When it comes to a happy mood, balanced weight, glowing skin, luscious hair, and normal, pain-free periods, there is one hormonal question you need to ask yourself: are you ovulating?
Ovulation is the grand event that happens mid-way through your cycle. After undergoing 100 days of preparation, follicles enter the final race to dominancy. When one follicle finally becomes dominant and is released by the ovary, this is what we call ovulation. And yes, it is the sum of everything you have undergone in the last 100 days. (Meaning that if you were stressed, indulging in alcohol or drugs, or by any means unhealthy in the last 3-ish months, then your hormones and period today can be affected).[1,2]
The Ying and Yang Hormones
In order to feel your absolute best, you must have adequate levels of two very important hormones: oestrogen and progesterone. Together, these hormones are like yin and yang.
Oestradiol is your happy hormone──it lifts you up by boosting serotonin, oxytocin and dopamine. Oestradiol also supports libido, healthy skin, sleep, bones and muscles, and also enhances insulin sensitivity (which helps prevent insulin resistance: a key player in weight gain).[3-5]
Progesterone, on the other hand, calms us down. It acts as GABA on the brain to soothe and nourish. Progesterone also supports sleep, stress, anxiety, and PMS. (A tell-tale sign of low progesterone is premenstrual irritability). [6-8]
How can we make oestrogen and progesterone?
The only way to make adequate levels of oestrogen and progesterone is to ovulate. For those wanting the science, the hypothalamus in the brain secretes a hormone called gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) which stimulates the pituitary gland (also in the brain) to release follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH).These hormones then stimulate the ovaries to secrete oestradiol (the specific type of oestrogen in reproductive-aged women) and progesterone.
When functioning optimally, the hypothalamus gently asks the pituitary and therefore the ovaries to ovulate and make adequate hormone levels. However, in times of stress, what often happens is that the hypothalamus has to yell at the pituitary and then the ovaries to ovulate. This disordered communication is what will drive hormonal anxiety, mood swings, difficulty conceiving, spotting, PCOS, weight gain, irregular periods, acne, hair loss, sore breasts, heavy periods, PMS, the list goes on.
Hormonal balance: The how-to guide
The scientific evidence is clear when it comes to balancing hormones. It starts by supporting ovulation. Here’s what we know...
Hormonal birth control, such as the Oral Contraceptive Pill, suppresses ovulation. While this may momentarily improve period problems and acne, it is a bandaid approach that often comes with a plethora of side effects including weight gain, depression, low libido, hair loss, thyroid dysfunction, and nutrient deficiencies. [10-16]
Stress! Increases the risk of absent ovulation by up to 70%. This is thanks to the hypothalamus. Whenever you are in a state of stress, the hypothalamus basically shuts off the reproductive system as it thinks ‘ok, if we are running away from a lion, the last thing we want to do is bring a baby into the world’.
Environmental toxins─Today, more than 800 chemical products categorized as endocrine disruptors may strongly affect hormonal balance and lead to anovulation. Primarily we are looking at phthalates, parabens, and bisphenols which are commonly found in body wash, moisturiser, makeup, sanitary items, perfume, and household cleaning products. 
Did you know that consumption of processed foods can increase the risk of ovulatory infertility by 73%? Yep, research out of Harvard University shows that each 2% increase in the intake of energy from trans fats (think: cakes, biscuits, sweets, fried foods) negatively affects ovulation and therefore fertility. 
Weight─both too little and too much (often seen in PCOS) weight affects ovulation. When it comes to weight loss, shifting as little as 5% of body weight in women experiencing obesity can restore ovulation. [20-22]
There are many other factors that affect ovulation including thyroid disease, smoking, alcohol consumption, poor sleep, and nutrient deficiencies.[23-30]
While it may seem overwhelming, balancing your hormones can be done! It all starts with working on the factors in your diet and lifestyle that affect ovulation. For additional support, and guidance on testing, click here to book a one-on-one online consultation with Naturopath, Nutritionist & Women’s Health Expert, Georgia Hartmann.
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Holesh, J.R., et al. Physiology, Ovulation. StatPearls,2021. PMID: 28723025.
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 Rettberg, J.R., et al.Estrogen: A master regulator of bioenergetic systems in the brain and body. Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology, 2014.35(1). PMID: 23994581.
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 Roomruangwong, C., et al. Lowered Plasma Steady-State Levels ofProgesterone Combined With Declining Progesterone Levels During the LutealPhase Predict Peri-Menstrual Syndrome and Its Major Subdomains. Frontiers in Psychology, 2019. PMID: 31736837.
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 Endalifer, M.L., et al. The association between combined oralcontraceptive use and overweight/obesity: a secondary data analysis of the 2016Ethiopia Demographic and Health Survey. BMJOpen, 2020. 10(12). PMID: 33361073.
Skovlund, C.W., et al. Association of Hormonal Contraception With Depression. JAMA Psychiatry, 2016. 73(11). PMID: 27680324.
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 Torre, F., et al. Effects of oral contraceptives on thyroidfunction and vice versa. Journal ofEndocrinological Investigation, 2020. 43(9). PMID: 32219692.
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 Goodman,N.F., et al. American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, AmericanCollege of Endocrinology, and Androgen Excess and PCOS Society Disease StateClinical Review: Guide to the Best Practices in the Evaluation and Treatment ofPolycystic Ovary Syndrome - Part 1.Endocrine Practice, 2015. 21(11). PMID: 26509855.
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 Whitcom, B.W., et al. Ovarian function and cigarette smoking inthe BioCycle Study. Paediatric andPerinatal Epidemiology, 2010. 24(5). PMID: 20670224.
 de Angelis, C., et al. Smoke, alcohol and drug addiction andfemale fertility. Reproductive Biology& Endocrinology, 2020. PMID: 32164734.
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About the Author:
Having been diagnosed with Premature Ovarian Failure two years prior to conceiving her first child naturally, Georgia’s passion lies within helping women overcome their hormonal imbalances through the blend of conventional and complementary medicine.
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