This is a question that someone asked me a couple of weeks ago. She assured me pregnancy (the most common reason) was not an issue. In a nutshell, it’s because there’s an imbalance among estrogen, progesterone and testosterone.
Estrogen influences positive moods, thinking, perception, motivation, memory, appetite, sex drive, anxiety and our response to stress. Estrogen is also the precursor to neurotransmitters in the brain like seratonin, which makes us feel good.
Testosterone affects the limbic brain which is responsible for primary drives and emotions, including libido.
Progesterone, the dysmorphic hormone, works against estrogen. It lowers the number of available estrogen receptors. During the latter part of cycle, progesterone may dismantle nerve connections estrogen set up in beginning of cycle.
Estrogen and testosterone plummet the day after ovulation and consequently lowers sex drive. This period is similar to PMS but lasts for a shorter period and is less intense.
An increase in progesterone, the sedating hormone, brings down your pep, squashes your libido and slows down brain speed. It also triggers a bigger appetite for sweet, salty, fat-rich comfort foods.
Estrogen attempts one more climb after this drop but then falls even lower in the last week of cycle, resulting in PMS.
Two major shifts in hormones after your cycle literally alters signals in nerve pathways in brain and can lead to alterations in mood due to repletion of seratonin from estrogen withdrawal.
So what can you do to alleviate the irritability? Eat well during the first half of your cycle (that means lots of greens and little to no refined sugar), exercise regularly (just not too strenuously during the first few days of your period) and practice regular meditation and/or journaling. Engaging in sex and having fun (however you define fun) help immensely as well.
Interestingly, research shows that it isn’t the level of the hormones in a woman’s body that impacts her mood but how sensitive her brain is to these shifts in hormones. This explains why some women are more affected by their cycle and prone to mood changes.
For further information on how to manage low estrogen, you can check the articles on nutrition for low estrogen, supplementation and lifestyle choices or you can contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org for individualized help.
Enjoy your week and we’ll be back next Sunday with another question from our readers.
Sandy O’Shea, CNP