Hormones are chemical messengers in our body that help in normal physiology of our brain, heart, bones, muscles and reproductive organs. The body functions best when all theses different hormones are balanced, Any sort of hormonal imbalances leads to various disorders depending on the type of hormone that is either abnormally high or low.
Female hormones have a major role in the life of a woman beginning as early as from puberty until menopause. At all the different stages of life, female hormones need to be balances or otherwise may lead to various problems including abnormal menstrual cycles, absence of periods, heavy periods, infertility, mood swings, premenstrual syndrome, hot flashes, disturbance in healthy sexual life etc.
In short we can say female hormonal health is not only limited to menstrual cycles and menopause but instead it is something that determines her life long well being.
Causes Of Hormonal Imbalances; In general hormones may be imbalanced due to:
- Inadequate sleep
- Taking synthetic hormones
- Long term use of birth control pills or injectable contraceptives containing hormones.
- Lack of physical exercise.
- Use of artificial and synthetic food products.
- Use of certain artificial cosmetic products.
The Major Components Of Female Endocrine System:
- Ovaries; which are the female sex organs.
- Pituitary gland: which helps control all the endocrine organs in the body.
- Hypothlamus; regulates the secretion of hormones in the pituitary gland.
- Thyroid gland; mainly controls body metabolism but has a major role in female sexual functions as well.
- Adrenal glands.
Female Hormones: include
1. Estrogen which is secreted by the ovaries during the first half of the menstrual cycle.
2. Progesterone which is secreted in the second half of the menstrual cycle from the ovaries.
3. FSH ( the follicle stimulation hormone) is secreted from the pituitary gland and stimulated the ovaries to produce follicles one of which gets large enough to release a mature egg in the mid cycle.
4. LH ( Leutenizing hormone) secreted from the pituitary gland and helps release a mature egg and promotes ovulation.
5. Prolactin promotes lactation during breast feeding.
What Happens During A Normal Menstrual Cycle:
There are four hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle in females. These are FSH, LH, estrogen and progesterone. A normal menstrual cycle is about 28 days long with the day 1 as the first day of bleeding.
1. Follicular phase: begins on the day 1 of the periods. During this phase FSH and LH is released from the pituitary gland . FSH helps the growth of 10 to 20 eggs within the follicles in the ovaries. These hormones also stimulate the ovaries to produce estrogen. As the estrogen level increases it turns off the production of FSH. At the end of this phase one of the follicle gets big enough to get ready to release a mature egg. the other smaller follicles disappear.
At any point in this phase if there are hormonal imbalance the follicles may turn into fluid filled cysts. This may cause poly cystic ovarian disease. or just an isolated cyst that may sometimes grow very large.
2. Ovulatory Phase: It usually starts at day 14 of the cycle and at this point there is a surge of LH from the brain causing the egg to be released. This egg is then carried in the fallopian tubes and is ready to be fertilized. During this phase woman is fertile.
If there is no LH surge the egg fails to be released leading to absence of ovulation and problems with conceiving.
3. Luteal Phase: Once the egg is released the empty follicle in the ovary becomes a corpus luteum and it secretes the hormone progesterone. This hormone prepares the uterus to develop the lining to implant a fertilized ovum. If the fertilization has taken place the ovum the zygote is implanted in the uterus. If there is lack of progesterone , the zygote my fail to implant and this can lead to very early miscarriage. If no fertilization occurs the lining of uterus is shed as menstrual bleeding.
Any of these hormones if not balanced may cause menstrual irregularities and abnormal flow. The hormones change during different phases of the cycle and this have an affect on the mood of the woman. Just before the onset of the periods some woman may feel extremely irritable and frustrated that leads to premenstrual syndrome. .
When getting closer to menopause again the female hormones are imbalanced that lead to symptoms of hot flashes, vaginal dryness and mood swings.