A Guide to Supporting Hormone Balance and Regulating Menstrual Cycles
Hormones have an important role in the body and help control many of our vital body processes. In this guide, we will explain what causes abnormal hormone levels, what symptoms to look out for, and how you can support cycle regularity and healthy hormone levels
The Importance of Hormones
Hormones are chemicals that are responsible for coordinating many different functions throughout the body. Hormones help transport messages between the blood, organs, skin, muscles, and other tissues. Many different body processes are controlled by hormones, including metabolism, mood, sleep, sexual function, and reproduction.
What causes abnormal hormone levels?
Abnormal hormone levels (often called hormone imbalances) refer to having too much or too little of one or more hormones. It’s normal for hormone levels to rise and fall during various times in our lives, such as puberty, pregnancy, and menopause. Drastic, unexpected changes in hormone levels may be caused by underlying medical conditions, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), thyroid conditions, extreme stress, medication or steroid use, tumors, and more. A healthcare provider will be able to test your hormone levels and use your personal health history to help pinpoint the cause of abnormal hormone levels.
Symptoms of abnormal hormone levels
If hormone levels are abnormal, you will likely notice a few symptoms. As previously stated, hormones play an important role in many of our bodily systems. If hormone levels are abnormal, someone may experience:
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Weight fluctuations
- Changes in hair growth,
- Changes in mood
- Gastrointestinal problems
Hormones and the menstrual cycle
The menstrual cycle is extremely dependent on hormone levels. Luteinizing hormone (LH), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), estrogen, and progesterone are the four key hormones that trigger the beginning and end of different menstrual cycle phases, including ovulation and menstruation.
LH and FSH are responsible for the development and release of a mature egg at ovulation, and estrogen and progesterone thicken the lining of the uterus to prepare for pregnancy. Without normal levels of these hormones, menstruation may be delayed or prolonged and ovulation may not occur.
What hormones play a role in fertility?
Getting pregnant is highly dependent on a healthy egg, healthy sperm, and a clear pathway for the two to meet. Each of these factors is tied to healthy hormone levels in the body. If pregnancy does occur, healthy hormone levels are necessary for maintaining healthy gestation and hitting important milestones. From the trying to conceive (TTC) period to breastfeeding a child, normal hormone levels are extremely important.
Here’s a breakdown of all the roles hormones have:
- Testosterone and FSH are vital for sperm production and testicular development
- FSH and LH are necessary for the development and release of a mature egg
- Irregular menstrual cycles can make it difficult to time sex around ovulation
- Estrogen and progesterone prepare the body for implantation of an embryo
- Progesterone and estrogen are necessary during pregnancy to support healthy development
- Oxytocin mediates sperm ejection and labor contractions
- Prolactin and oxytocin are vital for breastfeeding
There are countless other hormones and important physiological functions this list doesn’t touch on. The bottom line is that hormones are necessary for many bodily functions and are especially vital for menstrual cycle regularity, fertility, pregnancy, and postpartum.
Diet and supplements
Research suggests that some vitamins and minerals can play an important role in hormone regulation, signaling, and production.
Inositol is an important carbohydrate that’s been found to support healthy hormone levels, support insulin sensitvity, and may improve cycle regularity in people with PCOS. You can find high levels of inositol in foods such as whole grains, citrus fruits, and legumes.
Magnesium is an important mineral that supports the regulation of hormones such as cortisol and progesterone. Healthy mineral levels are also important for preventing estrogen dominance, an imbalance between the hormones estrogen and progesterone.
Vitamin D is considered to be a multifunctional hormone because of its interactions and effects on the body. Data show that vitamin D supplementation may improve chances of conception and AMH levels in some women.
Lastly, omega-3 fatty acids are healthy fats that have beneficial effects on heart health, inflammation, and healthy hormone levels. A study concluded that omega-3 supplementation improved PCOS symptoms and helped regulate FSH and testosterone levels in women with PCOS.
On top of prioritizing a well rounded diet, many other parts of our daily routines and lifestyles can have a large impact on hormones and hormone signals.
Managing stress in healthy ways is extremely important. High stress levels can have many negative effects on the body, including hormone levels. To better regulate your stress levels, ask for help more often, find ways to stay organized, let yourself say no to social or work requests more often, and prioritize “you” time. Decreasing and managing daily stress can do great things for your health.
Sleep plays an important role in proper bodily functioning, including hormonal balance and regulation. Our hormone levels rise and fall throughout the day and are greatly influenced by our sleep cycle. If someone isn’t getting enough sleep at night, they may be severely impacting their hormone signaling throughout the day. The CDC suggests that most adults allot at least seven to eight hours of sleep a night and prioritize healthy sleeping habits. This includes limiting screens, avoiding any food or drink, and keeping a comfortable, quiet room when preparing to sleep.
Which treatment is right for you?
Medical interventions may be necessary for some hormonal imbalances. If there are cases where you have too much or too little of one or more hormones, your healthcare provider may decide that medical treatment is necessary.
Oral or injectable medications are sometimes used to regulate hormone levels. Hormone replacement should be done under the supervision of a healthcare provider and is prescription only. Some examples of hormonal medications include contraceptive pills such as estrogen and progesterone and thyroid hormone pills.
If abnormal hormone levels are caused by a certain condition, such as a tumor, surgery or radiation therapy may be an option. This often is not the first solution for managing abnormal hormone levels but is sometimes necessary. Your healthcare provider can discuss more options with you.
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