Notice: This article is not only for women. It is also for every man in close relation with one.
Female hormones have been the villain for a long time and for a while their fluctuation was seen as a disease (called hysteria). Women were considered unfit to work because of their periods and because they were emotionally unstable, it was said. Controversially, the hormonal pill came to allow women to work most of the time as men, but at a terrible cost: women’s health and their defemination.
In the articles I wrote about the pill you can read more about this topic. In this article though, the focus is:
- Is it possible to have hormonal fluctuations (which we want!) and not being seen as hormonally and emotionally unstable?
- If we have hormones and consequently this fluctuation, do we suffer from premenstrual temperament?
The word “resilience” means
“Capacity to overcome, to recover”.
Therefore, hormonal resilience refers to the ability to overcome hormonal fluctuations in order to take advantage of their positive aspects (developed later on) and to known how to take care of ourselves so we don’t suffer from the negative aspects of these fluctuations.
Why do we want a hormonal cycle?
If you have a menstrual cycle it means that you have hormonal fluctuations. During your cycle (every 21 to 35 days) the concentration of your hormones will vary so you can ovulate. Yes, the end goal of all this cycle is to ovulate. Even if you don’t want to get pregnant, ovulating means that you are healthy. If your hormones do not fluctuate it means that you do not ovulate. In other words, it means that your body is dealing with a problem too serious to even “think” about procreation.
By taking the pill, you do not ovulate nor have a period. The blood that appears in the end of each month is a side effect of the medication you take.
In summary, during the first two weeks of your menstrual cycle, your oestrogen raises exponentially and makes you feel wonderful, happy and capable of everything. With ovulation, which happens approx. in the 14th day of each cycle, the levels of oestrogen fall and progesterone starts rising. Without ovulation, progesterone is not produced. Progesterone acts to smooth the rise and fall of oestrogen levels, so it does not rise and fall abruptly. Hence, progesterone balances the nervous system and stimulates the production of GABA (Gamma Aminobutyric Acid) – a neurotransmitter able to calm down when one is in stress. Progesterone is a natural anti-inflammatory that prevents breast cancer, protects against heart diseases, promotes good sleep and helps to build muscle. So many benefits! And many more that I am not writing.
Oestrogen and progesterone fluctuation along the menstrual cycle:
Another great benefit of progesterone is the suppression of oestrogen, which is that friend we want to have around but who easily loses control. The fact that we have both hormones each month not only provides hormonal balance, but also a balanced life. And progesterone benefits go beyond: while oestrogen stimulates an increasing in weight, fat and breast cancer, progesterone stimulates weight loss and muscle grow and protects from breast cancer while balancing oestrogen level. While oestrogen diminishes thyroid activity, progesterone increases it.
How is it then when one does not ovulate and progesterone is not produced? Well, oestrogen continues to be extremely high all month long. And now you ask: Isn’t it great to always feel up high? Everything has two sides. If you read the previous paragraph again, you will understand that a constant high level of oestrogen leads to inflammation, more probability of breast cancer, weight and fat gain, etc.
Okay, if by now you agree with me regarding how good it is to have a menstrual cycle, then we are on common ground. I love to have my cycle and be healthy, but I don’t really like those days before the period when I get grumpy, with aching breasts, swollen, bad memory, stomach ache, headache… the symptoms are so many! But it does not have to be like that. Although those symptoms are very common, they don’t necessarily have to happen.
Re-education is all we need and when we begin to know more about ourselves, everything changes. Small changes that can make a difference physically, emotionally and finally can make you more resilient.
Everybody should be educated to know and take care of their bodies in order to take better advantage out of them. Here we will talk about how to prevent symptoms that appear before the period and not be considered as temperamental because of hormones. By re-educating ourselves we can, as women, choose the best day for an interview, for an emotional and motivational speech, to perfectly meditate and even to not get pregnant with the natural birth control, which has a failure rate of 0.6% (the pill has 0.3%). Perhaps in the future I will write more about how to use the menstrual cycle in our favour and about the natural birth control method, which can be used either to prevent or to promote pregnancy.
To be resilient at a hormonal level, we need to have hormonal fluctuations and think about them as something natural and beneficial in our lives. With this acceptance in mind, we can adapt ourselves to each phase, mainly to not suffer from premenstrual syndrome.
Re-education for life without premenstrual syndrome
As mentioned before, we need to ovulate to produce progesterone. Even when ovulating, the amount we produce and how this hormone communicates and acts in the body is affected by other causes. Symptoms of low progesterone (for those who know they ovulate and have a menstrual cycle) are fertile mucus during the week before the period, slight and dark bleeding before the period or very strong or long periods. Often, premenstrual symptoms are symptoms related to low concentration of both hormones.
Progesterone is a natural anti-inflammatory. When it decreases in the end of the cycle, inflammation may appear and lead to painful symptoms. For that reason, if you suffer from premenstrual symptoms mainly during the days of the period it is important to:
- Avoid inflammatory foods (dairy products, gluten, sugar);
- Reduce alcohol consumption;
- Reduce stress (a good reason for a walk or a massage, for instance);
This is the core for the symptoms to go away. In extreme cases, one can supplement it with magnesium, selenium (a rich source is the Brazilian nut) or vitamin B6.
If your body produces little progesterone, oestrogen may be higher than it should and therefore causing symptoms. It helps if you try to decrease the maximum amount of plastic in contact with your food and to do the four suggestions above for inflammation.
Complementing with iodine or probiotics also helps dealing with the symptoms of high oestrogen. The reason for the probiotics is the existence of bacteria in our intestine that reabsorb oestrogen. Thereby, we need to prevent the activity of these bacteria with a good intestinal flora. A phytonutrient (Glucarate) found in oranges and broccoli assists in preventing the reabsorption of excreted oestrogen.
Treatment specified per symptoms:
Breasts: If your main symptom is about the breasts you can greatly benefit from supplementation with iodine (low dosage and only for people who do not have thyroid issues). If breast-related symptoms only occur occasionally, add foods with a high content of iodine to your meals.
Acne: Reduce as much as possible inflammatory foods (gluten, dairy products, sugar and alcohol). You can supplement it with zinc.
Headaches or migraines: Migraines are often triggered by the decrease of oestrogen and because of that they are so frequent right before the period. The natural treatment involves avoiding gluten and do supplementation with magnesium glycinate, vitamin B2 (through eggs, broccoli or supplements) and yam soup. If migraines are frequent in the end of the period take iron because in that case their cause is iron deficiency.
Fatigue: Avoid diary products. Take magnesium, vitamin B6, Ashwagandha, Rhodiola.
Cravings for sweets: First, it is normal to feel more hungry when the amount of hormones decrease and consequently you eat more. Because progesterone is even higher than oestrogen, more calories are burned and therefore eating more is okay. Avoid eating sugars since they potentiate all the premenstrual symptoms. Moreover, sleep enough (very important mainly in this phase) and eat protein.
If you have chocolate cravings during the days before the period, perhaps is your body asking for magnesium. Choose the purest chocolate possible or supplement your diet with magnesium.
Some symptoms disappear only one hour after changing your diet or after doing supplementation.
Lastly, what if we start thinking that the symptoms are a reason for gratitude? You body is communicating with you and with your new knowledge you can answer to it.
- “Resilience”, in Dicionário Priberam da Língua Portuguesa [em linha], 2008-
2013, https://dicionario.priberam.org/resili%C3%AAncia [consultado em 14-07-2019].
- Book “Period Repair Manual: Natural Treatment for better hormones and better periods”, Lara Briden.