Outsmart Your Hormones
Can't sleep? Having memory lapses? Your hormones may be to blame. They can wreak havoc on how you feel, think and function at different times in your menstrual cycle. Luckily, these changes are predictable. “By anticipating your hormonal ebbs and flows, you can head off ailments such as cramps and headaches,” says Scott Isaacs, M.D., an endocrinologist at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta and author of Hormonal Balance (Bull Publishing, 2002).
Experts explain how to make the most of these fluctuations so you'll have more energy, brainpower and self-confidence all month long.During Your Period (days 1-7)
What's happening with:
The first day of your period is the start of your monthly cycle. Estrogen and progesterone are at their lowest levels. In addition, prostaglandins, hormone-like substances that cause uterine contractions, are triggering cramps and fatigue. Your immunity may be lowered, since autoimmune-related conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and eczema seem to flare up at this point, says Luis J. Rodriguez, M.D., a clinical associate professor of endocrinology at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston. You may also be more susceptible to motion sickness due to bloating, which can cause fluid buildup in the middle ear. British researchers found that women were most likely to suffer from motion sickness just before and during their period.
Take action: "Get plenty of rest, reduce stress, and stick to a healthy diet," advises Dr. Rodriguez. Try eating foods rich in vitamin C (citrus fruits, broccoli, tomatoes) and zinc (oysters, red meat, wheat germ). Studies have shown these nutrients may boost immunity. To prevent cramps, start taking ibuprofen or naproxen a day or two before your period to inhibit the production of prostaglandins. If you‘re prone to motion sickness, try to put off long car trips, flights or cruises; if necessary, take Dramamine, which minimizes the effects of motion on the body, or ginger, which calms stomach nerves.
Studies show that low estrogen levels may be causing bouts of forgetfulness or brain fog.
Be diligent about keeping a to-do list and setting reminders in your daily planner. Creating word associations or mental pictures of things you don't want to forget may also help. To recall the address 1225 Turner Street, for instance, you might say to yourself, "I turned my life around on Christmas (12/25)." Eat breakfast-skipping it has been linked to a decrease in cognitive performance-and include egg yolks or oatmeal. They're both excellent sources of choline, a B vitamin that helps maintain memory.
"For most women, libido drops around menstruation," says Dr. Rodriguez. That's because estrogen increases female sex drive, and levels are low at this time.
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