I just learned this stuff and wanted to share. I hope it helps you all.
Last Tuesday evening I attended a class about female hormonal imbalances. The issues regarding hormonal levels is that they may be normal on blood levels, but symptomatic (menstrual pain, moodiness, endometriosis, tired, difficulty conceiving, insomnia, hair loss, etc.). The blood levels were discussed as *available* hormones BUT with poor utilization by the body, they aren't effective. The utilization efficiency is dependent upon many interrelated nutrients and other hormones. Interestingly, cortisol is a huge variable associated with effective uptake of the hormones progesterone (especially), estrogen and testosterone, AND thyroid. High corisol levels cause hormone resistance and block the utilization of the hormones. Many post partum women have disturbances in their cortisol (due to STRESS!!) and thyroid uptake becomes interferred with too. Evidently, progesterone levels, associated with mood stability, start decreasing precipitously about age 35 naturally. Low progesterone = mood changes.
The recommendation was to have saliva testing of these hormones, instead of blood level evaluation. And it should include the saliva levels of cortisol and thyroid. Pregnancy and breastfeeding alter these sex hormones and nutrient variables are critical in the uptake and utilization ability of the blood, especially in the brain neurosynthesis of these hormones. These hormones effect the immune system, and seratonin is associated with sleep and estrogen. (I was taking notes.) The progesterone level evaluated in saliva is critical as most women at age 35 are low in progesterone, irrelevant of recent pregnancy or breastfeeding even. Pregnancy alters all of these hormones, as does breastfeeding.
Apparently, there are synthetic hormone replacements (HRT) and bio-identical hormone replacements (BHRT). (I had never heard much about this issue before now.) Anyway, the BHRT are more able to be utilized by the body because of their "fit" with (proteins or amino acids, I believe) in order to be used rather than freely "available" in the blood. Does this make sense? Basically, HRT and even our own hormones may appear to be adequate in quantity. according to the blood level, but the the interaction of other hormones and nutrients (specifically deficiencies) means that they are not effectively used. So, the suggestion was to have each of the sex hormones evaluated in saliva and replaced specifically (as necessary) with bio-identical repacements (BHRT). Evidently, the reason that most HRT used by the medical profession is HRT, is because HRT is marketed. BHRT are naturally derived and MUCH less expensive and don't hold the profit potential.
Apparently, BHRT are *derived* from Wild Mexican Yams and Soy and made to be chemcially identical to our natural hormones. Although, food consumption of these foods in huge quantities would NOT be as useful or efficient an effort to "replace" the hormones. The natural derivative of the hormones is chemically dissimilar, ie. phytoestrogen is NOT the same as a bio-identical hormone. Confused as mud? I was a critical care nurse for 17 years and I am a bit confused. So, I am giving my best understanding, but this is NOT my area of specialty. I was a cardio-thorasic nurse. BUT, I am now 43 and ummmm....needing to understand this stuff better.
BTW, endometriosis is associated with progesterone levels. I too have endo too. And progesterone is associated with the utilization of estrogen...which all needs to be in balance to conceive and carry babies to term. All of this is interestingly connected. Frankly, I have written all I know. So, I am not more help than knowing that I need more info! And Magnesium (and many other nutrients) are critical to the immune system and the hormones, if I recall correctly. And most of us are low in Magnesium, especially after pregnancy and while breast feeding.
The book "Menopause & The Mind" was a referenced resource for the lay person about the interaction of hormones and moods. I am going to seek it out. Another author knowledgable about hormones and women is Susan Weed. She has several books about different stages in a woman's life: childbearing years, premenopausal, etc. I haven't read her books, but a friend recommended them. And John Lee writes about hormone balancing in relation to diet, supplements and exercise.
HTH, Pat Robinson