If you've ever been frustrated, insulted, patronized or made to feel "hormone" is a dirty word, pull up a chair, because it's time we became good friends.
Let me just start by confirming " you're not crazy " when you can't remember why you walked into a room, or when your hair and skin took on the appearance of someone whose been dragged through a hedge backwards. Hormones exert a powerful effect on every part of our bodies. As a result, when they get out of balance, we exhibit some not-so-subtle responses: sleep disturbance, dryness, sore gums, joint pain or a swollen stomach.
Unfortunately, in today's HMO time-managed atmosphere, physicians give non life-threatening complaints low priority. If you're female and complain about hormone problems, you're likely to stare into glazed eyeballs followed by "just diet and exercise more" as your doctor scurries out the door. While this advice is certainly important, it doesn't necessarily result in giving you back the glow of a healthy, functioning woman. But you're not doomed to accept the limitations of today's medical system. With a hefty dollop of knowledge, a pinch of guidance and a twist of determination, every woman can learn the secrets to balancing her hormones.
This book is designed to perform as your personal hormone manager. I'll begin by explaining the important hormone systems in your body, then show you how to investigate each one to see if it's functioning normally. I'll provide you with a flow chart to document your test results and to record your symptoms as they relate to your menstrual cycle, even in menopause. Need help deciding if certain medications or lab tests are right for your condition? Not to worry. I'll provide you with those answers and the latest scientific articles to support my opinions. It always helps to know you're not alone in this struggle to achieve better health, so pour yourself a cup of tea and get a shot of sympathy by reading "The Hormone Diva Speaks", a question and answer section culled from my online discussion groups. And if you feel like you're still all alone on that healthcare island, I'll give you resources for obtaining diagnostic studies and medications without a prescription.
It's time to make a change.
Every woman is a hormone diva, a goddess, endowed with the ability to create life through the power of hormones. Unfortunately, when those little suckers fly out of control, we can morph into head-spinning demons. So, in order to figure out which ones would benefit from a little gentle coaxing back in line, you need to understand the hormone game.
Hormones must play well with others. They must be able to share, not hog, receptors on cell membranes, and sometimes they need a little "time out" in order to keep their excitement level in control during your menstrual cycle. A tiny gland behind your eyes, the hypothalamus, acts as the umpire directing all the action. She rides on the back of the pituitary, your pitcher.
THE NORMAL CYCLE
Let's follow what happens during a normal menstrual cycle. Day 1 is the first day you bleed. As you can see, your body temperature is around 36.2 degrees centigrade, or about 98.6. Your progesterone level has bottomed out because pregnancy did not occur. Estradiol,(E2) the active form of estrogen, is also low at this time. The uterine lining is beginning to shed, but really doesn't reach its lowest level until days 5-7. This is known as the pre-follicular stage, as the ovary has yet to choose the next egg up to bat. Around Day 10 the selected egg goes into training. Estradiol levels start to rise and a big cheer goes up when leutenizing hormone ,(LH) along with follicle stimulating hormone,(FSH) spike the egg into ovulation. This ends the follicular phase. The luteal phase begins with a rise in your body temp in response to Progesterone,(P) the designated hitter, taking over and running the bases, along with estradiol, for a double play. The uterine lining builds up, ready for implantation. If fertilization has not occurred, both hormones get tagged out and the uterine lining begins to shed.
THE ABNORMAL CYCLE
So what happens when your cycle isn't a classic 28 days? The answer lies in the follicular phase. In perimenopause, the LH surge moves up a few days, shortening your cycle by 2-3 days. If the LH surge is delayed or there is not sufficient estradiol and FSH to spike ovulation, your cycle may lengthen to 32 days or even longer. The luteal phase remains constant at 14 days regardless of the behavior of the follicular phase.1
Now take a look at the hormones produced by the ovaries. Notice that estrogen should be no lower than 200 pg/ml between days 13 and 15. Progesterone should always be low in the first half of your cycle, because it's the ovulated egg that stimulates progesterone production. If you don't ovulate, your progesterone levels will be low in the second half, as will your basal temperature reading.
How do you know if you've ovulated? Here's a great little secret "old time" docs used to determine ovulation before blood tests were available.
During ovulation (Days 11-14) estrogen increases the amount of potassium chloride and sialic acid (neuraminic acid) in your saliva. Crystals form a unique "fern" pattern when your saliva is dried on glass, making it simple to determine if you have actually ovulated.2,3,4 This test is 90% accurate even in non-medical hands. In Chapter Eight I will tell you how to obtain a sialic acid tester as part of your Hormone Diva Survival Kit.
Charting your symptoms as they relate to your menstrual cycle is important. Hormone divas simply have too much on their minds to trust their memories. So I've made a simple chart that will keep your important observations accurate. I've placed a master copy of this chart in Appendix 1 so you'll always have a clean one for each month. Since no two hormone divas have the identical complaints, I've left space for you to put in any symptoms unique to your cycle. Remember Day 1 is the first day you bleed. Rank your symptoms each day using 1 for no symptoms, 2 for mild, 3 for moderately severe and 4 for "feels like hell." You'll see the pattern in no time this way.
Now that you have a firm grasp of "what's normal" I'm going to show you how the other team players can throw a hormonal foul ball your way. Their lineup is composed of thyroid, adrenal and ovarian disorders than can knock your fast pitch out of the ballpark. In order to help you figure out their strategy, I'm going to start with a relevant quiz in each section, so sharpen your pencils.