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"It's not You, It's your Hormones" Understanding the Hormonal Hierarchy

Updated: Mar 29

This is the stuff that every teen girl/woman needs to understand and if you are a supportive partner or have daughters I’d recommend wrapping your head around this as well.

Learning this hierarchy many years ago now has enabled me to understand how to work with my body (not against it). It’s a foundational concept I teach with many of my clients and helps us all appreciate how when we commit to daily habits to support hormone balance it ultimately becomes a superpower!  

To understand how we arrive at this hierarchy, let’s drop in (very briefly) into biochemistry.

"Hormones are any chemical signals that your body uses to stimulate cells or tissues to act".

There are three basic types of hormones:

  •  Lipid-derived

  •  Amino acid-derived

  •  Peptide-derived


All of your sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone) and cortisol are lipid-derived. They’re actually made from cholesterol.

So if your cholesterol is not balanced, that will affect everything else downstream.


At the top of the chemical hierarchy, we have pregnenolone, which forms the hormones dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), estrogen, and progesterone. DHEA, in turn, plays a role in creating cortisol, testosterone, and estrogen.


But the chemical composition isn’t the whole story. DHEA forms both your sex hormones and cortisol. But your cortisol levels have a greater impact on your overall health than your DHEA levels. The specific ways these chemicals act on our bodies have cascading effects.

Lets acknowledge: Hormones tend to run on the “Goldilocks” principle — it’s important that you have neither too little, nor too much. We are looking for “just right”.

It's also important at this point I recommend that you "Test not Guess" in relation to symptoms and the possible hormonal imbalances. During testing we sometimes find that the client actually has the opposite imbalance than what their symptoms indicated, but their symptoms were due to an imbalance with other hormones.

The gold standard test I highly recommend for Hormonal Testing is the Dutch Test. For specific questions around this test, a sample report and collection instructions please contact me via email.

Now back to the Hormonal hierarchy - this can be a framework that allows us to address the most important, preceding factors first to create a feedback loop downstream that ultimately means we get to live life to the full!

I’ve found over the years of clinical practice that the hormones that most women talk about and want to balance are estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.

When these hormones are out of balance, its common to experience symptoms of depression, anxiety, infertility, weight loss resistance, hot flashes, insomnia, and chronic fatigue to name a few. Nothing good as you can see!

While it seems like you should be able to take a magic pill in this day in age to instantly bring these hormones into balance, our endocrine system is not that simple.

What is critical to understand is that you cannot adequately address the secondary hormones until you have addressed your primary hormones. While sex hormones are important for sexual development and healthy, vibrant living, they are not essential for life itself.

To bring balance to your sex hormones you need to first focus on: oxytocin, cortisol and insulin plus your gut health to ensure the waste metabolites of hormones can be removed via the gut, or made water-soluble to be removed by your kidneys.

Let's start with the Love Hormone - Oxytocin

This powerful hormone acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain. It gives us feelings of love and connection. Who doesn't want more of that right!

Here’s the magic: if you do the enjoyable things above regularly, you will raise your level of oxytocin.

And by raising your levels of oxytocin, you will bring down your levels of cortisol.

By bringing down levels of cortisol you also bring up your levels of progesterone.

Why is this important?

Because progesterone is a anti-anxiety hormone. When progesterone goes up, you are going to feel more grateful, you are going to laugh more, you are going to want to hang out with people that bring you joy– all of which are activities that bring up your oxytocin. It’s an incredible, virtuous circle.

If you or you know any women that are struggling with hormonal balance, raising oxytocin is truly an important piece of the hormonal puzzle

In the blog's to follow, we can move our way down the Hormonal Hierarchy.

We can discuss symptoms and possible issues that accompany imbalances, and help you understand better how to maximize your hormonal health.


As always, remember that you were made for health. Your endocrine system (fancy term for your hormonal system) is designed to create a beautiful harmony of signals in your body. When you know what to look for and what to prioritize, you can support your body and live a vibrant healthy life.

Interested to drop into the next tier of hormones?

Check out the ins and outs of key players Cortisol and Insulin


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