• Micaela Zettel, PT, MScPT, BScHK(hons), CMAG

Part 1: Hormones and your cycle: What is normal?

Did you know that we, as females, have a monthly report card for our health? I certainly didn’t… until I read The Period Repair Manual by Lara Briden, ND. Based on the title of this book, you can probably guess what that report card is: YOUR PERIOD. 

I knew my period was important - nature has a way of making sure we have what we need to be healthy and thriving humans - but I really didn’t understand what I could learn about my health from my period. 


This month we are talking all about your cycle and hormones: Part 1: What is normal? and Part 2: What’s abnormal and how does this affect your recovery and performance?


To truly understand the role our hormones play in our performance and recovery we need to have an understanding of which hormones are involved and their roles, as well as what defines a normal, healthy period. 


The key hormones for females are estrogen and progesterone. ESTROGEN is the one we hear about the most, and not always in a positive way. Too much estrogen has been associated with many health issues and weight gain; too little estrogen has effects on the brain and is associated with depression, fatigue and mood swings. There are different forms of estrogen in our bodies. Estrone from fat, estrogen from gut bacteria and estradiol from developing ovarian follicles. Estradiol has the best health benefits for your muscles, heart, bones, metabolism and sleep. As with all things in life, more is not always better and neither is less, so how do we keep estrogen in check? Nature knows best and it gave to us PROGESTERONE, the natural counterbalance to estrogen. Progesterone is a steroid hormone produced by the ovaries ONLY if you ovulate. There is a temporary gland called the corpus luteum, made by your body during ovulation, that produces progesterone. If you don’t ovulate, you don’t make progesterone. In addition to helping keep estrogen in check, progesterone has many health benefits. It helps to prevent breast cancer, boosts thyroid hormone, reduces inflammation, helps build muscle, promotes sleep, and it calms the nervous system making it easier to cope with stress. 


What is a healthy period? It comes on time, regularly, without any issues or unpleasant symptoms. How to know if your period is a healthy one? Ask yourself the following questions:

1. Do you have heavy bleeding? Light bleeding? (Progesterone thins the uterine lining helping to lighten period bleeds). 

2. Is it regular? Does it come on time each time as predicted? (Not sure? Try tracking your period using an app). 

3. Do you have PMS? How are your cramps? Mood swings? Energy levels? 

4. Do you ovulate? (if you are on hormonal birth control, you do not ovulate**). 


**What you might not know about hormonal birth control (I didn’t)... If you are on hormonal birth control, you do not ovulate.  No ovulation = no progesterone. Hormonal birth control contains a synthetic hormone called progestin that attempts to mimic progesterone. However, it does not have the same beneficial effects for us that progesterone has (previously listed). ProgestERONE converts to a neurosteroid called allopregnanolone (ALLO), which is key in our brain health. ALLO has neuroprotective properties, antidepressant and anti-anxiety effects. ProgestIN does not convert to ALLO in the body and we miss out on the benefits for our brain. 


Want to know what your report card is telling you? Start by tracking your period and answer the questions listed above. Tracking your period can be really helpful in learning more about what your period might be trying to tell you. For more detailed information and specifics on hormones and your period, check out “The Period Repair Manual” by Lara Briden. It is loaded with important information and natural solutions to help your period (and ultimately, your health). 


Stay tuned for Part 2: Hormones and your cycle: What is abnormal and how does this affect your recovery and performance. 


Resources: 

Reference: The Period Repair Manual by Lara Briden. https://www.larabriden.com/links/


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