If monthly hormone surges cause problems with mood, sleep, menstrual pain and digestive issues then checking female hormones maybe the best place to start. This test is also great for women with a lot of perimenopausal symptoms or for women with unexplained infertility. In this test you can look at all the major female hormones; estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA-S and cortisol. From this information we can also learn about how your hormones are interacting with each other and then determine where to place more emphasis when developing a treatment plan.
The following is a list of the hormones tested in a female hormone panel. Interactions between these hormones are fundamental in health and, as a consequence imbalances in these hormones have a negative impact on health from menstruation and mental emotional issues to immune and digestive issues.
- Estradiol is the beneficial estrogen in the body and supports a proper menstrual cycle and stimulates ovulation.
- Estradiol is needed for the proper function of progesterone receptors, and the maintenance of the right balance between testosterone and progesterone which is crucial to hormone health.
- High estradiol levels compete with thyroid hormone (T3) and tissue interaction with T3 in the body.
- High estradiol levels increase thyroid binding globulin levels which binds up free T3 and T4 hormone resulting in decreased tissue action of T3.
- Low estradiol levels post-menopause may be a consequence of adrenal dysfunction as post-menopausal production of estradiol comes via conversion from the adrenal hormone DHEA
- Progesterone is another important hormone that supports a proper menstrual cycle, regulates estrogen within the body. In pregnancy progesterone maintains the uterus lining and placenta formation.
- Progesterone enhances the sensitivity of estrogen receptors. Thus a lack of progesterone could contribute to, or exacerbate, estrogen deficiency symptoms even with a normal E2 level.
- Too little progesterone relative to E2 can result in estrogen dominant symptoms like weight gain, breast tenderness, anxiety, fluid retention and fibrocystic breasts.
Progesterone to Estradiol Ratio
- Only endogenous levels of progesterone and estradiol are used in the calculation of the progesterone to estradiol ratios.
- High testosterone and/or elevated DHEA-S may indicate the presence of polycystic ovary syndrome and/or insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome
- Low testosterone levels post-menopause may be a consequence of adrenal dysfunction. After menopause, the adrenal hormone DHEA is the major source of testosterone (DHEA is converted to testosterone).
- Cortisol is the major stress hormone of the body balancing inflammatory responses and regulating other physiological functioning.
- Elevated cortisol can interfere with the action of progesterone and testosterone at gene regulatory sites. Consequently, women with normal progesterone and/or testosterone levels may exhibit signs of deficiency when cortisol levels are high. This is called a “functional” deficiency.
- High cortisol can induce the enzyme aromatase, which speeds the conversion of testosterone to estradiol; this can result in elevated estradiol levels.
- Excessive cortisol stimulates bone breakdown and also opposes the action of testosterone, which supports bone growth. Therefore, significant bone loss can occur with high cortisol levels.
- Elevated cortisol in the evening has been associated with depression. High evening cortisol in breast cancer survivors was linked to poorer prognosis
- Over time, high cortisol levels may progress to adrenal exhaustion and low cortisol levels.
- DHEA is stored in the blood mainly in its sulphate form, DHEA-S
- Cortisol and DHEA have opposite effects on the immune system and blood sugar regulation via the action of the hormone – insulin.
- High cortisol levels require more DHEA to be released to balance the effects of cortisol. Thus, chronically elevated cortisol can result in a deficiency of DHEA.
- The ratio of cortisol to DHEA-S increases with age, mostly due to declining DHEA.
- Low DHEA-S levels may be associated with hypothyroidism and chronic illness such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.