Hormones are often called the body's messengers, and for women, they play a crucial role in maintaining overall health and well-being. These chemical messengers are produced by various glands throughout the body and regulate everything from metabolism and reproduction to mood and sleep. In women, there are several key hormones that play significant roles in their physiology, including estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and many others. Understanding these hormones and how they function is essential for maintaining hormonal balance and overall health.

Meet the hormones…

Understanding the key hormones and how they change during perimenopause is crucial for appreciating the physiological changes women experience. Here are the most important hormones, their functions, production sites, importance, and potential changes during perimenopause:

1. Estrogen

  • Function: Primary female sex hormone responsible for the development of secondary sexual characteristics, regulation of the menstrual cycle, and reproductive system health.
  • Produced by: Ovaries, adrenal glands, and during pregnancy, the placenta.
  • Importance: Maintains the health of reproductive tissues, bones, and cardiovascular system.
  • Perimenopause Changes: Estrogen levels become erratic and generally decline, leading to symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, and changes in menstrual cycle regularity.

2. Progesterone

  • Function: Regulates the menstrual cycle and maintains the early stages of pregnancy.
  • Produced by: Ovaries (specifically the corpus luteum after ovulation) and placenta during pregnancy.
  • Importance: Prepares the endometrium for potential pregnancy after ovulation, supports early pregnancy, and influences mood and sleep.
  • Perimenopause Changes: Progesterone levels drop as ovulation becomes less regular, contributing to menstrual irregularities, increased risk of endometrial hyperplasia, and mood changes.

3. Testosterone

  • Function: Contributes to muscle mass, bone density, sex drive, and overall energy levels.
  • Produced by: Ovaries and adrenal glands.
  • Importance: Important for maintaining libido, muscle mass, and energy.
  • Perimenopause Changes: Levels of testosterone decline, which can lead to decreased libido, reduced muscle mass, and fatigue.

4. Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH)

  • Function: Stimulates the growth of ovarian follicles before the release of an egg in the menstrual cycle.
  • Produced by: Pituitary gland.
  • Importance: Essential for the maturation of eggs and fertility.
  • Perimenopause Changes: FSH levels increase as the ovaries' response diminishes, indicating a decrease in fertility and onset of menopausal transition.

5. Luteinizing Hormone (LH)

  • Function: Triggers ovulation and stimulates the production of progesterone.
  • Produced by: Pituitary gland.
  • Importance: Critical for ovulation and the menstrual cycle.
  • Perimenopause Changes: LH levels fluctuate, often increasing, as ovarian function declines, contributing to irregular menstrual cycles.

8. Thyroid Hormones (T3 and T4)

  • Function: Regulate metabolism, energy levels, and overall growth and development.
  • Produced by: Thyroid gland.
  • Importance: Crucial for metabolic rate, heart function, digestive function, muscle control, brain development, and bone maintenance.
  • Perimenopause Changes: Thyroid function can be impacted by the hormonal fluctuations of perimenopause, sometimes leading to symptoms similar to hypothyroidism or actual hypothyroidism.

9. Insulin

  • Function: Regulates blood glucose levels.
  • Produced by: Pancreas.
  • Importance: Essential for maintaining normal blood sugar levels and energy production.
  • Perimenopause Changes: Insulin sensitivity can decrease, increasing the risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

10. Cortisol

  • Function: Known as the "stress hormone," it regulates a wide range of processes, including metabolism and immune response.
  • Produced by: Adrenal glands.
  • Importance: Helps the body respond to stress, maintains blood pressure, and supports cardiovascular function.
  • Perimenopause Changes: Chronic stress can increase cortisol levels, exacerbating symptoms like weight gain, sleep disturbances, and mood swings.

Life cycle of Hormonal Changes

Throughout a woman's life, hormonal fluctuations are entirely normal and can be influenced by factors such as puberty, pregnancy, and menopause. Perimenopause, the transitional phase leading up to menopause, typically begins in a woman's 40s but can start earlier for some. During this time, hormone levels, particularly estrogen and progesterone, begin to fluctuate, leading to irregular menstrual cycles, hot flashes, mood swings, and many other symptoms.

Supporting good hormone health during perimenopause and beyond is crucial for overall well-being. While hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is an option for some women experiencing severe symptoms, there are also lifestyle changes and natural remedies that can help support hormonal balance:

    1. Balanced Diet: Eating a diet rich in whole foods, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins can support hormone health. Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and flaxseeds, may help reduce inflammation and support hormonal balance.

      Go here for best diet for perimenopause and menopause.

    2. Regular Exercise: Engaging in regular physical activity not only supports overall health but can also help regulate hormone levels. Aim for a mix of cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and flexibility exercises for optimal benefits.

    3. Stress Management: Chronic stress can disrupt hormone balance, so finding ways to manage stress is essential. Techniques such as yoga, meditation, deep breathing exercises, and spending time in nature can all help reduce stress levels.

    4. Adequate Sleep: Prioritising good sleep hygiene is crucial for hormone health. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night and establish a regular sleep schedule to support hormone regulation. Not so easy you say… Try our Peri Superlattes to help improve your sleep.

      More tips on improving your sleep through perimenopause and menopause.

    5. Regular Check-ups: Regular check-ups with a healthcare provider are essential for monitoring hormone levels and overall health. They can provide guidance on hormone testing, treatment options, and lifestyle changes to support hormonal balance.

    6. Healthy Weight Range: Obesity is linked to hormonal imbalances and insulin resistance. Remember perimenopause is a time when we start to store fat around our middles, not on our hips and thighs (boo!!).  Why is it important?  Because fat storage around our middles can lead to insulin resistance which can lead to Type 2 diabetes - not good!

      Read more here about insulin resistance and how to steer clear of that. 

    7. Gut Health: Our microbiome acts as an endocrine organ and an unbalanced and distressed microbiome can cause either the deficiency or excess of free oestrogen. It also regulates appetite and a healthy microbiome reduces the chances of insulin resistance.

      A focus on good gut health is often overlooked as a way to reduce perimenopause symptoms. Check out our guide here to get started.
  • Natural Supports: There are so many different minerals, vitamins and herbal medicines that can aid in the balancing out of perimenopause hormones. As a Clinical Nutritionist, SheBANG!'s Ange would prescribe depending on your specific needs:

  • "I would suggest speaking to your health professional to advise what is best for you. If I was to give only one suggestion, it would be Magnesium. I find that most people are deficient and it's the mineral needed for optimal metabolic function; especially important during perimenopause. It is involved in more than 300 essential metabolic reactions within our bodies. Magnesium Glycinate is the best form for peri ladies and is effective in treating peri mood symptoms, hot flashes, improving sleep, preventing insulin resistance and reducing migraines." 

    Wrap Up

    Female hormones play a vital role in women's health and well-being, influencing everything from reproduction to mood and energy levels. Understanding how hormones function and the changes that occur during perimenopause and menopause can help women navigate this transitional phase with greater ease. By adopting healthy lifestyle habits, seeking support when needed, and prioritising self-care, women can support optimal hormone health and overall well-being at every stage of life.


    May 25, 2024 — Angela Greely

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