We’ve all been there – that time of the month when you feel like exploding if someone looks at you wrongly. According to a poll by A.Vogel herbal remedies, a quarter of women have used hormones as an excuse for their actions. One in ten (14 per cent) admitted to snapping at a colleague as a result of their hormones, whilst almost a third (31 per cent) were guilty of blaming an argument with a partner on them. One in five felt that their fluctuating hormones had held them back in life and had a control over them.
Those with PMS found irritability (74 per cent) was the most challenging symptom associated with fluctuating hormones. Hormonal havoc left almost half (48 per cent) of women not feeling themselves and 24 per cent feeling less confident, whilst one in four find it hard to carry on with day to day activities and have difficulties concentrating at work.
So what to do? A.Vogel nutritional therapist Alison Cullen has put together a guide to help women harness their hormones on their PMS journey.
Symptom: Menstrual cramps
During week one, bleeds will often be painful as the ‘old’ womb lining is shed. The thicker the lining, the heavier the bleed is likely to be. Thicker lining is associated with higher oestrogen levels, so if you regularly experience heavy bleeds you may find it helpful to balance your oestrogen by taking Agnus castus. Take it throughout your cycle to keep your hormones on an even keel. It works by rebalancing the hormones of women who have particularly high oestrogen and low progesterone levels by increasing the amount of progesterone a women’s body makes. A.Vogel Agnus castus can be used to help relieve symptoms of PMS such as menstrual cramps, breast tenderness, bloating, irritability and mood swings. Do not take it if you are using hormonal contraceptives.
Whilst you are busy shedding your ‘old’ womb lining, oestrogen levels pick up, ready to start thickening the lining of your womb again. Changes in oestrogen levels can lead to headaches so it’s important to drink lots of water to stay hydrated.
Good news, there are fewer symptoms this week and libido increases. Oestrogen levels rise towards the level needed to trigger ovulation and this has a beneficial effect on mood, digestion, sleep and many other areas of health, and also improves your libido, as Nature cunningly arranges for you to feel most ‘in the mood’ when fertile. This is a great week for tackling something challenging, as you’ll be more resilient and feel more confident in yourself.
Around this stage, oestrogen levels reach a point at which ovulation is triggered and oestrogen then starts to fall. Progesterone is now produced from the ruptured egg sac and goes to work protecting the womb lining in case an egg is fertilised. Falling oestrogen increases the likelihood of irritability, as oestrogen works as a calming influence on the nervous system and blood vessels. This is a good time to try to incorporate something calming into your days such as a yoga session or a brisk outside walk.
Irritability will be worse if you are low in magnesium, deficiency of which will also show up as muscle pain and/or tension and fatigue. Top up levels with these food sources: almonds, apples, avocados, bananas, buckwheat, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, brown rice, cashews, celery, dates, figs, fish, dried apricots, chickpeas, lima beans, black eye peas, millet, oats, spinach, dark green vegetables, parsley, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, soya, haricot and kidney beans and carrot juice.
Tiredness often manifests in the last week of the cycle, hitting some women intensely like a plug being pulled, but also affecting many women with the well-known missing-the-end-of-the-film phenomenon, whereby sitting down comfortably in front of the television is a sure fire way to find yourself napping. Being tired during this last week is natural and to some extent should not be fought – accept that exercise routines should be kept lighter and general demands on the body moderated during this week, as your body prepares to bleed. If, however, tiredness is creeping into the rest of your month then it’s worth exploring whether your iron level is right. If you are bleeding heavily during your period then it may have fallen low enough to cause concern and fatigue. You may also benefit from topping up magnesium levels.
Symptom: Low mood/mood swings
Oestrogen helps keep your mood up, acting as a mild antidepressant. During this week it is no longer protecting you from mild lowness and generally feeling less your usual self. Don’t turn to caffeine, refined sugar or alcohol to cheer yourself up: these deplete nutrients such as vitamin B and magnesium that help keep your nervous system stable. Drink plenty of water and reach for nourishing dried fruit to nibble and nutritious smoothies to drink.
Symptom: Hormonal food cravings
Chromium levels drop in the week before the bleed, and if it is already low or borderline deficient then it will dip into deficiency and the effects will really show up. Chromium is the most relevant for cravings and blood sugar, as it is part of the glucose tolerance factor, which helps keep blood sugar levels stable. It’s difficult to get from food in sufficient quantities to make a difference if you are already getting cravings, so opt for a supplement of 200mcg three times daily with food, reducing gradually once the cravings have abated.