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Our female hormones, mainly oestrogen and progesterone, define us as women. They give us our female characteristics: softer skin, rounder, gentler facial features, breasts, ability to have children and so on. Yet, the same hormones can make us irritable, depressed, angry, impatient, at times, affecting our own well-being, as well as those around us. Our partners will surely agree, albeit perhaps in secret.
We are talking about the dreaded Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS), of course. PMS is not a single pattern of symptoms. The common underlying link is disruption to emotional and physical well-being that occurs during the luteal phase (after ovulation) of the menstrual cycle. However the actual realisation of symptoms is highly variable and individual, and can include anxiety, depression, fatigue, cravings, water retention, headaches, and muscle cramps.
As with many conditions, the cause of PMS is multifactorial. As you’d expect, fluctuations in oestrogen, progesterone and prolactin are also implicated. Some aspects of PMS symptomatology relate to high oestrogen (increased irritability) in comparison to relatively lower progesterone, and some to low oestrogen (depression). The pattern of high oestrogen - low progesterone is sometimes referred to as ‘oestrogen dominance’. Our genes can also affect how our bodies handle those hormone, making some individuals more prone to experiencing PMS symptoms, or even developing hormonal conditions, such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) or endometriosis.
Often psychological symptoms occur as a result of hormonal changes affecting neurotransmitter function, or as a side effect of other metabolic changes such as insulin resistance, low cortisol, reduced opioid peptides, dysfunction in circadian pattern of melatonin, changes in electrolytes etc.
PMS and other hormonal problems are very common and often debilitating, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Although the symptoms and their severity may vary from person to person, they often share common underlying factors, which can be effectively dealt with utilising simple nutritional and lifestyle changes. Seeing a registered Nutritional Therapist may also be a good idea, especially if you suffer from a specific condition or have other health problems.
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