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women's hormones

We talk about hormones a lot, but what do we really know about our female sex hormones?  In other words: What are they, where do they come from, and what do they do for us?

So, we thought it was about time we delve a little deeper into this topic to help you understand what is going on each month and each day, for that matter, when hormone fluctuations happen.

What Are Hormones?

Hormones  are chemical messengers that regulate and propel sexual development, metabolism and everyday body functions. And they are crucial to the menstrual cycle.

Hormones are made by glands in the endocrine system. They are made up of sterols (from cholesterol) and amino acids (from proteins).

In general, the hypothalamus region of the brain reads all of the input from the outside world and the conditions inside the body and tells the pituitary gland what to do. Then the pituitary gland acts like the conductor of the orchestra, communicating with the endocrine glands (ovaries, adrenals, thyroid, etc) about what needs to happen.

This article discusses some key female sex hormones you should be aware of.

Estrogen

Where it’s made:

  • the ovaries (primarily)
  • additionally, testosterone can also be converted (or aromatized) into estrogen

What it does:

  • Triggers the release of LH, which leads to ovulation
  • Promotes development of female sex characteristics (breasts, hips)
  • Thickens the uterine lining and the release of LH.

FSH  (Follicle stimulating hormone)

Where it’s made:

  • The anterior pituitary gland (in the brain)

What it does:

  • stimulates egg growth and estrogen production
  • works with estrogen to stimulate LH

 

LH  (Luteinizing hormone)

Where it’s made:

  • the anterior pituitary gland

What it does:

  • stimulates ovulation and the formation of cells around the egg sac once ovulation has occurred

 

AMH  (Anti-Mullerian hormone)

Where it’s made:

  • Egg follicles in the ovaries

What it does:

  • involved in cell growth and differentiation
  • may be a good indicator of ovarian reserve

 

Progesterone

Where it’s made:

  • released by the corpus luteum (or “shell” of an ovulated egg)

What it does:

  • Pro- (promotes) gest- (gestation, aka pregnancy); in other words, it promotes pregnancy
  • Readies the uterine lining for implantation
  • Slows smooth muscle contractions to promote implantation
  • We ONLY make progesterone after ovulation

 

women's hormones

Testosterone

Where it’s made:

  • the ovaries (primarily)
  • also made by the adrenal glands (small glands on top of the kidneys)

What it does:

  • promote male sex characteristics (muscle growth, bone density)
  • important for energy and libido (sex drive)
  • if it’s too high, may result in male pattern hair loss, hirsutism, and acne

 

DHEA

Where it’s made:

  • the adrenal glands

What it does:

  • acts as an androgen (male sex hormone) – similar to testosterone
  • can be converted into estrogen and testosterone

 

Cortisol

Where it’s made:

  • the adrenal glands

What it does:

  • known as the stress hormone, it stimulates the breakdown of protein and production of glucose to ready the body for “fight or flight” mode
  • protects against inflammation and can help boost energy

 

Conclusion

In conclusion, female sex hormones are complicated. Furthermore, they all work together, so when there is an imbalance in one hormone, it often causes imbalances in other hormones. Therefore, if you want to balance all of your hormones, you have to use a root cause approach!

Learn more about working with The Hormone Dietitian for hormone imbalances on our Hormone Services page. Or sign up for our free masterclass – PCOS Period Success: 3 Simple Diet Shifts You Can Make NOW to Get Your Period Back

Cowritten by Jeani Hunt-Gibbon.

 

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menstrual cycle hormones

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