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What The Hormone!? The reproductive cycle and hormonal imbalance.

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The reproductive cycle is a complex system of biofeedback and hormonal production. The monthly cycle should pass by with little interruption to your day to day life, but unfortunately for many women, this is not the case.

Here is an image of a normal 28 day cycle and the hormones that are produced.
  • Day 1- 13 = Follicular Phase. Day 1 is always the first day of your period and this is when your hormone levels are around baseline levels, which can explain why many women feel relief in any PMS symptoms once their period arrives. During the follicular phase follicule stimulating hormone (FSH) and estrogenl are working together to build the uterine lining and mature an egg ready for ovulation. There is no progesterone production during the follicular phase of the cycle.
  • Day 14 = Mid Cycle. As your estradiol levels increase during the follicular phase and once the egg is mature there is a surge in lutenizing hormone (LH) and this triggers ovulation, a VERY important step in the monthly cycle. At this point FSH and LH both drop off as they have done their job for the month.
  • Day 15 - 28 = Luteal Phase. Once you have ovulated you move into the luteal phase or second half of your cycle. The corpus luteum that is left over at the ovary after ovulation starts to produce progesterone. There is still production of estrogen at this stage but what is most important is that there is more progesterone than estradiol.
  • End of the cycle - If conception occurs then your progesterone and estrogen continue to rise to maintain a pregnancy but if there is no pregnancy then both these hormones drop off and your period arrives.
  • NOTE: if your cycle is longer than 28 days then it is the follicular phase that is lengthening, the luteal phase should always be around 12-14 days long. With a 28 day cycle you will be ovulating around day 14 but with a 35 day cycle ovulation will occur around day 28. 
What are some of the symptoms you might experience if you have a hormonal imbalance? Although we don't all fit into 4 categories, here are some of the key symptoms you might experience, either in isolation or combination.
Deficient Progesterone
  • PMS symptoms and mood disturbances such as anxiety and depression, especially in the 7-10 days before your period.
  • Insomnia
  • Breast tenderness
  • Low libido
  • Fluid retention
  • Headaches
  • Hypothyroidism
Excessive oestrogen
  • Inflammation and growth, pelvic congestion - think heavy and clotty periods.
  • Mood swings
  • irritability
  • breast tenderness
  • Fluid retention
  • weight gain
  • Headaches
  • Hypothyroidism
Deficient oestrogen
  • Typically presenting in mid-life as menopausal symptoms.
  • Hot flushes
  • Poor memory
  • Hypothalamic amenorrhea - lack of period
  • Acne
Excessive testosterone
  • Amenorrhoea/oligomenorrhea-irregular or no periods.
  • hirsutism- Male pattern hair growth
  • Acne
  • Weight gain
Recommendations for testing to help you to determine if you have a hormonal imbalance.

You can start by getting some basic blood testing via your GP or your practitioner can order these for you directly with the lab. The benefit of getting these tests done via your GP is that you shouldn't have to pay for them, but you do have to pay if you test via your naturopath/practitioner. There are also some thorough testing options via private labs such as DUTCH and EVE hormone tests. Please Contact Us if you would like to look into these options.

  • Day 2-3 of your cycle (day 1 is the first day of your period) Test FSH, LH, Estradiol as well as prolactin and testosterone.
  • Day 21 or mid luteal phase (remember that your mid luteal phase might be laster than day 21 if you have a longer cycle) Test progesterone and Estradiol.
  • Thyroid - TSH and FT4 are the main markers that can be tested in NZ. Ideally I also like to test FT3, RT3 and thyroid antibodies but this is becoming increasingly difficult.
  • Iron studies master.
  • Liver function

Trying to work out what is happening for you and your hormones can be challenging and at times, a frustrating process. We highly recommend that you work with a knowledgeable practitioner who can help you navigate the intricate workings of our hormones.