The Role of Adrenal Fatigue in Female Hormone ImbalancesJul 10, 2022
Are you struggling with female hormone issues - PMS, hot flushes, painful period, infertility?
I know how sucky this can be! Even as a teen, I struggled with hormonal issues. I got my period super late, at 17 years old, and then only got a period every 3-6-months. I also struggled with hormonal acne, weight fluctuations, and PMS moodiness. The irregular periods didn’t concern me too much when I was younger. I thought it was GREAT not getting a period! Until, that is, I got married and we tried unsuccessfully to have kids. I was diagnosed with PCOS and at the time, not knowing anything about natural medicine, went on several rounds of Clomid (a fertility med to help you ovulate), until we finally fell pregnant. But once the babies came, the hormonal issues all flared up again. Super delayed periods, adult acne, and emotional PMS to the EXTREME (I’d cry at the drop of a hat, and thought the world was going to end the day before my period…anyone else relate?!). These were all major signs that my body systems were burning-out.
What should your female hormones look like?
When you’re getting hormonal ‘symptoms’ there is almost always female hormone imbalances in these cases. To dive into what this actually looks like, I have to first show what balanced hormones look like. By balanced, I’m talking about the ratio of your oestrogen and progesterone hormones, as well as testosterone (yes, ladies need testosterone, too, to function optimally). This graph shows what should happen during a 28 day cycle:
Isn’t that a dance of hormonal beauty? In the follicular phase, hormone production is pretty low, initially. Then oestrogen starts to rise and peaks at day 14, which causes ovulation and the release of an ova, or egg. Ta da! Hello little egg!
If there is no sexy-time sperm present (or if Mr. Sperm missed the boat) to fertilise the egg, oestrogen will start to drop in the second half of the cycle, and progesterone will rise. As the cycle nears the end of the 28 days, both progesterone and oestrogen drop, which then gives way to the beautiful gush of blood, which is your period. Beautiful, that is, only if these hormones are dancing and fluctuating as they should be. When they aren’t, it will either look like progesterone and/or oestrogen levels are too high or too low, or they are not in the correct ratio. Or you have testosterone issues.
Why do female hormones become imbalanced?
So how do female hormones go out of whack? The thing is, female hormones never go out on their own. There is almost always some other body system causing the female hormones to become imbalanced. You see, sex hormones are delicate petals, and many things can tip them over the edge. Stress is a big one.
The sex hormones are closely linked to your stress hormones, cortisol and DHEA. DHEA converts into oestrogen and testosterone, and cortisol, when raging, very quickly suppresses progesterone (as you can see in the graph below). Over time DHEA levels can also deplete, which can also drag down oestrogen and testosterone levels.
It’s very common to see an imbalance in both the stress and sex hormones. And likewise, all the myriad of stressors that cause adrenal imbalances, can also affect the sex hormones - an inflammatory diet, caffeine, alcohol, sugar, emotional stress, pregnancy, birth, sleepless nights, trauma, environmental toxins, cleaning and skincare products, over-working/doing, mould, gut inflammation, medications and contraceptives, and the biggest, yet most subtle one of all - dysfunctional beliefs you hold about yourself.
Signs of unhealthy female hormone production
When the stress hormones and female hormones go out of whack, cycling women can experience terrible PMS, painful periods, or they might lose their period or become infertile.
For a menopausal woman, menopausal symptoms may ramp up, such as mood imbalances, brain fog, hot flushes, night sweats and insomnia. In addition, in menopause, the responsibility for female hormone production shifts from the ovaries to the adrenals. Because of this, it is super important to not only test female hormones, but to also test the adrenal stress hormones. And then of course, address the deepest layers of ‘stress’ that are keeping your body in an imbalance and dysfunctional state.
PMS symptoms, irregular periods, infertility, menopausal symptoms ARE NOT NORMAL. If all your hormones are balanced, you should sail your way through your cycle for menstruating women, and through menopause for older women, without any dramas. I am a HUGE advocate of this!
If you want to learn more about hormonal imbalances and contributors, sign up to our free 10-Part Hormonal & Gut Burnout Mini-Course.
Filipa Bellette is Co-Founder of Chris & Filly Functional Medicine. She is an accredited Clinical Nutritionist & Functional Medicine Practitioner. She is also a Ph.D. thought-leader, award-winning writer, and regularly published as a guest blogger & in the media. Together with her husband Chris Bellette, Filipa has worked with over 2,000+ busy, burnout clients in the last 10+ years, and specialises in producing healthy, balanced, and happy Mums & Dads...or as she calls it, a Power Parent! Filipa’s own passion for producing high-performance Power Parents came from her own personal experience of Mummy Burnout, after having babies and juggling the demands of business, family, and her failing health.
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