Hormone Imbalance & PMS: Why it Happens & How to Improve Symptoms
Ladies, do you dread that week right before your cycle begins? Find yourself snapping at your friends and family for no good reason? Are your breasts so sore that you avoid hugging, and feel like you can’t get comfortable in any of your clothing because you’re too bloated?
There are over 150 symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome (PMS); some of the most common include tender breasts, fatigue, intense food/sugar cravings, increased hunger, bloating, cramping, headaches, acne, skin disturbances, mood swings, anxiety and depression - just to name a few! If you can relate to experiencing any of the above, know that you are not alone! But hear and read this: moderate to severe PMS symptoms before every period are NOT normal and need to be recognized as warning signs of underlying hormonal imbalances.
Thanks to outdated sex-ed classes and the media and Hollywood, many of us have been led to believe that heavy periods, bad PMS and the related pain and discomfort that comes with it are just a part of womanhood. Ever see a commercial or movie with a gal who is PMSing while uncontrollably chowing down on chocolate? Such stereotypical characterizations of women normalize monthly suffering, but we’re here to tell you it doesn’t have to be that way!
For some women, PMS symptoms start to percolate after an egg is released at ovulation, signaling the start of the luteal phase lasting around 10-14 days. For most, though, it is usually during the second half of this phase - the week or few days right before the period - when estrogen and progesterone levels drop. And it’s at this time that the volume and severity of symptoms typically increase. It’s important to note that changes in hormonal rhythms at different stages in the cycle are to be expected along with some unwanted symptoms, but they should never be so severe that you feel helpless to control them.
When trying to get a grip on bad PMS, the particular role that the key female hormone progesterone plays in balancing estrogen and supporting regular cycles, conception, and pregnancy is crucial. Progesterone is produced only upon ovulation; so, any disruption (e.g., stress overload, restrictive diets, extremes of exercise, hormonal contraception, etc.) to that essential process means that progesterone levels will be even lower than normal going into the premenstrual week. This, in turn, results in PMS symptoms that are far worse than they would normally be. If you have a short luteal phase (less than 11 days), experience premenstrual spotting and/or moderate to severe PMS symptoms that disrupts your normal way of life, then this indicates low progesterone and overall imbalance between estrogen and progesterone that can be tested for within the MRC centers.
Hidden hormone imbalances can sabotage our best efforts to relieve PMS symptoms, but there is hope! The first step to correcting hormonal imbalances is identifying them. Take our free quiz to see if you may be experiencing symptoms of hormone imbalance:
Here are some of our best tips for finding rebalance and improving symptoms of PMS:
- Get to the root via testing. Metabolic Research Center provides at-home saliva hormone testing via our “Body in Balance” program. Your results will come with a guide to rebalancing in a way that’s tailored to your unique body and hormones. Coupling that with professional support and accountability from your consultant will help you to make changes to improve your menstrual cycle and PMS symptoms!
- Enjoy more protein! Protein should be the cornerstone to any nutrition plan because of the important role it plays in hormone production, satiety, and fat loss. Focus on nutrient rich variations like grass-fed meat, wild caught fish, organic poultry and pasture raised eggs. To ensure your body is getting the nutrition it needs to function optimally, MRC menus incorporate a protein serving with every meal.
- Increase your fiber. This sometimes forgotten or overlooked nutrient supports the gut and helps the liver metabolize hormones properly - helping to keep estrogen and progesterone in balance. If you are not having regular bowel movements (note: regular means at least once daily), toxins and estrogens recirculate in the body; wreaking havoc and contributing to many of the symptoms associated with PMS. Fiber sources include: leafy greens, artichoke, berries, avocado, lentils, beans, and fiber-enriched drinks and supplements.
- Focus on healthy fats. Cholesterol is the backbone for sex hormone production and a key to fertility. If we are neglecting good fats that are critical to ovulation such as extra virgin olive oil, nuts, seeds, and avocado, then our body lacks the building blocks for producing hormones such as progesterone that play an integral role in reducing PMS symptoms and improving quality of life. These same hormones are also fundamental in improving satiety, memory and focus!
- Eliminate coffee and energy drinks in the luteal phase! Enjoying caffeine in moderation can work well for some individuals, but as you enter into the luteal phase (after ovulation and before your period), resting cortisol “stress hormone” levels are naturally higher. This means that our bodies become less resilient against stress. Coffee and energy drinks are both appetite and adrenal suppressants; so, consider dialing back the 1-2 weeks before your period and enjoy alternatives like herbal tea and sparkling water! You will likely find these small temporary changes go a long way towards helping the adrenals keep up. Thus, reducing anxiety and sweet and carb cravings, too!
- Address stress. If there is an abundance of stress - especially in the luteal phase - then the body has to convert progesterone into cortisol to maintain energy, stress and immune responses. This is because progesterone, among its many functions, is also a direct “precursor” (source) of daily adrenal cortisol production. This means you don’t want to be depleting supplies further when already dealing with low progesterone-related PMS! Practicing stress relieving tactics and activities such as deep breathing, yoga, and reducing time on social media can all help to support your hormones.
It can also be helpful to take stock of the stressors in your life. These can include emotional burdens, job expectations, excess caffeine, alcohol, sugar, over exercising, nutrient deficiencies, toxic products, and more. Once you are aware of the many forms of stress present in this season of your life, slowly chip away at finding positive replacement behaviors and habits. For example, swap the second glass of wine at dinner for a sparkling water insead.
- Reduce xeno “fake” estrogens found in many household products, beauty and kitchen supplies! These common chemicals disrupt the endocrine system and have negative estrogen raising effects in the body. Because they are hidden in everything from plastic water bottles to kitchen utensils, body wash, makeup products and shower curtains, it’s helpful to use a resource like the EWG’s Skindeep Database where you can type in your favorite products and find safer, non-toxic variations! Slowly start to switch out some of your toxic products for non-toxic alternatives by simply buying a new brand when the one you are currently using runs out and/or using glass containers instead of plastic. It makes the process easier and less overwhelming and you don’t have to worry about everything but rather focus on the items you use the most often!
- Eat more cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, bok choy and cabbage. These all contain a compound called DIM that helps sweep excess estrogen out of the body and improves the balance between estrogen and progesterone. You can also supplement with DIM if you struggle to consume enough cruciferous veggies. Bonus: DIM has been known to work wonders for improving acne, too!
- Smart supplementation! There are certain vitamins and minerals that support healthy progesterone production, and thus help mitigate PMS symptoms. The week before your period, increase your magnesium via high quality supplementation and/ or foods such as leafy greens, avocados, almonds, and cacao (natrually one of the richest sources of magnesium on the planet)! Add in an omega-3 oil or algae supplement to reduce inflammation and severe cramping and period pain. Talk to one of your MRC Coaches to learn more about smart supplementation and recommended consumption guidelines.
- Move your body mindfully! Over-exercising (e.g., taking back-to-back high intensity workout classes or doing hours of cardio) increases your cortisol “stress hormone” levels. As we’ve discussed previously, this can send the adrenals into overdrive. In acute situations (e.g., running from a forest fire) the body is pushed into “fight or flight” survival mode, with a hold on “non-essential” functions like digestion, reproduction, ovulation. This additional stress and inflammation can cause the body to store fat around the midsection while simultaneously increasing PMS symptoms of bloating and water retention.
That said, getting daily movement is an integral piece of the hormone balancing puzzle. So, how much is right? Most professionals agree that it can be very beneficial to move 8-10K steps per day and find ways to move your body with joy. Restorative movement like walks, yoga, mat pilates and stretching paired with moderate strength training is an amazing way to support your hormones, reduce PMS and manage your weight!
THE BOTTOM LINE: PMS should not be taking center stage in your life. And, if it is, know that you are not destined to deal with it for the rest of your reproductive years! By following the steps outlined above and reaching out to MRC for professional hands-on support, you will have the tools you need to take the steps critical for finding balance and building a life you look forward to experiencing all month long!
*The information provided within this article is not to replace a relationship with your Medical Professional. The laboratory services offered are for informational purposes only. It is not the intention of Metabolic Research Center to provide medical advice but rather to provide you with information to better understand your health. Seek the advice of a trained health professional for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
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