Ladies, if you want to know why every month you feel like you have gained a hundred pounds, can’t fit into your favorite skinny jeans, want to eat everything in sight and long to pull your hair out at the tiniest irritation, read on. . . It’s no wonder that shutting out the world for days, putting on your sweats, curling up into a ball with ice cream and pretzel M&Ms (sweet and salty!) and a Sex and the City marathon sounds like the best thing in the world.
Ever wonder why you start feeling less than normal two weeks before your period?
It’s not you, it’s your hormones – literally. (Unless you’re on birth control, then you will escape some of these “niceties.”)
Not that I am giving you a free pass to be the raving, crazy lunatic that we would all like to be when faced with adversity of engaging in public life during PMS, but I do want you to know that what you are feeling, yeah, well, it’s normal.
Because, just after your body releases a mature egg into the fallopian tube (that would be approximately two weeks after your last period), estrogen levels escalate and your uterus starts creating a cushy crash pad for a potential embryo. Meanwhile, your body spends the next two weeks circulating progesterone. While progesterone is the “unsung hero” of the sex hormones, its song is one you would rather not deal with on days like these.
Yes, progesterone is the hormone that turns you into a maniacal beast. As progesterone is unleashed, your body temperature rises a few degrees, aching and swelling of the boobs ensues, caused by the expansion of the milk ducts in your breasts. Thanks to this hormone, you emit irrational reactions to simple requests and incessantly feel less than adequate at everything you do. Yes, progesterone evokes irritability and anxiety.
When two hormones join forces, the impact can’t be good.
And the saga continues when, a week or so before your period, estrogen and progesterone join forces to prepare a womb for the would-be fetus. This leads to an expansion of your intestines and, yes, you guessed it – gas and bloating! That’s right add water weight to the equation and we’re talking serious pounds and a maybe even inches. Averages suggest 7 to 13 pounds of added water weight can occur during this time period. In addition to these effects, your insulin levels experience abnormal fluctuations which provoke uncontrollable cravings. (A whole pizza? Tub of ice cream? Don’t mind if I do!)
Bleeding is only the beginning of the end.
When your period begins, you would think that the sloughing off blood and excess uterine lining would be all the torture allotted for one week, after all, your body has realized that no little fetus will be making its home here, so the PMS symptoms you have been enduring for the last two weeks, well those are dissipating. However, this rollercoaster ride still has few more bumps in store for you – all by the way of cramps. Oh, that’s right, every woman knows about the cramps. That aching, gut-wrenching, fallopian-tubes-in-a-knot feeling is a result of prostaglandins (an inflammatory response that can also prompt nausea) forcing contraction of your uterine muscles to aid the sloughing of extra blood and tissue from the uterus. Note to self, if you can pry yourself off the couch during this time, exercise has been shown to reduce prostaglandin activity. If you need a little relief to get you to the gym, ibuprofen can help . . . at least in theory.
Is it over yet?
YES!. . . .at least for now. . . You did it. You survived. Congratulations, you get two weeks of being adorable, normal and in control of your body and emotions before it all begins again. . . . Ain’t it grand being a woman?
Author’s note: The extent of how horrid PMS and the menstrual cycle is (but can be) may appear slightly exaggerated for the purposes of intrigue and greater dynamic in this editorial piece. As a woman, I know that coming toe to toe with the routine changes of our bodies, we can overcome the angst and drama of the menstrual cycle in any given situation. It is never an excuse for what we cannot do, but a demonstration of what we are capable of in spite of.