Hormone Literacy and PMS
Here’s the down-low on PMS, beautiful ones. PMS is common but its not inevitable, in fact PMS is curable. Just read that again! Before we get into the physiological understanding of PMS, let me just add that I feel the term PMS has been used to trivialise and undermine women’s emotions, generally because they make others uncomfortable. We all have the right to our emotions and the right to feel safe in expressing them, while not having them dismissed as a “hormonal” over reaction.
Don’t you agree ladies?
Now let’s move forward to grasp a better understanding of the big hitters in this game, Estrogen & Progesterone. Here’s a little refresher:
Our cycle occurs in three phases: follicular, ovulatory and luteal. The first half of the cycle is known as the follicular phase, the second half of the cycle is the luteal phase. Midway through the cycle between days 12 and 16 ovulation occurs, known as the ovulatory phase. Your menstrual cycle is the result of a hormonal dance between the pituitary gland in your brain and your ovaries. Every month the female sex hormones prepare the body to support a pregnancy and without fertilization & implantation of an embryo there is a period.
On Day 1 of the menstrual cycle, estrogen and progesterone levels are low. Low levels of estrogen and progesterone signal the pituitary gland to produce Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) as its name suggests FSH begins the process of stimulating & maturing a follicle which is a fluid-filled sac in the ovary containing an egg, then to be released during ovulation.
The follicle produces more estrogen to prepare the uterus for pregnancy by stimulating & building the lining of the uterus in case implantation of an embryo occurs. The more estradiol you have, the thicker your uterine lining at the heavier your period will eventually be.
Estradiol also stimulates your fertile mucus, its main purpose is to help sperm survive & get to the waiting egg. At ovulation, usually around Day 12 – 14, increased estrogen levels trigger a sharp rise in Luteinizing Hormone (LH) from the pituitary gland, causing the release of the egg from the follicle. Once ovulation has occurred the ruptured follicle (corpus luteum) will secrete progesterone, while estrogen continues to prepare the uterus for pregnancy. If the egg is not fertilized, estrogen and progesterone levels drop and then your period will begin.
Here’s an amazing fact… Your corpus luteum is a temporary endocrine organ that forms from the emptied ovarian follicle after ovulation. In fact it’s the only organ you have that will be developed from scratch with its own blood supply every month. Your corpus luteum is the final stage of your follicles 100 day journey to ovulation. The health of which has been affected by the previous 100 days journey until this point. It can be impacted by inflammation, thyroid disease, insulin issues, vitamin deficiencies such as Zinc, Vitamin D, Magnesium, Iodine and B Vitamins. We require all of these to ensure ovulation is supported and that our ovaries are nourished sufficiently to ovulate successfully. This results in the formation of the amazing Corpus Luteum that will then provide our bodies with our precious Progesterone.
Progesterone is considered the Yin to Estrogen’s Yang. In fertility its most important role is to hold & nourish a pregnancy. However it does so much more that is essential regarding our emotional & physical well-being & health. Such as reducing inflammation, building muscle, promoting sleep, protecting against heart disease and calming/soothing your nervous system. So how do these two powerful hormones either contribute to or prevent your premenstrual symptoms? The departure of estrogen at the end of your cycle brings serotonin & dopamine down with it.
The higher your estrogen at this point of your cycle, the further you will fall, causing fatigue, emotional instability, headache and even night sweats. Ideally while this drop in estrogen is occurring, progesterone should be coming to the rescue, that is if you make enough progesterone to balance & contain the instability of its sister hormone estrogen. Progesterone counterbalances estrogen by converting the neurosteroid allopregnanolone, which will in turn calm your brain in the same way the neurotransmitter GABA does.
The brain is highly responsive to progesterone. In fact, progesterone concentrations in the brain have been shown to be 20 times higher than in the blood. Insomnia, anxiety, and migraines are just a few of the conditions linked to an imbalance of progesterone and estrogen. As previously mentioned in the brain as elsewhere in the body, progesterone counterbalances the effects oestrogen. Whereas estrogen has an excitatory effect on the brain, progesterone’s effect is calming.
PROGESTERONE’S MANY FUNCTIONS IN THE BODY INCLUDE:
● maintaining the uterine lining and preventing excess tissue buildup
● inhibiting breast tissue overgrowth
● increasing metabolism and promoting weight loss
● balancing blood sugar levels
● acting as a natural diuretic
● normalizing blood clotting
● stimulating the production of new bone
● enhancing the action of thyroid hormones
● alleviating depression and reducing anxiety
● promoting normal sleep patterns
● preventing cyclical migraines
● restoring proper cell oxygen levels
● improving libido.
Estrogen is considered more “Yang” in nature compared to Progesterone. It stimulates mood, libido, serotonin & dopamine. It’s this fine balance of your body sufficiently producing enough progesterone via the corpus luteum after successful ovulation that provides the conversion of allopregnanolone that ensures a stable transition into your period.
It’s essential to keep in mind that while PMS is common, it certainly does not have to be an inevitable experience of every menstrual cycle. A major contributing factor to the imbalance between estrogen and progesterone is the increased exposure to pesticides, herbicides, plastics, and PCB’s. Estrogen dominance may be caused by normal levels of estrogen and relatively low levels of progesterone, or by low levels of estrogen and extremely low levels of progesterone.
SYMPTOMS OF TOO MUCH ESTROGEN:
● Heavy Bleeding
● Breast Tenderness
● Increased premenstrual symptoms
● Fibrocystic Breasts
● Ovarian Cyst
● Abdominal weight
● Anxiety, Irritability
● Water Retention
● Increased Triglyceride Levels
It’s this fine balance of your body sufficiently producing enough progesterone via the corpus luteum after successful ovulation that provides the conversion of allopregnanolone amongst other mechanisms that ensures a stable transition into your period.
Hormonal literacy enables you to make informed choices regarding what you include in your daily diet, what you expose yourself to regarding endocrine disrupting chemicals, also ensuring adequate essential vitamin & mineral intake are all going aid in reducing your PMS symptoms.
These informed choices support the production of Progesterone through regular ovulation & the corpus lutuem production of progesterone to balance excess estrogen.
By the way, if you take the Oral Contraceptive Pill, then you have no follicular phase, no ovulation, no corpus luteum, no luteal phase & no Progesterone.
But that’s an entirely new blog for another time!
Head to #catherinebrownacupuncture for more hormonal literacy & wellbeing empowerment.