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HORMONES! A Balancing Act

By Blair Cuneo, PA-C

Sister Act: The Story of E&P

We are all trying to seek balance and the systems in our body are no different, particularly our hormonal system. The differences between the many hormones in our bodies and the roles they play are meant to balance each other. This ying and yang is beautiful and important! Sure, there may be an appropriate time for one hormone to be in abundance, but not all the time. The consequences of imbalance are felt in our bodies, brains and by our loved ones sometimes! And unfortunately, when we do reach out for help, there can be misunderstanding, misdiagnosis and totally missing the mark on root cause.

Today we focus on the dance between estrogen and progesterone in our menstrual cycles and what happens when balance is lost. There is a natural shift over time, but the way we live, what we eat, the products we use in our home, and imbalance in our microbiome and detox health can speed up and intensify the process.

Mood changes, sleep disruption, menstrual cycle changes, nothing’s off limits. Today we hope to empower you with the knowledge of understanding the typical hormone timeline, recognizing signs your body may be sending to warn you and what tools to implement to find your balance again.

Your providers at CTW like to think of Estrogen and Progesterone as sisters with different personalities. Estrogen is exciting, loud, provocative, and loves with all her heart (while protecting yours)!  Progesterone is calm, steady, grounding, healing and gives you an inner glow.

Specific to your menstrual cycles, the first half of your cycle is ruled by Estrogen. She’s out there as a mover and a shaker, stimulating the ovaries to create and release an egg, encouraging the lining of your uterus to grow lush and large. After all of that hard work she *should* take a break and pass the baton to Progesterone.

Progesterone maintains that lining to welcome a potential very special guest… a fertilized egg. Hoping to turn this quick visit to a longer engagement, she’s sending out calming, grounding vibes and remaining present. But alas if this is not the way, with either no visitor or the wrong kind of visitor, she steps aside, the lining gives way, leaves the body in menstruation and the process starts again with big sis, E.

This is the healthy pattern in our child-bearing years, but as dysfunction becomes more common in our society, this may not be the “normal” pattern. We intentionally labeled Estrogen as the big sister, because she is the more dominant force between the two. If Estrogen is having too much of a good time, she is loud, lingering and can get kind of annoying.  Progesterone is quiet and waiting off to the side, not able to provide her needed support and countermeasures.

Estrogen is produced not only by our ovaries, but also our adrenals and stored fat. Additionally it can enter our body in the form of fake estrogens, chemicals called xenoestrogens. These chemicals are estrogen wannabes and do as E does. They can be found lurking in our water, our food, even our personal care and household products. Gross.

When we want the party to be over, our body tries to reduce estrogen by breaking it down in our liver and sending it away via the toilet in a healthy bowel movement. Good bacteria in our gut are also trying to breakdown and escort out this fiery one, but only if good bacteria is in adequate amounts. Otherwise, non-beneficial bacteria act as estrogen promoters, sending out little enzyme agents to keep the party going.

Now let’s talk about the two times the female body will experience internal decline of progesterone beyond our monthly cycle. One, is very dramatic and the other, slow and steady.

During pregnancy, progesterone is sticking around and plays the lead role in maintaining a beautiful, lush environment for a thriving pregnancy. After pregnancy, progesterone dramatically decreases and that’s a big shift after 9 months! Mentally, we can experience this as postpartum mood changes like anxiety or depression.

A more subtle change over time is related to our bodies natural decline in progesterone production, which begins around age 35. From 35-50 years of age, Progesterone decreases 75%, while estrogen is only decreasing about 35%. And chances are, estrogen was already in abundance before this began.

So what might YOU be feeling if the sisters aren’t taking turns?

Again, we think of Estrogen as exciting, aka stimulating and things are more intense:

Breast tenderness
Pain with periods
Heavier and/or longer bleeding days
Irregular cycles
Mood swings
Brain fog
Sleep disturbances

What can YOU do to reduce estrogen?

At least one soft daily bowel movement is necessary! We are what we don’t poop!
You can help this lovely process and support healthy microbiome by eating prebiotic foods, rich in fiber and probiotic foods, rich in bacteria.

Eat Clean food! Limit processed foods, avoid artificial flavors and colors. Eat organic when you can, especially if it’s on the “Dirty Dozen” list, distributed annually by the Environmental Working Group.

Drink Clean water! Use a water filtration system, either countertop or whole home to reduce toxins.

Plastics….reduce your use! Plastic has softeners that are major Estrogen wannabes. Ditch those plastic water bottles, plastic food storage containers and microwaved plastic meals.

Check your makeup, personal hygiene products, cooking and cleaning supplies products for hidden xenoestrogens: parabens, phthalates, BPA, nonstick coatings.

Essential oils: rosemary

What can YOU do to increase progesterone?

Eat vitamin B rich foods! Salmon, leafy greens, organ meats, eggs, oysters, mussels…

Wild Yams are also progesterone enhancing foods, but not sweet potatoes.

Essential oils: thyme

Above just scratches the surface on two of the players involved in hormonal balance. While there are many things you can initiate on your own, there are also options for evaluation and support that a well-trained health care provider can offer. These tools and supports help you understand the needs of your unique system and implement successful, sustaining strategies to maintain your balance for many years to come!

We are honored to be your partners in health! Let us know if you would like to schedule an appointment to discuss your “Sister Act” personally by calling 919.999.0831. 

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