Written by Nicole Ohebshalom for New World Native.
As women, our interior lives and our monthly hormonal fluctuations are complex and ever changing. On a daily basis, there are a lot of emotional, cognitive and behavioral changes occurring for women. Our neurotransmitters, serotonin and GABA, and our hormones, estrogen and progesterone, are intricately linked. There are estrogen receptors throughout our brain that affect our behavior and mood. In the brain, there is a complex interaction between estrogen and serotonin, which is a main neurotransmitter that can make us anxious, happy or depressed. These two hormones interact so when estrogen is low then serotonin is low as well. When estrogen levels drop, it’s common for moods to plunge as well. When serotonin levels are low, everything seems like a problem and other PMS symptoms arise. When serotonin levels are higher then we have an easier time to be resilient and ride with the changes in life.
Stress can impact the emotional and hormonal fluctuations in our lives. It’s usually due to a combination of factors that leads to imbalances in neurotransmitters, stress hormones and hormonal imbalances. Some underlying factors are: external relational stressors like relationships, workplace stress and money. Also, nutrient deficiencies, blood sugar dysregulation and environmental factors such as, plastics and other chemical exposures that cause excess estrogen in the system.
Natural approaches to begin transforming our lives:
Working with Your Natural Energy
Rather than fighting how we feel, we can heighten our awareness to learn more about ourselves, such as our needs. Then, it’s easier to go with how we feel. Recognize that during premenstrual time, we might need to set aside time to journal with a cup of herbal tea, read a good book, and have a nice out with girlfriends. Once we are aware of our needs for each stage of the cycle, then we can prepare, create the structure for activities to fit our needs at that time and then flow with our natural energy.
Rest and Exercise
Waking up refreshed from an adequate night of sleep can work wonders in hormonal care. When we don’t have enough sleep then the physical and emotional discomforts can become heightened. Moderate exercise is shown to help improve hormonal and neurotransmitter levels. It’s important to break a daily sweat and this can still be done with moderate exercise. When we workout too hard often then our cortisol levels can spike leading to a hormonal cascade of stress in our body. Moderate exercise can be a dance part with a good sweat. Walking or light cardio three to four times a week.
Diet and Nutrition
Research shows that women with PMS consume significantly more sugar, caffeine, dairy products, and refined carbohydrates. Replacing these foods with alternative options can help relieve symptoms.
Additionally, incorporating adequate protein and fat to each meal can help keep blood sugar levels balanced in order to avoid the ups and downs of the sugar and emotional rollercoaster. Dietary fats can come from avocado, olive oils, hemp oil, coconut oil and other good quality oils. High fiber vegetables are also important to help the body eliminate excessive hormones, particularly estrogen, such as dark leafy green vegetables.
Many believe that the way we view our bodies and menstruation can help influence how we experience menstruation. When a woman has a positive outlook on her body’s natural fluctuation, as a time of heightened emotional sensitivity, creativity, intuitiveness and personal power then she can have an easier period. PMS and other hormonal-emotional difficulties is certainly not ‘in our heads’, nevertheless positive reframing can help us overcome these struggles.