Oestrogen is closely linked to our emotional wellbeing (emotional aspect of our brain) and when this hormone fluctuates we can experience mood changes. Before or at ovulation you might notice you feel more energetic, happy and perhaps inspired or creative. This is because oestrogen levels have been rising and often reach a peak at ovulation.
Just before you are due to menstruate oestrogen levels drop causing mood swings and even an increase in impulsive behaviour in some women (I am an impulsive online shopper around my period).
Oestrogen is also responsible for preparing the body for pregnancy and ensuring that your uterus has all the right conditions for a health uterine lining and the conditions are perfect to optimise fertilisation (see more on cervical mucus below).
Small amounts of testosterone are found in women. It has an important function in physical and mental well-being in women and normally is not of concern. . However levels of testosterone can cause physical signs of hormonal imbalance in the body. When the body produces too much LH or too much insulin testosterone levels may increase causing women to develop acne or grow extra hair on their face or body.
This is often associated with a condition known as Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is a complex condition in both Western and Eastern Medicine and is discussed in more detail below.
Other things to consider with testosterone are the role it may play in women’s libido and during menopause. This scope of this particular workshop does not consider the role of testosterone however it is worth noting for future reference.
Progesterone rises after ovulation and is primarily responsible for maintaining a pregnancy. It is believed that imbalances in progesterone are responsible for some of the physical symptoms of PMS – breast tenderness, bloating, fatigue, food cravings, migraines, sleep disturbances and irritability. Although some studies suggest that PMS is more likely a combination of oestrogen and progesterone working together.
If an egg is not fertilised both oestrogen and progesterone will start to dramatically decrease in a short period of time. The ratio of oestrogen and progesterone need to be in proportion and in some women we may experience disproportionate levels of these aforementioned hormones. This is what could possibly contribute to our premenstrual symptoms.
Eastern Perspective of PMS
Even in oriental remedial therapy hormonal balance is a precarious act of moving from one phase to the other smoothly without disruption. The reproductive system is about balancing the opposing energies of Yin and Yang to achieve homeostasis. This extract from the Nei Jing summarises it perfectly:
If there is heat, cool it;
If there is cold, warm it;
If there is dryness, moisten it;
If there is dampness, dry it;
If there is vacuity, supplement it; and
If there is repletion, drain it
Randine Lewis in her book The Infertility Cure says that a woman’s menstrual cycle is a dynamic process of hormone fluctuation (p57). Finding balance in our hormones is subject to many factors including diet, external environmental factors, lifestyle and even our ancestral patterning. Understanding PMS in our own bodies requires knowledge of the patterns throughout the menstrual cycle (as mentioned in an Eastern Understanding above) and then looking at how our own menstrual cycle fits with each of the phases.
A PMS diagnosis will require working with a therapist to determine your specific pattern however PMS may be related to:
- Kidney deficiency
- Spleen Ki deficiency
- Liver Ki Stagnation
- Transformation of Yang to Yin (an imbalance of either Yin or Yang in the body)
- Blood Stagnation
- Or any combination of these