Published on: 03/1/19
It’s fair to say that almost all females will have their period at one stage or another. The beginning of which is (hopefully) addressed by peers or parents that will guide this new phase of their life with information on what is happening to their body.
But what about your period and mental health? While the physical symptoms of menstruating are often acknowledged, what is likely not discussed is the link between your period and mental health which is often overlooked.
In this article we discuss the following:
- Reproductive hormones and your period
- Period and mental health
- Period symptoms
- Signs of PMS
- Overcoming mental health issues during your cycle
- Period trackers to keep you informed
Whether your period and mental health are left unaddressed by choice or by chance, the way your period and mental health change during your cycle are inherently linked.
Reproductive Hormones Affect our Emotional and Mental Health
Two of the Hormones that are important for a healthy reproductive system and menstrual cycle are estrogen and progesterone. Not only do they inform important roles in the lead up to and during menstruation, but they also have dramatic effects on your period and mental health.
Let’s take a look at our menstrual cycle to find out how these hormones influence our mental and emotional health and why.
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The Role of Estrogen
Estrogen is responsible for the development and regulation of the reproductive system and plays a vital role in a woman’s menstrual cycle – made up of the follicular, ovulatory, and luteal phases.
During the early part of the follicular phase, around 3-30 follicles (each containing their own egg) will begin to mature, until the healthiest of the maturing follicles sets off a spike in estrogen.
You guessed it, this spike in estrogen provokes period symptoms such as a sensitivity to stress; meaning we are far more likely to feel irritated and anxious during this phase of our cycle.
The Role of Progesterone
Progesterone, however, works to counter-balance estrogen and has its own particular role to play in maintaining period and mental health equilibrium. One study sites that falling levels of progesterone, seen during the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle and right after childbirth could be a causal factor in symptoms of severe PMS and postpartum depression.
Why? Well because of its role in influencing serotonin; our happy hormone. An article published in Journal of Affective Disorders states that estrogen and progesterone have a hand in “modulating different aspects of serotonergic function [that] implicate ovarian hormones as a factor underlying depression.”
This also gives merit to the fact that women are twice as likely to become depressed, than men.
Track your Period and Mental Health
If you’re aware that a spike in estrogen will occur just before and during ovulation, coupled with a rise in progesterone thereafter, it may just help you understand your period and mental health throughout your cycle.
The Follicular Phase: Day 1-5
The beginning of this phase sees both progesterone and estrogen levels quite low. This is to instigate the break down of the endometrium, beginning menstruation. Your period should last between this phase but may continue for a week or more. These low levels of progesterone and estrogen just before menstruation are usually what brings on symptoms of PMS, depression, general lowness, and anxiety.
What to do:
- Red wine
- Flax seeds
- Fatty fish
- Strawberries and
- Iron-rich foods
These may help give your body an extra boost of progesterones and phytoestrogens, which will help you stay on top of your mental health during your premenstrual hormone dive.
The Ovulatory Phase: Day 12-16
This is where you’ll see a high spike in your levels of estrogen as the healthiest follicle bursts and releases an egg from the ovary. During this time, called your fertile window, you are most likely to fall pregnant if sperm is present. Due to high levels of estrogen, you may experience heightened stress, anxiety and irritability.
What to do:
Eat fewer foods that increase estrogen (sorry, but stay away from the hummus) and increase your intake of progesterone causing foods, or estrogen nullifying foods from the Brassica family—such as cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, and mustard.
Studies suggest that spending more time in nature may relieve stress and anxiety, improve your mood, and boost feelings of happiness and wellbeing.
As well as this, physical exercise will increase the dopamine in your body, providing you with more of that feel-good hormone, and decreasing incidence of cortisol in the blood, which has been seen to produce a higher incidence of PMS symptoms in the lead up to menstruation.
The Luteal Phase: Day 15-24, 28
This particular phase of our menstrual cycle is named for the corpus luteum—the remains of the follicle that housed the egg which was released at ovulation. The corpus luteum produces progesterone which aids in readying the uterine lining for implantation; if an egg has been fertilized.
During the beginning of this phase, progesterone will increase and estrogen levels will decrease, which is when signs of PMS and period symptoms like severe PMS depression are at their most intense before the follicular phase pokes its head around (day 28). These low levels of progesterone and estrogen induce menstruation, starting the whole process again.
Many of us are left wondering ‘what is PMS really?’ but this is difficult to pinpoint, as everyone is different and depending on health and age, may change drastically. However, severe PMS can include period symptoms such:
- PMS depression
- Acne and even
- Suicidal thoughts
What to do:
Following on from the last two phases, you may find increasing amounts of phytoestrogenic foods, as well as exercise, will support you throughout this oestrogendip (yes, you can eat that hummus again now), and provide you with the calm that may counteract your irritability.
A brisk walk might be your best bet, as it will increase blood flow and give you a healthy increase of dopamine that’ll help ward of that low mood and extend those short tempers.
Still not sure how to track your cycle? Why not introduce a fertility and period tracker to help you understand your menses. Period tracker apps like Clue or Flo, which can be downloaded on your phone or computer (or even your health reader on your Fitbit) usually includes reminders, information relating to cycle phases and calendar tracking options, which help you understand the highs and lows of your period and mental health.
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).