Outsmart Your Hormones
Week 4Pre-Period (days 21-28)
What's happening with:
Progesterone and estrogen levels plummet right before menstruation, triggering physical changes and a myriad of maladies including headaches, insomnia, fluid retention and acne flare-ups. Your tresses, on the other hand, are radiant. The initially high progesterone levels stimulate the sebaceous glands to produce more oil, promoting shiny hair, says Audrey Kunin, M.D., a dermatologist in Kansas City and founder of Dermadoctor.com. An alert for asthma sufferers: One study found that women are more likely to experience serious asthma attacks right before their periods due to low progesterone, which plays a role in enabling bronchial muscles to relax and combatting cell inflammation.
Take action: Cut back on caffeine, since it disrupts sleep and aggravates PMS symptoms, and go to bed at the same time every night (this will help ward off insomnia). To help banish bloating, avoid carbonated drinks and salty foods. For clearer skin, cleanse your face with a gentle exfoliating wash to get rid of bacteria and open up pores, recommends Dr. Kunin. If you have severe headaches, ask your doctor about wearing an estrogen patch for a few days before your period: It’s been shown to ease them. Asthma sufferers should wash bed linens to get rid of triggers like dust mites and pet dander.
Your concentration may be poor and your attention span short due to hormone swings. Some studies have found that women with PMS have trouble learning new material or completing mental tasks.
Take action: Hit the gym or take a brisk walk around the block. Research shows that exercise improves concentration, creativity and cognitive skills by pumping more oxygenated blood to the brain. Eat foods rich in vitamin B6: It plays a crucial role in mental functioning, from neurotransmitters to brain-cell activity. Good sources of the vitamin include bananas, baked potatoes and salmon.
The hormonal roller coaster may also bring on irritability, weepiness and mood swings. Plus, the brain chemical serotonin is in short supply, making you crave sweets and starches.
Take action: To curb your urge for sugary or high-calorie foods, increase your intake of whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Eat small, frequent meals to keep blood-sugar levels even; this will ward off overeating. If you still crave chocolate, make it dark: It has the most concentrated forms of chemicals that have been shown to boost mood, says Dr. Isaacs. Those feel-good hormones will be on the upswing again soon, as you start the cycle all over again.
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