If you’re a client or you follow my work in any form, you’ll know that I really LOVE to harp on about the fact that stress = PMS.
PMS (and other reproductive dysfunctions) are rampant in the health experience of modern women, and it doesn’t have to be this way. Unfortunately, the way we are living doesn’t do much to contribute to a happy, healthy menstrual cycle.
There a many factors that can contribute to the incidence of PMS (pre-menstrual syndrome), and stress is most definitely one of them.
When we are stressed, we produce higher-than-healthy amounts of the stress hormone cortisol. One of the key players in having a healthy menstrual cycle with NO incidence of PMS, is the beautiful hormone progesterone.
The problem lies in the fact that cortisol and progesterone are produced from the same precursor material within our bodies. When we are constantly stressed (which SO many women are), the demand for cortisol is always going to be high. And because cortisol is all about survival (we produce it in response to perceived threat), the body will always favour cortisol production over progesterone production.
The end result? Too much cortisol, not enough progesterone.
So often, this scenario plays out for women and can result in a relative oestrogen dominance (as the balance of oestrogen / progesterone is a main determinant for our monthly menstrual experience).
In addition to this, cortisol also competes with progesterone for receptor sites on your cells, and will typically win – meaning that even if you do have progesterone available, it may not be able to bind and exert its lovely effects!
Without getting to caught up in the biochemistry of it all, the takeaway message is – you guessed it – Stress = PMS.
Personally, the last 6 years for me have been an exploration of this very scenario. Having studied extensively, I have tried ALL sorts of natural tips and tricks for getting my hormones balanced, and I can confidently say that managing my stress has been the #1 thing I’ve done for getting rid of my period pain and PMS.
And when I go through particularly stressful times in my life? These not-so-welcome friends pop right back up.
The three biggest things that I attribute to my nicely balanced hormones are:
- YOGA! Yoga has been game-changing for me. The movement and the breathing are so profoundly calming for the nervous system, that they have the power to VERY quickly bring balance to the whole cortisol / progesterone scenario. I love that yoga is my main medicine. It has to be consistent though – if I let my practice fall to the wayside, I quickly notice the effects.
- Moderate caffeine. Too much caffeine WILL throw out your hormones, by immediately increasing the production of stress hormones. Be honest with yourself about how much caffeine you’re having. It really does nothing to relieve stress and anxiety. I still have caffeine, but I know my ‘tipping points’ now, and I know to avoid it when I’m stressed and depleted.
- Moderate alcohol. While alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, it’s an adrenal stimulant, meaning that it leads to the production of stress hormones (just like caffeine). Like caffeine, it WILL affect your hormones. Alcohol is also directly linked to raised oestrogen levels, which can further contribute to oestrogen dominance symptoms. (On that note, if breast tenderness prior to your period is something you experience on a regular basis, alcohol consumption may be contributing to this. Additionally, if you experience breast tenderness ALL month, every month, this is definitely something to get checked with your naturopath).
Of course, there are many other factors to consider when it comes to relieving PMS, and supporting hormonal status. Personally, the above-mentioned factors are my best stress-busting tips, and I live by them.
It’s SO important to address the ‘why’ behind your stress, as well.
Are you stressed because you’re overcommitted? Are you saying yes to everything and everyone, and taking no time to rest? Is there a tendency to people pleasing that you need to explore?
Often, relieving those dreaded PMS symptoms is much more simple than we think, if we can isolate the root cause behind them and work to address them right there.
And if you need some help to do so, get in touch.
A PMS-free life is closer than you think!
PS. Want to join The Slow Down Movement, and find out WHY modern women are so stressed, and what to do about it? Grab your copy of the eBook here. Xx