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The Sex Hormones In A Woman’s Body
All of a woman’s sex hormones are made from cholesterol. Therefore, the quality of the sex hormones made in a woman’s body is affected by:
- the quality of the fats that the woman or man eats
- a poorer quality of cholesterol is made from saturated fats from such sources as red meats [beef, pork, lamb], fried foods, and whole fat dairy products
- a healthier cholesterol is made from polyunsaturated fats from such sources as avocados, black olives, corn, sunflower seeds, deep water fish, such as cod, halibut, salmon, herring, unsalted nuts, and poultry in moderation
- the ability of the liver to make bile, which is concentrated and stored in the gall bladder, released when we eat a fatty meal, and emulsifies the fats into cholesterol, high density lipids [HDL], low density lipids [LDL], triglycerides and other fatty molecules
- the ability of the woman’s ovaries to make the sex hormones
- the ability of the woman’s adrenal glands to make the sex hormones
Basically, as long as she has her ovaries, a woman’s body makes a small amount sex hormones all of her life. This is shown in the following illustration.
When a girl reaches puberty, the hypothalamus sends a message to the pituitary gland to make Follicle Stimulating Hormone [FSH] and Leutinizing Hormone [LH] at the appropriate times during the menstrual cycle. This stimulate the ovaries to start making more of the sex hormones leading to her having regular menstrual cycles, and menstrual periods. The release of Follicle Stimulating Hormone [FSH] and Leutinizing Hormone [LH] at the appropriate times during the menstrual cycle also causes the ripening of follicles in an ovary, and the release of an egg at ovulation. All of these changes in the levels of Follicle Stimulating Hormone [FSH] and Leutinizing Hormone [LH], estrogens, progesterone and testosterone are like a dynamic, rhythmic dance, with each of the hormones interrelated to the others, and with changing amounts of each of the hormones being produced based upon the feedback message that occur between the hypothalamus, pituitary, ovaries and uterus. This can be seen in the following illustration.
During her reproductive years, the majority of a woman’s sex hormones are made by her ovaries, and only a small amount is made by her adrenal glands. This is shown in the following illustration.
If a woman becomes pregnant, her ovaries produce most of her progesterone for 16 weeks, and then the placenta produces 80% of her progesterone at a much higher level than her body does during a woman’s menstrual cycle in the reproductive years. Often, because of this much higher level of progesterone in her body, that many women report that they felt better during their pregnancy/pregnancies than at any other time in their life. The hormone production during pregnancy is shown in the following illustration.
As a woman approaches menopause, she may start to experience shorter or longer menstrual cycles [sometimes with months between her periods], irregular or missed periods, heavier or lighter periods, spotting or breakthrough bleeding, along with other symptoms of hormonal decrease and changes in balance in her hormones. As a woman gets older, there are less and less follicles available to ovulate. This means that less estrogens and less progesterone is produced, and a message is sent to the hypothalamus and the pituitary to make more Follicle Stimulating Hormone [FSH] and Leutinizing Hormone [LH] to try and stimulate the ovaries. This is shown in the following illustration.
Once a woman is in menopause, her ovaries are only able to produce a small amount of the sex hormones. It is her adrenal glands that pick up the slack during menopause and attempt to produce as much sex hormones as they are physically able to. The amount of sex hormones that the adrenal glands produce however, is nowhere near the amount of sex hormones that a woman’s body produces during her reproductive years. Also, in menopause, the levels of estrogens in a woman’s body are affected by a woman’s stores of fat as aromatase converts androstenedione and testosterone into estrone, and then into the other estrogens. This is shown in the following illustration.