Mood swings during period

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7 Reasons Your Period Is Making You Feel Emotional

Let’s get something straight before we get into this any further: there’s nothing wrong with getting emotional or feeling moody when your period is about to make an appearance, regardless of how many times society has told you that big girls don’t cry (thanks a lot, Fergie). That doesn’t necessarily mean you have free reign to stomp around and be cruel to everyone, Regina George style, but just remember that you’re not a weak person merely because you suddenly get tearful or feel upset. These are pretty typical experiences that come with having a menstrual cycle.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 85 percent of menstruating women experience at least one PMS symptom on a regular basis. Hopefully, knowing that you’re in the majority gives you some comfort. Some of the most common period symptoms include cramps, fatigue, changes in appetite, and, the real kicker, mood swings. For anyone who has ever menstruated, I doubt any of this is news.

But even though we’ve become accustomed to the emotional ups and downs every month, we may not know exactly what it is that causes such dramatic changes. Bustle spoke with Alyssa Dweck, M.D., gynecologist in New York, assistant clinical professor OBGYN at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, and author of V is for Vagina, who says there are many different things that can “cause changes in your emotional wellbeing” right before and during your period. It helps to know what they are, because we may have more control over some of them than you might think.

Here are seven reasons your period is making you feel emotional.

1. Your Hormones Are Fluctuating Wildly

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“Hormones are very volatile during certain parts of your cycle,” Dr. Dweck says. In particular, estrogen is known to take you for a rollercoaster ride. It rises slowly just before menstruation hits, but then drops suddenly when you start bleeding. Then it increases once again when your period ends, only to peak two weeks later. Dr. Dweck also names progesterone as another hormone affecting your mood swings, since it also drops significantly whenever your period starts. However, right before you menstruate, during your PMS days, your progesterone levels are pretty high, which could account for feeling dreary or hopeless.

I’m pretty sure even a robot couldn’t even manage to ward off mood swings if she were getting jerked around that much — and as we’ll see below, these changes directly affect your serotonin levels, so it’s no wonder you feel emotional.

2. Your Serotonin Levels Are Diminished

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Strangely enough, the hormonal changes you experience also influence how the chemicals in your brain function. “Neurotransmitters in the brain probably have something to do with PMS symptoms,” Dr. Dweck says. Research suggests that serotonin drops when your period starts, due to all the hormonal fluctuations. Low amounts of serotonin in the brain are associated with depression, irritability, and intense cravings for carbohydrates, which is pretty much PMSing in a nutshell. In her book Moody Bitches, psychiatrist Dr. Julie Holland explains,

Lower estrogen levels cause serotonin levels to drop precipitously a few days before menstruation, which may be the basis of many PMS symptoms. Low levels of serotonin are implicated in depression, panic disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder … you’re even more physically sensitive to pain than usual, and more emotionally sensitive to criticism. You’re less resilient in the face of stresses and feel sadder, hungrier, and more scared, tearful, and angsty.

On top of all that, as levels of estrogen and serotonin rapidly fall, dopamine and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) also start to disappear when your period arrives. These are two chemicals that boost your moods, put a pep in your step, and reduce anxiety. Without them, you don’t exactly have a recipe for calm, cool, and collected on your hands.

3. You’re More Susceptible To Pain — And You’re Experiencing More Of It

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Physical pain is never a pleasant thing to endure. Think about someone who has a splitting headache or a gnarly stomachache. Do you find them to be a joy to be around? Are they smiley and up for anything? No, of course not. They’re probably easily annoyed by your antics and just want to be left alone. Not only are you dealing with cramps before and during your period, but hormonally, as Dr. Holland explains in Moody Bitches, “your pain tolerance is at its lowest point during PMS. Not a great time to go to the dentist or get waxed.” It’s a double whammy.

Dr. Dweck reminds us that being in pain can “make people irritable,” so don’t beat yourself up if you’re feeling emotional as you’re reaching for the Midol — nobody is happy-go-lucky when they’re experiencing discomfort. Put on an electric blanket and sip on some chamomile tea to relax yourself through the pain.

4. You’re Not Eating A Balanced Diet

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“Sometimes it’s the habits you have around your period that cause the mood changes,” Dr. Dweck tells Bustle. Although the low levels of serotonin in your body may be nudging you (or yanking you, depending on how you want to look at it) in the direction of pasta, bread, and apple pie, all those foods can make you feel more emotionally unstable.

Dr. Dweck says you can encounter a nasty crash after eating foods that are packed with sugar or salt, and that will leave your mood swings in pretty bad shape. It’s particularly important to keep your blood sugar at an even level, because when that fluctuates, it causes you to feel icky, both emotionally and mentally. If you have a sweet craving that simply must be answered, reach for natural stuff, like dates and honey, or make your own desserts at home using only the best ingredients.

Also, try to stay away from all packaged foods in general, as these have inflammatory responses that worsen your cravings and your moods. They can intensify your cramps, and nobody wants that.

5. You’re Not Sleeping Enough

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Beauty sleep takes a whole new meaning when your uterus is shedding its lining. Seven out of every 10 menstruating women say they struggle to get a good night’s sleep just before their period starts. Once again, blame it on the hormones. When your hormone levels change, your body can’t control its internal temperature in the same way it normally can, and this results in restless or interrupted sleep.

Getting less sleep can of course make you more prone to being irritable and moody. If you’re not getting enough shut-eye, there’s also more likelihood that your other PMS symptoms, such as cramps and bloating, will stick around longer. Try to get to bed earlier than usual when your period is coming up, but know that it’s not just about how many hours you spend under the covers. Leave the electronics at the door, shut out all the excess light, and make sure you’re nice and comfy. Every little detail counts for you to get all the quality rest you need.

6. You’re Not Exercising Regularly

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It might not feel like it, but your period is a good time to beef up your exercise routine. It fights bloating, helps with digestion, and reduces the intensity of menstrual cramps. More importantly, though, working out can put you in a good mood. “Exercise enhances feel good chemicals,” Dr. Dweck insists. Research shows that the blood flow and increased heart rate keeps away fatigue and floods your brain with happiness-inducing endorphins you desperately need at this time of the month.

Choose what aerobic activity suits you best. It could be weight training, swimming, yoga, or even a stroll outside at sunset. Lower impact movements will probably be best for you when you’re bleeding. Don’t feel like you have to push yourself to the limit to get the results. Remember, you’re shooting for more energy and better moods, not a world record.

7. You Have Undiagnosed PMDD

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In some rare cases, very noticeable mood swings are indicative of something more than just PMS symptoms. If you notice that your mood swings are out of control and they’re affecting relationships in your life, you may want to talk to your doctor about premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). Up to 10 percent of menstruating women suffer from this disorder, and it often goes undiagnosed. According to Dr. Dweck, “This is like PMS on steroids, where people are absolutely debilitated” due to the emotional plummets.

Dr. Dweck tells Bustle that the key to knowing that you’re stepping into PMDD territory is whether your emotional ups and downs are affecting the relationships in your life. This includes anyone from your co-worker to your partner. As soon as you notice this happening, visit your OBGYN and see whether it’s time to think of some treatments for PMDD.

The Bottom Line

Nearly all of us have been taken on a wild emotional ride during our period and survived, as endlessly frustrating as it may have been. While you may not be able to control all the causes of your mood swings, there are certainly some things you can do that will reduce the misery of your period. Build a healthy, happy lifestyle for yourself and know your go-to period pain hacks, so when the moody PMS bully comes knocking, you’ll be ready to face it. Above all else, remember to be kind to yourself.

Images: Unsplash; Giphy (7)

What Is Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)?

“I always know when it’s starting,” says Lily, 17, sighing. “I feel tired and sad and fat. I get angry and upset at the smallest, dumbest stuff. I know it’s not real, but it still feels so bad.”

For most women and teenage girls, periods are just a part of life. At worst, a monthly inconvenience, at best a reminder our bodies are on track, working like they’re supposed to be. But for girls like Lily who have premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), the onset of menstruation can feel like a week of total hell.

What is PMDD?

Like its better known but less extreme cousin, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), PMDD is a constellation of physical and emotional symptoms. They occur during what’s called the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, right before your period, when the uterus preps for the possibility of pregnancy with a surge of hormones.

Symptoms of PMDD and PMS often appear similar and include:

  • Moodiness: feelings of depression, anxiety, irritability or even rage that seem to come out of nowhere
  • Excessive crying or crying for no reason
  • Feeling overwhelmed or like you’re barely getting by
  • Intense sensitivity to rejection: worrying that everyone is mad at or unhappy with you
  • Trouble concentrating or struggling to stay on on task
  • Increased or decreased appetite
  • Physical discomfort: exhaustion, bloating, cramps, headaches, tender breasts and body aches

Symptoms typically start 5-8 days before your period but can begin earlier, and go away once the period begins. Onset of PMDD can be any time after puberty.

So what’s the difference?

An estimated 75 percent of women and girls experience some emotional and physical discomfort around their periods, but the impact of PMS on their lives is usually relatively mild. The symptoms of PMDD are far more severe and often cause problems that persist even after the tampon box is back in the cabinet.

“We all can have mood swings before the start of our periods, but in the case of PMDD we’re talking about feeling like a different person,” says Dr. Stephanie Samar, a clinical psychologist who works with young women at the Child Mind Institute. It’s only PMDD if it is seriously impairing.

For example:

  • A girl with PMS might feel tired or a little out of it. A girl with PMDD might be almost unable to get out of bed, or struggle to concentrate on even simple tasks.
  • A girl with PMS might feel grumpy or frustrated. A girl with PMDD might feel moments of irrational rage, find herself fighting with loved ones out of nowhere, or end up damanging friendships or romantic relationships.
  • A girl with PMS might be more emotional and find herself crying at things like sad commercials. A girl with PMDD is likely to experience feelings more akin to a major depressive episode, including feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, misery and even suicidal thoughts.

PMDD is caused by a heightened sensitivity to the hormones estrogen and progesterone, both of which spike during the week before menstruation. In 2017, researchers at the National Institutes of Health found evidence that PMDD is likely genetic. Girls whose mothers have a history of severe premenstrual symptoms are more likely to have PMDD.

Fallout

When PMDD is in full swing, girls are extra sensitive and respond more rashly and more intensely to anything that reads as rejection. Something like an offhand comment from her boyfriend or a sibling’s unwillingness to turn off the TV can trigger a major meltdown.

One of the most difficult aspects of PMDD is that though the symptoms that cause these blowups disappear once girls get their periods, the resulting conflicts, academic difficulties and interpersonal problems don’t. “I’d get my period and feel okay again,” Lily says, “but by then I’d done so much damage it almost didn’t matter. I felt better, but the problems were still there.”

Tracking symptoms

After a particularly awful premenstrual week during which she’d missed an important homework assignment, blown off swim practice, and “fought with basically everyone,” Lily’s mother suggested they talk to her gynecologist. The doctor told Lily to start recording her symptoms.

Tracking is the first step to determining whether someone has PMDD. To make a diagnosis, experts require tracking for a minimum of two cycles showing consistent patterns in behavior and mood. If you think your daughter might have PMDD, work with her to mark down symptoms: what they are, how bad they get, and how long they last. Paper calendars work well, and many period tracking apps have a function that allows users to record symptoms. Teens can track by themselves, or parents can do it with them.

Talk to your doctor

Once two or more cycles have been tracked, make an appointment to speak to a gynecologist. Let the doctor know that you think your daughter may have PMDD, and share the tracking information you’ve gathered. Since PMDD is still a relatively new diagnosis, some doctors may need time to research the best treatment options for your child.

It is important to find someone who’ll be thoughtful and thorough, Dr. Samar notes. “If you believe this diagnosis fits but your doctor isn’t listening or is minimizing your worries, consider asking for a second opinion,” she adds. “You need to find someone who understands your concerns and takes them seriously.”

Medication

In some cases, doctors may recommend medication as a treatment for PMDD. Birth control pills are often the first choice because they can help regulate and balance premenstrual hormonal shifts. In some cases, doctors may prescribe antidepressants. If your child already takes antidepressants, her doctor may recommend increasing the dosage during the week when her symptoms are most intense.

Planning and managing

The same information you collected in tracking can also make it easy to do some preemptive scaffolding at home. “Knowing how your PMDD affects you is powerful information,” says Dr. Samar. “Planning ahead can help minimize the impact.”

Planning how she’ll manage stress, interpersonal interactions and physical symptoms while she’s feeling good can help her navigate difficult situations when she’s feeling bad.

  • If she often gets into fights, she might avoid making big social plans, like parties or dates. If problems do come up, she might make an agreement to revisit upsets or conflicts when she’s feeling like herself again.
  • Stock the house with healthy food and plan to drink plenty of water.
  • Alcohol can often make symptoms worse. If she’s of age, she could pledge not to drink until after she gets her period.
  • Encourage exercise. “We know exercise is a big help when it comes to PMDD,” says Dr. Samar. Help her get moving. Signing up for a yoga class or planning to go for run can help relieve symptoms and help her feel more relaxed.
  • Girls can also use cognitive behavioral techniques to help manage some of the more unruly emotions, says Dr. Samar. “Try to challenge thoughts and emotions you know might be out of proportion where you can,” she suggests. “Slow down and give yourself a second to say, Am I responding this way because I’m really this upset? Or am I responding this way because I’m more sensitive right now?”

The more girls build and practice coping skills, the better they’ll become at mitigating the impact of PMDD, something that will become even more important as they grow up, says Dr. Samar. “PMDD doesn’t go away. So these are skills that they’ll need all their lives.”

Taking it seriously

“This is a serious disorder, but historically we haven’t treated it as such,” says Dr. Samar. “A lot of women and girls who experience PMDD aren’t even aware that it’s out of the realm of normal functioning.” Lily counts herself among them. Since hitting puberty at 13 she’d assumed her symptoms were a normal, if horrible, part of having her period. “I thought this was what everyone went through,” she says, “and this was just how it had to be.”

One of the first things girls with PMDD — and their families and doctors — need to understand is that they can’t just “get over it,” Dr. Samar explains. “This is organic. It’s not something you can choose not to feel.”

Parents should take care to validate their daughters’ experience, even while trying to help them learn to manage their emotions in a healthier way. “Don’t say, ‘Oh you’re just saying that because you’re on your period, you’ll be over it soon,’ ” she explains. Instead, she suggests parents instead try something more along the lines of, “I can see how upset you’re feeling. Let’s take a break now and talk this over when you’re feeling a little calmer.”

Finding a way forward

For Lily, finding out that she had PMDD was a lifesaver. “Before I understood what was going on it was like I’d spend three weeks feeling more and more panicky, like oh, it’s coming, and the fourth just losing my mind.” But after being diagnosed, she says, things have become brighter and easier. Lily’s gynecologist put her on birth control and she’s learned some techniques to help her manage her emotions. “Before it was like a tsunami,” she says, “uncontrollable and just totally devastating. Now it’s more like little waves. It’s not perfect, but it is a lot easier and I can deal with that.”

Related: How to Help Girls With ADHD Manage Periods

My daughter with anxiety issues is worried about getting her period. What can I do?

Mood Disorders and Teenage Girls

Every person has experienced the various ways hormones affect our bodies. Think about the pang of hunger when it’s getting close to lunchtime, or the way your heart begins to race during a bout of stress. As women, hormones are the chemical messengers in the body that are responsible for the ebb and flow of the monthly menstrual cycle. But have you ever wondered what’s going on in your body week by week?

There are generally four phases to a woman’s menstrual cycle: menstrual, follicular, ovulation, and luteal. Hormones like estrogen and progesterone play integral roles in the cycle of menstruation, yielding different physical symptoms and changes in your mood and emotions.

Here’s exactly how hormones can affect you during each menstrual phase — and how you can stay one step ahead of fluctuations, according to experts.

1. Menstrual

In the menstrual or bleeding phase, a drop in estrogen and progesterone collapses the lining of the uterus, resulting in the release of an egg. This phase typically lasts three to seven days and of anywhere in between light spotting to heavy flow, says Hal Danzier, M.D., reproductive endocrinologist and cofounder of Southern California Reproductive Center.

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How the menstrual phase makes you feel

The physical symptoms during this phase vary from woman to woman, though it typically includes bleeding, abdominal cramping, and bloating. Cramping ranges from light to very painful due to the presence of prostaglandin, a hormone-like compound that causes the uterus to spasm. However, if you’re experiencing heavy bleeding that lasts longer than a week, you should speak to your doctor. “Very heavy or extended bleeding could indicate the presence of fibroids or other disease states such as precancerous changes or symptoms of endometriosis,” says Bruce McLucas, M.D., OB/GYN, assistant clinical professor at the UCLA School of Medicine and founder of the Fibroid Treatment Collective. Menopause may also result in an irregular period, he adds.

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According to Healthline, you may feel a bit fatigued during the bleeding phase, and it has to do with — you guessed it — hormones. “When your uterine lining isn’t invaded by a fertilized egg, the hormones sustaining the environment aren’t needed anymore and the hormone levels plummet,” Dr. Molly O’Shea, M.D., Detroit-based pediatrician, told Good Housekeeping. “When this happens, your body goes from high alert to nothing hormonally and that shift causes other changes, too, and all of those changes are exhausting. Until your hormone levels increase again, you are really tired.”

How to feel your best during this phase

If you’re extra tired during your period, take it easy and rest more than you usually do. Erika Schwartz, M.D., an internist and author of The Hormone Solution, recommends using heating pads for aches and discomfort as well as low doses of Advil, Aleve, or Tylenol with codeine if pain is persistent. And avoid caffeine, she says, as it constricts blood vessels and increases tension.

2. Follicular

Your period is over — phew! The second stage of the menstrual cycle, the follicular phase, slightly overlaps with the menstrual phase. It begins on the first day of your period and ends when you ovulate. In women, the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) from the pituitary gland stimulates the ovary to produce an egg from one follicle at ovulation, says Dr. Maxine Barish-Wreden, M.D., an internist with Sutter Medical Foundation.

How the follicular phase makes you feel

In this week, your estrogen and testosterone levels begin to build again. Increased hormonal activity means you may have a heightened sense of smell, along with clearer thinking and better coordination. Many women, in fact, report feeling their best at this time of the month — physically and mentally. “You’d be likely to do better with a final exam if you’re in school, or a presentation if you’re at work,” Dr. Danzier says. You may also experience an increase in sex drive during this phase.

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According to Lauri Grossman, chair of the Department of Medicine and Humanistic Studies at the American Medical College of Homeopathy,”Women also experience positive sensations such as relief, release, euphoria, new beginning, invigoration, connection with nature, creative energy, exhilaration, increased sex drive and more intense orgasms.”

Consider brainstorming or problem-solving during this phase, as well as doing things that capitalizing on your creative energy. Be social and go out with friends!

3. Ovulation

This is the phase where you can get pregnant. During the ovulation phase, Luteinizing hormone (LH) surges from the pituitary gland, triggering ovulation about 24 to 36 hours later. Your ovary will then release a mature egg that travels towards the uterus in search of a sperm. According to Heathline, you’ll begin to ovulate right in the middle of your menstrual cycle, which is around day 14 if you have a 28-day cycle. It lasts about 24 hours, and if the egg isn’t fertilized it will die.

How the ovulation phase makes you feel

Estrogen and testosterone rise to peak levels, boosting the effects of the follicular phase. “Women feel more energy, more sex drive, and often they notice more cervical mucus,” Dr. Danzier explains. “The chemistry of your body is preparing for reproduction, so it makes sense that chemically you start feeling more inclined to have sex.”

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There are some downsides, though. “Right around ovulation is also the time when many women experience acne breakouts, or single pimples, usually recurring in the same area,” Dr. Danzier says. Additionally, you can expect breast tenderness, weight gain, headaches, and water retention.

As this phase is a period of “renewal of sexual relationships,” you can take the time to try to reconnect with your lover, says Inga Zilberstein, MD, a New York City-based OB/GYN. And, for women post-menopause, read these 10 facts about sex after menopause. No matter what stage of life you’re in, there’s a lot you can do to heat things up in the bedroom.

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4. Luteal

The last phase of the menstrual cycle is the luteal phase. According to VeryWell, it begins after ovulation, post-day 14, and continues until the first day of your period. In this phase, hormones thicken and ripen the uterus to get it ready for pregnancy.

How the luteal phase makes you feel

Feeling warm or even downright feverish? It’s not in your head. During this post-ovulation phase, many women feel hot. “Increased progesterone acts on the temperature-regulating area in the brain,” Dr. Danzier explains. “It can rise about four-tenths of a degree in this phase, from 98.6 to about 99 degrees.” Increased progesterone also relaxes the smooth muscle of the uterus as well as your gallbladder, sphincter and intestines, says Dr. Zilberstein. That means you may look and feel more bloated.

If implantation does not occur, progesterone levels decline. An imbalance of estrogen and progesterone can affect your levels of serotonin and bring on strong premenstrual-syndrome symptoms like anxiety, depression, irritability and mood swings. “PMS is a common side effect of poor-quality or low-level progesterone,” explains Dr. Shwartz. “When we give bioidentical progesterone to women at this time of the month, we find the cravings disappear and the moods stabilize.”

Avoid salty foods, which can contribute to water retention and more bloat. Also try to avoid sugar and processed foods whenever possible, says Dr. Danzier. “Roller-coastering your blood sugar will only exacerbate the chemical reaction of your hormones,” he adds. Plus, try not to blow off the gym — even if you really don’t feel up to it. “Forty five minutes of walking, swimming or any mild to moderate exercise has a positive effect on many women,” he continues. For some women, though, PMS can bring on extreme mood swings. You’ll want to talk to your doctor about an action plan if you think you may be experiencing PMS.

Nicol Natale Freelance Editorial Assistant Nicol is a freelance Editorial Assistant at WomansDay.com and is a Manhattan-based journalist who specializes in health, wellness, beauty, fashion, business, and lifestyle.

Feeling anxious, irritable or moody?

If you’re like most midlife women your moods fluctuate and it doesn’t take much to make you anxious. Situations that you used to look forward to and handle with ease, such as entertaining friends and family, can suddenly leave you feeling overwhelmed and irritable.

Hormone imbalances cause many women to overreact to things that never used to faze them. Beyond the physical changes you’re going through at this time, you may also be dealing with an empty nest, aging parents, grief issues, or just generally taking stock of your life.

If your anxiety and mood swings are strong enough to interfere with your daily life, talk to your health care provider. You may be clinically depressed or have other health issues that your doctor can help you with. While a hormone imbalance may be part of the problem, it may not be the whole picture.

Solutions: What you can do to ease your symptoms

There are many things you can do to feel better. You can make some of these lifestyle changes today discuss the others with your health care provider.

  • Eat a healthier diet, free of processed foods. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store, where the most nutritious foods are found. Check the labels and avoid foods that are loaded with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), refined carbohydrates and sodium (salt). All can contribute to more imbalance symptoms.
  • Practice portion control. Honor your cravings, but do so in moderation.
  • Eat at least five servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit each day. The more colorful ones are packed with valuable nutrients. Dark green and leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale and collards have been shown to help in memory recall and other mental functions.
  • Choose organic whenever possible to avoid preservatives, pesticides, hormones and other substances that disrupt hormone balance.
  • Whole foods are healthiest, so pick the orange instead of the orange juice. You will get more hormone rebalancing nutrients and fiber to keep you healthy.
  • Limit your caffeine intake; drink less coffee and soda.
  • Drink more pure water and green tea.
  • Load up on berries that packed with anti-oxidants blueberries, blackberries, cranberries and strawberries. Fresh or frozen, they reduce oxidative stress which assaults the cells of the body. So, “berry up” to reduce inflammation and improve your brain cell signaling.
  • Avoid saturated and trans fats and choose olive oil and canola oil instead.
  • Choose foods high in Vitamin C red peppers, oranges, pine nuts, roasted sunflower seeds. Great for skin protection, leading to fewer wrinkles and less skin dryness overall.
  • Boost your omega-3s a beneficial fatty acid found in oily fishes, walnuts, canola and flaxseed oils.
  • Spice up your diet with herbs that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties turmeric (also known as curcumin), garlic, rosemary, and cayenne.
  • Go for a walk, take the stairs and park farther away. Exercise gets your endorphins moving and helps alleviate symptoms associated with menopause.
  • If you’re a smoker, seek the support you need to quit. On average, women who smoke experience menopause symptoms two years earlier than non-smokers. And smokers’ symptoms are often stronger and more troublesome.
  • Chemical disruptors can also throw off your balance, so avoid perfumes and go fragrance-free.
  • Make time to do the things you love, whether it’s relaxing with a good book or pursuing a favorite hobby.
  • Get your life in order; getting rid of clutter can reduce your overall stress and help you manage midlife challenges.
  • Reduce your stress with massage therapy, join a yoga class or meditate.
  • Get more rest and a better night’s sleep. For tips, see the Trouble Sleeping symptom page.
  • Talk to a Chinese medical practitioner about herbal therapy.
  • Ask about black cohosh, an herb that has helped some women with hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause. To learn more, see the Vitamins, supplements and herbs page.
  • See your health care provider for a comprehensive exam and full assessment of your overall physical, mental and emotional health.
  • Also seek assessment of brain neurotransmitters, which are hormones in the nervous system (such as serotonin, epinephrine, norepinephrine, GABA and dopamine) that regulate mood and sleep.
  • If hormone therapy is recommended, consider bioidentical therapy which matches your body’s hormone structure.
  • Talk to your health care provider or pharmacist about adrenal support vitamins. Increasing your intake of B & C vitamins, particularly vitamins B5, B6 and B12 can be very helpful. Health food stores and compounding pharmacies are also good places to look for adrenal support vitamins specially formulated for your needs. Don’t be tempted to buy cheap products, invest in yourself.
  • Discuss over-the-counter progesterone options with your health care provider.
  • You are unique, so your provider should create an individualized plan for you detailing the type, timing and dosage of your therapy.
  • Your health care provider may prescribe a short course of some type of anti-anxiety medication.

7 causes of mood swings

1) Hormones

Hormones can cause mood swings because they often affect the chemistry of the brain. Women are most prone to experiencing mood swings as a result of hormones as they often experience more hormonal fluctuations than men, for example PMS, pregnancy and menopause can all contribute to mood swings.

It is not exactly clear why PMS, pregnancy and menopause cause mood swings however, we do know that there are clear links between fluctuating female hormones and mood. For example, in the two weeks leading up to your period your oestrogen and progesterone levels change dramatically which can then influence your happy chemical serotonin.

During menopause, mood swings are one of the most commonly experienced symptoms. Most menopausal women experience unexplained moods that are constantly changing. Similar to PMS, major hormonal changes are thought to be to blame here. Oestrogen and progesterone decline during menopause and, as a result, so do your serotonin levels. Other menopause symptoms such as hot flushes and sleep problems can be frustrating and can therefore also contribute to mood swings.

Men can also experience mood swings as a result of hormones although this is less likely to occur than it is in women. After the age of 30 men’s testosterone levels begin to gradually decline, low levels of testosterone can cause sleep problems, erectile dysfunction and even mood swings!

2) Caffeine

It’s a well-known fact that caffeine is a major culprit when it comes to mood swings. Caffeine works by stimulating the nervous system and tricking the brain into releasing feel-good chemicals serotonin and dopamine. However, as I’m sure you’re all aware these significant highs come at the cost of energy slumps that can leave us feeling exhausted and low in mood.

Caffeine can affect your mood in a variety of ways and, although many of us believe all these effects to be negative, studies have shown that coffee could potentially be beneficial for helping to reduce stress and depression. No two coffee drinkers are alike because your genes play an important role in how you process caffeine both mentally and physically.

Although caffeine stimulates your nervous system and blocks adenosine receptors thus preventing you from sleeping, a study found that it could also prevent receptors from reacting and causing a stress response such as bad mood, memory problems and low mood.1

However, that being said it’s important that we don’t overlook the main and most common emotional response to caffeine and sugar. Anxiety and irritability can easily occur if we consume too much because both caffeine and sugar can stimulate your fight-or-flight response making you hyperaware.

If we aren’t aware of when and how much caffeine we consume then the emotional turmoil they cause can easily be interpreted as symptoms of mood swings. The recommended daily amount of caffeine is 400mg which equates to roughly 4 cups of coffee. Try swapping your regular caffeinated drink for a caffeine-free alternative such as herbal tea or Bambu, our natural coffee substitute.

3) Dehydration

Even mild dehydration is enough to cause fatigue, difficulty concentrating, headaches changes to our mood and mental function. It is thought that dehydration causes mood swings because of decreased blood flow to the brain. Another theory suggests that neurons in the brain can detect dehydration and then send signals to other parts of the brain that are responsible for mood regulation.

One study found that dehydration makes it more likely for us to experience negative feelings such as anger, anxiety and irritability.2 Drinks such as alcohol and those which contain caffeine are diuretics meaning that they cause us to urinate more frequently than normal. This excessive urination can then cause dehydration which can wreak havoc on our mental wellbeing.

4) Diet

Blood sugar levels, gut health and poor dietary choices can all affect our mood stability for example sugar is a major trigger of mood swings. Working in a similar way to caffeine, sugar stimulates the nervous system and tricks the brain into releasing the feel-good chemicals serotonin and dopamine. However, after your sugar high comes that all-too-predictable sugar crash that can leave us feeling tired and irritable.

Our mood often follows our sugar highs and lows making our blood sugar levels important regulators when it comes to our mood and preventing mood swings. One study found that low blood sugar levels tended to be more associated with negative emotional states such as nervousness. Alternatively, higher blood sugar levels were almost always associated with positive emotions although, anger and sadness were also associated with this blood sugar group.3

The gut health could also contribute to your emotional health. As I discussed in my blog ‘How does serotonin affect your emotions?’ around 90% of your feel-good chemical serotonin is actually produced in the gastrointestinal tract. So keeping your gut happy could be key to keeping your mood swings at bay.

There are a number of ways that you can use your food to improve your mood – be sure to have a healthy, balanced diet which includes plenty of foods from the main food groups such as carbohydrates, protein, fruit and vegetables. Try to eat natural, fresh and raw foods wherever possible, as the more processed your food is the more it loses its nutritional value. Finally check out our blog for 6 easy ways that you can improve your digestion.

5) Anxiety

Symptoms of anxiety can cause so much emotional distress that they can easily result in mood swings. Mood swings caused by anxiety can follow episodes of nervousness, fear and stress but they can also often occur on their own with no obvious trigger. They can also vary in intensity and frequency which can make anxiety difficult to spot. But why does anxiety cause mood swings in the first place?

Well, when we are anxious we are in a state of high emotional alertness that can make us hyperaware and hyper-responsive to situations, our environment, people and emotions. Anxiety (in a similar way to stress) also leeches all of our important nutrients that play an important part in mood regulation. This happens because all of these nutrients are driven towards essential organs like the heart, lung and brain and in the production of adrenaline and the stress hormone cortisol.

There are a number of easy changes you can make to overcome anxiety including meditation, breathing techniques, dietary and lifestyle changes. Herbal remedies such as our AvenaCalm can also be used to soothe the nervous system and ease symptoms of mild stress and anxiety. For more information on how to overcome anxiety check out our anxiety pages on the website.

6) Magnesium deficiency

Magnesium deficiency is one of the most common deficiencies in the UK despite being readily available to us through our diet. Magnesium is an important mineral for hundreds of biochemical reactions in the body, some of which are beneficial for regulating our mood. When we have low levels of this mineral we can become prone to a variety of symptoms that affect our mood such as anxiety, irritability, depression, low mood and headaches.

Magnesium helps to stabilise blood sugar levels, which, as we already know, is beneficial for preventing mood swings. A small study investigating the biological processes of magnesium that are involved in mood found that increasing magnesium intake resulted in improvements in depressive symptoms. However, despite these positive results further investigation is still needed as the research did not use a placebo group in this experiment meaning that it is tricky to know for sure how effective magnesium could actually be in easing depressive symptoms.4

Although research is still relatively controversial when it comes to using magnesium to relieve symptoms of depression, it can still have indirect benefits for our mood. For example, magnesium is known to help prevent fatigue, which in turn will help to improve and stabilise our mood.

7) Fatigue and poor sleep

Fatigue can caused by a combination of factors such as stress, an unhealthy diet, medical conditions and poor sleep. Fatigue is a constant feeling of tiredness or weakness and can affect us both mentally and physically. Sleep and mood are closely connected, we need good quality sleep to be able to emotionally process the day we’ve had at a subconscious level. Sleep is also our time for healing and restoration so, without it, we can increase our chances of both emotional and physical problems.

Lack of sleep can easily lead to low mood or feelings of anxiety, depression and stress. If we are an intermittently good and poor sleeper we may see similar fluctuations in our mood which can then be interpreted as mood swings. Similarly, if we don’t experience fatigue all the time we can also interpret the occasional exhaustion, low motivation and irritability it can cause as a mood swing rather than for what it actually is.

Overcoming fatigue and poor sleeping habits can be tough – particularly with the rise of technology which is not only addictive but also stimulating. When it comes to fatigue, I always recommend our handy Balance Mineral Drink. This drink contains an energising blend of nutrients and minerals as well as a fresh strawberry flavour to help pick you back up again.

When to seek extra support

It is completely normal to have days where we feel sad and days where we feel happy however, rapid or severe changes in mood may be more of a cause for concern. Mood swings can also be triggered by a range of medication so if you feel this could be the case, or that your mood swings are interfering with your daily life, it may be time to see a doctor who will be able to investigate the route of the cause and rule out more serious conditions.

Why Am I in Such a Bad Mood?

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Do you ever find yourself getting really irritable for almost no reason? Or suddenly feeling down without knowing why? Going from sadness to anger to joy in a matter of minutes can make many teens feel as though they’re losing their grip. But why is the feeling of being on an emotional roller coaster so common among teens?

Dealing with constant change and pressure is part of the answer. Maybe you’re starting a new school and not able to see old friends as much. Getting good grades or wanting to be better in sports or other activities can be a concern for many teens. It might feel as though there just isn’t enough time to do everything.

Being a teen means struggling with identity and self-image. Being accepted by friends feels extremely important. Teens also may notice, for the first time, a sense of distance from parents and family. You may feel you want to be on your own and make your own decisions, but it can also seem overwhelming and even a bit lonely at times.

As fun and exciting as this time is, it also can be a time of confusion and conflict. It can take a while for teens — and their families — to feel comfortable with the transition from childhood to adulthood.

Another important cause for mood swings is biology. When puberty begins, the body starts producing sex hormones. These hormones — estrogen and progesterone in girls and testosterone in guys — cause physical changes in the body. But in some people, they also seem to cause emotional changes — the ups and downs that sometimes feel out of control.

Understanding that almost everyone goes through mood swings during their teen years might make them easier to handle.

When It’s More Than Just a Mood

Feeling irritable or short-tempered can be signs of depression. So can feelings of boredom or hopelessness.

Many people think of depression as feeling sad, but depression also can bring feelings of moodiness, impatience, anger, or even just not caring. When depression gets in the way of enjoying life or dealing with others, that’s a sign you need to do something about it, like talking to a counselor or therapist who can help you deal with it. Also, if you ever feel like hurting yourself, that’s more than just a bad mood and you need to tell someone.

Taking Control

Here are some things you can do that might make those bad moods a bit easier to handle:

  • Recognize you’re not alone. Although not every teen experiences mood changes to the same degree, they are common.
  • Catch your breath. Or count to 10. Or do something that lets you settle down for a few moments, especially if you’re feeling angry or irritable. Try to look at the situation from the point of view of a wise observer.
  • Talk to people you trust. Friends can help each other by realizing that they’re not alone in their feelings. Talking to parents is important, too. Parents can share their own experiences dealing with bad moods. Plus, they’ll appreciate it if you try to explain how you feel instead of just slamming a door. Teachers and counselors are often good resources, and a doctor can help sort through questions about development. Keeping feelings inside can make them seem much worse.
  • Exercise. Regular exercise produces more beta-endorphin, a hormone that controls stress and improves mood. Go for a run, play some tennis, ride your bike, or punch a punching bag.
  • Get enough sleep. Though it can be hard to find enough time, getting adequate rest is very important. Being tired can lead to more sadness and irritability.
  • Create. Get involved in some sort of project, like starting a journal or diary, building something out of wood, or starting an art or music piece. Writing can help you organize and express your thoughts and feelings and will make things more manageable. Don’t worry about grammar, spelling, or punctuation; the important thing is just to get your thoughts on paper. Do the same thing with paint, sculpture, music, or other art forms. Put your feelings into your artwork.
  • Cry. There’s nothing wrong with crying; in fact, it often makes a person feel better. However, if you find that you are sad, irritable, bored, or hopeless much of the time, or if you just can’t seem to shake the blues, you might be depressed and need help from a counselor or doctor. If you’re feeling stressed or angry a lot of the time, getting help could be very useful for you.
  • Wait. Just as you can get into a bad mood for what seems like no reason at times, that mood can also pass. If your negative mood sticks around too long, though — or if it’s interfering with the way you deal with friends, parents, school, or activities — then you may want to talk to a school counselor, parent, or therapist about what you can do to feel better.

Reviewed by: D’Arcy Lyness, PhD Date reviewed: August 2015

Mood Swings: PMS and Your Emotional Health

The most common emotional PMS symptoms are:

  • Irritability
  • Anger
  • Depression
  • Crying
  • Oversensitivity
  • Feeling nervous and anxious
  • Alternating sadness and rage

Getting to the Root of PMS Mood Swings

Although researchers don’t know exactly why PMS strikes, these emotional disturbances are thought to be connected to the rise and fall of hormones, specifically estrogen, throughout the menstrual cycle. Estrogen levels begin to rise slowly just after a women’s period ends, and it peak two weeks later. “Then estrogen levels drop like a rock and begin rising slowly before dropping again just before menstruation starts,” explains Livoti. These hormonal peaks and valleys are thought to cause mood swings and other menstrual symptoms.

“Stressful situations, such as a divorce or job loss, don’t cause PMS, but they can make it worse,” adds Livoti. Some research suggests that female hormones interact with brain chemicals in a way that can affect mood in those with PMS. “Reduced levels of estrogen during the luteal phase of the cycle could possibly cause a drop in serotonin, although more research needs to be done to confirm this link,” says Livoti. Lower serotonin levels are associated with depression, irritability, and carbohydrate cravings, all of which can be PMS symptoms.

Severe PMS: Beyond Run-Of-The-Mill Mood Swings

Between 3 and 8 percent of menstruating women have an even more severe condition called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). These women become seriously depressed a week or two before their periods. “With PMDD, major depression and extreme irritation are the foremost symptoms,” says Livoti. “PMS is milder and usually involves physical menstrual symptoms, as well as emotional ones.”

Women with a family history of depression or who have previously experienced postpartum depression are at increased risk for PMDD, which is included on the American Psychiatric Association’s list of mental illnesses (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). To be diagnosed with PMDD, a woman must have at least five of the following symptoms around the time of her period:

  • Deep sadness or despair, with possible suicidal thoughts
  • Lasting irritability and anger, which may include frequent outbursts at loved ones
  • Feelings of tension or anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Mood swings
  • Crying
  • Disinterest in daily activities and relationships
  • Trouble thinking or focusing
  • Feeling out of control or overwhelmed
  • Fatigue
  • Low energy
  • Food cravings or binge eating

These symptoms will disappear shortly after menstruation starts. “If they last all month, that’s not PMDD,” says Livoti. Instead, another mental or physical illness may be the cause.

Treating PMS Symptoms, From Mild to Severe

For many women, lifestyle changes can be a successful part of PMS treatment. For women with severe PMS, medication may be needed. The following PMS treatment options can help stabilize mood swings and improve a woman’s emotional health in the weeks before menstruation:

  • Exercise. Physical activity can lift moods and improve depression. It’s believed that endorphins — feel-good brain chemicals that are released during exercise — may help counteract some of the hormone changes that may trigger severe PMS. “Exercising can also boost energy and help with cramps and bloating, which may help you feel better,” says Livoti. Aerobic exercise such as walking, running, bicycling, or swimming is recommended.
  • Small, frequent meals. Eating small meals throughout the day rather than two or three big meals may also help ease PMS symptoms. A large meal, particularly one high in carbohydrates, can cause blood sugar swings, which could worsen PMS. “Low blood sugar may contribute to crying spells and irritability that are often seen in women with severe PMS,” says Livoti. Try to eat six small meals a day to keep your blood sugar levels steady.
  • Calcium supplements. In a 2009 double-blind clinical trial of college women with PMS, those who supplemented their diet with 500 milligrams of calcium twice daily had significantly less depression and fatigue than those who didn’t. In fact, “a number of studies have shown that getting plenty of calcium can help ease mood changes related to severe PMS, although we don’t know exactly why,” says Livoti.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and sweets. Staying away from coffee and other caffeinated drinks for two weeks before your period may make a difference in your mood because caffeine can increase anxiety, nervousness, and insomnia. Cutting down on alcohol may also be helpful because alcohol acts as a depressant. And steering clear of candy, soda, and other sugary foods, especially in the week before your period, may help ease severe PMS symptoms by preventing mood swings associated with blood sugar fluctuations.
  • Stress management. Stress can make severePMS symptoms worse, so finding ways to give stress the slip can help treatPMS. Try relaxation techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, and yoga. Individual or group therapy has also been found to be an effectivePMS treatment for women with severe mood swings and debilitating emotional changes.

    Antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) that change serotonin levels in the brain have been shown to be helpful for women with severe PMS and PMDD. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved three of these medicines — Zoloft (sertraline), Prozac or Sarafem (fluoxetine), and Paxil CR (paroxetine) — for the treatment of PMDD.

    Talk to your doctor about which of these approaches might work best for any moderate or severe emotional PMS symptoms you’re experiencing.

Treating premenstrual dysphoric disorder

Updated: July 30, 2019Published: October, 2009

Most women experience some degree of emotional or physical discomfort a few days before and just after their menstrual period begins each month. About 5% of women of childbearing age, however, experience premenstrual symptoms that are so severe they cause significant mental distress and interfere with work, school, or relationships — thereby meeting the criteria for premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD. Another 18% to 35% of women suffer from less severe, but nevertheless bothersome, premenstrual symptoms.

Although sometimes dismissed as trivial, PMDD can disrupt a woman’s life and relationships so completely, she may despair that life itself is not worth living. About 15% of women with PMDD attempt suicide. Fortunately, treatment options exist for PMDD — but the most effective are not always prescribed.

Key points

  • Antidepressants that slow the reuptake of serotonin provide effective treatment for premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).

  • These drugs alleviate PMDD more quickly than depression, which means that women don’t necessarily have to take the drugs every day.

  • Hormone therapies provide additional options, but are generally considered second-line treatments.

  • Some dietary and lifestyle changes may also help relieve symptoms.

PMDD Risk factors and diagnosis

Brain areas that regulate emotion and behavior are studded with receptors for estrogen, progesterone, and other sex hormones. These hormones affect the functioning of neurotransmitter systems that influence mood and thinking — and in this way may trigger PMDD. But it’s not clear why some women are more sensitive than others. Genetic vulnerability likely contributes. Other risk factors for developing PMDD include stress, being overweight or obese, and a past history of trauma or sexual abuse.

Also, it’s important to rule out other conditions that cause symptoms similar to PMDD, such as depression, dysthymia, anxiety, and hypothyroidism.

A key challenge in PMDD diagnosis is differentiating between mild premenstrual symptoms, which may be annoying but are not disabling, and those severe enough to interfere with daily life.

Proposed criteria for premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)

  • Five or more of the following symptoms (at least one related to mood) for most menstrual cycles in the past year:
    • Depression
    • Anxiety or tension
    • Sudden mood changes
    • Irritability
    • Loss of interest in daily activities
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Decreased energy
    • Food cravings and appetite changes
    • Insomnia or sleepiness
    • Physical symptoms, such as breast tenderness or bloating
  • Symptoms interfere with activities, work, school, or relationships
  • Symptoms are not due to a cyclical exacerbation of another disorder
  • Documentation by daily symptom ratings for at least two menstrual cycles

Serotonin reuptake inhibitors for PMDD

Antidepressants that slow the reuptake of serotonin are effective for many women with PMDD. Options include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as citalopram (Celexa) and fluoxetine (Prozac); the serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) venlafaxine (Effexor); and a tricyclic antidepressant that has a strong effect on serotonin, called clomipramine (Anafranil). Studies report that 60% to 90% of women with PMDD respond to treatment with drugs that block reuptake of serotonin, compared with 30% to 40% of those who take a placebo.

Other types of antidepressants, which target neurotransmitters other than serotonin, have not proven effective in treating PMDD. This suggests that serotonin reuptake inhibitors work in some way independent of their antidepressant effect — but their mechanism of action in PMDD remains unclear.

These drugs also alleviate symptoms of PMDD more quickly than depression, which means that women don’t necessarily have to take the drugs every day. Instead, women can take them on an intermittent basis, also known as luteal-phase dosing because it coincides with the roughly 14-day span that begins just after ovulation and ends when menstruation starts.

The decision about whether to take a serotonin reuptake inhibitor every day or on an intermittent basis depends on the type of symptoms a particular woman experiences and if the symptoms of PMDD are superimposed on a more persistent depression. Intermittent dosing is sufficient for treating irritability or mood, but daily medication may be necessary to control somatic symptoms such as fatigue and physical discomfort.

Side effects of serotonin reuptake inhibitors are usually relatively mild and transient. Nausea, for example, typically subsides after several days of taking a drug for the first time — and the problem tends not to recur even when the drug is taken intermittently.

Sexual side effects, such as reduced libido and inability to reach orgasm, can be troubling and persistent, however, even when dosing is intermittent. Of course, PMDD can also lessen sexual desire, so as a practical matter, taking a serotonin reuptake inhibitor on an intermittent basis may still seem like an acceptable strategy.

Hormone therapies may be helpful for some women. They seem to work in PMDD act not by countering hormonal abnormalities, but by interrupting aberrant signaling in the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal circuit that links brain and ovaries and regulates the reproductive cycle

PMDD lifestyle changes

Lifestyle changes are always worth the effort.

Diet. The usual dietary advice given to women with mild or even moderate premenstrual symptoms — such as consuming less caffeine, sugar, or alcohol, and eating smaller, more frequent meals — is unlikely to help women with PMDD.

Preliminary evidence suggests that what may help PMDD is consuming more high-protein foods or complex carbohydrates to raise levels of tryptophan, a precursor of serotonin and other neurotransmitters.

Aerobic exercise. Although it has not been well studied for PMDD, a wealth of evidence concludes that aerobic physical activity, such as walking, swimming, or biking, tends to improve mood and energy levels.

Supplements. Vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium supplements, and herbal remedies have all been studied for use in PMDD — but as yet there is no consistent or compelling evidence leading to consensus about their efficacy.

Image: © YakobchukOlena/Getty Images

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Periods and mood swings

An introduction to periods and mood swings

Many of us admit we get a little more, let’s say, unstable, at a certain time of the month. It is common knowledge that we can become a little more temperamental and, to some extent, it’s expected and we get away with it. But it isn’t nice – one minute you feel fine, quite happy, optimistic and the next minute, something minor leaves you feeling way too oversensitive, irritable, angry and sad; it might be just one of these emotions taking over or a delightful combination! Then let’s not forget the feelings of anxiety or even depression that some women have to endure, it just isn’t fair.

Your mood is critical to what you do and how you do it. It can affect everything from what you choose to eat for breakfast to how you interact with your partner.

So, why do your emotions run wild as a result of your menstrual cycle? I explore the possible mechanisms for mood swings around the time of your period and how home, herbal and conventional remedies can help.

How can your period cause mood swings?

It isn’t exactly clear what causes mood swings around the time of you period, although it is widely accepted that hormones have an important part to play. However, which hormones are involved and what effects they are having on other hormones and systems, isn’t well understood.

What we do know is that both oestrogen and progesterone hit rock bottom in the few days prior to each menstrual period. This is thought to be significant but there’s more to it than that.

Oestrogen is prone to fluctuating; around day 14 of the menstrual cycle oestrogen peaks in order to initiate ovulation. This is interesting in itself, as we believe this important hormone is somewhat responsible for regulating our mood, so it makes sense to have optimal amounts around the time of ovulation – this is when we should be at our happiest and ensure relationships are going well if we want any chance of becoming pregnant!

However, after ovulation, oestrogen starts to decline. It isn’t plain sailing though and over the next two weeks it fluctuates, until it eventually decreases enough to initiate menstruation. These fluctuations are thought to be critical – not only are the levels of oestrogen important but also the ratio of oestrogen to progesterone at any one time. If this ratio changes, it can result in one hormone becoming dominant over the other.

Oestrogen dominance is thought to be associated with mood swings involving more irritability and anger whilst progesterone dominance is more commonly associated with feelings of low mood, weepiness, anxiety and low self-confidence.

However, the interaction and metabolism of other hormones around this time is also important, although again, not completely understood. Serotonin is an example of this. A drop in serotonin is also thought to give rise to mood swings and is another important implication.

Diet and lifestyle factors

By implementing some dietary and lifestyle changes you can begin to take control of the mood swings; I explain how.

  • Eat well – A healthy, varied diet will help you in more ways than you think. Eating little and often (3 meals a day and healthy snacks in between) will help to keep your blood sugar more stable. Wobbly blood sugar can make you feel more irritable so avoid this as much as possible. Ensure you incorporate healthy sources of protein such as lean meats, eggs, fish, beans and lentils as well as healthy fats as these are vital for the production of sex hormones and neurotransmitters, serotonin is a good example. Finally, if you eat well, you’ll feel much better in yourself. Gorging on junk food can make you feel guilty and all sorts of other negative feelings can crop up. Avoid it and you’ll feel better for it!
  • Exercise – Taking part in regular exercise will benefit both body and mind! Yoga is particularly beneficial as it is known to exert positive effects on mood. Exercise causes the release of feel-good chemicals called endorphins which can help to give your mood a boost
  • Sleep – Aim to get 8 hours of sleep on average a night in order to support your mood. A lack of sleep can make you feel anxious, demotivated and irritable at the best of times, never mind around the time of your period when you are in the middle of hormonal turmoil as it is!
  • Caffeine – The effects of caffeine are underestimated and excess caffeine around the time of your period can push you to your limit. Caffeine stimulates the sympathetic nervous system and initiates the release of adrenaline. Over-consumption can make you feel nervous, jittery and anxious and can put pressure on your adrenal glands
  • Manage your stress – Stress can have a whole-body effect and it definitely won’t be helping those mood swings. Attempt to manage your stress and feel the benefits

Herbal remedies to help

So, you have tried to implement some positive dietary and lifestyle interventions but feel you still need a little extra help. Herbal remedies could be the answer.

Agnus castus is useful for helping to relieve symptoms of PMS, for example, irritability, mood swings, water retention, sore breasts and painful periods.

Agnus castus gently supports your progesterone levels which in many cases are overshadowed by oestrogen.

At the other end of the spectrum, if oestrogen is low, (symptoms can include suffering from low mood, low self confidence, and having light infrequent periods) fermented soy isoflavones can be effective in gently correcting this imbalance.

Please note, if you are taking hormonal contraceptives such as the pill, hormone-balancing herbal remedies may not be suitable for you.

Finally, if stress is an issue and isn’t helping your mood swings, try our Stress Relief Daytime Drops. This a fresh herbal tincture containing organic Valerian and Hops. The combination of these herbs is useful for helping to reduce symptoms of stress and mild anxiety.

How can my doctor help?

If you are worried about your mood swings or they are affecting your work or personal relationships, it might be worth paying a visit to your doctor.

If hormones are to blame you may be offered a hormonal contraceptive in an attempt help to balance your hormones, although beware of any side effects.

If stress, anxiety or feelings of low mood are an issue, your doctor can explain some of the treatment options they have available such as anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medication.

How to Reduce Your PMS Mood Swings  

  • Menstruation
  • May 20th, 2018
  • by Nicole Ohebshalom

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) can cause wild, emotional mood swings for some women. In one day we can go from an angry outburst to a crying spell, followed by an anxiety attack. These emotional rises and falls are usually due to our fluctuating hormones. The good news is, we can become more strategic in how we heal the underlying causes of these symptoms in order to live without mood swings, depression, and anxiety. For most women, successfully healing PMS can occur with changes to lifestyle and diet. Here are some ways to begin addressing underlying causes and access your healing.

Erotic Wellness

Sex and self-pleasure not only have you feeling great but also have hormonal health benefits. If you’re feeling cramping and/or bloated, sex or self-pleasure can improve circulation to organs in the pelvic cavity, promote healthier estrogen levels, and provide relaxation by boosting estrogen levels and flushing out cortisol. Sex also increases levels of oxytocin, the hormone of bonding and success, which is linked to passion, intuition, and social skills. If you’re experiencing PMS during your ovulation phase, sex can be the estrogen detoxing ticket. If you are in the second half of your luteal phase, you may need more lube to help stimulate your connection with your sensations. But you’ll soon feel connected to yourself, juiced, and relaxed.

Get your herbs

Rhodiola rosea is an herbal medicine that regulates your stress response, reduces anxiety, and give our adrenals much-needed TLC! Rhodiola will shelter your brain from cortisol. Take this herb right when you have signs of depression and anxiety during PMS; however, it’s most effective to take daily for three months. The recommendation is 150-300 mg per day with 2 percent of the active constituent rosavin.

Self Inquiry

Each month, through menstruation, we go through an internal transformational process of letting go and being reborn. Our uterus sheds its lining and we release from the past and set free into the future. It is a time when deeply repressed and ignored emotions from the past month are brought to the surface, and into consciousness so we can acknowledge them, seek expression, and let them go. When we disregard or ignore our feelings or simply don’t give ourselves enough time to switch off and reconnect, PMS is likely to surface. When you feel anxious, angry or depressed, remember your greatest wisdom is already within you. Stop and listen. Have a conversation with your mental and physical sensations. Say, “Thank you for showing up so I can live a better life. Now, what do you want to tell me?” Also look at your relationships and creative outlets. Where are you silencing your authentic self? Find time to admire your uniqueness, follow your heart, and do things your way. Your unique opinions and authentic self is the reason you are here and loved.

Meditation to Master Your Moods

Kirtan Kriya is a meditation chant that comes from Kundalini yoga. The practice uses repetitive finger movements to help break habits and assist you in going through any life changes. It can also help heal negative sexual memories and traumas. Kirtan Kriya is believed to stimulate your pituitary and pineal glands, which allows you to become more active and balanced. It’s very helpful in connecting and balancing your menstrual cycle and the moon energy centers.

Here’s how you can try Kirtan Kriya for yourself.

The mantra includes primal sounds that reflect the wheel of life. The mantra is Saa (birth) Taa (life) Naa (death) Maa (rebirth).

Lie on your stomach and place your chin on the floor. Keep your head straight. Place your arms alongside your body, with the palms of your hands facing upward. Begin mentally chanting Saa Taa Naa Maa. Focus your eyes on your brow point. Imagine the sound current passing through your head in an L shape, entering the top of your head and flowing out through the center of your forehead. As you chant Saa, press your index finger to the tip of your thumb; on the Taa, press your middle finger to your thumb; on Naa, press your ring finger to your thumb; and on Maa, press your little finger to your thumb. Continue for 3 to 31 minutes. You can do this meditation when you want relief and insight from the emotional swings of PMS, and it can be done as a 40 day meditation practice. Observe how you feel before and after your practice. There are great insights when you stay still for a minute after the practice.

Upping Your Serotonin

Certain foods can affect the balance of our biochemistry. When we eat foods high in sugar, insulin is quickly released out of the bloodstream. At that time, insulin removes all of the amino acids except for one, tryptophan. Tryptophan is the precursor for our pleasure and happiness hormone, serotonin. Sugar cravings during PMS can then lead to increased amounts of serotonin in the brain. Our bodies seek out substances that balance us out biochemically. If we have low serotonin, we will seek out substances that raise serotonin levels. Foods that are high in sugar are a way for us to do this. When you experience mood swings, try eating complex carbohydrates to stabilize your serotonin levels. Apples, avocado, cucumbers, and carrots are great pick me ups when you are on the go and feel the sudden sugar cravings! My favorite is roasted sweet potatoes, which remind me of my childhood. When you’re PMS, nothing beats the cozy feeling of home and comfort.

To master your PMS mood swings, go to bed

Since serotonin is critical to mood, low levels of serotonin can be directly linked to the depression, irritability, and mood changes experienced by women with PMS.

In addition, serotonin is important to sleep regulation. Low serotonin levels may affect the onset and quality of sleep. In addition, low serotonin levels also mean low melatonin levels. Melatonin is key for our sleep cycle, which has a direct impact on our hormonal balance, so when we don’t have enough of it, we might experience a significant disruption to the sleep-wake cycle.

It’s essential to have a night time ritual so your serotonin and melatonin can work properly. This might include a calming and relaxing activity before bed like reading a book or taking a bath. You should also keep electronics out of your bedroom and try using blue light technology in front of electronic devices.

Go get started

You have undoubtedly fought a monthly uphill battle. With these simple tips and becoming more aware of your PMS symptoms, your hormones will respond to help your body get balanced. When you feed and move your body in ways that work with its natural rhythms and use your body as a resource, you will tap into your personal best self and live the life you want to live.

Featured image by Claire Jantzen

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Premenstrual Syndrome

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Treatment

Many premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms improve with treatment. Treatment options range from medication therapy to birth control pills to diet modification, including vitamin and mineral supplementation, herbal medicines and exercise.

Antidepressant drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are typically recommended to women with severe mood-related symptoms such as anxiety, depression or mood swings.

Overall, common treatment options include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These medications are used to relieve premenstrual headache and other menstrual-cycle related pain. A variety of NSAIDs are available including over-the-counter ibuprofen products (Motrin) and others or naproxen sodium (Aleve). They usually cost less and have fewer side effects than other treatments. Prescription NSAIDs also are available.
    Note: NSAIDS carry some risks, such as an increased risk of serious cardiovascular (CV) events, including heart attack and stroke. As a result, the FDA has issued a “black box” warning highlighting this risk, as well as the risk of potentially life-threatening stomach bleeding. If you’ve recently had heart surgery, you shouldn’t take NSAIDS. All other women considering NSAIDS to ease PMS or any other condition should discuss these potential risks with their health care professional.

  • Contraceptive hormones. Some women with PMS or PMDD experience relief of their symptoms after they start taking birth control pills. (Other women, however, feel worse on birth control pills.) You can take the pill continuously to avoid having a menstrual period, thus preventing the hormonal changes that can lead to PMS/PMDD. The combination birth control pills Yaz (containing 3 mg of drospirenone, a progestin, and 20 mcg ethinyl estradiol, a form of estrogen) and Beyaz and Safyral (containing 3 mg of drospirenone, 20 mcg ethinyl estradiol and a daily dose of folic acid) are FDA approved for the treatment of PMDD. However, these contraceptives should only be used to treat PMDD if you choose to use them for birth control because other forms of treatment don’t carry the same risks as oral contraceptives. Birth control pills containing drospirenone may cause some serious side effects in rare cases, including blood clots in the legs and lungs, so be sure and talk to your health care provider about your risks and benefits. Oral contraceptives are not recommended for women who smoke because of increased cardiovascular risks.

  • GnRH agonists (gonadotropin-releasing hormone). These medications include leuprolide (Lupron), among others. They belong to a class of hormones used to temporarily shrink fibroids and relieve endometriosis. They also may be recommended to treat PMS because they “turn off” the menstrual cycle by blocking estrogen production. Side effects may include menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, vaginal dryness and bone loss. That’s why low-dose hormone therapy, a combination of estrogen and progestin hormones, is typically prescribed along with GnRH agonists. Some women may experience a return of their PMS symptoms with the additional hormone therapy. GnRH agonists are usually considered only as a short-term treatment option (given for no longer than six months) because of the increased health risks such as osteoporosis associated with low estrogen levels.

  • Antidepressant medications. Antidepressant medications called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the preferred antidepressants for treating severe PMS and PMDD symptoms, including depression. SSRIs include sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil), citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexapro),and fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem). Other types of antidepressants may also be prescribed to treat PMS and PMDD, including venlafaxine (Effexor) and clomipramine (Anafranil). The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Zoloft, Paxil and Serafem for treatment of PMDD, but warns that women taking antidepressants should monitor their symptoms closely, with the help of their health care professional, for signs that their condition is getting worse or that they are becoming suicidal, especially when they first start therapy or when their dose is increased or decreased.

  • Anti-anxiety medications such as alprazolam (Xanax) are sometimes prescribed when anxiety is the main symptom associated with PMS or PMDD. These drugs can be taken during the 14 days between ovulation and menstruation (the luteal phase) when symptoms occur (rather than daily). Dependence and serious withdrawal reactions can occur with Xanax, so its dosage and discontinuation should be carefully monitored.

  • Calcium supplements (1,000 to 1,200 mg daily). Additional calcium in any form may help relieve some PMS symptoms. Low-fat dairy products (milk, yogurt and cheese) are a primary source of calcium, but you can also gain calcium from the following:

    • Tofu and other soy products
    • Rice milk
    • Broccoli
    • Dark greens, like turnip greens
    • Green or red cabbage (raw)
    • Salmon and sardines

    Taking an over-the-counter calcium supplement can also help. In one study, women who took 600 mg of calcium twice a day experienced fewer PMS symptoms than women who took a placebo. But be patient; it may take two to three months to relieve PMS symptoms with calcium supplementation. If symptoms persist, have your vitamin D levels checked or change the type of calcium supplement you’re using. Low levels of vitamin D can affect how the body absorbs calcium, and some generic supplements may not have enough calcium available for absorption.

  • Exercise. Regular exercise can also help relieve and possibly prevent PMS symptoms. You will get the greatest benefits if you exercise for at least 30 minutes, at least five days a week. But even taking a 20- to 30-minute walk three times a week can improve your mood.

  • Chasteberry. The extract of the fruit of the chasteberry tree is shown to be a safe and effective treatment for PMS. This therapy is used primarily outside the United States. It may be obtained over the counter, but the dose and purity may be uncertain.

In addition, there’s some evidence that some nutritional supplements such as vitamin E, magnesium and vitamin B-6 may help ease symptoms of PMS. Discuss these and other strategies with your health care professional before taking any dietary supplement.

There is no single treatment that works well for every woman who experiences PMS. Typically, it’s wise to try the most conservative treatment options first, which include lifestyle changes such as modifying your diet and exercising more. Discuss your symptoms with your health care professional if strategies you’ve tried don’t work, so he or she can recommend other treatment options.

Prevention

Can premenstrual syndrome (PMS) be prevented? Many women report benefits from a variety of lifestyle change including dietary changes, exercise and stress management. Dietary changes may include:

  • Increasing calcium intake.

  • Decreasing consumption of refined sugar.

  • Decreasing or avoiding caffeine and nicotine, which act as stimulants and can increase tension and anxiety as well as interfere with sleep patterns. For some women, the severity of PMS symptoms increases as caffeine consumption increases.

  • Decreasing alcohol consumption, which can act as a depressant. If you experience PMS, you may have an increased sensitivity to alcohol premenstrually.

  • Decreasing salt intake and increasing water consumption to avoid water retention and bloating.

  • Avoiding sodas, which may contain high levels of caffeine, salt, sugar and/or artificial sweeteners.

  • Drinking natural diuretics, such as herbal teas.

Ironically, some PMS symptoms, such as mood swings, irritability, bloating, hunger, carbohydrate cravings and fatigue, may lead you to consume foods that aggravate the condition.

Premenstrually, you may crave either refined sugar (usually combined with chocolate) or fat (combined with salt). Generally, foods high in refined sugars and fat temporarily raise energy levels. But within several hours or less, as your body metabolizes these foods, you may “crash,” meaning you’ll feel worse than before you ate them. Foods high in sugar content can also leave you feeling jittery.

To alleviate mood swings and fatigue, try adding more high-quality, complex carbohydrates to your diet such as:

  • Whole grain breads, pastas and cereals
  • Potatoes (white or sweet)
  • Rice (preferably brown or wild)
  • Fresh vegetables, particularly corn and legumes, such as peas, chickpeas and lentils
  • Fresh fruits

These complex carbohydrates help keep blood sugar levels even while providing your body with a long-lasting source of energy.

It’s not uncommon for your appetite to increase just before your period begins. To combat the munchies and extra weight gain, try eating smaller, low-fat healthful meals using the food choices listed above.

Make sure you include adequate calcium in your diet; calcium may help prevent irritability, anxiety and other PMS symptoms. Good sources of calcium include:

  • Low-fat milk and milk products like yogurt, ice cream and cheese
  • Broccoli
  • Dark greens (like turnip greens)
  • Green or red cabbage (raw)
  • Cooked collards
  • Salmon and sardines
  • Soy products, such as tofu and soy milk
  • Calcium-fortified orange and grapefruit juices

Another good way to prevent PMS symptoms is through regular exercise in the form of aerobic activities such as brisk walking, jogging, biking or swimming. You will get the greatest benefits from exercise if you do it for at least 30 minutes, five or more days a week. But even taking a 20- to 30-minute walk three times a week can:

  • Increase endorphin and serotonin production, brain chemicals that may help decrease pain and discomfort and improve mood, respectively
  • Decrease stress and anxiety
  • Increase REM sleep

Other lifestyle changes that will help you control PMS include:

  • Sleeping consistent hours
  • Establishing a bedtime routine to help cue body and mind for sleeping
  • Keeping a PMS symptom checklist, also called a menstrual cycle diary, to identify when symptoms and which symptoms occur so you can be prepared for them

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