The word “hormones” used to feel like a swear word
Our research shows that one of the most confusing issues women are faced with, as they commit to being proactive with their own health, and getting informed about perimenopause, is hormone balance and hormone therapy.
I can certainly relate to this.
But before we dive into hormone therapy–which tends to get a lot of headline space–it is critically important for you to understand HORMONES: what they are, what role they play and why the word itself is not a swear word after all.
The following is an excerpt from MOKITA: the truth about perimenopause
Prior to starting MenopauseChicks.com, I admit that the word hormones felt like a swear word because whenever it landed on my ears, it came with a negative connotation.
Think: eye-rolling teenager = “Oh, she’s hormonal” or “The hormones are raging!”
There is also “hormone imbalance” and “my hormones are out of whack!”
Even two of my favourite experts wrote books called The Hormone Cure and The Hormone Diet—both with titles (not content) that paint hormones in a less-than-desirable light.
It’s time to flip the conversation and talk about hormones in a positive context! Hormones are our friends. They deserve our attention and love because they have important jobs to do!
Here is a brief hormone primer (courtesy of Dr. Sara Gottfried, author of The
Androgens: The class of hormones that stimulates male characteristics by binding to androgen receptors on cells. Women, even though we have far lower levels of androgens than men, are exquisitely sensitive to androgen levels at the proper amount for vitality, confidence and maintaining lean body mass. Ovarian overproduction of androgens is a condition in which the ovaries make too much testosterone, and which is linked to polycystic ovarian syndrome. This condition can lead to a woman developing male characteristics, such as rogue hairs, acne or hair loss.
Cortisol: Cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands under most condions—stressful or otherwise. It plays a role in bones, the circulatory system, the immune system, the nervous system, stress responses, and the metabolism of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. While each hormone has a job, Dr. Gottfried refers to estrogen, thyroid and cortisol as the top three with cortisol being the most essential. High cortisol causes you to feel tired but wired, and prompts your body to store fuel in places it can be used easily, as fat, such as at your waist. Low cortisol makes you feel exhausted and drained, like a car trying to run on an empty gas tank.
DHEA: is short for dehydroepiandristerine. It affects mood and sex drive, can convert testosterone when needed and is a member of the androgen family. Too much DHEA has been associated with depression and acne.
Estrogen: Estrogen is a chemical messenger that tells cells what to do. It is a hormone that affects libido, mood, joints, and mental state. Before menopause, most of your body’s estrogen is produced by the ovaries. High estrogen makes you more likely to develop breast tenderness, cysts, fibroids, endometriosis and breast cancer. Low estrogen causes your mood and libido to tank and makes your vagina less moist, joins less flexible, mental state less focused and alive.
Progesterone: Released in your ovaries, the role of progesterone is stimulate the uterus to prepare for pregnancy. A low amount of progesterone can cause anxiety, night sweats, sleeplessness and irregular cycles.
Testosterone: Testosterone is often thought of as a male hormone. However, some testosterone is vital for women as well. Testosterone is the hormone of vitality and self-confidence. Producing too much testosterone is the main reason for female infertility. Testosterone is linked to sex drive and too little testosterone results in low libido in both women and men.
Leptin: Leptin regulates hunger, metabolism and helps our body adjust how we burn fat.
Insulin: Insulin drives glucose into our cells as fuel and deposits fat. Chronically high insulin increases estrogen and increases cells’ resistance to insulin.
Thyroid: Thyroid is also responsible for metabolism, energy, weight and mood. Often women will think their feeling of sluggishness or poor memory is simply a sign of getting older. Do not accept that and have your thyroid checked. 15-20% of women with depression are low in thyroid hormones. That statistic alone is too important to ignore, so please investigate if that is you!
Vitamin D: Vitamin D is considered both a hormone and a vitamin. It can be made by mammals when exposed to the sun. The challenge is that many North Americans are not getting enough sun exposure so we are vitamin D deficient. This is an important supplement for everyone as it is responsible for bone strength (think longevity!), fighting off depression and heart disease.
So in summary, cortisol gives us focus, thyroid keeps us energized, comfortably warm and at a manageable weight. Estrogen has 300+ jobs in a woman’s body including regulating menstruation and keeping us juicy from our joints to our vaginas. Progesterone regulates the uterine lining, emotions and sleep. Testosterone is responsible for vitality and self-confidence. Leptin controls our hunger. Insulin regulates how we use fuel from food. Vitamin D is considered a vitamin and a hormone and has a number of roles including promoting bone strength, fighting depression and heart disease.
Stay tuned for our next post: Answering the big question about hormone (replacement) therapy (or HT or HRT)
The post The H word: Hormones appeared first on Menopause Chicks.