Haywire Periods and Wicked PMS

Understanding your periods and premenstrual symptoms become much easier when you understand your hormones.  For women of all ages, but especially when we are 35 or older, it can seem like our periods and hormones do not resemble anything like we were used to. Are your hormones shifting faster than the tides?

The balance of your dominant sex hormones, estrogen and progesterone is crucial to you feeling grounded, feeling “like yourself” and keeping your monthly cycles from becoming something you dread. These two hormones dance together like a well-matched pair, and if one is off, the other is thrown off balance as well.

In the hormonal dance, estrogen often takes the lead, and when it “takes over” and gets a bit off balances, progesterone tries to keep up, but usually is lagging behind. 

 

What do you feel when estrogen is dominant (also called excess estrogen)?

How ‘bout:

Moody

Anxious

Weepy

Headaches

Breast tenderness

Sleep difficulties

Fatigue

Lack of sex drive

Inability to lose weight despite your intentional efforts

Basically, wicked PMS!

 

What does your period look and feel like if you have excess estrogen?

Heavy periods (generally you know if your period is excessively heavy—this is you if you wear a tampon plus a backup super pad just to be sure!) 

Long periods (more than 7 days is too long ladies!)

You have a period more frequently than every 25-28 days (note: there is variation with the frequency of every woman’s cycle, but if you’ve seen a recent change, it likely indicates a hormonal imbalance or something that should be checked by your health care provider)

Basically, you dread your period!

 

So, what’s happening with progesterone in this scenario?

Two possibilities:

Estrogen is dominant (high) and progesterone level is normal.  This may be due to inadequate detoxification of estrogen from your body (more on this next), or extra exposure to estrogens (from medications, environment, or your own body---usually when we carry excess weight this can occur, or with the normal fluctuations of peri-menopause).

Estrogen is dominant (high) in comparison with progesterone due to a low progesterone level.  This is a super common scenario for those of us 35 and up.  Progesterone levels begin to decline, thereby throwing off the delicate balance between our friends E & P!  See my post on progesterone here to read more about the other half of the dance:

 

How do you know if your estrogen is excessive?

You can have a blood test, best done around day 21 of your cycle so you can accurately test your progesterone level, which is highest in the 2nd half of your cycle. A functional medicine practitioner, naturopathic physician, or women’s health care provider who is skilled in hormonal interpretation can test your hormones and discuss the results.  Actually though, symptoms are the best guidance in this case.

 

Okay, so what do you do if you suspect your estrogen is out of whack?

We’ll tackle that step by step next week cause I know you’re a busy lady, but stay tuned…once you’re aware of the imbalance, you can then make changes! We’ll also tackle the reasons why estrogen becomes excessive in the first place when we take that deeper dive.