An Ob-Gyn’s Guide To 5 Female Hormones and Their Impact On Your Health
Fluctuating hormone levels can wreak havoc on your mental and physical well-being. We decode key female reproductive hormones, signs of hormonal imbalance and natural ways to regulate your hormones.
“Hormones are master regulators and multitaskers that interact with cells all over the body,” says Dr Anuradha Panda, senior obstetrician and gynecologist at Apollo hospitals, Hyderabad. Besides their role in reproduction and menopause, these also influence cardiovascular health, musculoskeletal system, cognition, sleep, digestion and more. “Though estrogen and progesterone are the main female hormones they are regulated by Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH), Luteinizing Hormone (LH) and Prolactin (PRL) from the brain (pituitary gland),” explains Dr Panda.
We talk about different female hormones, their role in regulating overall health, signs of imbalance and easy ways to support hormonal balance.
Estrogen: “Estrogen is the feminising hormone,” says Dr Panda. Estrogen is made in the ovaries, adrenal glands and fat cells. It stimulates the growth of egg follicles, maintains the thickness of the vaginal wall and helps stop flow of milk after weaning. It also influences development and ageing of brain regions that play a role in cognitive function like verbal learning and memory.
Signs of estrogen imbalance:
- Missed periods
- Hot flashes
- Fatigue and irritability
- Hair loss
- Mood swings
- Concentration issues
- Imbalance in blood sugar
How to regulate estrogen: Do 20 minutes of regular aerobic or anaerobic exercise. There is a link between regular moderate-to-intense exercise and balanced estrogen levels, confirms International Journal of Health Sciences. “Medically, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) helps women undergoing premature menopause or menopause to manage the estrogen fall.”
Luteinizing Hormone: Luteinizing Hormone (LH), is one of the gonadotropic hormones secreted by the pituitary gland. “It helps in the maturation of the egg and causes a hormonal trigger that results in ovulation,” explains Dr Panda.
Signs of LH imbalance
- Delayed puberty (in children and adolescents)
- Lower sex drive
- Irregular menstrual periods
- PCOS (A hormonal disorder causing enlarged ovaries with small cysts)
How to regulate LH: A study in Fertility and Sterility, a journal by American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) found that women who included Omega-3 supplements had a natural advantage for balanced hormones and conception over women who did not take Omega-3. Foods rich in Omega-3 include walnuts, brazil nuts, flaxseeds, wild salmon. The other ways to naturally lower LH include managing insulin levels, exercising regularly and taking inositol supplements, says the doctor.
Follicle Stimulating Hormone: The pituitary gland, a pea-sized gland in the brain, produces follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). This hormone stimulates the growth of ovarian follicles before the is egg release and controls the production of ovarian estradiol (E2).
Signs of FSH imbalance:
- Irregular or absence of menstrual periods
- Primary ovarian insufficiency (loss of ovarian function before 40)
- Underlying medical conditions such as hypogonadism (reduction or absence of hormone secretion or other physiological activity of the gonads (testes or ovaries) or menopause
How to regulate FSH: A paper, Perceived stress, reproductive hormones, and ovulatory function says that high levels of daily stress is associated with higher FSH concentrations. “Practicing stress reduction techniques such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation are helpful to manage stress,” says Dr Panda. In addition, there can be a positive effect of soya protein (soya nuts, soya nut butter, water-packed tofu) in managing FSH levels, finds Human Reproduction Update, an Oxford academic journal.
Progesterone: This hormone is secreted by the corpus luteum (endocrine gland in the ovary) after ovulation, says Dr Panda. It helps prepare the body for pregnancy and creates an ideal environment for a fertilised egg to implant. It also plays a role in breast development and breastfeeding, says Dr Panda.
Signs of Progesterone imbalance:
- PCOD (when progesterone is low)
- Vaginal dryness
- Sore breasts
- Low libido
How to regulate Progesterone: Journal Fertility and Sterility says that increasing your consumption of Vitamin B and C can help regulate progesterone levels. Foods rich in Vitamin B and C include eggs, cheese, milk, dark green vegetables, peppers, strawberry and broccoli.