Our body's functioning is influenced by many hormones. Our hormone balance is an interconnected system, with hormones interacting with each other and with different cells. To perform a particular function of life (say digestion), a lot of different hormones need to work together.
The female sex hormones are produced in the ovaries (but fat cells also contribute to their production). When you ovulate, oestrogen (follicle hormone) is produced, the hormone responsible for the development of female reproductive tracts, the development of the reproductive organs and the renewal of the endometrium. The three main estrogens are oestradiol and oestriol. Estrogen levels affect bone health, low estrogen levels increase the incidence if fractures. Estrogen levels cause the body to store more fat in women than in men. It also plays a role in sleep and urine excretion.
Progesterone (yellow body hormone), whose function is to prepare the uterine lining, which is rebuilt during the cycle, to receive the egg. Progesterone is essential for conception, and low progesterone levels carry the risk of infertility and miscarriage. Progesterone alos plays a role in the immune system and insulin balance.
In addition, these two hormones have other different effects. It is very important to have the right between oestrogen and progesterone.
If oestrogen levels are too high compared to progesterone - this can also be the result of too low progesterone - then we talk about oestrogen dominance.
Symptoms of oestrogen dominance:
- Sore, swollen breasts
- Menstrual cycles slip
- Thyroid problems
- Headaches, migraines, fatigue
- Cold hands and/or feet
- Hair loss
- Slower metabolism, weight gain
- Decreased sexual desire
- Mood swings and depression
- foggy brain or reduced memory
- PMS (premenstrual syndrome)
Treatment of estrogen dominance may be helped by herbs containing phytoestrogens that have anti-estrogenic effects. These include yam root, goldenseal (rhodiola), milk thisle, chamomile and dandelion.
Phytoestrogens are compounds found in nature that have a similar structure to oestrogen. There are many such phytoestrogens (flavonoids, isoflavonoids, lignans, ginsenoids, etc.). Phytoestrogens can have estrogen-supporting but also anti-estrogenic effects. (However, not all phytoestorgen-containing herbs will be good for treating both high and low oestrogen levels).
In contrast, artificial xenoestrogens are a consequence of industrialisation - they come from plastics, spray products, preservatives and more. Xenoestrogens, unlike phytoestrogens, are broken down in our bodies - in adipose tissue. This can upset our hormone balance in the long term. This is one of the reasons why it is important to avoid xenoestorgens. Animal fatty tissues also store xenoestrogens, so eat meat from animals raised in the farm if you can.
Maca herb extract contains active ingredients (called sterols) that act on the hypothalamus and pituitary gland in our brain. These two areas of the brain are responsible for the production of many hormones, affecting the balance of many hormones. In this way, Maca can help to balance the estrogen and progesterone ratio.