Teenagers back in the day would converse about the movies, discuss different study strategies, go out cycling for long hours and were carefree. Unfortunately, today most teenage girls and middle aged women look exhausted, worried, have dry freckled skin and thin dry hair, as most of these women seem to be caught in the vicious circle of hormonal imbalances.
Hormones are specialised kind of fats that are important for our body’s functioning. Endocrine system makes hormones which acts as chemical messengers in the body, travelling from the endocrine system into the bloodstream to the organs and the tissues. The hypothalamus is the regulatory system, which generates the cycle of the hormones.
Before we understand how to tackle these hormonal imbalances in our body, it’s essential we first understand the working and reasons it gets affected.
The most common of all hormonal imbalances in women is PCOS. Sudden weight gain, facial hair, irregular periods, dandruff, pelvic pain, high blood pressure and insulin resistance are unavoidable and common in polycystic ovarian syndrome. PCOS signifies the presence of numerous cysts in the ovaries of a female.
Working of the hormones:
There are a number of different hormones involved in PCOS. All these hormones dictate the fertility process. Follicular cysts in ovaries characterise PCOS, but it is not a disorder of the ovaries itself, it is a disorder of the hormones primarily. The hypothalamus secretes a hormone gnRH-gonodotropin releasing hormone, which stimulates the production of FSH- Follicle stimulating hormone and LH- leutinising hormone. These hormones stimulate the production of the estrogen hormone, which aids in the maturation of the eggs in the ovaries. Estrogen is also important for bone building and is believed to have a positive effect on the cardiovascular system. With the right levels of estrogen, the maturation of eggs takes place and the egg travels through the fallopian tube and enters the uterus.
Then starts the second cycle where progesterone is released. Progesterone helps in the thickening of the uterine wall and prevents further ovulation by either of the ovaries. If the male sperm fertilises the egg, the progesterone release continues and supports the uterine lining. If fertilisation doesn’t occur, the ovary drops down further production of estrogen and progesterone. The sudden fall of both these hormones leads to shedding of the lining of uterus through bleeding, and thus menstruation starts. The lower levels of these hormones stimulates the release of gnRH again and the cycle gets repeated. For some reason, if the ovulation is unsuccessful, or if the release of FSH and LH is not rationalised, it affects further production of all hormones. It also affects the release of the egg in the right place, i.e. the uterus and the follicle becomes a cyst. All these hormones work in tandem with each other. Therefore, a slack at any stage in any of the hormones will lead to an imbalance and cause PCOS.
PCOS cannot have the same effect on every female. In some it is due to anovulation i.e. lack of ovulation, in some it could be due to excess production of estrogen. Excess estrogen gives rise to surplus production of testosterone-the male hormone. Men and women both have estrogen and testosterone in their body, but it’s the amount needed for each hormone in either that differs. Testosterone is a crucial hormone required in men, for the bone mass density and working of their libido. Women don’t need this hormone in excess. An excess of this hormone affects the hair growth resulting in facial hair, rough and coarse hair and anovulation.
What causes PCOS?
Very commonly PCOS occurs due to stress. Stress releases the cortisol hormone in the adrenal glands. The cortisol hormone affects the working of the hypothalamus and thus, the interrelated hormones get disturbed. A lot of times women on birth control pills observe a change in their ovary’s function and the hormones are not released in the exact sequence, disrupting the entire chain of reactions. The overuse of pollutants and preservatives also affects the natural fauna of foods and causes chemical disruption. Many cases of PCOS are also influenced by genetic predisposition. The number of follicles carrying eggs are decided very much at birth. The most important cause is the change in one’s lifestyle and poor dietary habits.
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