Hormones Every Woman Should Understand

Hormones are molecules within the body that act as its main signalling systems. Your hormones are produced and regulated by the endocrine system which, through the release of various hormones helps to manage various body functions such as mood, appetite and your immune system. As important as hormones are, certain factors can influence their functionality such as menopause, an illness or change of medication.

This change can be accompanied by a variety of symptoms which is why it’s important that women educate themselves about which of their hormones can affect them considerably.

Thyroidal

This is one of the most commonly known hormones in women’s health as a deficiency is most common in women. Thyroidal hormones, produced in the thyroid gland, are responsible for managing appetite, energy levels as well as several other different internal functions. An excess -or deficit- in the production of thyroidal hormones can lead to a thyroid conditions- either hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. Each condition can affect your menstrual cycle, fertility, energy levels, metabolism, skin, hair as well as cognitive thinking. Modern Family actress Sofia Vergara actually suffers from hyperthyroidism.

In ensuring the health of the thyroid, consuming a diet rich in selenium, zinc, antioxidants and B vitamins is a sure way to keep it healthy. Foods such as Brazil nuts, seeds and berries can readily provide these nutrients.

Progesterone

The pregnancy hormone, progesterone can affect your chances of conceiving. During one’s menstrual cycle, progesterone levels rise after ovulation and help a women womb both accept and adapt to the presence of sperm by preparing their uterus for a fertilized egg. In the case that pregnancy doesn’t occur, the progesterone levels drop and the women gets her period. Low levels of progesterone in the body are accompanied by symptoms that include abnormal and irregular periods, weight gain, insomnia and pregnancy complications. Nutrients that can help boost progesterone production include vitamin C and E and zinc. Foods rich in these nutrients include spinach, pumpkin seeds, almonds and grapefruit.

Melatonin

Known as the sleep hormone, melatonin helps to regulate sleep as well as appetite and energy levels. Your circadian rhythms are the body’s internal clock- it tells your brain when it’s time to be alert and awake and when it’s time to sleep. By maintaining circadian rhythms, melatonin helps ensure we get a good night’s rest. As sun exposure affects the levels of melatonin that are secreted, the presence of bright lights during the evenings can delay the secretion of melatonin which can then result in you feeling more alert. Feelings of sleepiness during the day and energy late at night can be attributed to poor levels of melatonin. With studies revealing how what you eat can affect melatonin, foods you should add to your diet include almonds, kiwis, chamomile tea and plain yoghurts. Click here to find out more about how your diet can affect your melatonin levels.

Parathyroid (PTH)

The parathyroid hormone is a hormone secreted by the parathyroid gland that is vital for the break down and metabolizing of vitamin D. By metabolizing vitamin D, this hormone helps the body to better absorb calcium which is vital for bone health. An adequate level of calcium within the body helps ensure the proper functionality of the heart, nervous system and kidneys. An overproduction of parathyroid can lead to dehydration, kidney stones, and osteoporosis while low levels can lead to hand or foot spasms and irregular heartbeats. Aside from getting fifteen minutes of sun each day, you can also get vitamin D from foods such as salmon, tuna, cheese and eggs. Foods rich in calcium include spinach, seeds, almonds, lentils and apricots.

Cortisol

Commonly known as the stress hormone, cortisol is responsible for dealing with the changes in the body that occur in response to various kinds of stress. Aside from being the body’s stress management centre, cortisol also helps to control blood sugar levels, regulate inflammation and balance the body’s salt-water ratio. It also helps to maintain the proper functioning of the memory. Although it is the body’s response to stress, high levels of stress means high levels of cortisol and this can translate to hair loss, osteoporosis and irregular menstrual cycles. As opposed to consuming foods that can help encourage the production of cortisol, adopting healthy stress-reducing techniques such as yoga is the right way to go.

Testosterone

Although testosterone is seen as a male hormone, small amounts of testosterone are produced in the ovaries. Aside from boosting their libido, testosterone helps to maintain muscle and bone mass which is often lost as we age. Low levels of muscle and bone mass can contribute to osteoporosis.

Oestrogen

Last and certainly not least is oestrogen, which is the single most important female hormone. Oestrogen plays a role in the sexual and reproductive development in the female body. It helps develop breasts, the menstrual cycle, and the endometrium, which functions as the uterus lining. It also helps ensure a suitable environment for embryos. Moreover, oestrogen also affects bone health, skin health and it also increases good cholesterol. As incredibly vital as oestrogen is for the body, high levels of it is a major risk factor for the development of breast cancer and it is accompanied by symptoms that include bloating, mood swings, hair loss and irregular menstrual cycles. Low levels of oestrogen – most commonly resulting from menopause- can lead to vaginal dryness, irritability, headaches, bloating and hot flashes. Click here to find out more about this.

Want to know more?

Click here to find out whether hormone replacement therapy can treat ageing skin.