If you are a woman, it is likely you have experienced a hormonal imbalance at some point in your life. It is very common as life stress and nutrition are hard to navigate with our constantly changing hormones. Even a slight imbalance of hormones in the blood stream can cause side effects of either low progesterone or estrogen dominance. Factors such as sleep, diet/exercise, and hygiene products we use day to day also play a roll in the imbalance of hormones.
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Disclaimer: This is not medical advice and should not be taken as such. I am not a doctor and do not claim to be as these are solely based on my experiences. Please consult your family doctor before considering any recommendations listed in this post. Thanks!
The infradian rhythm
As women, we have two internal clocks. The circadian rhythm, which is our sleep and wake cycle, as well as the infradian rhythm which is our hormonal cycle. A women’s hormonal cycle has 4 phases:
Signs of imbalanced hormones
Women have 2 main hormones that shift through the infradian cycle, estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen is the dominant hormone through the follicular and ovulatory phases which allow us to feel energetic. Then, progesterone shifts to become the dominate hormone after ovulation occurs. Progesterone is known for its calming qualities and makes one feel tired and sluggish. When there is an upset in this balance (either high estrogen levels, low progesterone or both) we begin to see issues such as:
- Mood swings
- Irregular periods
- Cramping and period pain
- Hair loss
- Low libido
- Brittle bones
- Unexplained weight gain
The roll of progesterone in the body
Progesterone is produced by the corps lutim, which is a part of the follicular that remains after an egg is released in the ovulation phase. Progesterone helps prepare the uterus for a fertilized egg. The corpus lutiem will continue to produce progesterone until the embryo is 10 weeks old. If you are not pregnant, progesterone will be raised through the luteal phase and drop at the end of the cycle where your period will begin again.
Progesterone is not just for reproductive purposes; it plays a vital roll in menstrual health. Mood, and thyroid support.
Hormonal imbalance: Low progesterone
I have personally gone through a period of low progesterone. It manifested physical symptoms such as short cycle (particularly short luteal phase) and spotting. Additionally, I suffered low moods and anxiety which in turn disrupted my sleeping patterns.
My cycle was about 21 days long and I would spot for a few days before my period started. PMS week looked more like PMS month and then id get one good week where I felt great then back into my anxious, sleep deprived self. Having low progesterone may also cause one to have estrogen dominance as the two hormones, at healthy levels, are supposed to level each other out.
How to increase progesterone levels?
Treatment of low progesterone will depend on why your levels are low in the first place. Low levels can be caused by things such as cholesterol levels, thyroid, and adrenal glands which are outside of the reproductive system. Please speak with your health care provider to rule out any underlying heath conditions. However, for myself, and most women coming from a dieting/yo yo dieting background try out some of these tips:
- Lower exercise and intensity in the luteal phase
- Eat foods that support each phase of your cycle
- Lower stress levels (meditation, breath work, etc)
The roll estrogen plays in the body
Estrogens main function in the female body is growth. It is one of the two dominant female sex hormones that is crucial for a healthy cycle. However, estrogen also plays a role is appetite, sleep, stress, and libido. Estrogen is higher in the follicular and ovulatory phases of the cycle and helps with mood and energy levels.
hormonal imbalance: Estrgon Dominance
Estrogen dominance occurs when there is an out of balance ratio between progesterone. This can be because of overproduction of estrogen, changes in estrogen metabolism and excretion, or low progesterone. Many women will experience the side effects of painful periods, weight gain, low libido, and breast tenderness, just to name a few.
Some contributors to estrogen dominance can include:
Insulin and cortisol imbalances
The birth control Pill
Poor liver function
being over weight
How to DECREASE estrogen levels?
Similarly to progesterone, treatment of estrogen dominance will depend on the cause so please visit or talk to your doctor before diagnosing treatment. Some ways to support your body with excreting extra estrogen can look like:
- Losing excess weight
- Manage inulin levels
- Managing stress
- Eating to support liver (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts are great for liver support)
LOW estrogen AND Progesterone
One can easily tell if they have low levels of both estrogen and progesterone as their period will likely be non existent. One should rule out pregnancy first, unless you have been abstinent, then you likely have low levels of both hormones.
Having no period can cause side effects such as low libido, vaginal dryness, brittle bones and hair, brain fog, and insomnia. I have personally gone 4 years with low levels of female hormones and let me tell you…don’t do it. Hormones are incredibly essential for a women’s health and having a period is the firth vital sign of health. VITAL. Again for the people in the back…VITAL! I share deeper into my experience in my Hypothalamic amenorrhea post.
In such case your period is MIA it is a good idea to take a break from the activities that are not serving you. Intense exercise, yo-yo dieting, and restrictive eating put a lot of stress on the body its important to allow your body to feel safe again.
Have you experienced a hormonal imbalance? Let me know what side effects you struggled with and how you over came it!