Ok girls, it's time for a crash course in female hormone balance! We've all heard of estrogen and progesterone, but beyond that... how much do you really know and understand about your hormonal cycles? I have to admit, up until recently I never really paid that much attention to my hormonal health. We live in a world where most women get through their menstrual cycle by popping Advil or Tylenol - doing our best to cover up the pain and pretend that it isn't happening.
Well, I'm here to tell you that it doesn't have to be like that. When you start learning about your monthly cycle, tracking your period, and actually paying attention to the signs that your body is giving you - you can feel great all month long!
You may be wondering....
"How do I know if my hormones are in balance?"
- Do you sleep well?
- Do you have lots of energy?
- Are your cycles regular?
- Are you having trouble losing weight?
- Do you crave sweets or salty snacks?
- Is your mood all over the place?
- Are you struggling with infertility?
Your hormones throughout the month
Did you know that the levels of estrogen and progesterone in your body naturally flow through a beautiful cycle with ups and downs, every month? Your hormone levels are not flatlined - imagine them more as a harmonious symphony! The following is an ideal chart for healthy female hormones:
The rise and fall of estrogen and progesterone in synchronization with your monthly cycle has a number of effects on both your physical body and your emotional body.
Week 1: Menstruation
As you can see in the chart above, during week 1 of your cycle, estrogen and progesterone are at their lowest. We all know what week one feels like... painful menstrual cramps, bloating, maybe a little moodiness, and even indigestion. Emotionally, we tend to feel reflective and are drawn inward. Staying home, relaxing, having a bath, and pampering yourself is a good idea!
Week 2: Follicular Phase
In the follicular phase, your period is over and your estrogen levels begin to rise. Estrogen functions in the body to produce a suitable environment for fertilization, implantation, and nutrition for the early embryo.
During this time we tend to feel full of energy, have a positive mindset, and ready to conquer the world. If you start to track your monthly cycles - you will really begin to notice this change in energy when estrogen begins to rise. This rise in estrogen levels triggers ovulation, at day 14 in your cycle. Peak estrogen levels are reached during this time.
Week 3: Ovulation
Just after ovulation, estrogen levels plummet and progesterone rises drastically. Progesterone's most important function is to cause the endometrium to secrete special proteins during the second half of the menstrual cycle, prepping it to receive and nourish an implanted, fertilized egg. If a pregnancy occurs, progesterone is produced in the placenta throughout the pregnancy, and this suppresses further ovulation. If pregnancy does not occur, progesterone levels will lower towards the end of week 3.
Natural progesterone is very good: it is protective against cancer, promotes healthy skin, increases responsiveness to insulin (and therefore promotes weight-loss), promotes healthy sleep, and protects against endometriosis.
Emotionally, this phase is the best time for communication, empathy, teamwork, and nurturing relationships. You may feel more expressive - so embrace it!
Week 4: Luteal Phase
The luteal phase is the week just before your period, or as we like to call it: your Dragon Time. PMS symptoms such as bloating, moodiness, headaches, and cramping may begin to arise as progesterone levels fall. Emotionally, you may feel clarity and creativity - you can see the good and the bad and you are anxious to solve problems. If you start to chart your monthly cycle, you will begin to notice these emotional phases and be able to use them to your advantage!
Benefits of Natural Estrogen in the body
As I mentioned earlier, estrogen's main function is to produce a suitable environment for fertilization, implantation, and nutrition for the early embryo. Estrogen is also responsible for the development of female secondary sexual characteristics. But it has other health benefits that you should be aware of as well:
- Estrogen benefits the heart by increasing high density lipoprotein, or good cholesterol, while also decreasing low density lipoprotein, or bad cholesterol
- Aids in relaxing dilated blood vessels to promote increased blood flow
- Promotes healthy, younger looking skin (aids in the formation of collagen!)
- Improves lubrication of the vagina
- Increases bone formation and slows bone loss
Benefits of Natural Progesterone in the body
Progesterone is produced in the ovaries, the placenta (when a woman is pregnant) and in the adrenal glands. It helps prepare your body for conception and pregnancy and regulates the monthly menstrual cycle. Progesterone is a precursor for multiple other hormones, such as cortisol! Therefore, if you are stressed and cortisol is high, progesterone will be low. This is just another way that stress and hormones can affect the body. Natural progesterone is very beneficial for your body:
- it is protective against cancer
- promotes healthy skin
- increases responsiveness to insulin (and therefore promotes weight-loss)
- promotes healthy sleep
- protects against endometriosis
- plays a vital role in thyroid health
Takeaway message: natural estrogen and natural progesterone both play important roles in the body, and have many health benefits. You need them both! Balancing them might seem daunting, but thankfully we can use natural solutions such as essential oils and good nutrition, and it's actually not that complicated.
Our Modern Problem: the cause of hormonal imbalance
Xenoestrogens... have you heard of them? Basically, xenoestrogens are endocrine disruptors - meaning they disrupt the natural cycle of our hormones. Xenoestrogens are a BIG problem, because they can mimic our natural hormones and block or bind to receptor sites in our body. Normally, our endocrine system releases hormones that signal different tissues with information on what to do. When these receptor sites are blocked, our natural hormones cannot do their job!
There are many different endocrine disruptors out there, and xenoestrogens are a subcategory that mimics natural estrogens. Xenoestrogens can be found in:
- Plastics (containing BPA, PCBs, Phthalates, and PBDEs)
- Skincare products containing ingredients such as parabens, or 4-Methylbenzylidene camphor (found in sunscreen)
- Any product with synthetic fragrance!!!
- Conventional makeup
- Cleaning products
- Bleached tampons & menstrual pads
When xenoestrogens enter the body they increase the total amount of estrogen, resulting in "estrogen dominance". This means that estrogen levels are too high, and progesterone is too low. Xenoestrogens are not biodegradable so, they are stored in our fat cells. Build up of xenoestrogens have been indicated in many conditions including: breast, prostate and testicular cancer, obesity, infertility, endometriosis, early onset puberty, miscarriages and diabetes.
Other contributors to estrogen dominance include:
- Estrogen-like compounds in foods that contain toxic pesticides, herbicides and growth hormones.
- Pharmaceutical hormones such as those used in hormone-replacement therapy (HRT) or the birth control pill also increase estrogen, whether we take them actively or absorb them when they make their way into our drinking water.
- Sedentary lifestyle
The hallmark symptoms of estrogen dominance are:
- weight gain, bloating
- mood swings
- tender breasts
- uterine fibroids
- fibrocystic breasts
Estrogen dominance is known to cause and/or contribute to cancer of the breast, ovary, endometrium (uterus), and prostate. This is why we want to correct estrogen dominance asap - so we can get you feeling healthier, and prevent all of those other things!
How can we fight back against these nasty endocrine disruptors?
- Limit your exposure to plastics, synthetic fragrances, conventional makeup, toxic cleaning products etc: use thieves cleaner instead of toxic cleaning products!
- Do a cellular cleanse with essential oils.
What did I just say? Cleanse the body with essential oils?! Ok so here's the deal: If your receptor sites are all blocked up from xenoestrogens and you are estrogen dominant, then we need to remove all those nasty endocrine disruptors in order to get your hormones back into balance. Basically there are three categories of naturally occurring chemical constituents which can be found in essential oils: phenols, sesquiterpenes and monoterpenes. Phenols work to cleanse receptor sites and allow for the proper transfer of hormones, peptides, neurotransmitters, and other intracellular messengers.
Once the body is cleansed of endocrine disruptors, there are also other ways that we can support healthy hormones with essential oils!
Progessence Phyto Plus Serum
Young Living Progessence phyto plus (aka progessence plus for US members) is a product that is safe for ALL women to use - from the time of menstruation through menopause and beyond.
Progessence Plus was formulated by Dr. Dan Purser (MD) and D. Gary Young to balance and enhance natural effects of progesterone. Pure, USP grade super micro ionized progesterone from wild yam is infused into pure, therapeutic grade essential oils, creating a smooth, revitalizing serum that is easily absorbed into the skin. There is no need to change application sites like with progesterone creams - because this is no a synthetic progesterone.
Progessence plus also contains: coconut oil, vitamin E, copaiba, sacred frankincense, cedarwood, bergamot, peppermint, rosewood, and clove essential oils. Progessence phyto plus (available for international members) also contains chaste tree (vitex agnus castus), an herb that has been used for hundreds of years for female reproductive system disorders. Chaste tree is effective for symptoms of PMS and menopause - it helps reduce estrogen and increase progesterone production.
As I mentioned earlier, natural progesterone is very beneficial for your body: it is protective against cancer, promotes healthy skin, increases responsiveness to insulin (and therefore promotes weight-loss), promotes healthy sleep, and protects against endometriosis.
Most women will use this oil serum daily to promote healthy hormone balance - from puberty through menopause and beyond. It can be used during pregnancy, but may not be necessary since progesterone is already so high during this time.
When you use Progessence plus, you are not only supporting healthy progesterone levels, but also helping your body to cleanse out those nasty xenoestrogens that block up our receptor sites and prevent natural estrogen from doing it's job! Progessence plus also supports healthy, younger looking skin.
Hormone Balance with essential oils
These essential oils act as adaptogens: a natural substance considered to help the body adapt to stress and to exert a normalizing effect upon bodily processes. What I mean by this is: don't panic if you're worried that using one of these blends is going to make estrogen too low or progesterone too high. That is not how essential oils work. Drugs force the body to do things, where as essential oils support the body's natural abilities, and will adapt to what your body needs!
Thyme: Research from the Proceedings of the Society of Experimental Biology and Medicine suggests that thyme essential oil has progesterone balancing effects. Again, natural progesterone is very beneficial for your body: it is protective against cancer, promotes healthy skin, increases responsiveness to insulin (and therefore promotes weight-loss), promotes healthy sleep, and protects against endometriosis. Currently progessence plus is not available in Canada, so thyme essential oil would be a good alternative to use for now if you are wanting to try progessence phyto plus. I would dilute this essential oil with a carrier oil such as coconut oil (or the Mirah shave oil for a nicer aroma) and apply to your inner ankles, and wrists.
Clary Sage: Clary sage is known as a hormone balancer and contains natural sclareol, a phytoestrogen that mimics estrogen function. It helps to balance out estrogen levels in the body - for example if you know that you are estrogen dominant, clary sage can help to bring your estrogen levels back to normal. It also helps with menstrual cramps, PMS, and circulatory problems.
Endoflex: This blend amplifies metabolism and vitality and creates hormonal balance. Endoflex contains sesame oil, spearmint, sage, geranium, myrtle, nutmeg and german chamomile. Endoflex is aimed at supporting various problems related to the hormonal (endocrine) system. This is a great oil to provide overall balance and support the endocrine system and vitality of the entire body.
May help alleviate hot flashes and stimulate weight loss by improving metabolic function. It may also support the thyroid for metabolic and hormonal balance. Also supports the pineal gland and pituitary glands, parathyroid, thymus, and adrenal glands. You can't go wrong with incorporating this oil into your daily routine - in fact it is great for both men and women! Smells amazing in the diffuser, or when applied topically over the thyroid, on the lower back, liver, and pancreas. For use as a dietary supplement, take dilute with a carrier oil such as coconut oil, and take in a veggie capsule up to 3 times daily.
SclarEssence: this blend balances hormones naturally using essential oil phytoestrogens. SclarEssence can be taken internally to support healthy levels of estradiol. This supports the reproductive system; low estradiol levels are linked to infertility. It combines the soothing effects of peppermint with the balancing power of fennel and clary sage and the calming action of sage for an extraordinary dietary supplement. Put 1-10 drops in a veggie capsule mixed with V-6 or a carrier oil. Ingest 1 capsule daily as needed. SclarEssence increases estrogen levels in the body and helps to balance
Lady Sclerol: This oil is also rich in phytoestrogens, and is designed to be worn with its exquisite fragrance. It enhances the feminine nature by improving mood and raising / balancing estrogen levels on a daily basis. It may also provide relief from PMS symptoms.
Lady sclerol contains coriander, geranium, vetiver, orange, clary sage, bergamot, ylang ylang, sandalwood, sage, jasmine and idaho tansy. Apply 2-4 drops to vita flex points on the ankles or at the clavical notch. It may be applied to the abdomen for relief of premenstural discomfort.
Dragon time: Dragon time is a LIFE saver. This blend includes fennel, clary sage, marjoram, lavender, yarrow and jasmine. You can use it to soothe PMS symptoms and menstrual discomforts. My favourite way to use it is topically, 2-4 drops directly on the lower abdomen and lower back. You can dilute this oil with a carrier such as coconut oil. A little tip: if your cramps are bad, then don't hold back! Apply topically every couple of hours as needed. Dragon time brings instant relief from menstrual cramps because it is an antispasmodic. It can also help to alleviate moodswings, hormonal headaches, bloating, and help to balance emotions. Truly. Miracle in a bottle! Try it, you'll thank me later.
Hormone Support During Menopause
As women age, our levels of progesterone decline and contribute to osteoporosis, increased risk of breast and uterine cancers, mood swings, depression, and many other conditions. Estrogen levels also decline, causing an increased risk of heart disease. Between ages 45 and 55 estrogen and progesterone hormones decline to a point where mensuration ceases.
These changes to your hormones during menopause can significantly affect your health for many years. Hot flashes, night sweats, mood changes, and weight gain are all common symptoms! Estrogen helps your skin heal faster when wounded -so lower estrogen levels associated with menopause typically lead to dryer skin, itchiness, and increased wrinkles. Vaginal dryness and increased risk of urinary tract infections are also common.
One way that many women manage the symptoms associated with menopause, is Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). HRT can be very effective in relieving menopausal symptoms, but recent research (including this major study in 2002 by the Women’s Health Initiative) has started to show that the risks associated with HRT exceed the benefits. HRT uses synthetic forms of estrogen and/ or progesterone to bring hormone levels back to normal in the body. A woman's body has trouble assimilating synthetic hormones effectively and the side effectsthat result are often much worse than the original problems being treated. Women who use HRT are at greater risk for stroke, blood clots, heart attack, breast cancer, and dementia.
However, replacing declining hormone levels using topically applied bio-identical progesterone and pregnenolone may be one of the most effective ways to boost hormone levels. Pregnenolone may be especially effective because it is the precursor hormone from which the body creates both progesterone and estrogens. Bio-Identical hormones are derived from natural sources, and are very safe to use. Young Living progessence plus contains bio-identical progesterone from wild yam. Women who have used progessence plus during and after menopause report amazing results and a drastic improvement in mood, energy, sleep, hot flashes, night sweats, and overall vitality!
The natural progesterone found in progessence plus is protective agains cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis and stroke. This serum is best used at night because it relaxes your muscles and helps you sleep. Add a few drops to your inner ankles before bed to balance hormones every night. Start with 3 drops and increase until your symptoms get better. How do you know that you're using enough? You sleep well, you feel well, you have lots of energy, your mood is improved!!!
Progessence Plus Testomonials:
"From the first time I used it, I was able to sleep through the night! — no more waking up in the middle of the night!"
"I was having hot flashes and night sweats throughout the day and night, which really impacted my sleep. I started seeing improvement within 3 days on the Progessence Plus and within about two weeks I was in “flash free” zone! No flashes or sweats for over a month. Yeah!"
"Once I established the proper dosage for myself, the psychotic side effects of traditional PMS vanished into thin air, my menstural cramps vanished right along with it, my cycles became a normal event and I realized that a “normal” menstural cycle was not suppose to be a painful agonizing monthly occurance."
"I have severe Endometriosis and have been on narcotics all of my life for the pain. I have used the PP and I cannot even begin to tell you how amazing it is to be pain free. I have had 6 surgeries for this disease and I have never felt this good.
Now if we could only get all the GYN doctors to realize how amazing this oil is. Thank you Dan for designing this for us."
"I sleep so much better and hot flashes are way down!"
Other Useful Essential Oils for Menopause and beyond:
Geranium: geranium oil can be quite useful when it comes to providing relief for menopause symptoms such as improving dry skin. A study showed that geranium oil has antidepressant properties that can help women who are experiencing depression and mood swings. A clinical trial involving 120 menopausal women revealed that receiving aromatherapy massage with almond and geranium essential oils can help improve mood and depression
Clary Sage: Dilute with a carrier oil and rub across the back of your neck or all over your feet to quickly relieve hot flashes! Clinical tests show that clary sage is more potent than monoamine neurotransmitter serotonin or 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) and can help menopausal women by minimizing thyroid stimulating hormones and reducing depression and stress levels
Peppermint essential oil may help to relieve discomfort during hot flashes! Diffuse, inhale directly form the bottle, or apply topically (diluted with a carrier oil). Peppermint may also help relieve any cramping you may experience during this time. Although not common once menstruation has ended, it’s typical to experience menstruation-related cramping (dysmenorrhea) during perimenopause.
Ylang Ylang: increases focus of thought. It is very helpful in times of cardiac arrhythmia, hypertension, and depression. It restores confidence and peace! This is a great oil to use on dry skin (maybe in this DIY body butter). Ylang ylang balances female energies, enhances spiritual attunement, combats anger and low self esteem, and filters out negative energy. Use this essential oil to help support your emotions during this time of transition.