5 min read
How the Reproductive System Impacts the Body
The Reproductive system consists of the sex organs and the sex hormones allowing us to reproduce and have babies.
Whilst this sounds simple – and in many ways single minded, the reproductive system is intimately linked to our other body systems in ways you may not have thought about.
Sex hormones can impact the quality of our moods, energy, digestion, libido and even the condition of your skin and hair.
The main reproductive hormones include testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, luteinizing hormone, follicle stimulating hormone, prolactin and human chorionic gonadotrophin hormone (when pregnant).
They all have a rather specific effect within the reproductive system, but they also impact on each other and other hormones and systems in the body.
Too much of one hormone can create an imbalance and can have a flow on effect. A good example of this is the relationship between estrogen and progesterone- these two hormones should co-exist in a healthy balanced ratio.
With increased stress we often see increased estrogen and reduced progesterone. The effect of this is estrogen dominant conditions like heavy periods, fibroids, endometriosis, and even symptoms like low sex drive, anxiety and trouble sleeping.
Quality of Sleep
Our Reproductive Hormones can affect our sleep and insufficient sleep has an impact on our hormonal production and hormonal health.
A drop in progesterone is often negatively correlated with poor sleep. Testosterone is produced when we sleep. Poor sleep can impact on testosterone levels and levels decline the longer you are awake.
Hormones can play a role in mood disorders, specifically anxiety and depression.
Hormonal fluctuations highlight this and we are beginning to see the relationship between estrogens, serotonin and mood.
We often see mood changes associated with PMS, postnatal depression, perimenopause and post menopause.
Our Reproductive hormones can affect our energy levels. Symptoms experienced when our hormones are out of sync often include fatigue.
Low testosterone is often the culprit and this is seen especially in men as they get older and testosterone levels decline.
This is not always the case and we are seeing this in younger males more and more these days.
Declining estrogen and progesterone levels has been shown to affect digestive health.
This is seen most commonly during menstruation and early menopause.
This drop in hormone levels appears to make gastrointestinal symptoms worse, especially in those who experience IBS/IBD.
Condition of Skin and Hair
During pregnancy, women often experience glowing skin and luscious hair.
This is due to the increase in estrogen and progesterone. The opposite also occurs, a drop in these hormones can cause dry, brittle hair and dull, dry skin.
Estrogen is needed for the production of collagen, and as we age these levels decline and more wrinkles appear. Testosterone increases sebum production.
Sometimes (like during puberty) we produce too much and the result is acne. DHT (dihydrotestosterone) is a derivative of testosterone that can cause hair loss/baldness in men and women. Too much testosterone can also cause hirsutism, which is excess male pattern hair growth, in women.
High estrogen levels can contribute to weight gain. The liver is responsible for metabolizing estrogen and these days many of us have overloaded livers. DIM (di-indolymethane), found in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and cabbage, facilitates the metabolism of estrogen.
People experiencing excess estrogen often lose weight just by supporting the liver with DIM. Testosterone is needed for healthy muscle mass and healthy muscle mass helps us maintain a healthy weight.
Low levels of estrogen and testosterone are often seen where there is a low libido. High levels of progesterone can reduce libido too.
How do I take care of my hormones?
Both fat and protein are required to make hormones, so make sure you are eating adequate good fats and quality protein like Clean Lean Protein.
Make sure you are eating lots of vegetables. There are numerous nutrients found in vegetables that support good hormonal health.
Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and brussel sprouts are especially beneficial due to their DIM (di-indolylmethane) content.
If you don’t feel quite right, go get your hormones checked. This will help clarify what your hormones are doing so that you can choose an appropriate intervention.
The information provided in this article is intended for educational purposes only and is general advice. It should not, nor is it intended to be, relied on as a substitute for individual medical advice or care. If the contents of this, or any other of the blogs in this series raises any concerns or questions regarding your health, please consult a qualified healthcare practitioner.