Women: Understanding Your Hormone Levels

Hormone imbalance is best understood by knowing how a normal menstrual cycle works. Hormones regulate the activity of cells and tissues in various organs. The balance of hormones produced by your body is essential to good health and well-being.

Estrogen

Estrogen stimulates the growth and function of tissue, such as breast and reproductive organs. It also boosts the synthesis and function of neurotransmitters that affect sleep, mood, memory, libido, and cognitive factors such as learning and attention span.

Estrogen decreases the perception of pain (which is why women can tolerate more pain than men), preserves bone mass, and increases HDL – good cholesterol. It also preserves the elasticity and moisture content of the skin, dilates blood vessels, and prevents plaque formation in blood vessel walls.

Menstrual Cycle Hormones

Understanding how a menstrual cycle works helps to understand premenstrual syndrome, perimenopause, and menopause better.

The menstrual cycle occurs in three phases: follicular, ovulatory, and luteal. The first half of the cycle is known as the follicular phase (low hormone levels) and the second half of the cycle is considered the luteal phase when progesterone levels are higher than estrogen (days 20-22). Halfway through the cycle (between days 12 and 16) ovulation occurs, known as the ovulatory phase.

Perimenopause

During this time, hormone levels begin to fluctuate as a result of fewer ovulations and less progesterone is produced during the second half of the menstrual cycle. Periods can be erratic, skipped, or have heavy bleeding or clots. Symptoms result from the change in the ratio of estrogen to progesterone.

Menopause

Estrogen is still produced in the body, but in lower amounts than cycling women. The most significant hormone change of menopause is the lack of progesterone, so a time of estrogen dominance and low progesterone.

Why Do Women Have Testosterone?

Testosterone provides women the ability to build and maintain muscle mass and bone strength, enhance sex drive, and improves overall well-being. Women with very low levels often experience low libido and weakened strength. Women are notorious for having a higher sex drive right before their menses begin because of the surge of testosterone.

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