At Hormona, we’re all about women’s health and learning as much as we can about our bodies, our selves and our hormones. And as we often decry, hormones can be an absolutely massive pain in the uterus. From thyroid problems to fertility issues and beyond, they can play havoc with our lives. But, even without those extra hormonal concerns, there’s a monthly hormonal hell that most women experience for many, many decades. Yes, this week, we’re talking PMS. But more specifically, we’re going to introduce you to your prostaglandins and look at why they have such an effect on your 28-day hormonal rollercoaster.
Is PMS real?
We think it’s crazy that even today the question ‘Is PMS real?’ ranks on Google searches. But rank it does. Why? Well, as you’ll know if you’re a regular Hormona, women’s medicine is sorely lacking in research, treatment and, sadly, basic knowledge. Did you happen to see the editor of esteemed medical journal The Lancet’s recently published views on periods? In his considered professional opinion, menstrual blood is highly poisonous and used exclusively by women to bump off their husbands. So it’s little wonder that some people, we have to say people, but you know who we mean, still don’t believe that we could possibly be suffering. Because clearly, we’re too busy planning the perfect murder.
So for anyone who’s unsure if what they’re experiencing is what we’re talking about, PMS stands for Pre-Menstrual Syndrome. That’s the vague term given to the enormous and highly individual set of symptoms women can, and very often do, experience in the run-up to menstruation. Acne, sore breasts, headaches, bloating, night sweats, mood swings, cramps, sugar cravings, sleepless nights… The list of period side benefits goes on forever. Generally starting around a week prior to the start of bleeding, they disappear almost overnight once your period kicks in. But, around three weeks later, less if you’re really lucky, the rollercoaster starts all over again.
Of course it is
For around 51 percent or so of the population, there’s a very simple answer to the question Is PMS Real? Of course it f*&!£*& is. If you’ve ever lived through even one week of it, you know that hormonal rollercoaster causes havoc in our bodies. But while we generally blame the fluctuating levels of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone for that monthly trip to hell, it seems there may be something else afoot. Yes, those aforementioned hormones play their part. But they’re likely being influenced by something else altogether.
There is, it appears, a hormone-like group of chemical messengers that have an enormous effect on the severity of PMS symptoms. The weird thing, though, is that this group of messengers is involved in and controls a huge number of bodily functions. Welcome to the strange world of prostaglandins.
Prostaglandins and me
This group of fatty acids are, believe it or not, incredibly interesting. Prostaglandins are produced in nearly every system, every cell in your body. From your brain and breasts to your gastrointestinal tract and your kidneys, these strange compounds can be found everywhere. They’re also involved in the contraction of your airway and your bowels and even have some influence over your eyes.
For the most part, though, they come into being as a response to injury. Say, for instance, you cut yourself in a bad case of avocado hand. The resulting blood clot and swelling at the injury site come from an increase in prostaglandins. And once the healing process is complete, a reduction in the same prostaglandins sees the swelling, pain, and redness disappear. So, given just how involved prostaglandins are with your entire body, it’s safe to say they’re pretty important.
But this is where prostaglandins get really interesting. In addition to breathing and digesting food – two activities vital to our survival – they’re also involved in our reproductive system. Prostaglandins not only control and regulate our ovarian cycle and periods, they’re crucial to giving birth. Yup, these fatty acids actively decide when a new human comes into the world. And, it seems, they also have some say in menstruation and PMS. Prostaglandins are present in your uterus whether you’re pregnant or not. Which means there’s a very good chance all that period pain is down to them.
Or at least, an imbalance in those fatty acids could possibly increase the severity of PMS symptoms. Prostaglandins are intimately linked to the balance of all the fatty acids in our bodies, and knocking them out of whack can cause issues when that time of the month comes around. You know how we’re always telling you to eat more oily fish? Turns out that it’s more beneficial than even we knew. Not only can a rebalancing of prostaglandins improve and reduce your PMS symptoms, but it can also help you avoid glaucoma and stomach ulcers.
How to reduce prostaglandins
Or, perhaps, rebalance should be a better term. An overabundance of prostaglandins can impact the severity of cramps and the like, but there’s no way you can know for sure which direction you’re headed in without some pretty specialised tests. Fear not, dear readers, because there are some really simple things you can do to help your prostaglandins work out their issues. And at the same time, you’ll feel better and hopefully, your PMS-themed hell will be a little more bearable. First up: That aforementioned oily fish. But if you really can’t do it, a good quality supplement works just as well. As do cutting down on sugar and caffeine, and getting more vitamins. And you know what that means – eating more fruit and veg.
Reducing your alcohol intake wouldn’t hurt. We know, we also love Prosecco cocktails. Moving around some more, particularly around your period, can make a massive difference, both physically and emotionally. And there are even some exercise routines designed specifically to help relieve the symptoms of PMS, including the rather beautifully titled period yoga. Keep records if you can, and keep an eye on the spikes and shifts in your pain levels and symptom severity so you can see what’s actually happening on a monthly basis.
Let us know how you’re getting on and what’s working – you might just help a woman who doesn’t know what else to do!
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