Dana Alloy, a Hormonal Health Educator, discusses how menstrual cycles and hormones affect everyday life.
SPOILER ALERT! Your hormones are a huge part of your personality!
(full podcast audio at bottom of page)
Dana Alloy is an evidence-based reproductive health researcher at UCL and Women's health educator dedicated to helping women understand their periods. Her interests are in menstrual health disorders, the intersection of menstrual health and women’s fitness, and gender bias in healthcare. She believes that knowledge is power. The more you understand your body, the better you can advocate for yourself.
Here are a few highlights from our conversation:
Menstrual blood has stem cells in it. What!?
"...basically your period is the discard portion of this whole process of regenerating and then discarding cells in your endometrium... as that needs to regenerate, there are a lot of stem cells involved in that process. And so you could get stem cells from your bone marrow, let's say. But there's also stem cells that are being discarded every month in your period. And it just shows you what an amazing process this is, that your body is able to regenerate the supply on its own every month... and that's pretty cool to me that it's capable of that. Like nothing else in the human body. And that women alone get to experience that, or menstruators alone get to experience that."
Your sex hormones effect EVERYTHING! Who knew?
"Yeah, I think it's crazy because you think of this period as just this thing that's happening to you, it's a nuisance. But as you peel back the layers, you see that your period is actually the most insignificant part of your menstrual cycle. It's like the trash days. So it's just the most obvious, most present part that you can experience. But it's actually less significant than, let's say, ovulation... And then when you peel it back even further, you can see that the menstrual cycle is just this one aspect of how your reproductive hormones are interacting with all other sorts of hormones and how all of those hormones are interacting with your brain and your body and just, hormones are messengers. So they're getting carried through the body, through the bloodstream, to your brain and other places. And because of that, they play a huge role."
What is PCOS? Why should we know about it?
"I think there's four main menstrual disorders or syndromes that everyone should know about and PCOS is definitely at the top of that list. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is a horribly named and even more terribly defined disorder. In all honesty, a PCOS label doesn't really mean much. It's sort of like, you know, if you have stomach issues, it's just like, "oh, you have IBS, it's irritable bowel." You're like, "OK, thanks. I know my bowel is irritated. Please, please provide more." So it does very little for people.
And the bigger issue is that it's inaccurately given to so many women... there's three different criteria and different doctors believe in different criteria... essentially, it's when you have a combination of high testosterone and irregular periods, it's very hard to measure that... Depending where you are, you might get higher or lower levels [of testosterone], and it's just not that accurate. Irregular periods,... how you're measuring that; is it 30 days apart or 40 days apart? Are you measuring shorter periods? And then, of course, the last one, which is people measure cysts...no diagnostic criteria, considers having cysts to mean that you have PCOS, not one. You need to have multiple symptoms."
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