Happy Friday nutrition junkies! I’ve been getting emails all week long about the follow up to my PMS part I and II posts. I promised to reveal to you the leading cause of PMS and I’ve been leaving you in suspense! So, ladies, here it is, a simple yet incredibly powerful solution to our monthly nightmare. Can I get a hell ya!
What does the majority of the North American female population have in common? We are stressed out liked it’s our full time job! Stress is the primary factor in the cause of almost 99% of disease and illness. Stress is also the leading cause of PMS in most women living in North America today. So what’s the connection?
We’ve all heard about how stress can make you fat, sick and tired, but what about what stress does to your hormones? When we experience stress our adrenal glands secrete a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is released in response to feelings of fear, worry or when the body perceives it’s in danger (even if the danger is not real).
Over long term, if the cause of stress and stress itself is not addressed the adrenal glands become burnt out, exhausted, depleted and lose their ability to respond and deal with stress.
At this point, the body’s primary goal is to survive as it continues to think and feel as if it is being threatened. Ironically, the stress itself is really just our own perception or creation that we have made in response to a situation, event or problem.
In addition to cortisol, we also produce other hormones. Women produce two main sex hormones: estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen is the main hormone responsible for menstruation and reproduction, while progesterone is the primary hormone involved in pregnancy.
Progesterone is critical to balance estrogen, avoiding estrogen dominance and all those nasty PMS symptoms that come with it: mood swings, depression, fatigue, water retention, swollen breasts, headaches, etc.
During periods of chronic stress progesterone production is reduced. The body favours pumping out that stress hormone, cortisol, in order to fight for its life in response to perceived danger. The body literately fights or flights and in preparing for the battle or run, over produces cortisol to adapt.
Since cortisol and progesterone compete for same/common receptors in the cells, cortisol inhibits or stops progesterone production, allowing for estrogen to dominant. The result of chronically elevated cortisol levels and estrogen dominance is a breeding ground for symptoms of PMS.
Elevated cortisol levels also contribute to blood sugar (glucose) highs and lows. The additional cortisol being produced when the body is under stress can create a rush of glucose into the cells, initially providing the body with loads of energy. However, a very short time later, blood levels crash and the body will feel fatigued and begin to crave sugary food to recreate the sugar high.
This becomes a vicious cycle with the sugar crash causing the body to over produce cortisol to compensate and cortisol causing a sugar high, only to crash soon after. The process repeats itself over and over and burns up any additional resources to make progesterone.
So really besides eating a healthy balanced diet, reducing your stress will be a key factor in decreasing or eliminating your PMS symptoms. In holistic nutrition we always like to try to get to the root cause of the problem. The root cause for many women is simply stress. My best advice is to find an activity or thing that you feel comfortable using as your response to stress. This should be something you enjoy and look forward to.
For me going for a run, hitting and kicking a punching bag at the gym, reading a good book, meditation, deep breathing or prayer are a few of my main tools to deal with stress. All of these things help me acknowledge and address my so called “stress”, which I have totally created all in my mind! After I’ve acknowledge the stress and created awareness around it, I can then begin to shift my mind and my thinking about the issue.
The next time you feel stressed take some time to experiment and see what works best for you. Just acknowledging that the stress is there in the first place is the first step to dealing with and addressing it.
As A Course in Miracles teaches: “Seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world. What you see reflects your thinking. And your thinking but reflects your choice of what you want to see.”