Hormones are chemical messengers that regulate virtually every function in your body, from hunger to growth to reproduction to mood stability and more. Needless to say, they’re pretty important!
For people who have ovaries and are of reproductive age, hormones also regulate the menstrual cycle. Four key cycle hormones take the lead here, controlling the processes that prepare the body for menstruation or pregnancy each month: follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), estrogen, luteinizing hormone (LH), and progesterone.
Our bodies are pretty complicated! And unfortunately the fine points of hormone balance haven’t always gotten the attention they deserve when it comes to healthcare and health education. This can make symptoms that are already unpleasant even more difficult to manage. But it doesn’t have to be that way!
Just a little information about the menstrual cycle and typical hormone balance ratios can go a long way toward helping you understand your health and wellness. Specifically, we’ll take a close look at the two most important hormone balance dynamics: the estrogen-progesterone ratio and the LH-FSH ratio.
In a healthy cycle during the reproductive years, estrogen is the dominant hormone during the first half of the cycle, meaning levels should be high. Progesterone, on the other hand, is dominant during the second half of the cycle.
Ideally estrogen and progesterone should rise to similar levels at their respective points in the cycle. Think of it like a seesaw: when one side goes up, the other side should also go up to the same height.
When estrogen and progesterone levels are out of balance, a whole bunch of unwelcome symptoms can result.
LH and FSH both rise the first half of the cycle, when the body is getting ready for ovulation. In a healthy cycle during the reproductive years, LH and FSH should be balanced, meaning they rise in equal proportion to each other.
Studies show that higher LH levels in comparison to FSH levels when measured at the same point in the cycle may indicate polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is a hormonal imbalance condition characterized by elevated androgen (male sex hormone) levels, polycystic ovaries, and insulin resistance. People with PCOS often have elevated LH levels for their entire cycle, which can lead to problems with ovulation that make it more difficult to get pregnant.
On the other hand, elevated FSH levels in comparison to LH levels may indicate low ovarian reserve, a sign that you’ve entered the perimenopausal transition.
While the root causes behind hormone imbalance symptoms can be complex, a few symptoms are fairly common:
• Vaginal dryness or discomfort
• Problems sleeping
• Loss of libido
• Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or mood concerns
• Unexplained weight gain or loss
• Skin issues, including acne, wrinkles, dullness, etc.
• Hot flashes
• Night sweats
Getting a handle on the status of your hormones can be a big boost for your peace of mind — especially if you’re grappling with unwanted symptoms! And whether you’re in the reproductive years or experiencing the perimenopause transition, the path to understanding your hormones is the same: testing.
Hormone testing used to be done primarily in a doctor’s office, but today we have a variety of at-home DIY hormone test and menopause test options, too. Often, people find at-home testing to be the best first step, following up with a doctor later on if needed.
(We are huge champions of at-home testing! But please note that we always recommend discussing serious concerns with your doctor, and checking with a doctor before initiating any type of supplement treatment to balance your hormones.)
If you choose to go the at-home route, understanding a little bit about the different hormones is key to knowing which test is right for you. Here’s a quick rundown on common tests for hormone imbalance and menopause.
FSH is the least expensive, quickest menopause test — all you need is an at-home, urine-based test kit. FSH patterns vary depending on how many eggs you have left on-hand, so measuring FSH levels with Proov FSH tests can give insight into what your ovarian reserve looks like. This is an important indicator of how close you are to menopause.
Estrogen and progesterone interact in a complex balance during the reproductive years, and this balance changes during perimenopause. The Proov multihormone strip (found only in Proov Complete) assesses both estrogen and progesterone by measuring E1G and PdG — markers of the two hormones that are detectable in urine.
Depending on your stage of life, there are all kinds of great reasons to explore natural hormone balancers like seed cycling, supplements and dietary adjustments.
If you’re trying to conceive, maintaining a healthy cycle can go a long way toward helping you reach your goal quickly. If you’re struggling with symptoms of hormone imbalance like mood swings or difficult periods, natural hormone balancers can help shift the dynamics in your favor. And if you’re in perimenopause, the hormone balancers mentioned below can help provide gentle, safe relief for many of the symptoms that are common during these transitional years.
Common seeds like pumpkin, flax, sesame, and sunflower have more to offer than just a delicious crunch! These tasty wonders are high in plant compounds that naturally support cycle hormones. “Seed cycling” is the practice of eating certain seeds during specific phases of your cycle to promote overall hormone balance.
During the first half of your cycle (or the first 2 weeks of the month if you’re in perimenopause or menopause and no longer cycle regularly), you’ll eat 2 tablespoons each of pumpkin and flax seeds every day. These seeds promote healthy estrogen production.
During the second half of your cycle — or the last 2 weeks of the month — you’ll transition to 2 tablespoons of sesame and sunflower seeds daily. These promote healthy progesterone production.
While there isn’t yet much scientific evidence supporting a seed cycle, the anecdotal evidence shows that it can improve some of the symptoms of hormone imbalance.
Several types of natural, plant-based supplements that can help support healthy hormone levels. Many of these have been used for hundreds of years! To support progesterone production, you can try vitex, maca, and ashwagandha. Bonus: you can find all 3 of these herbs in Proov’s Pro herbal supplement!
Herbals like black cohosh, dong quai, red clover, and evening primrose oil have been shown to support estrogen production, all of which can be found in Proov's Boost herbal supplement. Remember to always chat with your doctor before adding any new supplement to your regimen.
While foods do not directly contain hormones like estrogen and progesterone, some foods can impact the production of these hormones, or mimic their effects. For instance, spinach, kale, pumpkin, nuts, and beans can help support natural progesterone production. If you’re concerned about excess estrogen, it may be smart to avoid soy products and tofu, as these contain plant compounds similar to estrogen (known as “phytoestrogens”).
Above all, we always recommend consulting your doctor to develop the best approach for your hormone health. Testing, supplements and diet or lifestyle changes are all great steps toward working with your hormones — not fighting against them — to reach your life and health goals.