Ahh hormones: they can’t be seen or touched, but they can somehow make a really good cry and an entire block of chocolate feel like the only way you’ll possibly make it through the next hour.
Feeling 'hormonal' has come to have negative connotations - we associate hormones with being grumpy, irritable, and getting upset. But in reality hormones aren’t bad!
These biochemicals are incredibly powerful, and have the ability to make our lives heaven or hell. But with knowledge and understanding, we are able to take back the power, tune into them, and soften the blows so that maybe, one day, feeling hormonal can be a good thing.
These are 6 things everyone needs to know about hormones.
1. WHAT EVEN ARE HORMONES?
Hormones aren’t just essential for periods & reproduction, they are fundamental to every system that makes up your body.
Hormones are natural chemicals inside you that literally act as messengers, telling your cells what to do, how to function and what kinds of things to prioritise.
They are produced by the endocrine system and play an important role in regulating bodily processes from hunger, to blood sugar levels, blood pressure, metabolism, energy, bone health, body shape, skin health, libido and more.
To put the massive powers our hormones hold into perspective: 90% of the cells in our bodies have oestrogen receptor sites. Meaning that 90% of your cells are receptive and responding to how much oestrogen is present in your body. Wild, no?
2. HOW HORMONES ARE CONTROLLING YOUR CYCLE
Simply put, your hormones dictate exactly how you’re going to feel throughout each month.
Between the years of puberty and menopause, the female body goes through a hormonal cycle each month to prepare for potential pregnancy; whether getting pregnant is on your to-do list that month or not.
There are four main phases of the menstrual cycle, and each presents its own shift in your body’s level of each hormone, energy, mood, and vitality.
If you pay close attention - by tracking your cycle - you’ll notice that you feel differently at different times of the month. The fluctuating hormones and their ratios to each other have everything to do with these subtle shifts in energy, mood and desire.
To learn more about these different phases, check out our blog: Understand the 4 Hormonal Phases of Your Cycle (in 5 Minutes or Less)
3. THE HORMONES YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT:
As far as specific hormones go, here’s a brief run-down on the one we talk about the most.
Our sex hormones play primary roles in reproduction (and preparing the body for this), and secondary roles in everything from skin health, to mental health, energy and more.
The key ones you need to know about are:
- Oestrogen: The main female sex hormone that’s mostly produced in the ovaries and supports energy, motivation, sleep, libido, skin health, bone health and gives women beautiful feminine curves.
- Progesterone: Our personal fave hormone; this feel good, calming sex hormone balances oestrogen out, helps your mood and supports pregnancy. This hormone is primarily produced after, and by, the process of ovulation and we make less of it during times of stress.
- Testosterone: Known as the main ‘male’ sex hormone, testosterone is actually essential for women too. Testosterone is essential for muscle growth, supporting energy, motivation and libido.
- DHEA: Less well known, but no less powerful, this is often referred to as the ‘grandmother’ hormone. DHEA is a precursor that makes our other hormones, such as oestrogen and testosterone. It’s also known as an anti-aging hormone for its youth-boosting properties.
4. THE SIGNS OF HORMONE IMBALANCE TO WATCH OUT FOR
Essentially, for both men and women, hormones are a pretty big deal. When hormones are higher or lower than optimal, or are out of balance in ratio with other hormones, this can result in signs like:
- Low energy, fatigue & insomnia;
- Anxiety, depression & unstable moods;
- The inability to lose or gain weight, unexplained weight gain & difficulty building muscle mass;
- IBS-type symptoms such as bloating, constipation and diarrhoea;
- Period problems e.g. heavy or irregular periods, painful periods or a lack of periods (amenorrhea);
- Pre-menstrual issues e.g. pain or cramping, bloating or gas, sore breasts;
- Skin issues e.g. acne, dryness and fine lines and wrinkles;
- Trouble getting or staying pregnant;
- Sexual dysfunction & low libido;
- Headaches e.g. pre or post-period;
You might have read the list above and thought ‘hold on, isn’t that just normal?’, ‘Isn’t PMS just part of being female?’
5. JUST BECAUSE HORMONAL SIGNS ARE COMMON, DOESN’T MEAN THEY’RE NORMAL...
We’re here to tell you that no, it’s not! The signs above may be common, but they’re not ‘normal’ - and it doesn’t have to be your norm either.
The realisation that you don’t have to live with these things has been nothing short of revolutionary for many people.
Similar to a fever or a sore knee, these signs of hormone imbalance really are just messages from different areas of your body letting you know that it needs attention, and a little TLC to nurture it back to balance.
The difficulty is, hormonal messages can often be a little more abstract and difficult to decipher than the surface level signs and symptoms we know so much about.
- We can experience heavy, painful periods because our oestrogen levels are high; or it could be because your body isn’t metabolising your oestrogen well.
- Lower levels of progesterone could be responsible for low moods or feelings of anxiety, or this could be caused by an oestrogen imbalance.
- Weight gain could indicate higher levels of oestrogen that’s ‘unopposed’ by progesterone (because we want them to be well balanced), or it could be the result of low testosterone, or high levels of stress.
Confusing, isn’t it? But there is a way to get rid of the guessing game and make hormones as simple as possible, through Eve testing.
6. KNOWLEDGE IS POWER
Testing your hormones and their metabolites (which is only possible through urine) tells you exactly how your body is producing and processing different hormones. This, in turn, helps you to understand exactly where you are at now, and can help identify the root cause of the signs and signals your body might be sending you.
Knowledge really is power: when you know exactly what the root issue is, finding balance becomes a whole lot more straightforward.
When you do an Eve Test, we take care of the testing, analysis, recommendations and next steps, providing you with:
- Your results in a way that’s easy to understand;
- Notes from your consultant explaining your hormonal picture;
- Personalised diet, movement, lifestyle and nutritional recommendations;
- Resources including planners and a recipe book to help you implement them.
Ultimately, testing your hormone levels is a good idea at almost any time you want to understand your body in more depth, and how you can bring yourself back into balance.
Not quite ready to test? Meet Period Pal; a mix of nutrients and herbs support healthy ovulation and progesterone production so that your periods are more balanced and hassle-free.
Period Pal is so effective thanks to:
- Ashwagandha: An adaptogenic herb that helps us better respond to stress
- Vitex agnus castus: A plant that has been used for generations to ease signs of PMS
- Atlantic kelp: Nutrient-rich and loaded with folate, potassium, iron, iodine, fiber, and many other essential nutrients
- Ginkgo biloba: To ease signs of anxiety and depression
- Zinc: Boosts immunity, aids digestion, metabolism, and to top-up stores during the luteal phase when it’s at its lowest
OUR HORMONES HAVE BEEN HUSHED, AND IT’S TIME FOR THEM TO RISE
“Why don’t I know anything about hormones if they’re such a big deal?” is a question we hear a lot.
The honest answer? We think that in general, women’s health (and most things linked to reproductive health for all genders) has been considered taboo. People haven’t been comfortable talking about the way our bodies work and the magic involved ‘cos, ya know, *hushed voice* blood and sex and stuff.
Thankfully, times are changing.
As hormones drive so much in our lives, we must understand them, get to know them, and listen to their needs in order to love ourselves and live our best lives.