Understanding the female hormonal cycle
The menstrual cycle is the biological mechanism that helps prepare a woman's body for a potential pregnancy. It begins at puberty and ends at menopause. A cycle lasts 1 month; it starts from the first day of menstruation until the first day of the next period. If there is no fertilization, the cycle starts again the next month.
There are 3 phases in the hormonal cycle.
The first phase or "beginning" of a new cycle is when a hormone tells the ovaries to prepare to release eggs. This phase is called the follicular phase because the eggs grow in follicles.
The follicles release estrogen at this stage, a hormone that makes the endometrium thicker and softer, so that it will be nice and comfortable for a fertilized egg if one arrives. This phase begins on the first day of menstruation until ovulation. It usually takes 1-3 weeks. This is the least predictable phase of the cycle.
When an egg is released from the ovary, this is called ovulation. The change in estrogen levels during the follicular phase causes a rapid increase in another hormone called luteinizing hormone (LH). This helps a follicle open and release the egg, which in turn makes its way through the fallopian tube to the uterus. If the egg is fertilized, a pregnancy is possible. If it is not, it will dissolve within two days.
Most women do not feel exactly when they are ovulating. But sometimes, some women will experience cramping for a day or two. Cervical mucus tends to be a little stickier and clearer during ovulation.
The luteal (pre-menstrual) phase
The energy level begins to drop as if you are slowly going into hibernation. During this period, which also lasts between 10 and 18 days on average, the follicle that released the oocyte degenerates. It transforms into a corpus luteum and secretes a hormone, progesterone, whose essential role is to prepare the uterine lining (endometrium) for the implantation of the embryo. When there is no pregnancy, this phase ends with the beginning of menstruation.
Menstruation: this period of blood flow that women experience each month for a period of 3 to 7 days.
Physical and emotional feelings
Many women experience both physical and psychological fluctuations during their menstrual cycle. This is due to hormonal variations. Symptoms can vary from person to person, but also according to the phase of the cycle in which you find yourself.
In general, here are the symptoms often associated with PMS
Emotional symptoms :
- Tension or anxiety
- Depressed mood
- Increased sensitivity
- Mood swings, irritability or anger
- Changes in appetite
- Difficulty falling asleep (insomnia)
- Social isolation
- Difficulty concentrating
- Lower abdominal pain
- Joint or muscle pain
- Weight gain due to water retention
- Abdominal swelling
- Sensitive chest
- Acne breakouts
- Constipation or diarrhea
Different ways to soothe PMS naturally
Research shows that 80% of women experience some degree of PMS symptoms during their hormonal cycle.
You may be surprised to know that your daily habits and routine can play a significant role in how you feel and especially in the severity of the symptoms you experience. Daily changes like your physical activity and the food choices you make can make the difference between a symptom-free cycle and an uncomfortable, painful menstrual cycle.
Eat a healthy diet
Obesity is a risk factor for PMS, so eating a healthy diet is an essential part of managing your PMS symptoms.
If you're wondering about the best way to eat a healthy diet, "eat the rainbow or colorful" is usually a great rule of thumb. Fiber-rich fruits and vegetables and whole grains are optimal. Foods rich in calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D and vitamin B have also been proven to be beneficial natural treatments for PMS. Season your dishes healthily with a better quality salt that is packed with fresh herbs and vegetables, like Herbamare Original. For an extra flavour kick that won't cause your mouth to feel like it is on fire try our Herbamare Spicy.
Would you believe me if I told you that dark chocolate is another food that can help with PMS? Rich in iron and magnesium, dark chocolate does a good job of preventing iron and magnesium deficiencies that contribute to the development and severity of PMS symptoms. My favorite luteal phase snack: medjool dates stuffed with Natur almond butter and covered in dark chocolate.
The back, kidneys and belly can be very sore during premenstrual syndrome. Fortunately, a good massage with a targeted oil can make all the difference! Plus, it might also relieve bloating in the process. Aromaforce Lavender or Rose Absolute oil diluted in a little sweet almond oil and massaged into the lower abdomen can do a world of good and help reduce cramps.
Increased physical activity releases endorphins and lowers the effects of cortisol, which helps with pain tolerance and the emotional aspect of PMS symptoms. Studies have shown that walking, swimming and running are effective exercises for women with PMS. You don't have to push yourself too hard, just move for a minimum of 20 minutes a day.
Use of natural products
When we turn to nature, we always find herbs that can support us in our well-being. For example, for the menstrual cycle, the fruit of the chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus) has been used in herbal medicine for thousands of years to treat female hormonal disturbances. Its extract has been the subject of placebo-controlled studies attesting to its effectiveness in relieving PMS symptoms, including breast tenderness and irritability. It is also used in herbal medicine to help regulate menstruation. Vitex PMS by A.Vogel is an extract of this plant. This product is easy to take: 2 times a day (20 drops in a little water) for the duration of 3 cycles.
If PMS comes with waves of irritability and nervousness, it is beneficial to take a moment to calm down with either breathing exercises, a warm bath or reading a good book. To that, I like to take A.Vogel's Relax spray which contains Passion Flower and Lemon Balm known to have calming effects on nervousness and irritability. For nightime relief and to help you get a good night's sleep try the Relax tabs which have added Valerian.