Understanding Your Cycle

Women's health is something I have become more and more interested in over the last five years or so. This is an area that western medicine doesn't have the time to explore in consults, and hence many women are left 'treated' with taking oral contraceptives for long periods of time. I'm sure by now most of you know that the pill does not fix a single one of your problems, it masks the symptoms, the pain, the hormone fluctuations etc. This is not a space for disrespecting the work of GP's - all I mean here is it really is an issue that can't be looked at properly in only a ten minute consult. 

From a naturopathic perspective this is suppressing the body's cry for help. Essentially, when something is in pain month after month - clearly there is an imbalance, of some sort in the body. This women's health segment of the blog will be a space to explore some of these issues women have, talk through the possible causes behind them and then share some of the naturopathic recommendations that could be helpful. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms or problems I'm speaking about, and would like some help or advice; you will be able to book an appointment with me later in the year.

As this is the first blog post on this topic I though i'd start by explaining how our natural cycles actually work. This is something that seems to be uncommon knowledge for most women. Understanding what's going on in your own body each month is fundamental, for healing, for conception, natural contraception and so much more.

 

womens health 

 

Before taking you through the hormones and phases of your cycle I just want to note that I am still learning. This is knowledge I have so far, I'm not an expert. My hope is through writing more on this topic I can learn more information for myself and for you. If there is anything you don't agree with, let me know in the comments section.

 

THE HORMONES & THEIR FUNCTIONS:

Follicular stimulating hormone / FSH:

Responsible for the growth and maturation of the ovarian follicle. As well as the development of oestrogen producing cells within the follicle. FSH is released multiple times during your cycle. FSH and oestrogen influence each other via a feedback loop. 

Luteinizing hormone / LH:

During mid cycle LH and FSH spike. This triggers ovulation. Also responsible for the development of the corpus luteum (which is a yellow body of lutein cells; that secretes oestrogen and progesterone for the duration of the luteal phase)

Prolactin / PRL:

PRL maintains the corpus luteum during the luteal phase. LH and PRL also stimulate the corpus luteum to secrete the hormones as mentioned above. In pregnancy, prolactin is responsible for increasing breast growth, inducing and sustaining lactation, and producing milk in response to suckling. In non pregnant women levels of this hormone are usually low as its production is inhibited by dopamine.

Oestrogen:

Assists in follicle development, stimulating the mid cycle surge of LH, stimulating the growth of the endometrium and myometrium, and stimulating mucus production in the cervix. Oestrogen is also responsible for many other processes such as the control of fluid and electrolyte balances, vaginal acidity, protein anabolism and more. There are three main types of oestrogen you may see in books / referenced: oestradiol, oestrone and oestriol.

Progesterone:

Modifies and adds to the actions of oestrogen. Alters cervical mucous, raises basal body temperature, prepares mammary glands for milk production. Stimulates the secretory phase of the menstrual cycle. Maintains endometrium to prepare for implantation and sustaining of the embryo. Progesterone is produced by the ovaries, and as mentioned before LH stimulates it's synthesis and the secretion of progesterone from the corpus luteum (mainly in the second half of the menstrual cycle)

 

These are the main hormones and their primary functions relating to your cycle. To give you an idea of what each of these look like throughout your cycle I've popped in a diagram below. (image found via pinterest)

 

Menstrual cycle hormones

 

I hope that this blog blog post will give you a better understanding of the function of your hormones, and that you can use it as a reference for future posts plus your own researching !

Id love to know your thoughts about this post, plus any suggestions you have for blog topics - which can be left in the comments section below :)

 

kindest always,

 

Sarah

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