy hormones.
    • Eat meals consistently throughout the day.

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