Published on: 02/6/19
Stress and PMS
If it’s not stressful enough dealing with the day to day struggles of life, throw in some hormonal tension and it can seem a whole lot worse.
It would seem that feeling stressed out on the run up to your monthly menstrual cycle is not uncommon. In fact, PMS is thought to affect more than 85% of women, with both emotional and physical symptoms including:
- Hormonal acne
- Breast tenderness
- Feelings of sadness.
To top it off, studies into how stress affects PMS have shown that women who experience stress a few weeks before their periods are 2 to 4 times more likely to have more intense PMS symptoms. So, let’s find out just what stress does to your body and how that might influence your PMS symptoms.
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What Does Stress do to your Hormones?
Many of us get tied to the notion that if we’re stressed we must be working hard, and underestimate just how damaging stress can be to our bodies…I know I did!
The adrenaline rush associated with increased cortisol production, enables you to perform well, initially, however, the effects over time are always negative. Learning how stress affects PMS has made me realize, the real reason why I’ve always had such intense PMS symptoms for all these years.
During the later stages of menstruation low levels of the hormone cortisol are naturally released by the body. But when life’s stresses are added to the mix it can throw your HPA (hypothalamic pituitary adrenal) axis out of sync, causing the stress hormone to go into overdrive.
The HPA glands; like a chain reaction, are alerted to deal with stressful situations when they occur. The adrenal gland is stimulated to cope with stress and starts to produce higher and higher levels of cortisol and adrenaline, to make those fight or flight instincts kick in.
Although the production of these hormones is the body’s natural response to dealing with stressful situations and usually return to normal levels when the stressful situation is over, prolonged periods of stress coupled with menstruation can have negative effects on your other hormones; causing hormonal imbalances and even adrenal fatigue.
To top it off, high levels of cortisol offset the progesterone and estrogen balance, which leads to:
- mood swings,
- food cravings,
- disrupted digestion,
- sleep dysfunction,
- low sex drive,
- anxiety and
- depressed feelings.
Stress and menstruation are no unlikely bedfellows, in fact, if you are constantly stressed out around the time of your period, over time it can worsen your PMS symptoms. Bouts of stress can deplete your brain’s dopamine and serotonin levels; hormones linked to addictive type behaviors, that tend to lead to addictive behaviors such as overeating—which would explain my menstrual munchies.
Dopamine and serotonin also affect your social behavior, energy levels, mood, digestion, sleep, and sexual function.
Ways to Combat PMS
PMS can sometimes leave you feeling like you’re totally out of control with your emotions, so here are some simple steps to help you take back control of your hormones and stop them from controlling you.
1 - Meditation for PMS
A few minutes of meditation daily when you are feeling stressed, can help you relax and reduce those sky-high cortisol levels. Guided meditation practices like Nidra yoga can be a great way to aid stress management.
Make time before you start your day or before you go to bed at night. It can be surprisingly helpful in clearing your mind, as brain fog is one of the many symptoms of PMS. Taking some time for yourself to relax and focus can do you the world of good if you’re looking for some instant relief from stress.
2 - Diet for PMS
As a result of hormonal imbalances, our food cravings can have us reaching for refined carbs, unhealthy fats, and sugary foods, causing your insulin levels to peak and trough manically. All hormones work together so when insulin is out of balance it can affect the reproductive hormones, estrogen, and progesterone too.
Changes to diet like eating more protein, fiber, plant-based foods, and complex carbohydrates, instead of refined carbs and sugars, can reduce your bloating and have you feeling much better almost instantly. As well as all that, maintaining correct insulin levels can stop feelings of agitation, fatigue, shakiness, and dizziness.
CBD for PMS may also have a balancing effect on your stress levels and hormones, as CBD works to stimulate homeostasis in your endocannabinoid system. Read our article about how CBD can help with PMS, to find out more on how this works.
3 - Exercise for PMS
Address the stress with exercise! Raising your heart rate and getting the blood pumping can help combat feelings of depression and fatigue. This is a well-known way to boost your mood when you’re feeling a little irritable and crabby. Moving the body through cardio or yoga can boost levels of your happy hormones endorphins and dopamine, which may have been depleted from too much cortisol.
Endorphins also help to reduce pain. It’s thought that exercise before your period can help to reduce period pain when your period does arrive, making exercise a clear choice for helping manage PMS symptoms while enhancing your feel-good hormones.
Every woman's hormonal experience is different, but getting on top of your stress sooner rather than later in the month is thought to help you gain greater control over your PMS symptoms.
I personally find making time to add a relaxation routine into my day to day helps dramatically ease, stress, feelings of depression and irritability. Scheduling time for stress management and relaxation can often seem impossible for women who lead busy stressful lives, but even just taking a few minutes a day to stop and breath deeply, take a walk in nature, meditate or practice some self-care, it can truly make all the difference in helping your PMS symptoms less intense, and far more manageable.
Disclaimer: Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Endoca and its staff. This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or cure. Endoca CBD products have not been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).