Whether you go all-out celebrating this spooky, sweets-soaked holiday or simply watch from afar with a look of mild derision as others make fools of themselves in costume, you’ll still probably enjoy this round-up of 5 shocking myths about your hormones:
Myth #1. Your period week is the suckiest week of your cycle.
Truth: It’s not all that bad. And you can make it better.
Despite the way TV shows and movies constantly, chronically, ceaselessly make insulting jokes about how women are super-grouchy, teeth-gnashing monsters during their period, the truth is, for many women it’s one of the best weeks of our cycle. That’s because a few hours after you start to bleed, estrogen starts rising. And that means two key things:
1. No more PMS. Moodiness, irritability and other woes during your premenstrual week are caused by plunging estrogen. And rising estrogen is the exact antidote your body needs to nix them.
2. Your mood, outlook, brain skills and energy are slowly improving. Rising estrogen helps the brain produce all the great chemicals it needs to give you this positive turn-around.
So, why are some women (maybe you?) cranky, tired and/or mentally foggy during their period week–despite this hormonal help?
One reason is that menstrual cramps can be a real drag. If you just put up with the pain without doing anything about it, it will dampen your mood, trigger fatigue and make you foggy-headed. This is true with any kind of pain. Lucky for you, there are loads of easy, study-backed ways to ease menstrual cramp discomfort–even if you don’t want to resort to medications. I’ve written about quite a few here.
The second most common reason for menstrual week complaints is low iron, which is what happens when you bleed during menstruation (blood loss = iron loss). When you’re low in this mineral, you get irritable, tired and mentally foggy. As a result, you don’t get to enjoy that revved mood, energy and brain sharpness that rising estrogen should be giving you in this first week of your cycle.
To counter this, if you can, eat more iron-rich foods (such as tofu, fortified cereal, pumpkin seeds, beans and lean meat) and/or take an iron supplement (18 mg. for women ages 19 to 30; 15 mg. for women 14 to 18). Preferably, eat more iron-rich foods and/or take an iron supplement all cycle long–not just during your period–because this will help keep your body’s store of this mineral up.
Do this for one whole cycle and I bet by the time your next period comes, you’ll feel a difference. And, when you keep doing it daily, three cycles from now the full effect of replenishing your iron will have likely kicked in and you are going to love your period week. Or at least like it a whole lot more.
Myth #2: Every woman suffers from PMS.
Truth: Not every woman suffers from it–and premenstrual symptoms can vary (or disappear altogether) from cycle to cycle.
Premenstrual syndrome–or PMS or PMT for short–is really a catch-all name for a wide range of bothersome symptoms that can arise in the week before your period as a result of plunging estrogen–including headaches, anxiety, the blues, irritability, etc. While this condition is probably the most well-known side effect of hormones, truth is, not every woman experiences premenstrual woes. Many gals happily go through an entire premenstrual week without so much as an ache or a growl.
I’d give you statistics about how many women experience PMS, but they vary so wildly that it would be useless for me to even throw out a number. One reason for this variation may be because premenstrual symptoms themselves can vary so wildly: You could have an intense PMS one month with lots of problems annoying you; then another month, you could sail through completely PMS-free.
Why’s that? There’s a lot that can impact premenstrual symptoms–including stress, sleep, diet, exercise, medications, age, alcohol, caffeine and if you’re skipping meals. So, if one of these factors changes, you could have a better or worse premenstrual week.
Luckily, no matter how intense your PMS is, there are many study-proven ways to ease the symptoms–and even eradicate some altogether. Check out my posts on PMS tips and try them for yourself.
Myth #3: Your estrogen plunges once in your cycle–right before your period.
Truth: Your estrogen plunges twice in your cycle–for three to four days right after ovulation (in the middle of your cycle) and then again during the six days before your period. (Check out the pink line in the graphic below.)
You just read up above that plunging estrogen is behind PMS. So, does that mean you have two PMS phases in your cycle?
It depends on if you’re sensitive to plunging estrogen. If so, then yes, you could experience PMS-like symptoms–such as headache, grouchiness and aches–starting the day after ovulation and lasting about three to four days till this hormones starts climbing again. I call this the “pre-PMS” phase. It’s like regular PMS–only shorter and less intense.
If you normally don’t get PMS during your premenstrual week, then you’ll probably skate through this phase without noticing too much of a difference.
Myth #4: The moon affects your menstrual cycle.
Truth: The moon has nothing do with when you get your period or when you ovulate. No, really, it doesn’t.
It’s hard to resist the romantic notion that a celestial body we can see bobbing in the heavens can have a direct and powerful impact on our own body–especially when that notion is pummeled into our brain at every late-night drum circle and co-op meeting.
However, while the moon may affect the tides of oceans and seas, it has no pull on the red tide inside us. That’s the word from a 2013 study in the journal Endocrine Regulations that monitored 74 women’s cycles for a full year found no correlation between the menstrual cycle and moon phases. Any link we find can be chalked up to pure coincidence.
Myth #5: Women’s cycles sync up when they’re in close proximity to each other.
Truth: If your cycle starts matching another woman’s cycle who you spend time with, it’s just chance.
It’s pretty cool to think that just being near another woman long enough can make our menstrual cycles sync up since it seems to suggest some kind of intimate bonding that makes our relationships with other women more significant. And, of course, since men can’t do it, it’s even more special.
However, a 2013 study in the Journal of Sex Research reveals that “menstrual synchrony”–the synching up of our cycles–isn’t a real thing. Turns out, the research upon which this idea was based was flawed and researchers haven’t been able to replicate that study’s findings. But, hey, you can still share clothes and use each other’s catchphrases!
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