Is it PMS…or hunger? The unbelievably easy way to find out

My Hormonology

Is it PMS…or hunger? The unbelievably easy way to find out


Next time irritability and anger start to rise in the second half of your monthly cycle, quick–eat something!

After a few minutes, you may notice the edginess disappears and you mellow out. Here’s why:

When you go without food for a long stretch in your Week 3 and Week 4, your blood sugar tends to drop sooner than it does when you go without food in your Week 1 and Week 2.

This blood sugar imbalance can then trigger a short fuse and agitation that many women mistake for PMS.

If low blood sugar really is behind your irritation, by eating a healthy snack (say, yogurt or a granola bar or nuts or fruit) you bring your blood sugar level back up, and along with it your mood.

Still irritable even after you eat? Then you can likely point the blame squarely at your hormones. The reason bouts of anger are more common in the second half of your cycle is because your estrogen level plunges in the first half of your Week 3 (which starts the day after ovulation) and it descends again during the whole last week of your cycle–your premenstrual Week 4. These estrogen drops can drag down mood-regulating serotonin in the brain and trigger surges of the neurotransmitter noradrenaline, which can then spark a temper flare-up.

Want to rein in snappishness due to plunging estrogen? Here, try this: When anger rises, take slow breaths, imagine someone you love, think of something to feel grateful for or exercise. All are study-proven techniques for defusing tension and inducing calm, which can help bring you back to an even keel.

Also, keep in mind that these noradrenaline flares usually blow over in a matter of minutes, so try to hang in there and use whatever calming technique you prefer till it’s passed.

Have difficulty keeping anger in check during your premenstrual week no matter how hard you try? You may have extra sensitivity to plunging hormones or “premenstrual dysphoric disorder” (PMDD)–a condition that causes extreme PMS symptoms, including rage. In that case, talk to your health care provider since there are a range of natural and pharmacological approaches that can treat it so you can experience a calmer premenstrual phase.

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