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Your Guide to Happy Hormones

The Basics

When it comes to optimizing our hormonal health and well-being, starting with the very basics can seem almost too simple. We are programmed to think that a pill or a potion has the capacity to fix us faster and better. The truth is, if we don’t have the basic foundations of health in place like quality sleep, getting out in nature, moving our bodies daily and consuming water than all of that money we shell out on products, pills and potions will be a waste.  

I get it, changing our behaviors can be hard which is why the lure of a pill or potion is so strong!  When navigating implementing new behavior changes, I urge you to reflect on your values; your WHY for making the change. This is the first powerful step to creating a sustainable shift in your behavior. Secondly, start small and change what aligns with your life right now. Forget the shoulds or the all or nothing mindset. What is one thing that seems manageable and maybe even exciting for you to implement in this moment?

sleep is essential for happy hormonesSleep

When it comes to happy hormones we must prioritize sleep. While recognizing that everyone’s life is different and access to a good night sleep can be difficult or seemingly impossible depending on your work or familial responsibilities. Identify what your barriers are for sleep and try to address them.

Are you staring at a blue light past 8PM? When your body is exposed to light (especially blue light) past sunset, it can disrupt the communication between your brain and your ovaries.  Put the phone/laptop/tablet down and pick up that book that’s been collecting dust on your bedside table. Maybe when you first get into bed, squeeze in a mini meditation. Insight Timer is a free app and has many meditations designed to help you drift off to sleep. 

Get into the sun EVERYDAY! Sunlight regulates our circadian rhythm allowing us to sleep more soundly at night. This may not be easy for everyone! If you live in a place that doesn’t always see the sun like in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, then get your Vitamin D levels checked (in an ideal world your levels would be around 50) and talk to your healthcare practitioner about supplementation. Vitamin D is critical for hormone balance.

Managing stress

The physiological response to stress can have many different causes:  

  • food sensitivities or allergies 
  • past traumas 
  • negative self-talk, perfectionist tendencies, people pleasing
  • family
  • work
  • finances
  • climate change
  • over-exercising

The list goes on. How does this impact our hormones? When we are stressed the hormone cortisol is released.  In small bouts, this is normal and healthy. However, many of us are in hyper drive and in response our adrenals are pump out excess amounts of cortisol. The big issue is progesterone, the hormone that keeps us feeling calm and at peace, is the precursor to cortisol. When we are in a state of stress our adrenals require progesterone in order create cortisol. Progesterone is also responsible for nourishing and maintaining the endometrial lining of our uterus for an embryo to be implanted and carried to term. 

When we’re stressed all of the time, regardless of what that stressor is, our progesterone levels can be diminished quickly causing an imbalance between estrogen and progesterone. When estrogen is the dominant hormone we are susceptible to a whole bunch of unsavory symptoms like anxiety, breast tenderness and night sweats. 

So where do we begin? Identify some of your biggest sources of stress. Can you remove ONE item off of your plate or modify it in some way? 

Then, identify what brings you to a state of relaxation. That feeling where you can (almost) let go of all that is demanding your attention. This can be as simple as taking three deep breaths, which is scientifically proven to engage your parasympathetic nervous system and downregulate your stress response. Try out one of the many different forms of meditation or yoga.  Go for a walk outside or take five minutes to laugh and connect with a family member or friend.

Identify what it is that allows you to let go of your daily worries, even if just for a moment. Do your best to incorporate your chosen technique as often as possible. It does not have to be perfect, just easy to implement so that it serves as respite and not another chore to add to your already overflowing plate. Inhale. Exhale.

Environmental Toxins

We live in a world where there are toxins in almost every thing we come in contact with from the food we eat to the products we put on our bodies. One of the biggest hindrances on our hormonal health are endocrine disruptors. Xenoestrogens are found as naturally occurring compounds in plants or in synthetic chemicals. Both types of xenoestrogens can interfere with our hormonal communication due to the similarity in molecular structure to the hormones we naturally produce in our body.

Some places to explore decreasing your exposures to endocrine disruptors are:

  • Switch your natural beauty products. (makeup, shampoo/conditioner, body lotion, deodorant). Look for products that that are free from phthalates.
  • Do your best to consume mostly organic fruits, vegetables and dairy products and grass fed, free range meat.
  • Switch to natural cleaning products.
  • Filter your drinking water. You can check out what toxins are in your city’s water source by going to EWG.com.

This topic is vast and can be overwhelming for many including myself. My suggestion is to start with what sounds easy and accept that we will never rid our lives of all toxins, our bodies are resilient and we can only do our best.

Remember, before anything else, identify why you want to make a change. This step is crucial when you are tempted to go back to your old habits. Then choose one or two things from this list that you would like to implement. Behavior change is a process that does not happen overnight. Starting with these three areas will set a solid foundation for any additional forms of healing you include in your wellness routine. 


If you have questions or concerns about your menstrual cycle or are curious about working with Lizzy, please set up a free 30-minute consultation on her website: www.lizzymoran.com

Want to have a deeper understanding of your menstrual cycle? Check out Lizzy’s first blog post in the series.

Understanding the Menstrual Cycle

A Shared Experience

There was a time in the not too distant past where I viewed my period like many humans in the world who have a uterus: a painful burden that brought acne, bloating, rage in my veins and an overwhelming craving for Cheez Its and Ben & Jerry’s. My understanding of my monthly bleeding was simplified down to two basic understandings; Because of the anatomy I was born with, I was destined to endure a shameful, painful, ‘dirty’ experience every month for at least three decades AND I wasn’t pregnant.

I am not alone in this experience. Many of us are kept in the dark about our menstrual cycles due to lack of sufficient education coupled with false beliefs perpetuated by society. The truth is our menstrual cycle is important for reasons other than creating more humans. The fluctuation of our sex hormones like estrogen and progesterone, throughout a healthy menstrual cycle can have an overwhelmingly positive effect on our energy, libido, skin, bone health, emotional wellbeing, metabolism, and productivity.

A Vital Sign

The menstrual cycle is also considered a vital sign by both the American Academy of Pediatrics and The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Yes, a vital sign. Like our heart rate, respiratory rate and blood pressure. The information our bodies are giving us through presence of pain, amount of menstrual blood, regularity of bleeding, mood and energy can give us essential insights into our overall health.

This article is not to shame you for feeling disgust, or indifference towards your menstrual cycle. This article is also not to make you feel as though you should add one more item to your list of things that make you ‘imperfect’ because what I describe below is not your current reality and never has been. I am writing this article to share information that we ALL should have learned years ago. Maybe then something as natural and essential for life as menstruation wouldn’t be so taboo.

I will explain below what a healthy menstrual cycle can look like. This can serve as a baseline to reference. Please keep in mind that there is no ‘perfect’ cycle and that slight variabilities will occur due to stress levels and your health. I invite you to start noticing your own cycle and how you feel throughout the month. Take note when you notice something out of your ordinary. If it becomes a persistent issue, I urge you to seek to support from a trusted healthcare practitioner. Our bodies are giving us signals constantly on what they need in order to function optimally. We need to start listening with compassion and curiosity instead of judgment.

Let’s dive in!

The Phases

There are four phases to the menstrual cycle:

  • Menstruation (the bleeding part of the Follicular Phase)
  • Follicular phase (the non-bleeding part of the Follicular phase)
  • Ovulation
  • The Luteal phase

The menstrual cycle encompasses ALL of these phases, not just menstruation. In fact, a menstrual cycle is only considered healthy if ovulation has been confirmed (more on this below!) A healthy menstrual cycle should last between 24-35 days. It begins on day one of your flow (not spotting) and ends the day preceding your next first day of flow.

I want to mention hormonal birth control because many forms work by suppressing ovulation. If you are currently on the pill or some other form of hormonal BC, what I describe below may not be your current reality. We all have goals and maybe yours is to avoid getting pregnant because you are having heterosexual sex. I am providing this information because you or a loved one has female reproductive organs and therefore should have a basic understanding of how they work.

Here’s a closer look at the 4 phases:

Menstruation (Lasts 3-7 days)

  • Consistency and color of blood matter! Your period should resemble some variation of red from the color of cranberry juice to a deep burgundy. The consistency should resemble that of maple syrup with little (no larger than a dime) to no clots.
  • 25ml (roughly half a shot glass) to 80ml (roughly 2 shot glasses) is a normal volume of menstrual blood to lose each cycle.
  • Your key sex hormones (estrogen, testosterone and progesterone) are at their lowest, which can cause you to feel tired and low energy. If your schedule allows, take some time to rest. Perhaps a quiet night at home watching a movie or journaling.
  • Your cervix is at its lowest and feels like the tip of your nose.
  • Light pain or cramping is normal. Moderate to extreme levels of pain are not and could be caused by inflammation due to nutrition and lifestyle or another underlying health condition.
  • If you are experiencing pain, having an orgasm may help! When we orgasm, a hormone called oxytocin is released which has been found to suppress low levels of pain! And don’t fret if you’ve never had an orgasm before. Check out The O School ….. You’re welcome.

Follicular Phase (Lasts 7-10 days)

  • As estrogen and testosterone rise to peak levels, our energy increases.
  • Your mood may improve as you progress further into this phase due to the increase in estrogen. Estrogen supports the healthy production of serotonin and dopamine in the brain.
  • The increase in estrogen as you approach ovulation will also influence your cervical fluid to change from a drier or sticky consistency (not fertile mucus) to a more wet, slippery or egg white consistency (fertile).

Ovulation (3-5 days)

  • The mature follicle in one of your two ovaries bursts and releases an egg that travels into your fallopian tube. A temporary endocrine gland called the Corpus Luteum will grow on the follicle that burst. Yes, we are aliens. This temporary endocrine gland that grows and disintegrates every cycle is responsible for the progesterone surge that we will receive for the remaining two weeks of our cycle. If we conceive, then your progesterone will continue to rise. Without ovulation, we do not receive this surge of progesterone.
  • The actual event of ovulation takes seconds, but the physiological effects on mood, energy, and even appearance can last days.
  • Progesterone has a thermogenic effect which means that our body temperature is warmer during the second half of our menstrual cycle.
  • Estrogen and testosterone are at their peak levels which can contribute to increased sex drive, improved mood and high energy. Take advantage! Go on a date, hang out with friends or try something new!
  • Studies have shown that we have increased verbal skills during this time. Personally, I input my entire cycle into my google calendar and try to plan all my speaking engagements around ovulation.

How do we confirm ovulation?

  1. Your cervical fluid is a wet consistency, like egg whites, boogery, slippery, watery and clear in appearance. Fertility, regardless of whether you choose to use it or not, is a good indicator that you are healthy! So, let’s celebrate cervical fluid!
  2. Your cervix is soft, high, open and wide.
  3. Your basal body temperature, has increased and remained higher for three consecutive days. You can determine your BBT by taking your temperature first thing in the morning, ideally around the same time every day, before doing anything else.

Luteal Phase (10-16 days)

  • After ovulation estrogen and testosterone will slowly decline with a slight increase mid luteal phase. The predominant hormone in this half of our cycle is progesterone.
  • Progesterone keeps us feeling calm and peaceful.
  • 5-7 days out from menstruation we may begin to feel more withdrawn, tired and less social. This is NORMAL! If possible, make plans to incorporate more low-key activities: long walks, naps, baths or even saying “no” to one more social engagement. Your body and mind will thank you!

With a greater understanding of how your cycle impacts you on a daily basis, you can feel empowered to make daily decisions that feel nourishing to your mind, body and spirit. In addition, the increased awareness of your cycle will allow you to better advocate for your health if you notice something that is out of the norm.

Resources on Menstrual and Hormonal Health:

Period Repair Manual by Lara Briden
The Fifth Vital Sign by Lisa Hendrickson-Jack
The Period Party Podcast with Nicole Jardim (my mentor!) and Nat Kringoudis
Fertility Friday Podcast with Lisa Hendrickson-Jack


If you have questions or concerns about your menstrual cycle or are curious about working together, please set up a free 30-minute consultation on my website: www.lizzymoran.com

If you would like to dive even deeper into understanding your menstrual cycle and holistic ways you can support yourself throughout the month, please sign up for my newsletter. I am planning some exciting workshops around this topic for the Fall and would love to see you there! In addition, if you are interested in inviting me to lead a workshop at your place of work, book club or yoga studio please contact me at wellwomen@lizzymoran.com

Information in this post is provided for informational purposes only. The information is a result of practice experience and research by the author. This information is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional or any information contained on or in any product label or packaging. Information and statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Always speak with your physician or other healthcare professional before taking any medication or nutritional, herbal or homeopathic supplement, or using any treatment for a health problem.

Endometriosis – A Health Journey

My Endometriosis Story

I had painful periods for over 20 years, starting when I was 16. I accepted this as normal and incurable all the way back then. What medicine could not fix, I was told pregnancy eventually would. I thought the pain, nausea, vomiting, etc. were just how my body worked, endometriosis was never part of the conversation.

About 15 years ago, I started developing other symptoms as well, such as GI issues, yo-yoing thyroid hormone levels, abnormal ovarian cysts, and malabsorption issues that no provider could fully diagnose. These additional symptoms were weirdly cyclical in a way I could not pinpoint at first, but after multiple tests and procedures – ultrasounds, an MRI, a colonoscopy, tests for parasites and many blood tests – found nothing really wrong with me, I started keeping a detailed diary of my symptoms.

Because I had long accepted the incurable nature of my painful periods, my diary was initially a way for me to keep track of these “other” symptoms, but over time I started to wonder if they actually could be related to my periods. My symptom diary led me to think back about when I first started to feel sick and began to try different herbs and foods as remedies. That took me back 20 years to the first time I felt sick on my period – I was so ill, vomiting so much that I couldn’t leave the bathroom, and I was in pain.

Once I noticed that connection, I began to research with the knowledge that all the symptoms I had outside of my period were way worse during my period – so maybe that was the place of origin. After watching a documentary called Endo What?, I started to suspect I had endometriosis before any provider had a chance to diagnose me.

endometriosis excision post-operation

On February 18, 2019, I had surgery to excise endometriosis. At the same time, my gallbladder was removed, as well as my appendix. My gallbladder was chronically inflamed and functioning at a level of only 3% – only the second lowest level my surgeon had ever seen, and the lowest was 0%. My appendix was scarred and wrapped around behind my colon, where it was attached. Endometriosis was found on my sigmoid colon, cul-de-sac, rectovaginal septum, left and right uterosacral ligaments, left and right pelvic sidewalls, and my right ovary was scarred down with endo and attached to my pelvic sidewall.

Almost every day, I notice myself feeling better. It’s crazy because since my symptoms were so chronic, I had learned to live with them – and with some of the symptoms the truth of their existence occurs to me when I no longer feel them. I am going to pelvic physical therapy to address the dysfunction that is happening in my muscles and nerves after years of pain and symptoms. I’m working on getting stronger through movement. Endo is a chronic, life-long condition, but I am hoping I continue feeling the benefits of excision surgery and other lifestyle modifications. It is possible I will need more treatment later, but I will cross that bridge when I come to it

In the last week, I have also been diagnosed with celiac disease, and I hope that going strictly gluten free will alleviate even more of my symptoms. This is all a process, and I hope that in 6 months, I feel better than I have in many years.

freedom from endometriosisFor so long, women’s health has been focused on fertility, and I think that it’s the truly upsetting thing – that we are only concerned with a woman’s health when it hinders her ability to conceive. Even the stages of endometriosis correspond mostly to fertility – the higher the stage, the more infertility is expected. But the stages do not illustrate how much pain or symptoms are present, nor do they indicate where in the body endometriosis was found.

As women our health is tied to our menstrual cycles and the hormones made by them, but fertility or lack thereof is not the only indication that a cycle has gone awry. And, we need our hormones for more than just reproduction. I read this somewhere and can’t recall where: Would a man ever be told he doesn’t need testosterone until he’s ready to be a father?

As a yoga teacher and someone steeped since childhood in the world of “unconventional” medicine, I often notice anger in those who hear my story. They are frustrated at how long it took for doctors to listen to me and for me to find skilled care. It is true that Western medicine took a long time to diagnose me, but naturopathic, functional medicine did not diagnose me, either. And highly specialized, highly experienced Western medicine has also saved me with endometriosis excision surgery and detection of celiac. There are so many providers out there on both “sides” who want to learn more and want to do good, but the true symptom profile of endometriosis is still unknown to most doctors and patients.

To many, it is still seen as simply painful cramps, and trouble with conceiving. In my body and in the bodies of so many other women, it is much, much more than that.

endometriosis resourcesEndometriosis Resources

  • EndoWhat.org – start with watching the documentary.
  • Nancy’s Nook Endometriosis Education – an online patient community on Facebook. This group is more for research purposes than support, though you will find support as well through education.
  • Greater Seattle Endometriosis Group – also a community on Facebook. They host meetups throughout the year, and have more localized PNW resources than Nancy’s Nook will. I found my pelvic floor physical therapist through this group.

About Endometriosis

(info from Nancy’s Nook, EndoWhat, etc.)

  • Endometriosis – when tissue similar to the lining of the uterus that sheds each month during a period implants itself in places outside of the uterus. It can be found on the ovaries, uterus, uterine ligaments, appendix, bowels, fallopian tubes, lungs, liver, brain, etc. It causes inflammation and pain (though some can have it without any pain).
  • Endo can be found in anyone born with a uterus, and, though rare, has also been found in cis men.
  • Laparoscopic excision surgery is the gold standard of treatment today, and reoccurrence rates are much lower than for ablation
  • Endometriosis is rarely seen on imaging tests, such as ultrasound, MRI, or CT scan. The only way to definitively diagnose and treat endo is with surgery.
  • Excision does not equal ablation – ablation is like burning the top layer, leaving the “root” of the lesion intact. Excision is removing the lesion at the root.
  • It takes an average of 10 years for a person to be diagnosed with endometriosis.
  • Hormonal birth control (includes Lupron, Orlissa, and the Pill) is often prescribed for endometriosis, but its use is now understood by endo specialists to be palliative only. Hormonal birth control does not shrink lesions or make them disappear. If it helps symptoms, that is great, but beyond that it does not treat endo. Lupron and Orlissa often have terrible side effects that do not go away once the medication is stopped.
  • Pregnancy is not a cure for endometriosis. While many people do have a reduction in symptoms while pregnant, that is not true for everyone. And symptoms can come back with a vengeance after pregnancy and breastfeeding are complete.
  • Hysterectomy is not a cure for endometriosis. Endo is a disease that by definition occurs outside of the uterus. Removing the uterus does not remove endometriosis. Removing the ovaries (an oophorectomy) does not cause lesions to shrink either – endo lesions can make their own estrogen, so they do not need the ovaries to persist.

Going to the Doctor – When you think you have endo (but also anything else)

Some of these are my own, some I’ve heard along the way.

  • Make a list of concerns you want to cover, and any questions.
  • Make a separate doctor’s appointment for each concern you have (i.e. don’t tack on a question about possible endometriosis to your yearly check-up – give it its own space.)
  • Be direct and as concise as can be.
  • Practice describing your pain and when you have it. Is it hot? Stabbing? Does it feel like pulling? Does it happen all the time? How long have you had it? Do any movements or positions make it better, or worse?
  • ALWAYS ask for records, and read them. It is much easier to do this right after the office or hospital visit rather than years later. It is in my record from an ER visit in 2011 when I had classic appendicitis symptoms “patient admits she may have overindulged at her wedding two weeks ago.”  
  • At the end of the visit, re-cap what was covered with your doctor, so that you both are on the same page.
  • If the treatment does not work, and you still think that doctor can help you, go back and say the treatment did not work. Or if you find the answer through another provider, share that record with your previous doctor, so they get feedback.

Written by Collective member Lindsey Toledo, a local yoga teacher who lives on Vashon Island. Follow her on Instagram, or stay connected by joining her email list or sending her an email.