Despite having existed for many years, the history of PMS is a complicated one. Up until fairly recently, PMS was dismissed as not being real and many of you may be used to the dismissive rhetoric that surrounds it. Due to this dismissal, there is a general lack of research and understanding about the topic – even amongst women who suffer from it themselves.
Many women just accept it as a normal part of life, without realizing that it absolutely doesn’t have to be. In fact, research suggests that PMS can actually be a result of imbalances in the body that manifest themselves as symptoms of PMS.
What Exactly is PMS?
PMS stands for premenstrual syndrome. There are over 100 different symptoms that can be classified under PMS, with bloating, mood swings, lethargy, and food cravings amongst the most common. The variety of these symptoms makes it hard to classify exactly what constitutes PMS, but it is generally thought to be symptoms that occur in the week and a half leading up to menstruation.
For simplicity, these symptoms can be classed into four categories:
- Fluid retention
Whilst it’s generally presumed that it is PMS that is the problem for women’s health, there is a possibility that not looking after your body may cause your hormones to become imbalanced and thus affect your cycle.
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How Your Hormones May Affect PMS
Your hormones play a huge part in regulating your bodily functions; everything from reproduction and sexual functioning to metabolism, appetite and mood. This means that if they are out sync, it can cause a huge number of problems.
Two main hormones, estrogen and progesterone, control the reproductive cycle in women. Throughout the monthly cycle, these two hormones wax and wane in coordination with each other, in order to prepare the uterus for ovulation and then discarding of the lining in the case of no pregnancy.
As these hormones need to be exactly balanced, it is when they stop working in conjunction with each other properly that problems can arise. An overproduction of estrogen (which can be caused by an underproduction of the progesterone that keeps it in check) can manifest itself through many of the symptoms of PMS.
For example, thick and heavy bleeding during the period can be a sign of high levels of estrogen, as it is responsible for thickening the lining in the uterus. Other signs can be bloating, lethargy and mood swings. Noticing the pattern between high levels of estrogen and PMS symptoms yet?
On the other end, sugar cravings can be a sign that Progesterone levels are too low, due to its role in regulating blood sugar levels.
But What Actually Causes High Estrogen?
You may have read so far and recognized these signs and patterns in yourself. Whilst estrogen dominance may be a sign of other underlying medical issues, two every day causes can be stress and diet.
When you are stressed, your body to produces the hormone cortisol. Whilst it is natural for your body to be producing this in small amounts, being chronically stressed can cause your body to overproduce it.
Having high levels of cortisol can be problematic to the body for a number of reasons, but causing an underproduction of progesterone is one of them.
Hormones work a bit like a lock and key. Simply put, a hormone acts as a key and will travel through the body in order to bind to the correct receptor, or the lock that it fits into. Once bound, they work together to unlock an action.
It is thought that as cortisol and progesterone come from the same family of hormones, they compete for the same, or similar, receptors. As stress is placed in higher importance in the body (due to stress being part of our survival instinct), receptors will prioritize the cortisol, thus leading to an underproduction of progesterone. Without the progesterone to balance it out, it, in turn, leads to an overproduction of estrogen.
As you all probably know, diet plays a hugely influential role in overall wellbeing and mood. However, it can also have a great impact on the body hormonally.
When we eat foods containing sugars, our body produces the hormone insulin in order to help us convert it into energy for the body. Essentially, it plays a vital role in controlling blood sugar levels and stopping them from getting too high or too low. There have been many studies that link high levels of Insulin with the production of an enzyme called aromatase, which increases estrogen levels.
Whilst this is all a natural process, the problem occurs if the body becomes resistant to Insulin and tries to cope with the high blood sugar levels by producing even more Insulin. This further triggers aromatase and hence more estrogen.
Whilst the exact cause of this isn’t always clear-cut, it’s been heavily linked to having a high-carbohydrate or high-sugar diet and high percentage of body fat.
How Can CBD Help?
Now, there are numerous diet and lifestyle changes you can make in an attempt to balance out the negative effects of PMS that you are seeing. In fact, it is advisable to try numerous options and see what works for you. However, here we really want to delve into the potential difference that using CBD as a supplement can make.
Cannabis has long been linked to a reduction in stress through the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) as it works in places key for stress regulation, including the HPA-axis, responsible for producing cortisol – the ‘stress hormone’.
There have also been numerous clinical studies looking at what effects cannabis might have on diabetes, a condition that is the result of over or underproduction of insulin. This includes a promising five-year study that concluded regular cannabis users have 17% lower levels of insulin resistance than those who had never used cannabis.
CBD’s potential anti-anxiety, mood enhancing and homeostatic properties make it an ideal product to try in an attempt to settle hormones and dispel those problematic PMS symptoms. But don’t forget to eat right and keep your stress levels down for the best self-care.