Why is my PMS getting worse with age?
These are some of the most common complaints, I hear from ageing women and their changing PMS symptoms:
- Breasts hurt when receiving a hug
- Crying at commercials
- Giving a bad driver the finger
- Screaming at their children
- Eating a whole bag of chocolate chips
- Feeling like their track pants are suddenly too tight
- Unable to sleep through the night
Before I get into answering this week’s question, let me as you. Have you watched the Barnoness Vond Sketch Show? It totally speaks to the 35-45-year-old demographic. There is a super funny spoof about a women at her doctors office telling him all about all of the above symptoms and the doctor is like, “I don’t know why this is happening, there is no research and there is really nothing I can do about it but what I do know is that it will only last 10 years.” It is beyond hilarious and sadly true. If you have not seen it, I highly recommend you watch it!
I am going to start with a little refresher or for some an understanding of the normal 28-day menstrual cycle: Day 1 to Day 14 is called the follicular stage when estrogen is triggering your follicles to turn into eggs that at around Day 10 to Day 16 will result in ovulation, that’s when the biggest follicle has been matured and drops. After ovulation is called the luteal phase and progesterone takes over and thickens the endometrial lining to create a healthy and nourishing spot for implantation. If conception does not occur then progesterone drops and the lining sheds aka Aunt flow comes to visit.
We are born with our 100,00’s of thousands of follicles and each month 10s of thousands of these grow with one (or in some cases 2 hello fraternal twins) maturing to ovulation when triggered by these hormones. As we get older our body starts to realize that the egg supply is getting lower. The response is an increase in estrogen to mature those remaining follicles before we hit menopause. In essence, we become estrogen dominant with a possible body response of all those yucky prepubescent symptoms, especially worse during the PMS window. The body is trying to cope with a new hormonal environment where the estrogen is higher before it completely drops in menopause. An increase in PMS symptoms (that often last 2-3 weeks of the month) tells me that the body is not able to adapt to the changing hormone environment.
So let’s talk about what may be out of balance and why you are experiencing all these symptoms:
1) Genetic predisposition to make more estrogen depending on your follicular count each month. Women who have significant symptoms often report that their moms, aunts and sisters have similar issues. That being said, I do believe we can influence our genetics by what we wash over our genes, in essence, our lifestyle choices.
2) Taking in excess estrogen through food and drink, skincare products, plastics etc. Full disclosure I colour my hair and don’t use organic make up. I do think we have opportunities to decrease our load by influencing some aspects of our choices but we don’t have to be perfect!
3) Many people manage suboptimal liver function without knowing it. To be clear, I am not talking about liver disease, that is a completely different thing. The reality is that we are all living with more toxic exposures and our liver is taking the major load of that. When your liver is overburdened and the metabolized estrogen (and a whole heck of other toxins) get to the liver your body recycles these hormones resulting in more estrogen load.
4) The last issue that can aggravate estrogen overload is fat tissue. The body converts more estrogen in the fat cells, therefore the higher the percentage of adipose tissue you have on your body the more estrogen you are going to have to manage.
So given that part of our ageing process includes and increase of hormone before it actually decreases how the heck do we support ourselves and manage these life-impacting symptoms:
1) Make sure you are having regular bowel movements to remove these metabolites, drink more water, take magnesium before bed, eat more green leafy vegetables
2) Help your body metabolize excess estrogen by eating foods from the brassica family of vegetables. Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli all contain something called indole-3-carbonate and this helps to break down estrogen in a way that will be easier to remove from your body. There are also supplements that can do this job if you don’t like these foods.
3) Stay lean by lifting weights or using body resistance exercises, eat more protein and less refined carbohydrates. Set an intention to get stronger, not skinnier. Obviously this is a whole conversation on its own but the leaner you are the less estrogen you have to manage.
4) Look at your lifestyle and change a few things around estrogen exposure, perhaps you change your face cream, household cleaning products, stop using plastic and/or purchase a water purifying the system.
5) Support your liver, daily with lemon water, 50% of green leafy vegetables, teas like milk thistle and dandelion and talk to your Naturopathic doctor about a liver detox protocol.
6) Manage stress with deep breathing, walks in the wood and relaxing teas. This will down-regulate cortisol levels to ensure that your ratio of estrogen and progesterone are in balance.
So ladies, in summary, you are not crazy, this is not in your head and your PMS symptoms are getting worse because your body is trying to adapt to an ever-changing hormonal environment. Be kind to yourself while at the same time empower your situation with a few lifestyle changes that will have a huge impact on the next decade of your hormonal experience.