In addition to this, some drugs, such as steroid medications, ampicillin, estrogen-containing drugs, phenothiazines, and tetracyclines can increase estrogen levels.
Let’s Talk About: Female Hormones
How much do you actually know about your hormones? Though most women take some form of hormone manipulation (e.g. the pill), many don’t know exactly what they’re manipulating. As a follow up to our ‘Mirena – the experience‘ post, we’re discussing the hormones that are running through your body.
So what are your hormones?
Hormones are essentially ‘specialized chemicals’ produced by your endocrine system.
Your endocrine system is something that everyone with a chronic illness should know about. It is the collection of hormone-producing glands in your body that regulate your metabolism, tissue function, reproductive system, sleep and immune system.
For women, our hormones are KEY to our overall wellbeing. They play a major role in the female body and are often identifiable by mad cravings or wild mood swings. Chips and ice cream anyone?
The biggest function of your hormones, of course, is your ovulation. Turns out, it’s also the most annoying.
We all know how it works – ovaries release an egg, you die a little, there’s a crime scene in your pants and you spend a week crying. However, when that egg is released, the ovaries also produce the two main female hormones, estrogen and progesterone. A decline in both is responsible for most menopause symptoms.
We all know estrogen, but what does it actually do?
Estrogen is the hormone that is most active during your period. It fluctuates over the cycle, rising in the first two weeks and drops during menstruation. In normal terms, this hoe is responsible for the lining of the uterus. It’s actually an entire class of hormones; including estriol, estradiol, and estrone.It’s not all fun and blood for estrogen though – it’s also crucial for maintaining bone and cardiovascular health in women.
A fall in estrogen is bad but naturally occurs in menopausal women. Such a drop can be caused by Hypogonadism, Hypopituitarism, pregnancy failure, perimenopause, and menopause, Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), Anorexia nervosa and extreme exercise or training. Women also experience low levels of estrogen immediately after childbirth and during breastfeeding.
Estrogens levels can rise as well as fall. This tends to happen during puberty, it’s normal for levels of estrogen to rise. It can also be seen in women who are extremely overweight. They can also rise during a healthy pregnancy, but increased estrogen levels may be seen occurring in women with tumors of the ovaries, testes, or adrenal glands.
Estrogen, like all hormones, can be manipulated by medication; some women take estrogen hormone replacement therapy around menopause to reduce the symptoms of estrogen decline. Though it can slow age-related issues in women, such as bone loss, there are genuine health risks, including an increased cancer risk. As always, I’m not a doctor, so go and talk to yours before you go anywhere near this.
Here’s the deal. Progesterone, the pregnancy hormone, is the one we like. Why is it the one we like you ask? Well, mostly because it’s what we use to suppress our period. Naturally, it occurs when preggers to stop another egg from being released into the uterus. It also helps to keep the uterine lining thick for the incoming child.
A drop in progesterone levels is what is responsible for the shedding of the uterus lining, and can be responsible for all those annoying symptoms we get at the end of our menstrual cycle. I’m talking bloating, breast tenderness, and ALL THE ACNE. Basically, it’s mostly responsible for your PMS.
The most common type of birth control pills contain both progesterone and estrogen, but there are heaps of different types of the pill. Progesterone can also help treat breast cancer and ‘oppose estrogen’. In addition, the hormone is used to treat abnormal uterine bleeding, severe PMS, and menopause. Some studies have also linked progesterone to migraines and asthma, although there isn’t a definitive conclusion on that yet.
Though its the hormone we most commonly associate with men, testosterone is also produced in women too. Though produced in low amounts, having too much or too little of it can cause huge problems. Syndromes such as PCOS can be caused by abnormally high testosterone levels, as well as a hugely increased risk of ovarian and adrenal tumors.
Of course, too little testosterone is bad too. The menopausal decline in testosterone that older women experience is also linked to a reduced sex drive. Furthermore, hormone replacement therapy has been used with testosterone, no definitive conclusion about its safety or effectiveness has been reached.
Have I missed any hormones you think should be covered? Let me know in the comments!