Every month, I host a LIVE Q/A in our very special membership area. A place for people like you to land and explore your health, safely. This month we dug into the Ovarian – Adrenal – Thyroid Axis (OAT axis). Aka the relationship between a few of your essential hormone making or regulating endocrine glands. Whilst preparing for the LIVE (I tend to look into research, I love to feed my brain like that!), I started to think about how many women (yet again) were being affected by the pill; being told it was supporting their health positively. I wish it did. However like all medications, the pill has some pretty hefty side effects yet we’re not necessarily informed when we commence taking them, nor are we generally supporting our body in its attempt to compensate for their effects. We’ve spoken about the pill oh-so-many times here (just go and type ‘the pill’ into the search function above), its effects, how you might lose your hair after you’ve taken it… but one very common worry of my patients especially those with issues like PCOS or amenorrhea is that they have been told if they don’t take the pill, they aren’t looking after their bones. Righto. Here’s some food for thought.
During the LIVE chat, we dug into the function of the ovaries and their role in hormone production. Oestrogen is produced in the ovaries, the adrenals and in our fat cells (wow what a bonus… since oestrogen feeds fat cells) whilst progesterone is predominantly produced by the corpus luteum (the site from where the mature follicle exist the ovary at the event of ovulation) and a small amount in the adrenals also.
Most of us are living at a time where our oestrogen has gone troppo due to our surrounds, diet and lifestyle. Oestrogen dominance is rife and whilst it’s easy to consider it the enemy, we need oestrogen as sure as we need the sun to shine, without it we can’t build a lining to prepare for pregnancy or a period (wherever you’re at), we can’t make other hormones like progesterone or testosterone, nor do we mature as a women. Oestrogen rules. Progesterone is equally as necessary, not only to support a pregnancy or trigger your next period but equally to feel good and alive, sleep well and have happy and healthy bones to name a few. Your life needs a good mix of both and sadly this is where the crux of so many women’s hormone issues like.
Progesterone acts as an antagonist to oestrogen.
Oestrogen builds your lining, progesterone comes along and strips it away.
Oestrogen may be responsible for your salt and water retention, progesterone is your body’s own diuretic. Ever noticed you get puffy before you ovulate perhaps – now you know why.
Excess oestrogen is linked to cancers, progesterone has the opposing effect.
But you can’t have one without the other. Oestrogen is your yin. Progesterone is your yang. They always want to wrestle with each other like two moody teenagers but they cannot exist alone. Chinese Medicine theory bases everything on this philosophy. I love its simplicity.
The hard part is, your hormones change with age and unfortunately for you and I, try as we might, those clocks just don’t go backwards. From our mid 30’s until our 50’s women may see a reduction of up to 75% in the production of progesterone whilst old mate oestrogen declines by approximately half as much (approx. 35%). If one is dependent on the other and oestrogen is escalating due to reasons outside of age, we’re talking pretty hefty hormone imbalance.
But here’s what you came here for. If the pill flatlines your hormones and you don’t get this special build and release of oestrogen and progesterone each month, your ovaries become effectively, stagnant. They have no output, they aren’t releasing follicles each month (because you can’t ovulate whilst you’re on the pill nor do you have a period, you experience a monthly withdrawal bleed), they aren’t needed to release hormones in their usual way because the pill’s job is to stop that from happening just by being in your system due to high (very high) amounts of both hormones, synthetically.
But your bones, they need progesterone as it supports healthy growth. Now I’m concluding that the standalone reason healthcare practitioners may suggest you need to take the pill (or other synthetic contraception) to protect your bones is due to the combination of oestrogen and progesterone or perhaps because they have been told that it ‘protects your bones.’ However sadly as we know, the OCP and its friends begin to upset good gut function and healthy gut flora reducing immunity and digestive health, depleting vitamin and mineral stores (needed for good bones amongst every single other body function) and can leave your liver pretty unhappy too (and that’s just a few of its effects). Recently a large study confirmed that the pill has been linked to depression and anxiety. It’s also widely accepted it has been linked to cancers especially breast and other reproductive types.
So really – can the pill protect your bones? Unlikely.
I went hunting and I found this; According to a study published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of Canada, “the pill” is the most commonly used hormonal contraceptive. While convenient and easy to access, it leaves no woman’s body unaltered, often affecting body composition, bone density and mood swings, according to an article published in Dec. 2012 issue of Women’s Health.
It becomes so important that we understand our body well and learn the inner crux of why our hormones are imbalanced, synthetic contraception or not. Hormone imbalance is from a host of issues but what’s more, it’s essential we understand how it’s truly messing up our body’s and tools as to how we can address it.
Anyway, I know that is A LOT, but truthfully it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Your endocrine system is epic and the OAT axis may seem complicated but it can answer many of your questions in relation to your hormone issues (like high oestrogen because of an unhappy thyroid or low progesterone because of your tired adrenals) and you may need to understand it to really get to the inner core of why your hormones do more partying than you’ll ever do. I did my best to make it simple in the members LIVE chat. It’s not too late to catch the replay.
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