Since I was a young woman embarking on puberty I have only ever known (and been taught) that female hormones are a nuisance. Even the language surrounding periods is negative with phrases like “the monthly curse” being widely circulated. In the very little that I did get taught in my biology lessons about female hormones it was mainly in conjunction with the reproductive system. However, since having babies myself and realising that there is SO MUCH MORE to hormones that we are never taught at school, so much more that even some doctors aren’t aware, so much more that we could be doing to help ourselves, I wanted to delve deeper into female biohacking and find the companies that are helping us understand our hormones more and how we can even use them to our advantage.
As Angelique Panagos, describes in her book the balance plan; Six Steps to Optimise Your Hormonal Health (published by aster) “If your menstrual cycle is the dance, then where does the music come from? Consider your hormones like a symphony, conducted by the endocrine system, which is made up of a number of glands and organs. These include the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, thyroid, pancreas, adrenal glands and ovaries (in females) and the testes (in males). They may seem unrelated, but they communicate and work together, the way different instruments make up an orchestra.” I love this analogy of how hormones are striving to work together in harmony as it is this music that they make that we can use to our advantage. The word ‘hormone’ is actually derived from the Greek word ‘hormon’ which simply means ‘to set in motion’, which is what hormones do, they create and trigger activity in different parts of the body, and it’s about understanding what is going on, on a more cyclical level and working with that flow, so to speak.
One brand that is looking at our hormonal cycle and using it to our advantage, is Jennis, the brand founded by Olympic athlete Jessica Ennis. Jennis CycleMapping is an a new training programme that helps women optimise their hormonal health by mapping the right training sessions to the four phases of their menstrual cycle. Created in collaboration with Jennis physiologist, Dr Emma Ross, the programme is designed to improve hormone imbalances, increase energy levels, reduce PMT and provide more efficient fitness gains.This is period power at its best.
When it came to female athletes and their health and performance, Dr Ross could not find anything to give them as a best practice manual of how to get the most out of their bodies. As an academic researcher and physiologist, Dr Ross’s role for many years was (and still is in many ways) to research and ask some important health questions, innovate – which is where she ended up working in hormone monitoring and to educate women athletes about their menstrual cycle and to educate female athletes about their hormones. “I hate the word hormonal” says Dr Ross “We are all hormonal, all of the time and that is why we are alive. It should not be reserved exclusively for women in the days before their period arrives, it is a brilliant part of our body that helps us be healthy and happy and resilient.” It is this thinking that led Dr Ross to work with Olympian, Jessica Ennis. After the birth of her first son and her return to athletics soon after, Ennis’s eyes were opened (like many women after they give birth) to the multitude of different hormones in her body and how different they made her feel. Being an athlete of such a high standard, Ennis felt so fortunate that she was able to access the information and support whilst facing these hormonal changes and being advice how best to work with them, but her friends who were not in the sporting world were not so lucky. This gave Ennis a brilliant idea – to provide the support that she had via an app to help women like me and you also harness the power of our hormones and work with our cycles to not only improve fitness and agility but also boost mood and mental health too. For Jess and her team, Jennis CycleMapping is far more than a training programme. It provides an important platform to open up conversations around hormones, periods and the menstrual cycle. Dr Emma Ross says: “Jennis CycleMapping doesn’t just give you workouts, it gives you the knowledge and tools to understand the power in your body, then tap into that power. By helping women and girls understand their hormones and talk about them in a way we never have before, we will change lives, heal hormone imbalances and really change the game.”
Another brand that is helping women understand more about their hormone profile is the at-home blood-test company that allows you to access specific health information about yourself, Thriva. Having recently just launched four new tests dedicated to women’s health, Thriva is striving to put the power back in the hands of women by helping them to understand more about their hormonal profiling. From a womens’ hormones to post-birth, PCOS or fertility – Thriva’s tests work to uncover what is really going on in your body. The test is so easy to do and only takes a few minutes, with a quick prick of the finger, you then send your blood sample off and will receive your results within a few days. The results also come with a GP report on how to improve or work with your results. I would have benefited hugely from having the Post-Birth test after the birth of my kids as I truly believe that understanding on a more personal level what was going on with my hormones during that time may have also helped me to gain some perspective on why I was feeling so strange and unlike myself. Having recently just done the Women’s Hormone test (read more about that here), I was given some much-needed reassurance that my hormones were within normal levels – something I had been working towards for a while.
I have now had my babies and almost certainly have closed the chapter in my life on being pregnant and pro-creating again. But for women (and men) at the start of their journey, there has been a new addition to the market, which is helping lots of couples conceive. Developed by fertility experts, Proceive is a specially formulated range of fertility and preconception nutritional supplements for men and women. Proceive provides customers with the most comprehensive ingredients including Vitamins, Minerals, Amino Acids, CO-Q10 & Omega 3 DHA. This combination of nutrients offers you all the nutritional support you need at a time when your body is reliant on many vital nutrients. Proceive also contains the exact recommended level of folic acid by the Department of Health. Before Proceive came along, many of the pre-conception and pregnancy products on the market either had a little bit of everything but not enough of anything or else high strength products focusing on only a select number of nutrients but not all. Proceive wanted to simplify this and make it much easier for trying and expectant mothers to receive the nutritional support they needed. So after a number of years of research and scientific studies they have developed a range of conception and pregnancy products that provide tailored nutrients delivered at the optimal strength in highly absorbable forms.
From supplements to apps, to books and blood tests, information on hormones, and even your own personal hormones, is out there. We have still got a long way to go when it comes to understanding what’s really going on with all the hormones in our bodies but for now at least the tide is turning on how we can be helping and hacking our way to better hormonal health.
words by Sadie Reid