Hormones Gone Haywire?
You're Tired All the Time
"If you're logging eight hours in the sack and still waking up groggy, low progesterone levels could be stealing your sleep," says Sara Gottfried, MD, the author of The Hormone Cure. Progesterone naturally plummets with menopause, but it can begin dropping as early as your thirties, when your ovaries start releasing fewer eggs. Because the hormone regulates your internal thermostat, a low level of it may cause your body temperature to yo-yo at night, resulting in night sweats that prevent deep, restorative sleep.
Treat it. Dial the thermostat down to 64 degrees before bed to keep night sweats at bay, Dr. Gottfried suggests. Also, eat lots of vitamin C-rich foods (red bell peppers, oranges, kiwis, broccoli, strawberries, and brussels sprouts). Getting 750 milligrams of C a day may raise progesterone in women with a deficiency, a study in Fertility and Sterility found. If you have period problems, see your ob-gyn to rule out more serious conditions related to low progesterone levels, like endometriosis or endometrial cancer.You Get Sneezy or Wheezy Before Your Period
Moodiness, headaches, and bloat are annoyances you expect with PMS. But allergies or an asthma attack? Not so much. Turns out, allergy symptoms worsen in some women right before their period. And premenstrual hormonal fluctuations can make it harder for those with asthma to breathe. Again, progesterone may be the culprit: Rising levels in the days before your period coincide with airway inflammation that can set the stage for an asthma flare-up, a study from McMaster University in Canada found. On the flip side, as estrogen levels go up during the first half of your menstrual cycle, airway inflammation goes down. "It's not a simple relationship in which progesterone is bad and estrogen is good; it's more about your individual sensitivity to both hormones," says study author Piush Mandhane, MD, PhD.
Treat it. Keep a journal for a few months recording where you are in your cycle (the first day of your period is day one) and any asthma or allergy symptoms you experience. Then share that info with your doctor. If there's a relationship between the two, your doc may suggest using an asthma inhaler or taking OTC allergy meds preemptively. The pill may also help: Birth control makes your hormones fluctuate less.You're Feeling Down
Add depression to the list of problems caused by chronic stress. "About half of depressed people have elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol," Dr. Gottfried says. Consistently high levels may lower your body's production of mood-stabilizing brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine. You know that exercise acts as a buffer against stress, but many women make the mistake of working out too hard. Exercising for 30 minutes at 80 percent of your maximum effort (that's a fast run or an intense Spinning class) can boost cortisol levels by 83 percent, a study in the Journal of Endocrinological Investigation found.
Treat it. Vary the intensity of your sweat sessions, limiting hard-core workouts to two or three times a week, and opt for interval training, which doesn't raise cortisol as much, whenever possible, Dr. Gottfried suggests. On other days, do low-intensity activities like yoga or barre class, which have been shown to decrease cortisol production. And change your diet: Research finds that upping your omega-3 fatty acid intake may also rein in out-of-control cortisol. "Aim for 2,000 milligrams a day from a supplement containing both EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids, along with foods that are rich in the nutrient, like walnuts, flaxseed, tofu, and grass-fed beef," Dr. Gottfried says. Swallow omega-3 supps in the a.m. (with food to avoid fishy burps) to help keep cortisol levels in check all day.
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