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Understanding Women’s Hormone Testing and the Impact of Stress Hormones

Maintaining hormonal balance is crucial for overall health and well-being, especially for women. Hormones play a vital role in regulating various bodily functions, including the menstrual cycle, fertility, mood, and more. When it comes to women’s health, understanding your sex hormone levels is essential. In addition, considering the impact of stress hormones on these levels adds another layer of complexity to the picture.

Below are the tests often recommended by us if we suspect that you have hormonal imbalances when it comes to women’s hormones, thyroid health and adrenal health:

1. Comprehensive Female Hormonal screen:

A comprehensive female hormonal screen includes your three types of oestrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. These hormones govern women’s menstrual cycles, fertility, and even bone health. Tracking these levels can provide insights into irregular periods, fertility issues, and hormonal imbalances that might lead to conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or endometriosis.

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2. Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and Luteinizing Hormone (LH) Tests:

FSH and LH are pituitary hormones that influence the menstrual cycle and ovulation. Monitoring their levels can help diagnose issues related to ovarian function and identify potential reasons for irregular periods or difficulties in conceiving. These hormones are also tested to determine menopause.

3. Thyroid Function Tests:

Although not exclusively sex hormones, thyroid hormones (T3, T4, and TSH) play a significant role in women’s reproductive health. An underactive or overactive thyroid can disrupt the menstrual cycle and affect fertility. Including thyroid function tests in hormone panels provides a holistic view of hormonal well-being.

Woman in jeans and green long sleeve top with head in hands and looking down at knees appearing tired or stressed

4. Cortisol Testing – Understanding the Stress Hormone:

Stress hormones, primarily cortisol, have a profound impact on women’s sex hormones. Chronic stress can disrupt the delicate balance of sex hormones, leading to irregular periods, missed ovulation, and even fertility problems. Cortisol competes with sex hormones for the same building blocks, diverting resources away from normal hormone production. Stress can also lead to conditions like hypothalamic amenorrhea, where excessive physical or emotional stress causes menstruation to stop.

5. DHEA-Sulfate Test:

DHEA-S, a precursor to both oestrogen and testosterone, reflects adrenal gland function. Monitoring DHEA-S levels is important because adrenal health contributes to overall hormonal balance. High levels of stress can cause the adrenals to prioritise cortisol production over sex hormone production, potentially causing imbalances.

6. Free Androgen Index (FAI) Test:

The Free Androgen Index (FAI) test calculates the ratio of free testosterone to total testosterone. This test can provide valuable insights into androgen (male hormone) activity in women. Elevated FAI levels may indicate an imbalance in testosterone levels, which can contribute to symptoms like hirsutism (excessive hair growth), acne, and irregular menstrual cycles. Monitoring FAI can be particularly relevant in conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), where elevated androgens are often a concern.

7. Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin (SHBG) Test:

Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin (SHBG) is a protein produced by the liver that binds to sex hormones in the bloodstream. It plays a crucial role in regulating the availability of these hormones. High SHBG levels can lead to a decrease in free (unbound) sex hormones, which may result in hormonal imbalances. Conversely, low SHBG levels can increase the availability of sex hormones, potentially contributing to symptoms such as acne and irregular periods. Measuring SHBG levels can help identify factors affecting hormone availability and guide treatment strategies.

In conclusion, understanding women’s hormonal levels is crucial for maintaining overall health, fertility, and emotional well-being. Comprehensive testing allows for the early detection of hormonal imbalances and facilitates targeted interventions. By addressing both sex hormone and stress hormone levels, we can identify the problem areas and take proactive steps towards optimising your hormonal health and achieving a higher quality of life. If you suspect that you have hormonal imbalances, please reach out and book in with me, so that we can further investigate what is causing your symptoms.

Thanks for reading!

Aimee Woods | Naturopath



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