What are hormones?
Hormones are chemical messengers that are produced in one part of the body and travel to another part of the body and affect the physiological processes.
Let’s start with the hormones we’re covering today: estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, cortisol and pregnenolone.
Estrogen and progesterone do a delicate dance: estrogen is like fertilizer (it helps things grow), while progesterone is like the lawnmower (it makes sure things don’t grow too much).
Every cell in the female body has estrogen receptors; brains, bones, heart, etc. Basically estrogen is main character energy.
Progesterone helps women get pregnant and stay pregnant. It can also convert to cortisol if stress is left unmanaged.
Premenopausal women have about 10-20% of testosterone men have, which is important for brain function, clarity/drive, libido, and muscle/bone/tendon health.
Hormones start out as cholesterol and are converted to pregnenolone which can then be converted to either dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) or progesterone. If converted to DHEA, it can then be converted into androstenedione or androstenediol, which is then converted to testosterone, goes on to become dihydrotestosterone or estradiol, estradiol then becomes estrone, and further to estrogen. If cholesterol is initially converted to progesterone, it can go on to become cortisol if living in a constant state of stress.
Aren’t our bodies fascinating?
So what is the low hanging fruit for optimizing hormone health?
→ Combat the pregnenolone steal, which occurs when the adrenals convert progesterone into cortisol. Manage the way you respond to stressful situations. If you can’t eliminate the stress, it’s all about the response to the stress. Try breathing exercises or meditation for stress management.
→ Eat healthy fats as sex hormones start out as cholesterol. Nuts, canned coconut milk (in smoothies), chia seeds, and avocado are my personal favorites.
→ Eliminate environmental hormone disruptors: plastics, pesticides, and petrochemicals. These are xenoestrogens and mimic estrogen so closely they can bind to estrogen receptors. Be careful what you put on or in your body!
→ Eliminate refined sugar and highly processed foods as this can lead to central adipose tissue, which has 4x the estrogen receptors compared to other cells/tissue in the body
→ Get good sleep: poor sleep disrupts the HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis and HPO (hypothalamic-pituitary-ovary) axis
→ Avoid alcohol: alcohol is estrogenic and also affects the livers capacity to break down excess hormones and process them.
→ Manage constipation: I’m your girl for this!
There are so many things we can do day-to-day to optimize our hormone health, which can have such a positive impact on how we feel each day.