An introduction to period symptoms
What symptoms does your period bring each month? You may be surprised!
Your period happens each month as a result of a specific interaction of sex hormones; these rise throughout the course of the month in order to prompt ovulation and to thicken the lining of your womb in preparation for potentially having a baby. However, when in most cases this doesn’t happen, your hormone levels fall quickly and this is what gives you your period.
The sudden fall in oestrogen and progesterone (click the link to learn more about understanding your period and hormone imbalance) can have a whole-body effect and can give rise to a variety of symptoms.
Period symptoms vs. PMS
In this section I focus on symptoms of periods – but where do symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) fall into all of this?
PMS can be described as a range of physical, mental and behavioural symptoms experienced by menstruating women. Now, most menstruating women suffer from some degree of symptoms in the lead up to their period too but the difference is that women suffering from PMS find that their symptoms are more severe and affect their day to day living and quality of life.
For more information on the symptoms of PMS, click the link to visit A.Vogel Talks PMS.
Causes of period symptoms
Hormones can have a big impact on how you feel each month and they can influence you both physically and mentally. However, there are some other factors which can also have an influence which I discuss below.
- Prostaglandins – Prostaglandins are hormone-like chemicals which have various roles around the body; however, these are not always particularly beneficial. Prostaglandins often exert pro-inflammatory effects. They are released from the lining of the womb and cause the uterus to contract, but they can also diffuse into surrounding areas and enter your bloodstream, therefore giving rise to symptoms elsewhere around the body
- Vitamin and mineral deficiencies – A deficiency in certain vitamins and minerals may heighten some of the symptoms you experience around the time of your period. Magnesium, chromium, zinc and the B vitamins are of particular importance and deficiencies in these are often associated with exacerbated PMS symptoms. It is also possible that levels of important vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, zinc and chromium decrease as your levels of sex hormones fall or, that deficiencies just become more apparent during this vulnerable time.
Some common symptoms of periods to look out for are as follows:
- Bloating – Excess water retention is common around the time of a woman’s period and can give rise to bloating. This is thought to be a result of fluctuating periods and oestrogen dominance can be particularly problematic
- Cravings – The reasons for food cravings around the time of your period aren’t exactly clear, but deficiencies in vitamins and minerals are thought to have an important part to play
- Headaches – A drop in hormone levels is thought to give rise to headaches and many women appear to be particularly sensitive to fluctuations in oestrogen. Prostaglandins entering the bloodstream are also though to potentially contribute to migraine-like headaches around the time of your period
- Mood swings – Moods swings are extremely common in the run up to your periods. Many women report feeling angry, irritable, stressed or sad. This has a lot to do with the fluctuations in oestrogen and progesterone, although, it is important to mention that a deficiency in important vitamins and minerals such as magnesium could be making your mood swings worse
- Sore breasts – Sore breasts are also thought to be a result of falling levels of hormones and you often find you will have sensitive breast tissue in the few days before your period when your hormones levels are at their lowest
- Cramps – Stomach cramps are the most common symptoms of periods. These are a result of the smooth muscle of your womb contracting in order to shed the thickened lining. Prostaglandins give rise to these contractions and in excess can give rise to severe cramping and pain
- Acne – Skin breakouts are common in the lead up to your period. As your levels of oestrogen and progesterone drop, testosterone can dominate briefly and give rise to spots. Levels of cortisol can also increase which can aggravate existing skin issues
- Low libido – Don’t be surprised if your libido dips in the lead up to your period, again hormones are having their part to play. Around the time of ovulation, many of your hormones are at higher levels (there is a crossover of high oestrogen, high luteinizing hormone with prompts ovulation and then progesterone increases) the result is your libido increases. However, when they all hit rock bottom in a couple of weeks time, this can all change
- Low energy – There are a number of reasons why you can be left feeling more tired around the time of your period. Low iron as a result of blood loss can make you feel tired (heavy periods is a risk for anaemia which is something to be aware of). Click the link to learn more about why your period can make you feel so tired
- Dizziness – Fluctuating hormones, prostaglandins and pain can all contribute to making you feel dizzy around the time of your period
- Weepiness – You may find you are feeling rather overemotional during your period, many women out there agree. Click the link to discover more as to why this might be the case: hormones and deficiencies in important vitamins and minerals can have a big part to play
- Excess sweating – Falling levels of oestrogen causes your body temperature to rise and even experience hot flushes (all the menopausal women will vouch for this!) this is often subtle but you very often feel warmer as your hormones hit rock bottom
- Forgetfullness – It is common to feel sluggish and forgetful around the time of your period. Click the link to learn more about what might be causing this
- Aching muscles – Falling levels of your hormones giving rise to you period can affect your muscles and joints, as can your levels of magnesium.
Click the links above to learn more about what the causes of these specific symptoms and then how you can begin to manage them as I describe a range of useful home, herbal and conventional remedies.