Doesn't sound like much fun, does it? Unfortunately countless women deal with these kinds of symptoms every day! You might be one of them. I definitely have been! This week I'm talking about one of the most common hormonal imbalances women experience: excess estrogen. I'll give you the lowdown on how we get too much estrogen, and some simple take-home tips to begin to addressing it if you're experiencing these symptoms.
Let's talk briefly about the two hormones that are playing in this oh-so-common imbalance: estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen is the 'feminine' hormone. It makes us feel sexy, makes our hair shine and our skin glow, and it gives us lots of productive, creative energy. It rises starting at the beginning of your cycle, peaks around ovulation, and then remains low for the rest of your cycle. Estrogen is also a stimulating hormone, so too much of it can make us wired instead of energized, and anxious instead of confident. Progesterone is a calming hormone, that steps in after ovulation to build the lining of your uterus and prepare for either pregnancy or your period.
As you can tell, these hormones work in a kind of see-saw. If that see-saw becomes imbalanced, is can cause some really uncomfortable symptoms, the most common of which is high estrogen and low progesterone. This often looks like:
- PMS and mood swings
- Heavy or painful periods
- Sore breasts
- Anxiety/panic attacks
- Trouble with sleeping
That's quite the list! You might be thinking that this is just 'normal girl stuff', but it turns out, that these symptoms are actually signs of an underlying hormonal issue. You don't have to feel like an anxious mess before your period and you don't have to be laid up for a week during it! How liberating is that!
How do we get this oh-so-common imbalance? There are several factors, some of which include:
- Stress: Cortisol, the stress hormone (which you'll be hearing much, much more about), is made by the same hormone that progesterone is made from. When we're too stressed, our body produces cortisol instead of progesterone because it (smartly) decides that running from that bear (deadline, big event, or relationship trouble), is more important at that time than making sure you are ready to make a baby.
- Too much sugar, caffeine, and alcohol: All of these things raise cortisol.
- The birth control pill: This hormonal imbalance is the most common one women experience before and especially after being on the pill. This happens usually because our bodies forget how to produce their own hormones while we are having the pill do the job for us, so our bodies actually have to re-remember how the whole thing works. Often times, it goes to the opposite extreme, overdoing it and producing WAY more estrogen than we need.
Lastly, what are some things we can do to start getting a handle on this? Here are my top 5 food/life/supplement suggestions:
- Cruciferous veggies: Think broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and cabbage. These are known to break down excess estrogen and help your body get rid of it. DIM is a supplement that packs these in for maximum effect.
- Avoid alcohol, sugar, and caffeine: I know, I said it. Generally speaking, no more than two servings of alcohol per week. More than that is known to start raising cortisol levels. Caffeine effects people very differently but it's important to pay attention to. For me, if I have coffee more than a few days a week, I can totally feel myself turning into a stressball. As for sugar, studies have shown that women with PMS consume 275% more sugar than those without PMS. That's crazy! And sugar, because it's inflammatory, will only exacerbate any PMS, anxiety, or cramping symptoms. Cutting out the sugar and increasing your sweet potatoes in the two weeks before your period can dramatically improve your symptoms!
- Fiber! This is a detox thing. Get your digestive system moving so it can clear out the toxins that are throwing your hormones off.
- Magnesium: Taking magnesium 7-10 days before your period can really help with PMS-related anxiety and mood issues. I like drinking some CALM right before bed.
- Vitex/Chasteberry extract: This herbal supplement has been helpful for a lot of women in raising progesterone levels, particularly after coming off the pill. Gaia is a great brand.
- Acupuncture: Acupuncture is great for helping with period pain as well as ovulation issues. And it will totally help that stress!
Speaking of stress, that is the biggest thing. You can take all the supplements in the world and if you're still stressed, this imbalance is going to hang around. Be gentle with yourself, especially during the week before and during your period. Listen to your body: it's pretty smart and it knows how to take care of you!
Until next time! Hey, if you're reading this, take a second to fill out that pretty box to your right with your email and you'll get these posts and your FREE relaxation track right in your inbox. Take a listen and start de-stressing today! And if you're experiencing these symptoms and would like to know more or receive individualized help, contact me and sign up for your free wellness consultation!