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Regulate Your Hormones and Stop PMS
Do you have painful periods and uncomfortable PMS symptoms? Suffer from bloating, mood swings, depression, and cramps? Your symptoms may be caused by hormone imbalances. Find out how to fix these hormones and eliminate PMS below.
PMS is something that every woman has to deal with once a month, right? According to recent studies on hormone regulation, that may not be the case.
While up to 75 percent of women suffer from some form of PMS according to The University of Maryland, and up to 50 percent of women unable to function normally because of PMS, this condition is a serious problem that should be addressed.
Did you ever wonder why you get PMS? It turns out, PMS is not necessarily something “normal” that every woman has to deal with. PMS symptoms occur due to a hormone imbalance. Typically, PMS symptoms are the worst when your estrogen levels are out of balance with your progesterone levels.
Other possible causes according to the University of Maryland include low levels of certain vitamins and minerals, the inability to metabolize prostaglandins (a hormone-like substance), and low levels of serotonin (which can also lead to anxiety and depression). Your genetics may also affect how severe your PMS symptoms are. If your mother or grandmother had difficult periods, the chances are you will as well. But whether or not genetics specifically influence PMS severity, or if genetics influence other things that make PMS symptoms worse (like hormone imbalances or vitamin deficiencies), is not currently known.
In fact, there is a surprising lack of research about PMS and what influences the severity of a woman’s period or PMS side-effects.
One way that is scientifically proven to help reduce PMS symptoms is hormone regulation. Scientists and medical professionals have tried for years to get the right mixture of synthetic hormones that will regulate a woman’s cycle and lessen PMS symptoms. That is one reason why many doctors suggest supplementing with birth control pills to control PMS symptoms. Hormonal birth control pills change hormone levels in the body, and actually prevent the body from creating hormones that lead to the normal progression of a woman’s cycle.
This can prevent some PMS symptoms because women on the pill don’t actually have normal menstrual cycles and do not ovulate (in most cases), according to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Most hormonal birth control increases estrogen levels or progestin levels in the body. Some pills contain both hormones, while others contain just progestin.
If you don’t want to take hormonal birth control, you are not stuck with painful, long periods. In fact, addressing hormone regulation naturally could lead to fewer period symptoms than those seen on the pill and help you avoid dangerous side effects. Regulating your hormones starts with simple diet, activity, and lifestyle changes that will help reduce painful PMS symptoms.
Cortisol is the stress hormone that leads to a host of problems, like reduced immunity and weight gain. Cortisol can lead to more painful PMS symptoms by contributing to bloating and increasing depressive symptoms.
Fix it: You can regulate cortisol levels by simply reducing the stress in your life. The biggest help you can do to regulate cortisol levels is by getting enough sleep. Most women should sleep at least 7 hours per night. If you have had a chronic lack of sleep in the past, you may need to sleep 10 or more hours per night for a while. Eating a high-protein breakfast can help regulate your blood sugar throughout the day, which can also help prevent cortisol levels from spiking.
Oxytocin is the “love hormone” because it is released during times of bonding between people. While sexual contact is one way to boost oxytocin levels, any kind of loving touch, including hugging a puppy, kissing a baby, or holding hands can boost oxytocin levels. If you have low oxytocin levels, your endorphin levels are lower. Low endorphins can lead to a greater sensitivity to pain, including PMS symptoms. Boosting oxytocin levels is one way to help reduce PMS symptoms.
Fix it: Although it kind of seems like a cruel joke, physical contact during the week or so before menstruation can raise your oxytocin levels and endorphin levels, which can lead to a reduction in PMS pain. A 2012 study from the University of Washington found that women who had a c-section in the past had a higher pain tolerance for subsequent surgeries.
Guess what? Your thyroid may be making your PMS worse. An underactive or overactive thyroid can make PMS symptoms worse according to Dr. Aviva, an expert on herbal medicine for women. A wide variety of factors can interfere with thyroid health, including environmental factors, diet, pregnancy, and chemicals in processed foods. A sluggish thyroid will make your entire body work less efficiently, which can lead to severe PMS symptoms.
Fix it: Thyroid problems can be difficult to address because they are caused by a variety of factors. However, avoiding known thyroid-disruptors, like mercury and BPA, can help regulate your thyroid. A healthy diet and exercise plan will also help.
Progesterone is a hormone produced by the ovaries. This hormone is converted naturally into other hormones once it is out of the ovaries. Progesterone is vital for the survival of a fetus. Normally, progesterone levels should rise from ovulation to menstruation, however, in some women, estrogen levels are too high, leading to a variety of complications. Low progesterone levels not only makes it harder to conceive, but it also leads to painful PMS symptoms due to unregulated estrogen levels. This can lead to more serious problems as well, including blood clots, tumors, high triglycerides, allergies, and interference with thyroid functioning.
Fix it: The best way to regulate progesterone levels is to ensure you get plenty of progesterone naturally. If you are deficient in magnesium, you probably are also deficient in progesterone, according to Iva Keene ND, fertility expert. Adding sources of natural magnesium, like dark leafy greens and beans, will help restore your magnesium levels. You may want to supplement with magnesium as well. Ensuring you eat enough protein in a day will help provide the building blocks your body needs to make hormones.
Too-high estrogen levels can wreak havoc on a woman’s body at any time, but particularly during the premenstrual cycle. Estrogen dominance leads to mood swings, painful periods, depression, belly fat, and a host of other problems.
Fix it: Green tea, turmeric, and fiber all help eliminate excess estrogen from the body. Dairy products supplemented with hormones can also lead to the accumulation of too-much estrogen in the body (up to 70 percent of the estrogen levels of a woman according to Iva Keene ND). Avoid any dairy products given hormone injections, as well as other estrogen-high products, like soybeans.
Serotonin is the hormone that is known as the feel-good hormone. It is directly linked with depression levels. If you have low serotonin levels, you will probably have more dramatic mood swings and an increase in depressed thoughts during your cycle. Low serotonin levels can also lead to obsessive behavior.
Fix it: Surprisingly enough, your body makes serotonin by consuming carbohydrates. Women on low-fat, low-carb diets may have a rise in PMS symptoms and moodiness because of a lack of serotonin in the body. Add more carbs to your diet to boost serotonin levels (you don’t have to use empty carbs. Whole wheat, quinoa, and barley are all healthy sources of carbs), and also add the amino acid tryptophan to your diet, found in bananas and yogurt (it is necessary to make serotonin).
In your journey to regulate your hormones and stop PMS, there are a few things you should try and avoid. If you avoid these things, you automatically improve hormone function in your body. It may take a month or two, but these steps will help reduce painful periods.
Many chemicals are proven to disrupt hormone function. A wide variety of toxins from household cleaners, to BPA plastic, to chemical food dyes can all cause hormone disruption. The biggest toxic sources for PMS symptoms are BPA, synthetic hormones in meat and dairy products, and heavy metals.
While all people need a balance of both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, thanks to vegetable oils and the shunning of fish and saturated fat in the United States, most Americans have a fatty acid imbalance. Eating a lot of polyunsaturated fats can lead to a host of healthy problems, because they oxidize quickly, which causes inflammation and cell mutations. An overabundance of omega-6 fatty acids can also interfere with effective hormone function and make PMS symptoms worse on a hormonal level, and by increasing inflammation.
Since caffeine is a stimulant, drinking it on a regular basis can interfere with the normal functioning of the endocrine system. If you find yourself with painful periods and PMS symptoms, cutting back on the caffeine could help your endocrine system regulate and make your menstrual cycle less painful.
In addition to the above steps, there are three other things you can do to help regulate your hormones. These three steps include sleep, supplements, and exercise. Adding these steps should complete the hormone regulation process, eliminating much of the pain and inconvenience associated with PMS.
Sleep is important for everything, but it is particularly necessary for hormone regulation. There are certain hormones that the body only produces during a solid sleep cycle. These hormones help relieve stress, boost the immune system, and even control weight gain. Sleep is necessary to boost thyroid function, control cortisol levels, produce leptin, and increase serotonin. Most experts recommend that adults sleep at least 7 hours per night, but as stated above, if you have had a chronic lack of sleep for several weeks or more, you may need much more than that to restore your hormonal balance. Sleep is incredibly important for regulating hormones and lessening PMS symptoms.
Certain supplements can also help fill in any nutritional gaps that you may have that will not only lessen PMS symptoms, but may also help regulate your hormones. Magnesium, for example, is a necessary ingredient to make progesterone, which helps keep excessive estrogen levels in check.
You don’t want to go overboard on exercise if you have a hormonal imbalance. That can make the problem worse (contributing to too-low levels of estrogen is one problem, according to the National Eating Disorders Association). Instead, focus on slow exercises that build muscles, like swimming, yoga, walking, and other stretching exercises.
By definition, PMS is a hormonal problem. Women naturally go through hormonal highs and lows as part of a healthy menstrual cycle. However, when one or more hormones are out of balance, PMS symptoms can become much worse. If you want to say goodbye to your painful periods for good, paying attention to your hormone levels and regulating your hormone production can go a long way toward removing the side effects of PMS.
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