In this post, we will dive deep into all things estrogen and how it can have an impact on PMS. Because it is our two hormones , progesterone and estrogen, that have an impact on whether we will experience PMS or not in phase three (the phase from ovulation to menstruation).
You will learn the following:
- What PMS symptoms are "common" to experience if you have an imbalance between your hormones.
- What estrogen has to do with PMS and what can affect the imbalance.
What you can do to prevent and reduce PMS symptoms.
In short, what is PMS?
PMS stands for premenstrual syndrome, which is a collective name for a variety of symptoms that you may experience before your period. There are around 200 types of PMS symptoms which can include both physical and psychological symptoms such as; that your mood changes, that you experience more worry, anxiety, mood swings but also physical symptoms such as sore breasts, cramps, diarrhea, cravings and so much more.
During the course of the menstrual cycle we go through different phases which are basically about our hormones changing (here you can read all about the phases of the menstrual cycle and how you can take advantage of them during the course of the month in less than 5 minutes). The time before menstruation, i.e. when you are in phase three , is the phase when your hormones fluctuate the most. If your estrogen and progesterone are out of sync; could it mean that you produce more of one in relation to the other, you will notice it one way or another through various symptoms.
Image: Graph with phase 3
PMS, is it normal or not?
Being able to feel a little different depending on where you are in your cycle is normal and a natural part of being cyclical as a woman . During phase 2 , your estrogen peaks and then dips after ovulation (when you enter phase 3) – so you'll most likely be able to feel that change.
However, there is a big difference between feeling a change and for several days (and even weeks) experiencing symptoms such as increased anxiety and depression, severe mood swings, feeling swollen or getting acne. It's not normal. Just because it is "common" to experience various symptoms during the menstrual cycle does not mean that it is normal or something you have to accept to live with. Severe PMS is a sign from your body that the ratio between your estrogen and progesterone is out of balance.
Your estrogen levels are higher relative to your progesterone
If your estrogen levels are high, it's important to understand how it happens so you can take action and change it. High estrogen levels can be a result of both internal and external factors.
You are exposed to xenoestrogen
Xenoestrogen (Xeno = foreign = foreign estrogen). Xenoestrogens are artificial substances often found in our most everyday products. These substances are similar to the body's own estrogen and are absorbed into the blood, which in turn affects the body's natural hormone production.
Xenoestrogens are often found in the following products: plastics, make-up, sunscreen, skin care, hair care and cleaning products. By reducing exposure to these hormone-like substances, we can reduce the risk of PMS.
You are severely underweight or overweight
Estrogen is mainly produced in the ovaries, but also to some extent in the adrenal glands and in fat cells. For women who are low below a healthy fat percentage, low estrogen is often a side effect, which can be expressed in symptoms such as; reduced sex drive, you may feel dry both in general and in the vagina, have fewer periods, absent or irregular ovulation (estrogen = makes us feel desire and life). On the other hand, women who are well above a healthy body fat percentage may have high estrogen.
Your estrogen cannot be broken down properly
The liver is the organ that takes care of, breaks down and cleanses your body of chemicals (natural and synthetic) and hormones. In other words, a healthy liver is crucial for balanced hormones.
Factors that can affect how well your liver breaks down estrogen:
- Alcohol, medications and drugs (if you ingest this your body will prioritize clearing this out before your estrogen).
- Nutritional deficiencies, if your liver does not have enough crucial nutrients to do its job properly.
Adding cruciferous vegetables to your diet such as: broccoli, cauliflower and various types of cabbage has been shown to have positive effects in PMS and estrogen dominance as they are rich in fibers that help the liver break down estrogen. An alternative may also be to reduce things that are difficult for the liver to handle such as alcohol, trans fats, white sugar and caffeine.
You don't get the estrogen out of your gut
When the estrogen has been broken down by the liver, it is time for the intestine to get it out of the body by going to the toilet. If your digestion is not at its best or you have problems with your stomach, it can be an indication that your gut is not doing well, which in turn can affect your hormones.
Once the liver has done its job it's time for the gut to do its thing, if you have a 'sluggish' gut or are constipated there is a good chance that the broken down estrogen will be absorbed back into the blood = keeping them circulating in the body = more estrogen left in the body. Pooing once a day is important to keep your estrogen levels in balance. Make sure to eat fiber, drink water and maybe support the body with fermented food that helps boost your intestinal flora!
As you have noticed, there are a number of different things that can contribute to our estrogen levels becoming unbalanced which in turn can contribute to increased symptoms of PMS such as mood swings, irritation, sore breasts, fluid retention, bloating and cramps. Stay tuned for the second part of this two-part series where we'll take a closer look at the other part of the PMS equation: Progesterone .