I don’t know about you but I can barely remember the sex education lesson I had at school! Thing is, without appreciating how our hormones fluctuate during the month, we are unlikely to appreciate when they are not acting normally. If nothing else, it gives us a consolation as to why we might be feeling anxious, depressed, why our boobs might hurt and really make the very important connection between WHEN we experience what. This will help you to determine when your hormones are getting back to normal too.
I would really love to get a comparison from you. It would be great to share similarities or differences with you. Okay, so I am going to try and make this as simple as possible. Though we are often told that a “normal” cycle is 28 days, it turns out that only about 15% of women actually experience this.
Stage 1- our period/proliferation stage in the follicular phase.
Your first day of your period counts as Day 1 of your cycle.
Should last 4–5 days. I don’t know about you but mine lasts more like 7 days! Granted, the last few days are a little bit more like trickles but it still lasts longer than 4 days!
Once our period starts, we usually experience the least of the emotional stuff. Our hormones are at their lowest point now.
Stage 2 – continuation of the follicular phase
Well, basically we are now in a process of “building”. The estrogen levels shoot up to build the follicles and regrow that endometrial lining.
Estrogen and testosterone build together and build up to peak for ovulation. You actually probably feel the best during this time of the month. Estrogen boosts your mood. Testosterone will make you feel like you can do anything. You are relaxed and comfortable with yourself.
This is a great time to start a new diet as you generally feel like eating less and feel like things are possible.
For some of us, we find the increase in estrogen actually creates a feeling of being overwhelmed! Funnily enough, when I looked back on my blog posts, the ones where I am struggling to cope or am feeling overwhelmed are all around then. Elevated estrogen will make “mountains out of molehills”. We can get worked up about nothing with excess estrogen.
This is the best week to have sex. The least pain, the most hormones (estrogen and testosterone) and you feel confident and look fabulous!
Stage 3 – ovulation day 14–19 (roughly)
This is obviously the time when you can fall pregnant—if you have been trying for a while, you probably know this one by now.
What does happen though is our estrogen and testosterone levels decline a little now. This means we are likely to feel a slight slump in our mood. This lasts for about 3–4 days. You might feel a little irritated or short-tempered. Your sex drive slumps too.
Stage 4 – luteal phase—last week before our monthly (day 19 end of cycle)
This is really the most important week for us all to look at. This is also when you should get your saliva hormone test done, specifically day 19, 20 or 21. I am getting mine done this month.
Now, this is usually when we experience all the PMS stuff, illustrating that things are simply as they should be.
What should happen is that the estrogen should drop slightly and then increase slightly over day 21, dropping again until we menstruate.
Here’s a diagram:
Progesterone should shoot up leading up to day 19, 20 and 21 and then drop to match estrogen for menstruation. Now, for most of us this just doesn’t happen. Hence we suffer from estrogen dominance.
Let me explain. We need progesterone to balance out the estrogen. They work together, like a yin yang effect.
Dr. Cabot explains it the best:
“Estrogen is like the fertilizer for the lawn and progesterone is the lawn mower.” Well, that is not word for word but you get the idea.
Now, we are all different and our fluctuations in this area can be quite different. They can also change each month, depending on diet, lifestyle and our current stress levels.
I know I don’t suffer from many of the PMS symptoms I used to have, just by changing my diet.
There are some very important things I need to point out to go along with this article:
1. You cannot successfully measure hormone levels with a blood test. Estrogen, especially xenoestrogens, often sit in the fat cells of our body. They still elevate our estrogen levels in the body and yet, they are not picked up by a blood test. The best way to test your hormones is with a saliva test. I found a great place in Tauranga that can do them in New Zealand; they are called Patient Advocates. If you don’t live in New Zealand, request a saliva test and get it done on days 19, 20 or 21 of your cycle.
2. The liver has a direct effect on our hormone levels. If your liver is not functioning correctly, then you won’t be able to flush out any excess hormones in the body. By not flushing them out, they simply get recycled in the blood stream and land up back in the body! This is part of the reason for estrogen dominance in many of us. That “flushing out” is a combination of the liver working well and the pathway to get them out needs to be free too. You know your bowels? Yip, they need to be free of bacteria and clogged up matter to ensure the excess that the liver has processed actually manages to get out.
Now, this applies to ALL hormones. That includes our thyroid, adrenals, prostaglandins—all of them.
3. Diet makes a difference. We need all the right minerals and vitamins to make the necessary processes in the liver take place. The best source of those is in what we eat. There are foods that also inhibit these processes. So, please don’t believe your doc, if he says that diet doesn’t change anything. It totally does!
Here’s the thing. I have been hesitant to use progesterone cream for my endo. I have focused heavily on my liver and detoxing it. I have also made heaps of changes to my diet. I have managed to cross off many of the symptoms I used to experience before my period and during my period.
Here are the symptoms I used to have:
- Bad bowels—either diarrhea or constipation before my period
- Nausea to the point of throwing up
- Extreme moodiness and irritation
- Sore boobs
- Heaps of water retention
- Tiredness and lethargy
- Anxiety on day 4 of ovulation. Not major but this sense of being overwhelmed comes over me.
- Periods are still too long and heavy
- 1 day of period pain
- Digestive issues
- Feeling anxious
- Feeling depressed
- Breast pain
- Period pain