By Randi Mann, WHNP-BC, NCMP, APNP
The week before your period, it’s not unusual for many women to experience an unwanted transformation from Doctor Jekyll to Ms. Hyde. As our hormones shift, some of us will fall apart into sensitive sleep-deprived puddles. Other simmering souls will find themselves raging without warning. Then there are the mopey bloated hermits who will choose to wrap themselves in a blanket and binge-watch Netflix until Aunt Flow takes a hike. Whoever your PMS alter-ego might be, it’s hard not to feel out of control. But it’s just a part of womanhood we all have to accept, right? Wrong.
Sure, hormones will always shuffle, but we don’t have to be held hostage by their fluctuations. You have the power to overcome many common PMS symptoms and maybe even prevent them from happening!
What Are The Phases Of The Menstrual Cycle?
First, let’s take a moment to understand the different phases of your menstrual cycle. Once you get to know your natural rhythm, you can begin to accommodate a few healthy habits that will help each phase go more smoothly. In a standard 28-day menstrual cycle, our bodies go through four different phases:
This begins the first full day of your period when your womb lining is released. During this phase take time to slow down, keep workouts short and be kind to yourself, your body needs it and deserves it!
Days 8 to 14. As the title suggests, estrogen levels rise during his stage to continue the cascade of hormonal triggers. This is the time of the month ovulation usually happens, and is accompanied by good moods, energy and feeling powerful.
Days 15 to 21. Estrogen stops surging now and is naturally flushed out of the body as your hormone levels begin to shift. This is a good time to start supporting your body as it detoxes by drinking plenty of water and eating your veggies.
Days 22 – 28. During this final stage just before the next period some women experience cravings, cramps and irritability. You are still detoxing, and adding a little cardio into your exercise routine here can help your body to cope better.
Tips For Balancing Your Hormones the Week Before Your Period
During the last week of your cycle, assuming no egg was implanted, estrogen dwindles and is flushed out of your body while progesterone goes up. It is possible to explore short-term strategies on top of the long game of seed cycling during this phase to help reduce some of the symptoms that accompany the dramatic hormonal shift. By supporting your hormones with the following natural strategies, you should be able to have a happy – or at least happier – period.
1. Drink Less Coffee & More Green Tea
Do you ever feel irritable or anxious after drinking too much coffee? That’s because caffeine raises cortisol levels, which can worsen those types of symptoms. Too much caffeine can also cause sleep issues, inflammation and breast tenderness, as well as lower your progesterone levels. Progesterone is an important feel-good hormone, responsible for your overall sense of well-being. It boosts the metabolism and supports thyroid function. Because you want to raise progesterone the week before your period, not lower it, consider switching your caffeine to green tea.
Instead of increasing irritability, green tea is thought to help reduce anxiety. High in antioxidants, it also reduces inflammation, helps to balance estrogen levels, and reduces bloating and water retention.
2. Avoid Alcohol
Alcohol has a way of quickly increasing estrogen levels which can trigger a storm of PMS symptoms like anxiety, mood problems, headaches, and disrupted sleep patterns. Not to mention, too much estrogen also reduces your ability to burn fat by more than half — which isn’t something anyone wants!
The week before your period, swap your cocktail for a mocktail. Kombucha is a refreshing alternative that you can make at home or find in an increasing number of restaurants. Made from tea fermented to produce healthy probiotics, kombucha offers many similar health benefits to green tea and is also great for promoting gut bacteria to assist in the estrogen detox.
3. Reduce Sodium
It may seem like a no-brainer that foods high in salt will increase water retention and bloating, prime PMS symptoms you would likely happily live without. But did you know that sodium can affect breast tenderness as well? Reducing your sodium intake will help to ease these types of annoying symptoms so you can still manage to feel comfortable in your favourite clothes.
4. Increase Magnesium
Magnesium is an essential mineral that helps keep your progesterone levels balanced by regulating the master-hormone gland, the pituitary. And magnesium also helps your muscles to relax, easing crampy symptoms. The week before your period, add more high-Magnesium foods to your diet such as spinach, beans, nuts and seeds.
This is also the best time of the month to indulge in some delicious dark chocolate! Not only is dark chocolate rich in Magnesium and Iron, it is also packed with powerful antioxidants. Aim for the highest cacao content available, starting with at least 70%. Explore higher levels of cacao and discover how your taste gradually adjusts. Challenge yourself to see if you can get your buds to brave a pure 100%. Even if you find it to be beyond bitter, your body will reap the rewards of your valiant effort.
5. Remember to Wind Down
It’s easy to get wound tight by life’s demands. The thing is, most of us don’t take the time we need to really effectively wind down. So many of us regularly operate in a hyper mental state, fueled by an unhealthy balance of stress and restless energy. We rush through the day, our minds constantly jumping onto the next thing. When we experience continuous levels of stress, we overwork our adrenal glands’ fight-or-flight response causing our cortisol to elevate and our progesterone to drop. When progesterone is low, it can lead to a variety of problems including PMS, bloating, breast tenderness, sleep issues, and anxiety.
To keep your cortisol and progesterone levels in healthy balance, give yourself more time to rest by going to sleep a little earlier or reducing the intensity of your workout routine. Limiting screen time and cutting down on social media are also good ways to clear your mind from potentially toxic sources. And of course, meditation is one of the most effective ways to slow down and get yourself grounded.
Other Factors That Can Contribute To Hormonal Imbalances
While the above suggestions are helpful for women with healthy hormone levels, there are a number of other factors that can impact hormonal imbalances. Many cosmetics and hygiene products contain a barrage of chemicals that can toxify our systems. Gut health is also connected to a wide number of problems in our body beyond digestive concerns, including hormone imbalance, mental health issues and more.
If you find yourself suffering from PMS-type symptoms all the time, bigger hormonal imbalances might at play. Our hormones naturally shift throughout our lives, so it is a smart decision to have your levels checked by the hormone specialists at Wise Woman Wellness. The sooner you can identify any potential issues, the sooner you can get your body back to normal.
Don’t let your hormones ruin your life — or even just the week before your period. You have more control than you think!
Randi Mann, WHNP-BC, NCMP, APNP, is a woman’s hormone expert and the owner of Wise Woman Wellness LLC, an innovative wellness and hormone care center at 1480 Swan Road, De Pere. Mann is the author of the eBook: A Guide to Gluten and Going Gluten Free. She is a board certified Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner and NAMS Certified Menopause Practitioner, one of a handful in Wisconsin and less than 1600 worldwide to achieve this distinction. She combines the best of conventional, functional and integrative medicine to help women with female, thyroid and adrenal hormone issues to live healthier, more abundant, joy-filled lives using a blend of compassion, cutting edge science, practical guidance and humor. Contact her at 920-339-5252 or via the Internet at www.wisewomanwellness.com. Attend the introductory seminar, “End Hormone Havoc – Crazy Hormones Cause Fatigue, Weight Gain and Brain Fog and How to Fix Them!”, offered monthly, to learn about specialized thyroid, adrenal and female hormone testing and customized, bioidentical hormone treatments to achieve lifelong optimal hormone balance, increased vitality and longevity.
Randi Mann, WHNP-BC, NCMP, APNP