What are PMS causes?
Estrogen Dominance (EG) is one of the leading PMS causes among balancing other hormones. Since estrogen dominance is often the leading cause of premenstrual syndrome (PMS and menopausal symptoms), it is particularly noticeable on the days just before your period because that is the time in your cycle when estrogen should drop. Of course there are other PMS causes but EG is the main cause.
What is Estrogen Dominance?
The main cycle-regulating hormones are estrogen and progesterone which are formed in the ovaries. These two frenemies oppose each other and work together in a sensitive balance to ensure a healthy transition to each of the three phases in your cycle. When exposed to excessive estrogens in our environment, we start to soak up more than our body can process or counterbalance. Imagine a bottleneck of traffic where four roads merge into one. This is a relative picture of estrogens entering the body and the body trying to control them. Environmental estrogen is coming from processed foods, chemicals in household products, toxins produced by pollution, BPA in generic plastics, certain medications and hormone-mimicking (and influencing) substances like birth control pills.
Female Hormones Explained
There are many important hormones in the body. The female sex hormones are particularly important for the female cycle and identifying the many possible PMS causes. This ensures a healthy menstruation and fertility. There are three main female sex hormones that you should be aware of when seeking balanced hormones: estrogen, progesterone and prolactin. The three female sex hormones explained below are estrogen, progesterone and prolactin.
Estrogen – estrogen dominance and symptoms
You will often hear the mention of estrogen during ovulation and the cycle in general. This hormone is predominantly produced by the FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) mainly in the first half of the cycle within the ovaries, but also in body fat as well as other parts of the body. In the female cycle, estrogen and progesterone rise and fall in an eloquent dance of balance. Estrogen leads in the first half of the cycle to ensure ovulation. Then, progesterone will rise while estrogen drops in order to protect the possibly fertilized egg.
In the first half of the cycle, estrogens help to build up the lining of the uterus, mature the egg, place the egg in the fallopian tubes and implant it in the event of fertilization. Indirectly, estrogen is the cause of ovulation making it the most important hormone for fertility. Though, only with progesterone can the body become pregnant and maintain a healthy pregnancy.
Estrogens are important in many processes of the body:
– Development of female sexual characteristics and organs
– Stimulation of sex drive
– Bone structure
– Fat metabolism
– Heat and circulatory regulation
Estrogens are also important for a healthy pregnancy.
When you start to reach your middle ages (around 50), your body will produce much less estrogen to stop your menstruation cycle which we call menopause (or the Golden Years). Though your estrogen levels drop, many women nowadays are exposed to excessive estrogen (as we’ve mentioned before is EG) which causes many of the known menopause symptoms like hot flashes, sweating, vaginal dryness (and dryness of other mucous membranes), memory weakness, regression of female genitalia and hair loss. Progesterone seems to help alleviate menopause symptoms.
Estrogen Dominance contributes to the many PMS causes, effects the symptoms prior to your menopausal stage and can even trigger pre-menopausal symptoms. The PMS symptoms caused by estrogen dominance may cause breast swelling, fluid retention, headache, lubrication or bleeding, vaginal infections, depression, restless legs and severe menstrual bleeding.
Progesterone deficiency – causes & symptoms
A big player in the menstrual cycle is progesterone. This hormone is formed in the ovaries within the corpus luteum, a hormone-secretion in the ovaries, and in small quantities in the adrenal cortex. Under the influence of the LH (luteinizing hormone), progesterone is increasingly released during the second and third phase of your cycle. It remains high throughout the last third of the cycle (Luteal phase) and then drops along with estrogen to minimal levels in order to discard of the unfertilized egg which is menstruation. Progesterone is the hormone that will prepare the mucous membrane for the implantation of a fertilized egg. It ensures blood circulation by compressing the egg and safely transporting it to the womb. The vessels and glands of the uterine lining become active in order to provide nutrients to the embryo in case of conception.
During the second stage of your cycle (ovulatory phase), your body temperature rises about half a degree to indicate while estrogen falls, indicating your actual day of ovulation. Your actual day of ovulation is when a mature egg is dropped into the fallopian tubes.
On an emotional level, progesterone has a very soothing and stabilizing effect. It makes you calm and also ensures a peaceful sleep. While stimulating the metabolism, it can thereby increase your appetite. Progesterone also contributes to an optimal lipid metabolism that better converts dietary fats into energy.
In the third phase of the cycle (luteal phase), the corpeus luteum produces more progesterone in order to secure a fertilized egg. When a body is estrogen dominant or progesterone deficient, PMS symptoms will occur. If the egg is not fertilized, progesterone will drop thereby dissolving the unused egg.
Progesterone deficiency vs. excess symptoms
Typical symptoms of a progesterone deficiency are irregular or very strong periods, spotting, insomnia, lack of energy, anxiety, mood swings, weight gain, skin irritation, and premenstrual migraine. Progesterone deficiency is also one of the most common PMS causes in conjunction with estrogen dominance.
An excess of progesterone may seem to cause the same symptoms as a deficiency, though, the excess progesterone may also be a defense mechanism to balance out higher levels of estrogen in the body which are causing PMS. This topic is currently highly debated, though the latter seems to have a stronger scientific following.
Another hormone that plays a big role in your female health is prolactin. An increased prolactin level, like any other hormone, disturbs the balance and can further contribute to PMS causes. You may have heard that prolactin is the hormone that stimulates milk production (hence the name), and it does. After giving birth, prolactin levels will rise in order to provide your baby with necessary nutrients. Though, if you are not pregnant, you do not need any more of this hormone than you already have.
Excess prolactin can increase estrogen levels contributing further to EG and uncomfortable symptoms like PMS. Stress tends to be the biggest contributor to the release of prolactin. High levels of prolactin can also come from pituitary gland disorder, hypothyroidism, certain drugs or, in rare cases, tumors.
Progesterone X Prolactin
Progesterone antagonizes prolactin. After giving birth, progesterone drops because it is no longer needed to sustain the pregnancy, returning your body to a monthly menstrual cycle again and increasing prolactin for milk production. If you are not pregnant but have high prolactin levels, progesterone can help to decrease them.
How can hormonal imbalances develop?
In today’s society, our bodies are predominantly faced with “too much” estrogen, which can happen, for example, by taking birth control pills for many years or even by starting menopause. These outside offenders are called Xenoestrogens, and they play a dangerous role in the rise of estrogen. Xenoestrogens are synthetically produced chemical compounds that are in everyday products and promote the rise of estrogen. These things are everywhere; Xenoestrogens are even cosmetics and conventional meat. It is important to educate yourself on excess estrogen exposure and how you can eliminate xenoestrogen products from your life (and replace them with natural alternatives).
Xenoestrogens can be found in:
- air fresheners, etc.
Estrogen from birth control and products containing xenoestrogens are the number one reason for hormonal imbalances, but there are others. A lack of vitamins and trace elements contribute to imbalances, especially of those that are much harder to retain nowadays like vitamin A and K. Estrogen Dominance often contributes to obesity but being overweight also further disrupts the hormonal balance. This causes a negative feedback loop that is difficult to break. Lack of exercise and sleep can contribute to hormonal imbalances.
What can I do to prevent hormonal imbalances?
A healthy lifestyle is certainly helpful to prevent hormonal imbalances. A healthy diet consisting of whole foods (not processed) that contains an optimal balance of calcium, protein, glucose, vitamins and trace minerals. Buying organic produce is highly encouraged so as to lower your chemical and pesticide exposure. Most conventional foods use chemicals and pesticides that contribute to Estrogen Dominance. Drink water from glass bottles as plastics leak a harmful chemical known as BPA and lower the consumption of toxins that your body might be burdened to excrete like alcohol and cigarettes.
Herbal help – phytohormones
Phytohormones (herbal hormones) can help to balance the hormone system and support a healthy relationship between progesterone and estrogen. We only use these herbal hormones of the highest and organic quality in our natural products for PMS in order to alleviate PMS causes and symptoms.
More on PMS
This article was written in collaboration with Andrea Mohr, alternative practitioner and director of the Women’s Health Clinic Kronberg, Hannah Pehlgrimm, non-medical practitioner for gynecology, and translated and edited by Annie Loupy.