If you’ve ever skipped a workout or training session because it’s ‘that time of the month’ then this is for you. A recent study dove deeply into the issue of female athletic performance and the science of the menstrual cycle. Different parts of a woman’s cycle can cause changes in exercise tolerance, mood, perceived energy levels, and the metabolism of fat and protein. How much these processes are influenced depends on the specific concentrations of the dominant female sex hormones, estrogen and progesterone.
If you suffer from painful menstrual cramps that limit your ability to workout, anxiety, irritability acne, breast tenderness or other premenstrual symptoms and you’re not taking the birth control pill, it is likely that you have an extra high ratio of estrogen to progesterone in your body. By using the following 5 tips, you can modulate your estrogen levels and decrease your symptoms of PMS.
- You need to poop at least once a day. If you’re constipated or going less than once a day, something’s got to change! One of the body’s main ways of getting rid of excess hormones is in the stool. Start by drinking more water and increasing your fruit and vegetable intake as dehydration and a low fibre diet can cause chronic constipation.
- Get some good bacteria growing. Your gut is the home to billions of healthy, helpful bacteria. These little guys actually help to chew up estrogen and improve your body’s ability to get rid of it in your stool. Try taking a probiotic supplement or increase your consumption of fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut or kombucha tea.
- Eat your veggies. Cruciferous vegetables from the brassica family like kale, cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts and cabbage contain an estrogen busting phytochemical called indol-3-carbinol which converts to 3,3’-diindolylmethane (DIM) in your body. Enjoy these veggies lightly steamed, sautéed to protect your thyroid function if you’re eating lots of them everyday.
- Omega 3’ Essential fatty acids, specifically EPA, can have a positive impact on mood, depression and anxiety. These friendly fats can also help with constipation, inflammation and healthy hormone synthesis. Omega 3’s are the building blocks of healthy cell membranes and anti-inflammatory molecules so they take time to have their effect as your body starts to replace various cells in your body. This is not a quick-fix.
- Craving chocolate? You might be missing magnesium! This mighty mineral is a natural spasmolytic which means it can work acutely for menstrual cramps, muscle cramps or any kind of cramping pain. Magnesium is also a calming nutrient and can be used at bedtime to initiate sleep or in times of anxiety to calm the nerves without sedating. Watch that you don’t dose your magnesium too high, the most common side effect is diarrhea and it could have you running to the washroom.
Improving your body’s natural mechanisms of metabolizing and getting rid of hormones will ultimately improve your menstrual health. It’s normal to have light cramping pains and lower energy during the first day or two of your period, but you do not have to live with debilitating symptoms. If all else fails visit your primary care provider, medical or naturopathic doctor to find out the cause of your symptoms and start performing at your best.
Dr. Briana Botsford is a Naturopathic Doctor in Edmonton, Alberta. She is a primary care provider and treats conditions from high blood pressure to the common cold. As an Ironman Triathlete, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and Yoga Teacher, she integrates her in-depth understanding of movement, exercise and the mind-body connection into her writing and patient care.