If you’ve been attempting to become pregnant for a while, the disappointment of another failed pregnancy test can be crushing– more so with each successive test. Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) can directly influence your chances of conceiving or sustaining a pregnancy.
Role of follicle-stimulating hormone
FSH is a key reproductive hormone released from the pituitary gland in the base of the brain. Normal FSH production and secretion is required for puberty to occur, as well as the optimal functioning of the ovaries in women and testes in men. FSH is very much needed for the production of sperms in men, and induces the ovaries to produce and release eggs, and controls the menstrual cycle in women.
In this article, we will discuss the implications of the menstrual cycle and menopause for FSH levels in women, the factors contributing to an FSH imbalance, and how you can manage an imbalanced level of hormones by adopting a suitable diet and making relevant lifestyle changes.
FSH in women
FSH and the menstrual cycle
In adult women, the body prepares for a possible pregnancy each month. Their reproductive hormones rise and fall in accordance, with the release of an egg each month. This is called a “menstrual cycle” which begins on the first day of the last period and ends on the first day of the next period. The average cycle is 28 days. Longer cycles are common, particularly for the first few years after menstruation begins. However, with aging, menstrual cycles tend to be shorter and more regular.
Follicle stimulating hormone is one of the main hormones regulating the menstrual cycle. It plays a part in inducing the production of female reproductive hormones, which are involved in the development of female secondary sexual characteristics, preparing the uterus for possible implantation, and maintaining pregnancy.
FSH and menopause
High FSH values and low oestrogen levels in women indicate the occurrence of menopause. A woman is said to have reached menopause when her FSH levels consistently hit a value of 30 mIU/mL or higher and fails to have a menstrual period for a year. A woman may face other symptoms such as vaginal dryness, hot flashes, mood changes, insomnia, and weight gain. Having a high FSH level could also indicate an impaired ovarian reserve, where one has fewer eggs remaining in the ovaries.
Causes of FSH imbalance
FSH fluctuation may occur naturally, such as during puberty, the menstrual cycle, or menopause. An unhealthy lifestyle, obesity, toxins, or polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) may also cause an imbalance in the hormones.
Maintaining a healthy weight is vital to sustain normal levels of FSH. Being overweight or underweight may negatively affect the level of FSH, and may impair chances of fertility. Consuming unhealthy or processed foods exacerbates this as well. Other contributing factors include being surrounded by a polluted environment, leading a sedentary lifestyle or working in a stressful environment.
Managing an FSH imbalance
For those with low FSH levels, there are certain foods that can boost your FSH levels. For instance, it is widely known that essential fatty acids are required for the formation of hormones in the body, including FSH. Therefore, eating foods rich in essential fatty acids such as salmon, borage oils, avocados, and sardines may modulate reproductive hormones in reproductive-age women. Ginseng could also help regulate FSH levels.
Stress may have a big impact on hormone levels and health. In a stressful situation, your body releases stress hormones such as cortisol, which negatively affects the levels of FSH. Take measured steps to keep yourself relaxed with regular exercise, meditation or yoga.
It’s in your hands
FSH plays an essential part in fertility and reproduction. It is vital for women to take the necessary steps to improve the body’s FSH levels, especially if trying to conceive. Having a basic understanding of the role of FSH would enable women to make informed choices about their diet, exercise, and way of living– and thus proactively boost their chances of fertility.
If you’re interested in learning more about FSH and the consequences of abnormal levels of it, read on more about it in our biomarker post here!