My Hormones Were Ruining My Mood. Here's What Finally Helped
If you're a woman who's experienced PMS symptoms—whether severe or mild—you can probably relate to the feeling of being conquered by your own hormones. It's frustrating and confusing; half of the month you may feel one way (in my case, happy, positive, and difficult to rattle) and then for a few days (or even a few weeks) you feel the total opposite.
I can relate. Ever since going off the hormone birth control pill due to side effects, I have often felt pretty helpless in the face of my monthly hormonal shifts. And whether it be breakouts, depression, severe cramps, or something else entirely, for many of us, the reality of life off the pill is sometimes one big hormone roller coaster.
I've been working to balance my hormones for years.
Personally, I've done a lot of work to balance my hormones, including tracking my cycle religiously with the Natural Cycle's app and taking mbg's Functional Nutrition Program to better understand how the foods I eat affect my hormone balance. I've done a 90-day anti-Candida diet, majorly cut down on my alcohol and caffeine intake, and wistfully waved goodbye to almost all simple carbs. All of this has helped immensely, but I was still suffering from a low mood in the days leading up to my period. Some months were worse than others. One cycle I noticed tears welling up in my eyes when I saw a puppy on the street (embarrassing, yes—but totally manageable), and the next month the whole world and every aspect of my life felt dark and stormy for days on end. And so I embarked on a mission to figure out exactly why this was happening and what I might be able to do about it.
According to Dr. Elizabeth Boham, a functional-medicine-certified physical and registered dietitian, this is very common "These pre-period symptoms can include feelings of sadness, anxiousness, irritability, anger, less interest in things, fatigue, change in sleep, and physical symptoms such as breast pain, fluid retention, weight gain, and headaches." Any of those sound familiar? Dr. Boham also explained that some women just seem to be more sensitive to the fluctuations in hormones that occur throughout the month, leaving them especially vulnerable to pre-period depression.
Here's exactly what I did to combat my pre-period moodiness.
Despite the fact that most doctors will try to put you on the pill to combat PMS symptoms, there are a lot of natural ways to deal with them. That being said, sometimes the options seem endless, and you don't know where to start. So I spoke to one of mbg's favorite hormone experts, naturopathic doctor and women's health specialist Dr. Jolene Brighten to get a specific action plan. She recommended a targeted supplement regimen since my diet and lifestyle were already pretty hormone-friendly. Here's the exact protocol:
Turmeric is one of the most popular superfoods out there, and it deserves every ounce of its fame. Dr. Brighten suggested I take turmeric daily to combat chronic inflammation. I took two Gaia Herbs Turmeric Supreme ($29.99) extra-strength turmeric capsules twice daily.
2. Fish oil
Interestingly, I was already taking a fish oil supplement, so I doubled my dose in the days leading up to my period per Dr. Brighten's suggestion. Fish oil is often used for chronic inflammation and especially for depression, which we already know is closely linked to chronic inflammation in the body. I took two capsules of Thorne's Super EPA ($31) fish oil twice daily.
Adaptogens and adaptogen-infused foods are some of wellness's biggest trends of the moment. Famous for their ability to bring balance to the body in the face of stress, pain, and changes in our outside environment, they are a good choice for maintaining a healthy mood when facing hormonal shifts. I took HPA Adapt by Integrative Therapeutics ($39). It has 400 milligrams of rhodiola as well as ashwagandha, holy basil, and a few others.
4. Diindolymethane (and other hormone-supporting nutrients)
In the supplement world, there are certain nutrients that are specifically good for hormone balance, so I took a blend of them. Dr. Brighten's Balance Women's Hormone Support formulation (two capsules twice daily) contains B vitamins, broccoli seed extract, and diindolymethane—a compound found in cruciferous vegetables—among others.
Great news: It worked! But it was also expensive.
I've been doing this routine religiously for two months, and I'm happy to report that I've noticed a significant improvement! Buying and taking this many supplements might feel like a lot, but when your diet and exercise routine is in a good place—and you're still on the struggle bus and want relief as soon as possible—it's good to know it's an option.
In the coming months, I plan to experiment with eliminating one at a time (starting with the bad-tasting herbal tincture) to see if my symptoms come back. I love the idea of getting down to two or three supplements and also looking to some more affordable natural remedies—like essential oils—to replace the ones I can hopefully phase out. According to Mariza Snyder, D.C., a functional medicine practitioner and essential oil expert, "Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) is a great choice for mood support due to PMS. Not only does it boost mood with its high limonene content, it also has the ability to soothe anxiety due to its linalool and linalyl acetate constituents. Research continues to show its success in dramatically improving mood while calming nerves and improving sleep." And that sounds pretty great to me.
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