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Wine & Gyn Episode 27: Understanding Your Hormones

Hormones are substances produced by endocrine glands. They are messengers from one organ to another that say, "do this". Hormones regulate pretty much every system in our body from head to toe. Hormones play a part in the function of bone and muscle growth, sexual development, reproduction, libido, hair and boy fat distribution, inflammatory response and regulating cholesterol to name a big handful.

Hormones are made in the brain, in the thyroid, the pancreas, ovaries and uterus, and even the liver, kidney and stomach make their own hormones.

Hormones are changing all the time, during the day, during life stages, and during the month- especially for women during their menstrual cycle. This episode focuses on the hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle, the reproductive process and the sexual health of women.

The hormones that regulate the mensrual cycle are estrogen, progesterone, luteinizing hormone and follical stimulating hormone.

Estrogen is the best known sex hormone. It's main job is to prepare for ovulation. It's responsible to sexual development and reproduction. Estrogen is the highest right before ovulation, and lowest right before menstruation. When it's high it signals the release of endorphins which usually increase your mood and energy levels.

Progesterone is the next big player in the cycle. This hormone stabilizes the menstrual cycle, and it's main job is to prepare your body for pregnancy. Progesterone assists with deeper sleep, and is relatively stable and low during your period and through ovulation. Progesterone shines in the second half of the cycle, peaking like a mountain right after ovulation. If you get pregnant, it wants there to be a perfect conditions to nurture the embryo. When progesterone is too low it can cause irregular periods, infertility and pregnancy complications.

Testosterone is usually regarded as a male sex hormone, but women need it in small amounts too. Testosterone is responsible for the growth and maintenance of reproductive tissue. It helps retain and maintain bone mass. Testosterone is also the libido helper. When it's too low, there can be energy, sex drive and bone loss symptoms. When testosterone is too high is can cause disorders like PCOS, irregular periods and fertility issues.

Luteinizing hormone (LH) and follical stimulating hormone (FSH) are lesser known hormones that send signals from the brain to the sex organs telling them when and how much estrogen and progesterone to make. This messaging begins in puberty and changes through the life cycle.

The start of menstruation is what we call cycle day 1, the start of your period. It lasts for 3-5 days on average and is the shedding of your uterus lining. Progesterone is low, estrogen is low and begins to rise. These hormone changes make you feel like you'd prefer rest, indulgence, alone time, reflectiveness, recharging and you may be more sensitive than usual.

The follicular phase is the second part of the cycle usually lasting from day 6-13 ish. You'll be done menstruating and preparing for ovulation. Some women feel like this is the springtime of their cycle. Progesterone stays low, it knows you cant get pregnant yet. Estorgen is on the rise, knowing that you are about to ovulate. Estrogen begins to enrich the lining of the uterus. These hormonal changes feel like relief, energy rising, coming out of a cocoon, feeling like planning, playful and more focused.

Ovulation is day 12-15 or so, and it's the phase where the egg is released from the ovary and your body is prepared to assess if you've become pregnant or not. Estrogen finishes peaking right before this happens, luteinizing hormone and follical stimulating hormone make a drastic rise, causing the egg to release. This egg lives for about 12-24 hours, waiting to meet sperm and conceive- which actually happens in the Fallopian tube. These hormonal shifts may make you feel sexy, vibrant, creative, social, adventurous, generous and nurturing.

The luteal phase is the final and fourth part of the menstrual cycle, occurring through day 14-28 ish. This is the part of the cycle that progesterone shines, climbing to thicken the uterine lining, and prepare a healthy place to nourish an egg if it was fertilized. If there is no implantation, estrogen and progesterone decline and menstruation is signaled. These hormone changes can make you feel like your energy is waning, irritation, emotive, instinctual, a bit more still than usual- a lot of what women are used to calling PMS, or premenstrual syndrome.

And that concludes the 4 phases of your reproductive cycle and how your hormones help you do all the healthy and complicated things each month. It's quite a bit, isn't it? Our hope is that this was a way of viewing the information with a new lens that helps piece some new ideas together.

Our other hope is that you understand what your body is trying to do each month, and how you can work with it. We are on a mission to become women who have information and can use it for our own good. What if we were aware, alert, patient, understanding and complimentary to our very female body systems? Expecting changes, riding the wave, and developing coping techniques that help us manage the changes. We could embrace different energy levels, give more nutrition, more rest and more activity when indicated. That would be a really neat way to use this information!

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