Hormonal Imbalance: How to Reduce PMS and Perimenopause Symptoms?
Do you frequently feel tired, irritable, and moody during the week before your period?
If you’re in your 40s, do you notice problems with memory, focus, weight gain and sex drive?
If so, then it’s not just in your head.
You might be told that your estrogen and progesterone fluctuate so frequently that it isn’t worth testing them. Or your health-care practitioner might offer to prescribe the birth-control pill or some antidepressants.
But you’re still confused and frustrated. You want to know what’s wrong.
Today, you’re going to learn how your hormones affect your periods and your life and how to balance them naturally.
Ready? Let’s get started!
- It’s Not Just About Estrogen And Progesterone
- Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
- 1. Modifying Stress
- 2. Changing Your Diet
It’s Not Just About Estrogen And Progesterone
The female sex hormones: estrogen and progesterone only tell part of the story when it comes to PMS, painful periods, perimenopause, endometriosis, fibroids, or PCOS.
There are three other hormones involved in the conditions mentioned above:
Cortisol and adrenaline – stress hormones produced every time you face a physical or emotional challenge.
Insulin – the hormone produced by the pancreas to help move blood sugar into your cells.
Without addressing these three hormones, you won’t be able to find an effective long-term solution.
In fact, when cortisol, the stress hormone, is off-balance, it creates a hormonal cascade including thyroid (that regulates metabolism), leptin (that regulates fullness), ghrelin (that regulates hunger), insulin (that regulates blood sugar), serotonin (a hormone that helps you feel calm and self-confident), dopamine (a hormone that helps you feel excited and energized), and many other hormones.
It’s important to consider the root causes for hormone imbalance rather than treating the symptoms.
The birth-control pill or an antidepressant might have some limited effectiveness in relieving your symptoms, but they don’t address the problem at the deepest, most helpful level.
An imbalance in your cortisol, adrenaline, and insulin levels, usually reflects diet, lifestyle, and the stresses in your life.
In fact, changing your diet, getting the right kind of exercise, a restful, refreshing sleep, and finding effective ways to modify stress can have a near-miraculous impact on your symptoms.
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
PMS symptoms appear only one or two weeks before starting your period and end at menses or within one to three days after your period begins. These symptoms might include:
- Abdominal cramping
- Breast tenderness or pain
- Fluid retention
- Binge eating/cravings
- Weight gain
- Mood swings
- Avoiding social activities/ Decreased desire to talk with anyone
- Decreased libido
These symptoms have a biological basis.
Weight gain and fluid retention indicates a disrupted production of thyroid hormone.
Food cravings and feeling bloated indicate dysregulated hormones, including insulin, the blood-sugar hormone; ghrelin, which regulates hunger; and leptin, which creates feelings of fullness.
Anxiety, depression, and mood swings indicate imbalanced levels of stress hormones, serotonin, and other neurotransmitters, including dopamine.
The good news is that your diet, lifestyle and psychological support can help you balance your hormones and ease these symptoms.
Perimenopause is the transition from fertility to menopause. It’s a gradual hormonal shift that usually begins in early 40s and extends into menopause.
Unlike PMS symptoms, perimenopausal symptoms last the whole month with fluctuations based on your cycle and other factors. These symptoms include:
- Weight gain
- Frequent urination/incontinence when you laugh, cough, or exercise
- Hot flashes/night sweats
- Sleep difficulty/insomnia
- Vaginal dryness/ Vaginal itching
- Sore breasts
- Irregular menses
- Stiff or achy joints
- Decreased libido/ feeling asexual
- Loss of focus
- Memory loss
- Thinning hair
- Feeling anxious/heart palpitations
- Feeling moody/overwhelmed
Perimenopause might be a relatively smooth transition or it might be a mini-preview of the worst aspects of menopause.
The good news is that by paying attention to hormonal balance (through diet, lifestyle, and modifying stress) you can enjoy a relatively smooth transition into menopause.
1. Modifying Stress
#1. Get Seven to Nine Hours of Restful Sleep Each Night.
Sleep is essential for hormonal health and balance. It affects leptin, which regulates feelings of fullness, and ghrelin, which regulates hunger.
You also produce human growth hormone (HGH) when you sleep, which contributes to weight loss and overall hormonal balance.
#2. Do Moderate Exercise 20 Minutes a Day, Four Days a Week.
Exercise has many health benefits chief among them maintaining hormonal balance by reducing cortisol levels and balancing insulin resistance.
It also increases your GABA and dopamine levels, two neurotransmitters that help you fight depression while boosting your energy levels.
It’s important to find a type of exercise that you enjoy. If you find something you love, you’ll get two benefits: the healthy advantages of and the wonderful stress release of doing something you enjoy.
#3. Avoid As Much As Possible Environmental Toxins.
Environmental toxins stress our system and overburden our adrenal glands, which increases cortisol levels in the body and sets off a hormonal cascade.
Toxins (industrial chemicals, additives, and preservatives) also block the effects of estrogen or even mimic the effects of estrogen.
As hard as it is to avoid toxins, becoming aware of their effect and small changes can make a big difference.
By changing some of the products you use to clean your house, put on your hair and face and skin, and changing the food you eat and the water you drink, you can reduce the strain on your liver to detoxify your body and help balance your hormones.
12 Toxins to Avoid
Read labels carefully and avoid products that contain the following ingredients:
- Benzoyl peroxide
- DEA (diethanolamine) and MEA (monoethanolamine) and TEA (triethanolamine)
- DMDM hydantoin and imidazolidinyl urea
- Synthetic colors and pigments
- Parabens (methyl, butyl, ethyl, propyl)
- PEG (polyethylene glycol)
- Phthalates (xenoestrogens)
- Propylene glycol and butylene glycol
- Sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate
- Sunscreen chemicals like avobenzone, benzophenone and PABA
Our autonomic nervous system (the part of the nervous system that controls unconscious actions such as breathing and heartbeat) is divided into two parts: The sympathetic nervous system responsible for the “fight or flight” stress response and the parasympathetic nervous system responsible for the “rest and digest” relaxation response.
The sympathetic nervous system is dominant during the day, when we’re out facing challenges, and the parasympathetic nervous system is dominant at night when we’re home relaxing, eating, having sex, and sleeping.
Having some relaxing time every day is important to keep these symptoms supported and keep our hormones balanced.
Take a few minutes for yourself every day. Do whatever relaxes you and helps you reconnect with yourself, such as meditating, getting a massage, doing yoga, journaling, praying, spending time in nature, or simply sitting by yourself enjoying a cup of tea.
#5. Other Ways to Cope With Stress
* Get a pet or spend more time with animals.
* Reach out to loved ones, and friends.
* Spend more time outdoors and/or get some indoor plants.
* Treat yourself with as much compassion as you show others
2. Changing Your Diet
#1. Balancing Insulin: The Blood-Sugar Hormone
Insulin is a key hormone to balance your other hormones and reduce your PMS or perimenopause symptoms.
When your insulin in out of balance you are likely to gain weight in your midsection. Excess insulin also contributes to low estrogen, PCOS, and infertility.
You can balance insulin by building muscle instead of fat because muscle cells have many more insulin receptors.
And building muscles can be done through exercise and a diet with the right amounts of protein and healthy fats.
You also need to reduce your carb intake and focus more on low-glycemic carbs that are less likely to produce high blood sugar.
- Meat, including beef, lamb, pork, bison, buffalo, venison, and game
- Poultry, including chicken, turkey, duck, quail, pheasant, and game hen
- Dairy products
- Nuts, seeds
Our sex hormones are made from cholesterol.
We’ve all heard about the dangers of high cholesterol, but low cholesterol also has dangers.
Without adequate cholesterol level, the body can’t make sufficient amounts of hormones.
Most of us have enough fat content in our diets, but for some people on ow-fat diets and/or on cholesterol-lowering statin medications, they might not have enough cholesterol to make healthy levels of hormones.
High-Glycemic Carbs to Avoid
- Processed sugar
- Baked goods
- White flour, pasta, bread
- White potatoes
- White rice
- Sweet fruits, including mango, papaya, watermelon, dates
Low- and Medium-Glycemic Carbs to Help Balance Your Insulin
- Brown rice
- Sweet potatoes
- Green leafy vegetables: spinach, kale, chard, lettuce
- Cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts
- Low-glycemic fruits: berries
- Medium-glycemic fruits: apples, pears, citrus fruits
#2. Balancing Thyroid: The Metabolism Hormone
Thyroid largely affects your weight, your energy levels, and your moods.
When stress hormones go out of balance, your thyroid is affected, which induce symptoms like weight gain, constipation, hair loss, sluggishness, fatigue, and depression.
This is why one of the best ways to balance your metabolism hormone is balancing your stress hormones and your insulin levels. If that doesn’t work, your health-care practitioner may recommend thyroid-supportive supplements, or medication.
#3. Move Your Bowels Once Or Twice A Day
Improving digestive health helps eliminate more toxins from our body and metabolize our food more efficiently.
Make sure your diet is rich in fiber by eating colorful vegetables.
Fiber also lowers cholesterol and contributes to weight loss.
Food Rich In Fiber
- Ground flaxseed or chia seeds (add to your smoothies and salads)
- Cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts
- Whole grains: brown rice, quinoa, gluten-free pasta
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- Portions of this article were adapted from the book Is it Me Or My Hormones?, © 2013 by Marcelle Pick. All rights reserved.