With up to 80% of women experiencing PMS this topic needs no introduction. But whilst the symptoms of PMS are common they are not normal and in fact can be cured.
Many head straight to blaming hormones for PMS. Whilst these do have a role to play in some of the PMS symptoms women experience it isn’t the whole picture. Inflammation has a key role to play in the PMS you experience. More specifically chronic inflammation as this can disrupt the way how hormones communicate with the body.
Inflammation + Progesterone
Progesterone is the dominant hormone during the second half of our menstrual cycle and it is this hormone that protects us from the drop in oestrogen that we experience at the end of our cycle. This drop in oestrogen is necessary for us to have our period. It does however also bring down serotonin (our happy hormone) and dopamine (our feel good hormone).
Progesterone helps our body make GABA, a hormone I like to refer to as the breaks of the brain, it really does calm everything down. This allows for the body to be somewhat soothed at the end of your cycle.
This is where inflammation has its impact and why we see PMS symptoms in the second half of our menstrual cycle.
Inflammation can alter the way our body responds to progesterone but also the amount of progesterone we are making. This means that we end up needing more progesterone to have the same soothing effects on the body.
When we are inflamed the GABA receptors in our body down-regulate. These receptors are how our hormones talk to the body. When these down-regulate, our hormones can’t have the same effect on our body. With regards to PMS, the inflammation hinders our bodies ability to respond to progesterone worsening our PMS symptoms.
Inflammation + Oestrogen
As I stated earlier Oestrogen drops at the end of your cycle. As well as it’s effects on Serotonin and Dopamine, the fall of oestrogen can cause a ‘withdrawal’ in your body. And the kicker with Oestrogen is the higher it is the bigger your fall at the end of your cycle.
Oestrogen is metabolised (processed) through the liver then the bowel. Inflammation obstructs this process in both organs which results in higher levels of oestrogen in the body. Inflammation also makes the body more sensitive to oestrogen. This is the opposite to what is it does with those GABA receptors.
As you can see inflammation has a large role to play in the PMS that you experience through altering the way the body and your hormones communicate by
- Decreasing the amount of progesterone the body produces
- Decreasing the body’s ability to respond to progesterone
- Decreasing the body’s ability to respond to GABA
- Increasing the amount of oestrogen circulating in the body
- Increasing the body’s sensitivity to oestrogen.
What can you do?
Inflammation can be coming from a number of places. A few areas to investigate are
- Inflammatory foods. Dairy is a big trigger for PMS, particularly the A1 protein in dairy. Other foods that can trigger inflammation and PMS symptoms are wheat, sugar, refined oils and high histamine foods.
- Your perception of stress, overwhelm and pressure and how you manage these in your life.
- Inflammatory drinks such as alcohol and caffeine
- The health of your gut microbiome
Deficiencies in magnesium, vitamin B6 and zinc
Fortunately you can decrease the inflammation within your body. The key to doing this is understanding what is driving your inflammation is key to relieving your PMS symptoms.