our friends E & P
Hormones.. we talk about them A LOT!
I don’t know about you but I tend to use them as an excuse for my mood, skin, appetite, energy and pretty much everything else..
As much as I use them as an "excuse", there is definitely some fact and truth to the changes going on in my body as E & P are also undergoing changes
Why? Hormones play such a critical role in SO MANY processes in our body
If you haven't figured it out by now, E is our powerful Estrogen while P is our lovely Progesterone
This post is dedicated to learning about these two hormones and the roles they play within our body and cycle specifically.
Find a comfy spot in your house, grab a tea and a blanket and get ready to learn!
Estrogen is our main female sex hormone. “She” comes in 3 different forms:
Estrone (E1): is mostly a storage form or a metabolite form. It is the most common form of estrogen found in post-menopausal women.
Estradiol (E2): is our MAIN form of estrogen. It is made mostly by our ovaries but also by our adrenal glands (see how important these little guys are) and our fat tissue. Estradiol is the estrogen that fluctuates with our menstrual cycle.
Estriol (E3) : this form of estrogen is mainly present during pregnancy when made from the placenta. It can also be made in the liver from E1 and E2.
Estrogen receptors are found pretty much EVERYWHERE : brain, lungs, breast, liver, bladder, bones, joints, gastrointestinal tract, ovaries and uterus
So what does estrogen do for us?
Reproductive function : stimulates the growth of our reproductive organ and regulates our menstrual cycle
Bones : keeps our bones healthy and strong
Brain : keeps our mood elevated via increasing serotonin. Fluctuations in estrogen during our cycle can lead to fluctuations in our mood (see... we aren’t crazy!)
Heart: keeps our heart healthy and is protective from cardiovascular diseases
Skin : receptors in the skin allow estrogen to play a role in skin elasticity and strength
Estrogen is powerful and important!
I have learned to LOVE this hormone right here!
P is produced in the ovaries, adrenal glands and placenta during pregnancy
Progesterone dominates in the second half of our cycle (after ovulation)
Do any of you use your basal body temp to track ovulation? Well this increase in temp is due to progesterone
What does progesterone do for us?
Reproductive function : during our cycle progesterone helps prepare our body for pregnancy as well as maintain pregnancy if achieved
Brain: progesterone has protective effects in the brain including anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects. It is being studied for its use in traumatic brain injuries which is SO cool (but for another post)
Skin : receptors in the skin allows progesterone to play a role in skin elasticity and strength
Progesterone is so lovely and wonderfully important too!
You can follow along using this diagram
Alright! Now that we know a little bit more about E & P we can put them in place during our cycle
Our cycle has two phases: follicular phase and luteal phase
Phase 1: Follicular Phase
Now this is going to be mind blowing: but our period (menses) is actually the beginning of our cycle (the first week or so) as opposed to the last week like we usually think. During this time both estrogen and progesterone are falling to their lowest and we are losing part of the lining of our uterus.
After this we are ready to begin trying for pregnancy again!
Estrogen starts to increase more and more, our egg follicles are developing more and more, and the lining of our uterus is thickening more and more. There are two other hormones that play a role in this phase: LH and FSH
FSH is follicle stimulating hormone and therefore stimulates our egg follicles to develop and get ready for ovulation
LH is lutenizing hormone and it stimulates ovulation or the release of the egg from the ovary
Day 14: OVULATION:
we get a spike in Estrogen and an even bigger spike in LH. This signifies ovulation and the transition from follicular phase to luteal phase.
Just before, during, and just after ovulation is when our chance at pregnancy is at it's highest
Phase 2: Luteal Phase
Day 14 - 28
After ovulation E & P switch roles
Estrogen levels fall while progesterone levels continue to go up and up
This is because progesterone is released from the "corpus luteum" which is only formed after ovulation. You can think of the corpus luteum as the shell surrounding the egg before it got released (kinda weird I know). After the egg is released during ovulation these cells stick around to produce progesterone.
Progesterone's main role is to prepare our uterus for pregnancy. That is why you can see our uterine lining not only thickening but increasing in blood supply and secretions while progesterone is on the rise.
BUT if there is no pregnancy achieved, then progesterone (and estrogen) start to fall and HELLO it's our time of the month...
= Luteal Phase ends and we are back at the Follicular phase
That sums up our menstrual cycle!
If you are like me you find this pretty neat, but some of you are probably like huh? or too much information...
For those of you that didn't see the value in tracking your period & symptoms - this diagram is exactly why. It can help us make sense of your symptoms and the changes going on in our body. Over time we can understand these patterns and even find ways to support them.
This is the first post of many relating to female hormones.
Next post is dedicated to discussing the importance of balance between E & P. This includes how they fall out of balance and what occurs as a result. Stay tuned :)
Fehring, R. J., Schneider, M., & Raviele, K. (2006). Variability in the phases of the menstrual cycle.Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing,35(3), 376-384.
Mihm, M., Gangooly, S., & Muttukrishna, S. (2011). The normal menstrual cycle in women.Animal reproduction science,124(3-4), 229-236.
Owen Jr, J. A. (1975). Physiology of the menstrual cycle.The American journal of clinical nutrition,28(4), 333-338.
Thiyagarajan, D. K., Basit, H., & Jeanmonod, R. (2019). Physiology, Menstrual Cycle. InStatPearls [Internet]. StatPearls Publishing.