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How the menstrual cycle and mental health are related

By PYM STORE

How the Menstrual Cycle and Mental Health are Linked

As we celebrate Women's History Month, it's crucial to recognize and address the unique challenges women face concerning mental wellness. One often overlooked aspect is the profound impact hormonal fluctuations can have on a woman's mood and overall well-being throughout the month.

From premenstrual syndrome (PMS), Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) to perimenopause and beyond, understanding these fluctuations and their connection to mental health is paramount.

Fortunately, there are simple changes we can make to our diet and lifestyle to support stable moods throughout our cycle. PMS may be common, in the sense that 90% of women experiences it, but it's not normal, in the sense that this isn't the way it has to be.

Read on to learn what's going on hormonally in your body throughout the month and how this impacts your mood and mental health, and natural strategies to support your hormones and therefore improve your mental wellness!

Key Hormones in the Menstrual Cycle

Most of us didn't get the menstrual cycle education we needed and deserved in school. So let's break it down!

There are four hormonal phases that happen throughout the menstrual cycle, and each one influences our mood, behavior, and energy levels. 

Within those phases, there are four main hormones at play that fluctuate throughout your menstrual cycle. These are:

Estrogen

Estrogen is a growth hormone. It rises during the first half of our cycle, in the Follicular and Ovulation phases, and it helps stimulate the growth of follicles in our ovaries. One follicle will eventually mature into an egg (this is the event of ovulation).

Estrogen is a beautiful hormone with benefits for our bodies such as:

  • Protects your heart: keeps cardiovascular tissue healthy, promotes blood circulation
  • Promotes positive mood: increases feel-good neurotransmitters dopamine & serotonin
  • Increases libido and pleasure by keeping vagina lubricated
  • Fertility: triggers production of cervical fluid
  • Supports healthy skin & collagen production
  • Protects your brain: reduces inflammation, promotes memory
  • Improves muscle mass & bone density

When estrogen is rising, this is the part of your cycle where you likely feel more energized, on top of the world, confident, positive and optimistic. Your skin is glowing, you feel good in your body, and you feel more social. 

Estrogen also stimulates the production of cervical fluid, which is that white stuff you may notice in your underwear from time to time. This is completely normal! Unless it has a fishy smell, or is itchy, which can suggest an infection. This cervical fluid makes it easy for sperm to swim to an egg during ovulation.

Follicle Stimulating Hormone

The rise in estrogen triggers Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH), which does exactly what it sounds like, it stimulates the growth of follicles in your ovaries. 

Luteinizing Hormone

Around the middle of your cycle, Luteinizing Hormone (LH) is released from your pituitary gland, which triggers the event of ovulation, where one follicle matures into an egg and travels from the ovary, through the Fallopian tube, to the uterine lining. The egg then awaits to be fertilized by sperm. 

Around this time, testosterone also increases, to get you "in the mood" to go find a mate and get that sperm ūüėČ. So around this time of ovulation, you're libido is likely at an all-time high.

Progesterone

ÔĽŅAfter ovulation, the empty follicle from which the egg was released, turns into a temporary gland called the corpus luteum, which then secretes progesterone.

Progesterone is also a beautiful hormone with benefits for your body such as: 

  • Thickens the lining of the uterus for implantation
  • Supports pregnancy once conception occurs
  • Eases anxiety
  • Supports bone growth
  • Promotes memory and attention to detail
  • Reduces risk of endometrial and breast cancer
  • Promotes sound sleep
  • Nourishes hair and clears skin
  • Reduces risk of autoimmune disease

You might be thinking...so if these hormones are so great and have all these benefits, why do I feel like I'm on such an emotional rollercoaster every month?!

Well, that's because in order to experience the benefits of the hormones, they have to be in balance. Too much or too little of our hormones can create those problematic symptoms like painful cramps, heavy bleeding, low sex drive, missing or irregular periods, low moods, anxiety, insomnia, migraines and acne.

What causes hormonal imbalance?

It can be quite a challenge to keep our hormones in balance in today's world, considering our hormones are happiest when we get adequate sleep (9-10 hours for women), have low stress levels, get adequate nutrients from our diets, get enough sunlight, and have good gut health.

The reality is many of us are running on caffeine, not eating enough or getting proper nutrients from our diets, aren't getting enough sleep, have poor gut health and are chronically stressed.

All of this leads to either having too low or too high estrogen, and often too low progesterone, which leads to PMS symptoms.

So how do we keep our hormones in balance? Read on to find out!

One important note: your symptoms are not "wrong" or "bad"

Before we dive in to how to keep our hormones in balance, it's important to note that the goal is not necessarily to feel happy ALL the time. When someone crosses your boundaries, it's appropriate to feel angry. When you lose someone or hear of a tragedy in the world happening, it's appropriate to feel sad. When you've got a lot on your plate and not enough support, it's appropriate to feel anxious and overwhelmed.

Your emotions, whether positive or negative, are not wrong. They can clue you in to what is and what is not working in your life. So before trying to completely bypassing or getting rid of an emotion, see what that emotion is trying to tell you.

That goes for your physical symptoms too! Your body is NOT trying to hurt you. Your body is not against you. It's trying to help you and communicate to you in the only way it can- through physical symptoms, so that you will pay attention and make the necessary changes in your life to bring your body back into balance.

Nutrients to Support Hormonal Balance and Mental Wellness

1. B vitamins

B vitamins are absolutely crucial for hormone balance and mental wellness, especially vitamin B6. 

Vitamin B6 helps the body make several neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, which influence mood, and melatonin, which helps regulate the body clock. 

For menstrual cramps, vitamin B6 has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects which lower cramp-inducing inflammation caused by certain prostaglandins.

Finally, research has shown that supplementing with vitamin B6 helps reduce high levels of estrogen, and increase low levels of progesterone, to support with mood and reducing period symptoms.

You can get B vitamins from high quality animal products like grass-fed beef, pasture-raised eggs, wild-caught fish, oysters, and beef liver. If you're noticing that you're eating these foods and still experiencing symptoms, it may be time to supplement with a quality methylated B vitamin!

2. Magnesium

Magnesium is the superstar mineral for period health and mental wellness! Magnesium is also an important co-factor in the production of feel-good neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. 

Magnesium is also a very effective muscle relaxer. When it comes to period cramps, magnesium can help by smoothing the muscle of the uterus and by reducing the prostaglandins that cause period pain.

Lastly, magnesium calms your nervous system and prevents the creation of excess cortisol, the stress hormone. When your stress hormonal system is in balance, your levels of progesterone, estrogen, testosterone, FSH and LH will be too.

PSSST: This is why you crave chocolate before and during your period! Chocolate (the real kind, 100% sugar-free dark chocolate) is a great source of magnesium.

The quality and type of magnesium matters. Magnesium Glycinate, Magnesium L-Threonate, and Magnesium Malate have been shown in research to help reduce stress, calm the muscles, improve sleep and balance moods. That's why we put all three in Mood Magnesium!

3. Probiotics

Gut health is such an important factor in healthy hormones, because a majority of estrogen is actually produced in the gut!

When our gut health is out of wack, it can lead to too high or too low levels of estrogen, which can impact ovulation, and therefore impact progesterone levels.

Keep your gut healthy with fiber-rich and probiotic-rich foods like a variety of fruits and veggies, yogurt, cottage cheese, kimchi, and kefir. 

If you're struggling with gut health and noticing period symptoms or digestive symptoms, supplementing with a high-quality probiotic can help. Mood Biotics contain 6 strains of research-backed prebiotics and probiotics that specifically support gut health AND mental wellness.

4. GABA & L-Theanine

Physiologically, women are more prone to stress than men. This is especially true in the first half of your menstrual cycle, in between your period ending and ovulation.

When we are stressed, our body's reproductive system shuts down. This is your body's intelligent way of protecting you from getting pregnant when you are not in optimal circumstances to have a baby.

When your body's reproductive system shuts down, that means you don't ovulate, which means low progesterone and missing or irregular periods.

Amino acids GABA and L-Theanine are especially helpful in reducing stress and calming the nervous system. 

GABA helps slow the "fight or flight" response by blocking stress hormones  cortisol and adrenaline. L-Theanine helps put your brain in an alpha-wave state, which is the same state your brain is in during meditation. L-Theanine also increases levels of GABA in the body.

Mood Chews contain 130mg of GABA and 90mg of L-Theanine. Just one chew can help ease your mind in 20 minutes or less!

5. Omega-3's

Omega-3 is a fatty acid known for its natural anti-inflammatory action. It affects the body's production of prostaglandins, which is a chemical that has a role in inflammation. It also affects uterine contractions, blood flow, which results in cramps. Intake of Omega-3 can thus provide relief from period cramps.

Omega-3s also play an important role in the production of our sex hormones, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.

Lastly, omega-3's help stabilize blood sugar levels. Our bodies interpret high blood sugar levels as a stressor, which stimulates the release of the stress hormone cortisol. As we just discussed, stress isn't great for hormone health! 

Mood Omegas contain high quality, sustainably sourced omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA to keep your hormones happy! 

Conclusion

In summary, PMS symptoms are common, but they don't have to be your normal! PMS arises from our hormones being out of balance, and with proper nutrients, it is possible to experience balanced hormones, better mental wellness, and drama-free periods. 

In particular, B vitamins, Magnesium, Probiotics, Omega-3's and GABA and L-Theanine can support healthy hormone production and balance. 

*Please consult with a healthcare professional before adding supplements to your routine. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition.